OTTAWA - Lots of visitors stop by the public galleries of the House of Commons to watch question period, but few are closer to the heart of politicians than a visiting rock star.
The prog-rock puns were flying faster than Neil Peart's drumsticks as MPs and ministers paid tribute to the members of Rush and other Canadian artists in the Commons.
"Mr. Speaker, there they go, another rush to excuses when they get caught," NDP MP Charlie Angus said as he posed a question to the government on the government's use of limousines.
The iconic Canadian band are in Ottawa along with seven other recipients of the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards, the country's highest artistic honour.
Industry Minister Tony Clement, a diehard music fan, couldn't resist dropping his own references to the band as he batted away opposition questions.
"Mr. Speaker, that is another fly-by-night' question," Clement said, slipping in a reference to the title of a 1975 Rush album.
Later, lead vocalist Geddy Lee said he found question period "really interesting."
"I don't know how anything gets decided," Lee told The Canadian Press. "It's certainly nice to see the lively debate."
All parties rose to applaud the award winners at the end of question period. Joining Rush members Lee, Peart and Alex Lifeson in receiving an award for lifetime artistic achievement were concert pianist Janina Fialkowska, dancer and choreographer Paul-Andre Fortier, theatre director Denis Marleau and film director Deepa Mehta. Comedian Mary Walsh, who wasn't in the House, is also being honoured.
Tony-award winning theatre director Des McAnuff is receiving the National Arts Centre Award for work of an extraordinary nature over the past year. McAnuff's Broadway production of Jesus Christ Superstar with Ontario's Stratford Shakespeare Festival was nominated for a pair of Tony awards this week.
"I'm thrilled and really in all humility, as a director you accept awards on behalf of all the artists you work with," said McAnuff.
"I don't create a play by myself, I have actors and designers and a playwright and a composer and producers and we do it as a team and so I'm extremely pleased for the people I work with, because I think it's an acknowledgment of the wonderful work they've been doing with me."
McAnuff is currently working on a highly anticipated one-man show at Stratford with renowned Canadian actor Christopher Plummer. He described the performance as spending an evening with Plummer "in his living room."
Lee said he was honoured to be given one of the awards. He and the other laureates will be feted at a gala show on Saturday at the National Arts Centre.
"This is quite different because, being recognized as part of a group of artists from the country that I was born in and raised in and still live in, is quite unique to me," Lee said.
"To see the variety of other artists that are honoured here today, means that arts means something in this country and I support that wholeheartedly, and it's quite an honour to be a part of it."