NDP leader bent out of shape

Jack Layton is marking his seventh anniversary as NDP leader resting at home, nursing a sore back.

Layton was due to deliver a speech to the party's federal council this morning in Ottawa but was is in no shape to travel from his home in Toronto.

The New Democrat leader injured himself Friday while lifting weights at the gym.

A spokesman says Layton was determined to give his speech today and even investigated the possibility of speaking by video or telephone. It didn't work out though. Understudy Peter Julian, an NDP MP from British Columbia, will step up to the plate in Layton's stead.

This weekend on The House

From my colleague Nick Gamache, filling in for Max Paris on The House again this week:

MinisterialSpinWatch Redux: Over to you, Wayne Wouters.

So, remember that oddly partisan press release touting the prime minister's new senate appointments that appeared on the Justice Canada website earlier today? Turns out that the Liberals aren't about to let this one slide. 

This afternoon, Liberal MP Marlene Jennings sent a letter to the Clerk of the Privy Council, Wayne Wouters, in which she demands that he "instruct the Department of Justice to remove the January 29, 2010 press release from the department's website," and "issue instructions to this department and all others that this kind of partisanship in communications products issued by non-partisan departments and agencies will not be tolerated in the future." 

Full text of the letter after the jump: 

A floormap of the new Senate

Roll over the map squares with your mouse to get more information on who'll be sitting where.


Health care budget tensions return

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The federal government will bring down its budget in March. And the federal finance minister has already signalled there will be a bit of belt tightening, as Ottawa tackles a growing deficit.

But Jim Flaherty has also promised to leave transfers to the provinces alone.

The health care accord, signed in 2004, has given the provinces predictable increases every year in the amount of money they receive from Ottawa.

But that accord expires in March 2014.

And that has people starting to wonder what might replace it.

Listen to Susan Lunn's documentary feature for The House:

Question of the Day


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UPDATED - Media have no flight plan on PM's plane

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper is sneaking back into Canada through the front door.

Harper flew back from Switzerland today.

While in the air his office announced the appointment of five new Senators and the Supreme Court ruled he has the power to decide to ask if Omar Khadr could be repatriated.

What does Harper have to say about these developments? Nothing.

Journalists travelling with Harper are being kept on the plane to ensure the Prime Minister doesn't face any questions in his short jaunt from the bottom of the staircase to his waiting limousine.

UPDATED: MinisterialSpinWatch: Justice Delayed? Don't blame the Senate.

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So, as it turned out, the justice minister had a very special surprise for reporters who showed up for his press conference this morning, in the form of two of the prime minister's just-appointed senators, who joined Nicholson to celebrate what the new Conservative plurality in the Senate means for the government's "tackling-crime agenda": 

A card-carrying Liberal staffer who sent me a copy of the text by email noted, in passing, that he had "never seen such a partisan press release on a Government website." On that, he may or may not be right, but what I can say with some certainty, is that it's one of the more disingenuous ministerial statements that I've seen in some time, at least as far as its central thesis -- namely, that opposition obstructionists in the Senate are responsible for thwarting his legislative endeavours. 

That is, quite simply, not the case, no matter how many times he -- or anyone else -- insists that it is.  To shamelessly copy and paste, with minor editing for coherency, from an earlier post on this very subject:

SenateWatch Extra: So, uh -- who are these people, anyway?

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I'll do my best to provide some actual analysis of today's appointments over in the main SenateWatch post later today, but in the meantime, here's the PMO backgrounder on the new appointees: Two current and one former provincial Progressive Conservative MLAs -- Runciman (ON), Poirier (NB) and Marshall (NF), respectively, and two community activists (Boisvenu (QC) and Kochhar (ON). 
 

On first glance, it appears that the prime minister has done a pretty good job with this batch of senatorial picks: good gender balance, previous legislative experience, or, in the case of those who weren't previously active in politics, strong ties to the local community:



UPDATED: SenateWatch: And the winners are ...

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Well, that was fast. No sooner had Orders of the Day gone up that the following notice arrived, courtesy of the Prime Minister's Office:

PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER NAMES FIVE OUTSTANDING CANADIANS TO SENATE 
Prime Minister Stephen Harper today filled five vacancies in the Senate. The appointments are another step toward implementing the Government's tackling-crime agenda and respecting the will of the democratically-elected House of Commons. 
 Appointed are Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu (QC), Bob Runciman (ON), Vim Kochhar (ON), Elizabeth (Beth) Marshall (NL) and Rose-May Poirier (NB). These appointments give the Government a plurality of seats in the Upper House. [...]   The appointments are effective immediately, with the exception of Rose-May Poirier's appointment, which is effective February 28, 2010.
Huh. Not a Loyola or a Bernard in the bunch. I'll update this post with the details once we've got 'em, but feel free use the comment thread to gloat over your speculative prescience or grumble quietly over how the fix was in.

UPDATE: Here's the background release provided by PMO, which includes biographies of the five new senators. Also, via twitter, Colleague Poitras in New Brunswick explains why Poirier will be starting a bit later than the others -- she's a sitting MLA, remember, so once she heads to Ottawa, Premier Shawn Graham - a Liberal, it's worth noting - will have to call a byelection, which could be less than desireable given the fracas over the NB Hydro deal.