Inside Politics

James Fitz-Morris Bio

James Fitz-Morris

James Fitz-Morris came to Parliament Hill 10 years ago as the bureau chief for two private radio stations. In 2005, James joined CBC so he could report without pausing for "important messages from his sponsors." His primary beats are foreign affairs and finance, making him the bureau's resident number-cruncher and exchange rate converter. He's also worked in Beirut, Lebanon. He speaks English and French fluently, and is still grappling with Arabic.

The new openness? Journos given PM's cell number

Comfortable in its majority, the Prime Minister's office seems to be taking openness and transparency to a whole new level.

Reporters travelling with Stephen Harper arrived in Costa Rica Wednesday night to the usual welcome: A bumpy bus ride to a hotel, a comfortable filing room with telephone lines, internet access and a table set-up with a welcome package.

Beyond the usual room key and itinerary for the following day, it seems a helpful member of the embassy's staff also included in the package the internal phone list for this trip.

It includes not only the cell and home phone numbers for Canada's ambassador to Costa Rica, his wife and most of the staff - it also has the Prime Minister's cell number.

Read on for more...

PMO denies Brazilian bathroom brinksmanship

So, when traveling with the Prime Minister, reporters have surprising little contact with the man himself. We don't generally travel in the same motorcade as he, often stay at different hotels, and we don't travel with him to the bathroom.

I say that as preface to the fact that I have no way to independently confirm nor deny this story running in Brazilian media Tuesday.

(By the way, running that link through just about any online translating tool produces some rather amusing versions.)

What the article claims is that on Monday, while attending official functions with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Prime Minister Stephen Harper locked himself in the private bathroom of the Brazilian Foreign Affairs Minister while officials argued over protocol.

The story says the two sides disagreed on when toasts should be given at an official lunch.

This, after a bit of a protocol spat at the Presidential Palace.

The Canadian Embassy denies this happened -- but the article claims diplomats at the event confirmed it. The diplomats aren't identified.

The Prime Minister's Office also says it has no idea where this story came from.

Here's what we do know as fact:

  • There was a bit of a row at the beginning of Harper and Rousseff's bilateral meeting, when the Brazilians insisted only official government photographers could attend the photo op -- no media.
  • The PMO says the Brazilians would not allow a joint news conference at the end of the meetings because the President didn't want to take questions.
  • After Harper and the President made their respective statements, Rousseff walked about 15 metres and held a lengthy question and answer session with Brazilian media.
  • Canadian media were being hurried on to buses and back to our filing room.
  • The lunch in question started 15 minutes late -- no reason was given.
  • It's not the first time Harper's been accused of ... taking too long in the washroom.

Longest-serving MP looks for recognition... again


Bloc MP Louis Plamandon, the longest-serving MP in the House of Commons, checks the ballot box used to elect the Speaker at the start of the last Parliament in 2008. (Tom Hanson, The Canadian Press)

They've done it before, they will do it again.
The few Bloc MPs returning to Ottawa will ask to be recognized as members of an official party, but Louis Plamondon admits it's a longshot their request will be granted.
In 1990, six MPs defected from the Progressive Conservative benches to join the newly-formed Bloc Québécois, including Plamondon, who was first elected in 1984.
Shortly after, Gilles Duceppe won in a Montreal byelection and joined them.

Under House of Commons rules, it takes 12 members to be recognized as an official party - a long way from the Bloc's four.

Molière vs Shakespeare, Pt. 2. This time it's literal

At a Saturday rally, Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois ended her speech supporting Gilles Duceppe with the expression "Merde, Gilles!"

Which translates literally to "S--t, Gilles!"

It's well known that Duceppe and Marois are not particular fans of one and other.

Nonetheless, this was not a meant as an insult.

More... after the jump...

PQ leader comes home to bring home votes

UPDATED: The language of Molière meets the language of Shakespeare


Covering the Bloc Quebecois for English-speaking Canada has presented some challenging and rewarding experiences.

First and foremost is finding a way each day to make what's happening on the ground here accessible and interesting to everyone, whether they are living in Saskatoon, Kitchener or Yellowknife.

There are 75 seats in Quebec - there's now a four-way race in many ridings, the Bloc's hegemony over the province is being loosened - a political sea-change that has immediate repercussions for the shape of Canada's next Parliament and, I will argue (at a future date...) a profound impact on the future of the sovereignty debate.

But today let's look at one of the lighter challenges faced each day by any journalist covering the Bloc for English-language media: translation.

There's a difference between knowing what a word means and choosing the proper English equivalent that transfers all the context and imagery.

(Creating images is a key part of radio-story telling)

In an interview with Le Devoir newspaper, Gilles Duceppe vowed to keep on fighting, saying he had no intention of "manger une volée."

Translated literally, it means "to eat a bullet." But that invokes suggestions of suicide - which isn't what he meant.

Post has been UPDATED after the jump....

Duceppe's NDP blindside


(Graham Hughes, The Canadian Press)

Gilles Duceppe says he didn't see it coming.

That's the headline today in Montreal's Le Devoir newspaper.

The Bloc Québécois leader sat down for an interview with the editorial board of the paper on Tuesday, when he admitted "it's stronger than we thought."

It, of course, is support for the NDP.

Dumont to Duceppe: 'There is life after politics'

There are ups and downs in politics in every part of Canada - but Quebec seems to take it to another level.

Public opinion can remain seemingly frozen for a decade - and then move suddenly. As one example, have a look at the number of seats the upstart Action Democratique du Quebec party won since its creation in 1994 to the last election.

1994: 1
1998: 1
2003: 4
2007: 41
2008: 7

Mario Dumont, the party's long-time leader, spent years as its only sitting member in Quebec's National Assembly.

Suddenly, Dumont became leader of the Opposition, and then had to quit after his party was nearly wiped out in the following election.

Dumont has a new job now as host of a television talk show on a Quebec network Canal V.

On Tuesday at 10:30pm his guest is a man hoping to avoid a similar fate - Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe.

Here for Canada, sometimes


Further to my first post on this subject late last week...

Thanks to all who have written with slogan sightings from various corners of Quebec.

As this photo will attest, the Conservatives are using "Here for Canada/ Ici Pour le Canada" in some parts of Quebec.

With limits on questions come opportunities

An open letter to my colleagues covering the Conservative campaign,

Cherish this time, my friends, you don't realize what you have.

I've been at media availabilities where questions have been restricted.

I know the negotiations that take place among too many journalists with too many ideas arguing over the few questions available.

I'm sure language for some UN Security Council resolutions has been agreed with less rancour.

But at least you're talking to each other, sharing ideas and getting to know one another better.

On the Bloc Québécois campaign that I've been covering, they allow as many questions as we want - French, English, national, regional - whatever.

The other day we had three scrums in one day.

The result: we never need to talk to one and other.

More after the jump . . .