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Mike Duffy, then a CTV journalist, collects his thoughts in Toronto on Wednesday, January 24, 2007.

Ryan Carter/2007 Ryan Carter

1. Political smackdown. Feathers are flying between Mike Duffy and Peter Stoffer with the good Senator calling the NDP MP an "amiable fake" who should get a "Hollywood award." Indeed, it was fight night on CBC News Network last night as the twitchiness among the political parties over Monday's by-elections is becoming quite evident. Especially raw, it seems, are the NDP and Tories, who are fighting over the Nova Scotia riding of Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

On Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, there was a particularly nasty debate between the Conservative Senator and the Nova Scotia MP, whose riding, borders the by-election. Earlier in the day, Mr. Stoffer had released a report stating that the 27 Senators appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last year will cost $177-million during their tenure. This after Mr. Harper had vowed in opposition never to appoint partisans, or anybody for that matter, to the Red Chamber.

Mr. Stoffer said this was a big waste of taxpayers' money. In his report, he singled out Senator Duffy, saying he had $44,000 in expenses after only having sat for three months at the end of the 2008- 09 fiscal year. And that had Mr. Duffy seeing red. He defended his spending and called the Stoffer report a "diversion" and a "stunt … designed to try to sway voters in the by-elections." He said he hoped that on Monday the NDP will be "trounced."

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Some perspective: The riding has been a Tory stronghold but the NDP are hoping they can ride the coattails of their provincial cousins, who recently formed government under Premier Darrell Dexter.

2. The gun control effect. Pollsters are scratching their heads over this one: Why would the Conservatives fight to abolish the long-gun registry just days before the by-elections? Two of the by-elections are in former Bloc ridings in Quebec, which is a pro-gun control province and one where the Tories need to win seats to form a majority government.

"I think it's pretty adventurous on the part of the Conservatives," says EKOS pollster Frank Graves. The Conservatives need a good showing Monday in Quebec to gauge how they would do in a general election. They need Quebec to form a majority government. Noting that next month will be the 20th anniversary of the shootings at the Ecole Polytechnique in which 14 women were gunned down, Mr. Graves wondered if anyone in Conservative ranks considered how this would play in Quebec.

"Did anyone think about that? Personally I think the government has been pretty politically astute for the most part and has run relatively error free," he said. "I don't get this one. … I think there could be a real backlash. This is the sort of thing in Quebec that could be extremely unhelpful."

3. The poppy tax. Who knew there was GST charged on what the Royal Canadian Legion buys to sell to Canadians for Remembrance Day? Welland NDP MP Malcolm Allen didn't. He had no idea until a constituent contacted him and then he got to work, putting together a private member's bill calling for the elimination of the GST on poppies.

This morning in an interview, Mr. Allen said it's not clear exactly how much the legion has to pay out in GST but he knows that $8-million is distributed to veterans and their families through the poppy program. The legion buys the poppies from a private company that has to collect the 5-per-cent GST. The problem is that volunteers selling the poppies to the public cannot ask for GST on top of their donations. Mr. Allen has contacted the government and is hoping that before he even gets his bill into the Commons, the government will do the right thing and exempt the legion from the GST.

"All of money that they collect goes directly to the vets and their families. Not a penny is kept for anything else," he said. "We know that some legions are struggling across the country. Every dime that we can put into veteran's hands is the correct dime."

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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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