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Commons colour code missing in action as House opens all black and blue

Last Updated Jan 25, 2016 at 2:20 pm PST

OTTAWA – Conservative MP John Barlow says he’s more likely to get razzed in red at the hockey rink than the House of Commons.

With 197 brand new MPs in the newly expanded 338-seat Commons, figuring out who’s on which team can be a bewildering business, making party colours a vital first clue to a parliamentarian’s identity.

Some elected members make a regular point of donning the party hue, whether it be Liberal red, Conservative blue or NDP orange.

But any casual observer of Monday’s parliamentary return following last fall’s change of government would think a Tory-blue tide had swept the country. There was more black and blue than a mixed martial arts event.

Barlow, the rookie MP for the Alberta riding of Foothills, bucked the trend with a red tartan tie as he rose for his inaugural parliamentary address, a reply to the Liberal throne speech.

“We get bugged more at home by constituents” about wearing party colours, Barlow said outside the Commons, wearing the tartan of his wife’s family to honour Robbie Burns Day.

During the Christmas break, Barlow says he donned a red Notre Dame sweater for a pickup hockey game and got an earful.

“I got razzed relentlessly — ‘How can you be wearing red?’ — so I took it off and put on a blue Regina Pats jersey.”

Irene Mathyssen, the veteran New Democrat from London, Ont., clearly knows the drill, showing up Monday wearing an unmistakable bright orange top under her black blazer. Peter Julian, the NDP House leader, wore an eye-watering orange tie.

But partisan plumage was not the norm for opening day.

Chrystia Freeland, the minister of international trade, has already established her Liberal red dresses as something of a brand — although she bucked the trend Monday.

NDP MP Nikki Ashton, known to occasionally sport bright orange stiletto heels, says she has orange outerwear for three of four seasons and is always on the hunt for more.

“The pattern is real,” said Ashton, notwithstanding Monday’s orange-free outfit.