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Can Tory ministers get away with lying? Liberals think not

Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

1. Guns blazing. Pressure on the International Co-operation Minister is mounting as the Liberals launch an on-line petition that sums up their position over the past week: "Stop the lies - Bev Oda must resign."

They are using a cheeky tagline - "lying is NOT okay" - to send a message "the issue here is fundamentally about our democracy and the need for accountability when any minister willfully misleads Parliament," a senior Ignatieff official told The Globe on Thursday morning.

Ms. Oda admitted in the House this week that she ordered the word "not" inserted into a memo after it was signed by top Canadian International Development Agency officials. Since then, the opposition has been calling for Ms. Oda's resignation over the altered document that had initially supported government funding for the faith-based aid group, Kairos.

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It is not clear to opposition politicians why the document was changed, but the Liberals hope to find out. In Question Period Thursday, the say they will focus on the Prime Minister's "own role in directing her."

There is a view that Ms. Oda and her officials were on side in support of Kairos but a decision was made at the top to revoke funding for Kairos because it is viewed by some in the Harper cabinet of being anti-Israel.

So far, the Prime Minister is supporting Ms. Oda. She also has the backing of her Conservative colleagues. In caucus Wednesday, Tories "supported Bev 100 per cent," one MP said.

"She's done a great job in that file. She's a good person, and the opposition knows that," the MP said. "Every member of Parliament in the House knows that ministers have the final say on all funding and they all know that Kairos was her call."

"Ultimately, to me it demonstrates how weak the opposition is on issues that Canadians are focused on," the MP added.

2. Royal itinerary by tweet. One Ottawa resident wants the city's famous downtown pedestrian mall - Sparks Street - renamed Coronation Street by Prince William and his bride-to-be Kate Middleton when the royal couple comes for a visit in July.

That was among the suggestions received Wednesday by Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, who upon hearing the news that William and Kate will be in town for the Canada Day celebrations, sent out a message on Twitter asking for other ideas about where they should visit.

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Mr. Watson told The Globe that within the first hour he had a lot of response. In addition to the Coronation Street idea - an homage to the long-running British soap opera, which also happens to be a favourite of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's - Ottawa residents suggested visits to the Diefenbunker, the National Arts Centre, the Byward Market, the National Art Gallery for lunch, the Canadian War Museum and stopping at a Beavertail concession for a taste of the trademark pastry.

3. Writers wonder aloud. Some of the buzz around the Politics and the Pen gala Wednesday night was over the absence of the Prime Minister's wife, Laureen Harper.

Mrs. Harper has attended the A-list dinner in the past - but the speculation was that she stayed away this time because of the nomination of Harperland: The Politics of Control, by Globe columnist Lawrence Martin, as one of the finalists for the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing.

Indeed, there were many jokes about the book during the evening. Gala co-host and Treasury Board President Stockwell Day, who was very entertaining, made a number of comments about avoiding applauding or being seen to support the Martin tome, which is critical of Stephen Harper's governing style.

And the Laureen Harper rumour was fuelled even more by prize winner, Anna Porter, whose book The Ghosts of Europe: Journeys through Central Europe's Troubled Past and Uncertain Future got the top nod.

In her acceptance speech Ms. Porter joked that when she found out that Mrs. Harper, who she had wanted to talk to, was not at the gala she figured for sure that Mr. Martin's book was the winning entry. She was, happily, wrong.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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