Not any more

Jason Kenney refuses to stroke George Galloway’s chin

In Canada on October 4, 2010 at 09:14

1. No one is purring. Former British MP George Galloway is in the country, challenging the Immigration Minister to a debate and threatening to sue him for slander. This, after he was told last year he wasn’t welcome in Canada because federal officials said he supported Hamas, which Canada considers a terrorist organization.

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Jason Kenney’s office is underwhelmed. In fact, after Mr. Galloway’s 2006 performance on British television in which he bizarrely imitated a cat pretending to lick milk and purring (it was cringe-worthy), Mr. Kenney doesn’t want to put more of a spotlight on the man.

“At this point, I am going to wait for the lawsuit to actually be filed before commenting on its contents,” Mr. Kenney’s communications director Alykhan Velshi told The Globe.

But Mr. Velshi did note that Mr. Galloway’s “last publicity stunt involved him wearing a skin-tight red leotard on Celebrity Big Brother, and then pretending to be a cat licking milk from the palms of a B-list celebrity.”

“Minister Kenney has no interest in getting entangled in another one of George Galloway’s desperate cries for someone – anyone – to notice him,” Mr. Velshi said.

2. Formalities complete, it’s game on again. With new Governor-General David Johnston safely installed at Rideau Hall, the Conservative and Liberal partisans are back at it Monday morning.

Tory strategists are accusing Michael Ignatieff of ignoring the economy; the Grits, meanwhile, are throwing their own mud, asserting that Stephen Harper’s new chief of staff, Nigel Wright, is in conflict of interest on a number of issues, including aerospace and defence.

The Liberals are demanding the Ethics Commissioner probe Mr. Wright’s curious agreement to return to his big Bay Street equity company, Onex Corporation, after serving two years with the Prime Minister. Liberals want Mr. Wright to appear before a Commons committee to talk about his terms of employment and whether he will recuse himself on certain files to avoid conflict.

It came to light last week that Mr. Wright in only on temporary assignment with the Prime Minister’s Office and will be returning to Bay Street by the end of 2012. “Nigel Wright is maintaining his business relationship with Onex Corporation as he is only on ‘temporary leave’ and according to a company statement will return ‘in 18 to 24 months to resume leadership of Aerospace and Defence and Energy verticals’,” the Liberals say in a news release.

The Hill Times is also reporting that Mr. Wright has most recently served as director of an American aircraft manufacturer and his interests in other businesses are raising red flags for the Liberals about potential conflicts with the directing the government’s agenda.

The Grits say they will bring forward a motion at the ethics committee this week “calling on Nigel Wright to appear before the committee to disclose the terms of his agreement to return to Onex and to compel the government to divulge any recusal conditions that have been put in place.” They say the departments may be affected are Industry, National Defence, Natural Resources and Environment.

The Harper team, meanwhile, didn’t even take a breath after the Governor-General was sworn-in Friday in the Senate chamber. As he said “I do,” the Tories were circulating memos to insiders, MPs and supporters accusing the Liberal Leader of avoiding the economy.

Under the headline “It’s the Economy, Mr. Ignatieff!, Tory strategists say that “while Canadians are concerned about the economy, Michael Ignatieff evidently has other priorities.” They note that last Wednesday, while the House was debating employment insurance reforms, “Michael Ignatieff bizarrely pronounced, ‘The issue is the census. The issue is not EI.’”

But last year Mr. Ignatieff was about to try to force an election on issues around employment insurance reform. The Tory memo notes that last Monday, on the day the Prime Minister and his ministers “met to work on the Economic Action Plan [it was a photo op], Mr. Ignatieff and his spokeswoman said his priorities are extending are illegal-drug injection sites into local communities and make it easier to possess and use marijuana.”

“The census. Illegal-drug injection. Marijuana. Seems like everything is a priority for Michael Ignatieff except the economy,” the Tories say.

And then the dig: “P.S: Little wonder that Mr. Ignatieff doesn’t want to talk about the economy. His economic agenda includes hiking taxes on job creators, lowering the EI qualifying period to 45 days … increasing the GST back to 7 per cent.”

The Liberals maintain they are not planning to raise taxes and a senior Ignatieff official said Monday morning the Tories have a strange way of showing the economy is their priority, given they have six crime bills in the House this week.

“If Mr. Harper’s plan to spend $10-billion of borrowed dollars building jails counts as his economic plan, he and his ministers should stop talking to themselves and start talking to Canadians to find out what their priorities are.”

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