Building a Better Canada

January 23, 2014 12:20 pm
Dan_Donovan

Welcome to 2014. This issue marks the beginning of our series on Building a Better Canada. Ottawa is where politicians and senior civil servants make the key decisions that directly impact the type of country we want Canada to be.

How do we improve health care by making it more patient focused? How do we care for those who are struggling? How do we build safe yet affordable transportation infrastructure to support our growing population?

Then there are those more difficult questions related to fairness and equity in our society. What can we do to address the growing gap between the very wealthy and the very poor? What accounts for our diminishing middle class? As the federal government uses over-reaching omnibus bills to fundamentally change the structure of Canadian society and corporations seem to be gaining more influence over government business, many people are questioning the fundamental premises about Stephen Harper’s vision of Canada. Is the PM on the right track or do we need to reassess the situation?

Ottawa MPs play a critical role in this debate. John Baird, the affable and popular Conservative MP from Ottawa West-Nepean, is the PM’s closest confidant. Pierre Poilievre, Conservative MP for Nepean-Carleton, is also at the top of the PM’s Rolodex. David McGuinty – Liberal MP for Ottawa South – is one of the most influential MPs in the Liberal Caucus, while Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar is the NDP’s go-to guy on numerous national and international issues. However, their views about what we need to do to Build a Better Canada are as diverse as their political parties.

So we are going to chip away at those views and see where we end up. Throughout 2014, our series will focus on workers and workers’ rights, fair wages, the federal Conservative government’s attempts to curtail unions’ and workers’ rights, while unions supported by the Liberals and New Democrats in the House of Commons try to derail that process. The series will also examine restrictive employment laws that are keeping Canadian workers from achieving a middle-income position in society; the erosion of the social safety net over the past decade; the contractingout of vital public services to private firms; the trend by many employers to reduce workers’ pensions and rights while paying themselves excessively high compensation; and the outsourcing of manufacturing and trades to cheap-labour jurisdictions.

The series will examine Canada’s overall competitiveness, job training and skills. We will examine why large companies such as Walmart and McDonald’s are not paying their workers higher wages and how government policy allows this to occur. Who are the loudest voices in Canada’s large pool of workers and what are their priorities? Who is most effectively fighting the battle for the maintenance of rights, benefits and pensions for workers in the 21st century?

The Building a Better Canada series begins in this issue with a focus on patientcentred health care. We look at the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre and its groundbreaking treatment and support for cancer patients. We examine the amazing progress being made by Canada Health Infoway in bringing e-health to the Canadian health-care system.

As we begin the slow burn heading into the 2015 election season, the Building a Better Canada series will give readers much to think about.

Past Its Expiry Date: Time to Get Rid of the National Capital Commission

November 28, 2013 1:51 pm
Rideau Street_July2010_KT

Ottawa is changing in a good way. The increased urbanization of the core has re-energized communities like Westboro, Kitchissippi, Sandy Hill and parts of Lower Town. The renovation of Lansdowne Park proceeds apace, soon to breathe new life into the Glebe and the downtown core (much to the delight of Ottawa sports lovers). The federal government is renovating the Parliament Buildings (and not a moment too soon) as well as the old Union Station/Government Conference Centre, which will house the Senate while the Senators’ offices on the Hill are renovated. The largest barrier to success in Ottawa continues to be the massively incompetent National Capital Commission (NCC). It is astonishing to me that with the many cuts the Harper government has implemented over the years, they have let this wasteful and useless agency remain. They deliver nothing of value to the region and constantly interfere with Ottawa’s City Council, all elected officials. If you go to the NCC’s web site, they describe their mandate as the following:

Our goal is to ensure that Canada’s Capital Region is a source of national pride and significance.

That is where the joke begins. If you walk a block from Parliament Hill, you see evidence of the NCC’s incompetence. Sparks Street remains a desolate place lacking greenery and little life past 5 p.m. A block south of the Hill, the Rideau Street strip between Sussex and King Edward remains a gritty, grimy scene full of meth addicts, drug dealers and homeless people struggling with mental health challenges and other issues. They need help. Real help. Currently “help” is four homeless shelters in the ByWard Market conveniently near a large LCBO store and The Beer Store. The “shelters” are now a 25-year stop-gap solution where the homeless are given beds each night, a meal in the morning and then sent on their way until the next night. Each day, troubled homeless people with mental issues, drug addicts and petty criminals go roaming about the ByWard Market, harassing  people for money, breaking into cars, defecating on lawns, destroying private property, selling drugs and generally doing bad things. What has the NCC done about Sparks Street and Rideau Street and the ByWard Market as part of their mandate to ensure that Canada’s Capital Region is a source of national pride and significance? Well, they promote them as tourist destinations! Contrast that with what the world-famous Lonely Planet travel guide says to tourists visiting Ottawa: “Avoid Rideau Street between Sussex Drive and King Edward Avenue. In the daytime it’s cluttered with smoke-spewing buses and hordes of commuters, and in the evening it’s the preferred hangout for vagrants. The friendly ByWard Market can get a bit of an edge in the late evening with minor drug use and prostitute traffic.” Go NCC go!

Ottawa’s Rideau Street looks like it could be a set scene for an episode of The Walking Dead. A coordinated federal/provincial/municipal program is required to clean up the core of the Capital. The plan should focus on long-term solutions to help the homeless get off the streets and into long-term treatment programs or their own homes. A goal should be to permanently close the “homeless shelters” in the ByWard Market.

Providing temporary shelter, a bowl of soup and a bed for a night is not a solution to homelessness. There are truly exceptional citizens who give graciously of their time and effort to help the homeless in Ottawa. We must provide them with the tools and support required to deliver a more sustainable solution to homelessness. A great start would be for the feds to abolish the NCC and create a volunteer Agency of Citizens from our region – developers, councillors, police representatives and social workers – people who really care about our city and its people and reputation. Use annual NCC funds from the canceled agency to develop a long-term suitable plan to clean up the Market and help the homeless. I guarantee you this will work… and no one would even notice the NCC was gone. This city is worth it. Merry Christmas.

 

The Top 25 People in the Capital Issue: Leadership

September 9, 2013 1:45 pm
Sep / Oct 2013

This is our 13th Annual Top 25 People in the Capital issue. The list is difficult to compile each year because we get so many suggestions from writers, readers and others across the city who send in names. We have always only numbered the Top 10, the rest being considered first among equals.

This year, there is a common theme in the selections: Leadership. Kevin Page is a leader. He served with distinction as the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) until leaving the job this past spring. Page reported to Parliament directly and fiercely maintained the independence of his office even when he came under severe, misguided and improper criticism from government MPs who wanted him to see the world their way. During his tenure, Page’s financial assertions on all files were always accurate. This alone brought immense credibility to him and the PBO. The reality is Page is the kind of public servant bureaucrats should aspire to be.

Our number two pick is the very bright, likeable and candid Industry Minister, James Moore. He was named to this post after several years as Minister of Canadian Heritage. In that portfolio, he earned the respect of a hard group of people — artists, musicians, writers, curators — pretty well anyone and everyone who are touched in some way by arts funding in Canada. As Industry Minister, Moore has taken a strong and visible stand to bring more competition to the telecom industry in Canada.

Katie Telford is Justin Trudeau’s key advisor. She is wise beyond her years when it comes to politics and is one of the women to watch in Canadian politics. Charles Bordeleau came up through the ranks to earn his spot as Ottawa Police Chief. An Ottawa “boy,” he has wide support in the force and in the community. Bordeleau has not shied away from demanding accountability for his member’s actions. That in and of itself is refreshing, given the serious and growing problem with police misconduct in cities across the country that is changing the way the public view the police. You get a sense with Bordeleau that he will hold his constables to the same high standard he holds himself. That is very good news for Ottawa. Elizabeth Sanderson has spent her career under the radar. However, her work has changed many lives for the better. The Hon. Beverley McLachlin has earned the respect of the entire country 10 times over as Supreme Court Chief Justice and she is still not done. Graham Richardson took over the co-anchor position for CTV Ottawa News in 2010. Following the retirement of long-time anchorman Max Keeping, News at 6 continues to be a ratings leader in Ottawa and the surrounding regions, including west Quebec. Richardson is often called in to anchor the national news for CTV in Toronto – high praise for the Ottawa newsman. Richardson does an immense amount of charitable work outside of the newsroom. He is, by far the city’s favorite news anchor. Kate Malloy is the editor of The Hill Times. For over a decade, she shaped the most influential political newspaper in the country while simultaneously raising the bar for political reporting in Canada. Dr. Manjeet Sethi is the Executive Director of the Pest Management Centre (PMC) at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. He has spent his career making sure we have safe food — thanks. Mike MacDonald is a legend in comedy circles. He almost lost everything until a liver transplant saved his life… and he is laughing again. You get the picture here: ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

This issue focuses in on the exceptionally strong bonds between Canada and Kazakhstan. Both countries are middle powers who punch above their weight.

 

Rideau Carleton Raceway Beats the Odds Eugene Melnyk Upset as Mayor Jim Watson Makes Tough Call (but Wise Decision)

July 25, 2013 10:04 am
July12_page5_2_Courtesy RCR

Just one year ago, the future looked bleak for the Rideau Carleton Raceway (RCR). Then-Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan announced the termination of the Slots at Racetracks Program (SARP) that had contributed billions of dollars in earnings to Ontario’s health-care and education systems. Duncan announced that the partnership between the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and the province’s racetracks was bad policy because it was providing a subsidy to the racetracks and would therefore be cancelled. The problem was that the successful Slots at Racetracks Program was a boon to the province, bringing in $1.6 billion per year in revenue of which $362 million went back to the tracks. In addition, SARP had greatly strengthened Ontario’s equine and breeder industry which employed over 62,000 people, mostly in small towns and rural communities.

Duncan had no replacement program other than a proposed plan by then OLG President Paul Godfrey to open more casinos in Ontario’s major cities including Ottawa. Strong signals were sent to the Rideau Carleton Raceway from Toronto that its days were numbered. The RCR has a storied history in Ottawa and is a very popular racetrack. Community groups complained. The track management team fought back and customers let their MPPs know they were not happy. A lot has changed in a year. Dalton McGuinty resigned as Premier. Duncan left politics. New Premier Kathleen Wynne fired Godfrey and pressed the pause button on Duncan’s program. Wynne – who grew up on a farm – seemed to realize the stupidity of the situation. However, her decision came late and many in the industry say so much damage has been done already that it will be difficult to make a full recovery. Many breeders have gone out of business and thousands of horses were sold to farms in the United States. Over 13,000 healthy horses were culled in the past months as a direct consequence of the McGuinty government’s decision.

For her part, Premier Wynne says her government “has committed up to $180 million to support the industry over the next three years as it adapts to a smaller and more sustainable model.” Wynne added that “agreements for transition funding have been signed with 12 racetracks and there will be horse racing at 15 tracks right across the province this season.”

The Premier said she is supporting a new market-driven model that includes integrating horse racing with modernizing the province’s gaming strategy, which will provide additional revenue sources for racetracks. This model was recommended by a task force asked to come up with alternatives to help the industry. The idea was one suggested by Dennis Mills, a passionate horseman and owner of the web site Racing Future (www.racingfuture.com) which is one of Canada’s most popular and influential equine sites. Mills served 18 years as a Member of Parliament during the Chrétien era and is recognized for his report on sports that led to significant changes in the way sports are funded in Canada. Mills is also a former Vice Chair of Magna International and spent several years helping Magna’s horsetrack and gaming operations at Gulfstream in Florida and Santa Anita in California. Many believe Mills’ Racing Future site was the catalyst that shut down the  OLG program to kill off Ontario racetracks. Mills is now suggesting that with the new Wynne policy – which he calls a “Wynne for the industry” – the OLG brand should now be changed and referred to as OLGH (Ontario Lottery Gaming and Horseracing Corporation) to show the industry the government is serious about the changes for the long term. (Mills is also the person who put together the 2003 SARS Rolling Stones concert and early in his career was an aide to former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. He is connected and an unabashed proponent for  farming communities.)

All of this is music to the ears of the Rideau Carleton Raceway. In June, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson announced that any plans for a casino in Ottawa would only happen at Rideau Carleton Raceway as an expansion of their current operations. This did not sit well with Ottawa Senators’ owner Eugene Melynk who had been behind the scenes privately negotiating with the OLG earlier this year to bring a casino to Kanata. Melnyk told The Ottawa Citizen that: “I played by the rules and all of a sudden you’re saying those rules don’t really count. We worked on forecasts, submissions, background checks, getting lawyers involved and meeting with the OLG — twice.”

However, it became clear to Mayor Watson when Godfrey was fired by Premier Wynne that the rules for new casino expansion in Ontario had changed. “I do not believe we should jeopardize the Rideau Carleton Raceway operation by not being crystal clear to the OLG prior to the start of its RFP process,” Watson wrote, referring to the Request for Proposals the agency would send to its shortlist of bidders, seeking final bids. Watson correctly read the tea leaves, noting that “unless (Rideau Carleton Raceway) wins the bid, they would be shut down.” He announced that the City of Ottawa would only support a bid for expansion of a casino at the existing Rideau Carleton Raceway. Watson also made it clear to the OLG and other interested parties that: “If they say ‘no,’ then there won’t be a gaming facility in the City of Ottawa, plain and simple.” Premier Wynne supported Watson’s decision, noting that: “The decisions about whether to have a casino or not are made at the municipal level, and if there are additional concerns or issues, then the municipality needs to work with the OLG on that. But those are fundamentally municipal decisions.”

This decision upset Melnyk, who issued a very terse statement: “By introducing this motion, the Mayor has effectively sole sourced the casino’s location. That is not due process.”

Melnyk spoke about the unfairness of it all under the guise that the Kanata site was the only optimal site for casino expansion. “For those who are unaware, I am an avid horseman. I race thoroughbred horses all over the world, including in Ontario, so I fully appreciate the challenges and what is at stake as it relates to the future of Rideau Carleton Raceway and the many employees and families who are so closely associated with its operations. These are hard-working men and women who I respect immensely.”

Melnyk went on to list all the reasons why the Senators Sports & Entertainment site should be the venue for Ottawa’s casino. The problem is that the selection of the Canadian Tire Centre will irreparably harm RCR and throw all the horsemen there out of work. As one long-time RCR horseman put it: “It sounds a tad disingenuous telling someone how  much you appreciate and respect them while at the same time you are working on a plan that will destroy their business and livelihood. The Rideau Carleton Raceway is a viable, successful and beloved Ottawa institution – sort of like the Ottawa Senators. Mayor Watson is on the right side of a tough issue.”

 

SouthAsianFest Thrives While Eugene Melnyk Dives

July 23, 2013 4:46 pm
Dan_Donovan

o-in-ottawattawa is Festival City: TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, the RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest, Rib Fest, Carnival of Cultures, Magnetic North Theatre Festival, Italian Week Festival, Ottawa Fringe Festival, the Ottawa Dragon Boat Race Festival, Ottawa Folk Festival, Escapade Music Festival, Music and Beyond, Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, Summer Solstice Aboriginal Arts Festival, Ottawa Lumière Festival, Greekfest, Ottawa Lebanese Festival and many more.

All of these festivals are a mirror on the diversity of our great city. With all the strife in today’s world between cultures, religions and political factions, it is really a gift to see the multiplicity of communities that decide to put on a show and invite “the neighbours.” It is at the heart of what Canada is about and I can’t think of a better place to set the example for this than Ottawa.

The other great thing about all these festivals is the amount of volunteer time and community involvement that it takes to organize them. Thousands of people commit a lot of hours to help pull these events together. And of course the third great thing about these festivals is that they are FUN. You’ll see lots of moms, pops, granddads and grandmothers, kids, couples, cousins – everyone is out and about enjoying the moment. Often, we forget about the police and other support services from the City of Ottawa who work with these groups to help pull off these events. We owe them a big thanks because, for all the challenges our city and council face, they can certainly stand tall when it comes to our festivals.

SouthAsianFest is certainly no slouch when it comes to putting on a great show. Each August, this small but vibrant community of very proud Canadians really pulls together the largest admission-free South Asian gathering in the capital.This year, on the August 15 weekend, SouthAsianFest will attract over 10,000 visitors by showcasing different kinds of performing arts from big-name acts like Imran Khan to local artists. Organizers invite anyone who attends to enjoy the music, culture and delicious variety of dishes of South Asian cuisine. SouthAsianFest is an open and inclusive weekend bash that celebrates Canada’s diversity while promoting cultural integration and harmony.

Finally, there is a story in this issue, an update really, on the Rideau Carleton Raceway and Casino issue. Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk has been a great proponent of Ottawa and has done a masterful job with the Ottawa Senators. We owe him a great deal of thanks for this and all his charity work as well. However, Mr. Melnyk has really diminished himself, his reputation and his organization with his threats to city council related to the gaming issue. His “do what I want or I am taking my ball and going home” approach has stunned many of his biggest fans in the city. He should rethink his position. The mayor and city council don’t report to Melnyk – they work for us. And Jim Watson is on the right side of this issue to convert the Rideau Carleton Raceway into a gambling casino – as he is on the right side of most issues.

Great Big Sea! Amen.

June 10, 2013 11:00 am
Dan_Donovan

There are bands and then there is Great Big Sea (GBS). I first heard of them back in 1995 when I was working at a not-for-profit organization. A friend of mine came into my office one morning still excited about this group she had seen in concert the previous evening. “OMG, Danny, they were so good. They played forever and got everyone up, dancing and singing. It was so infectious. I just loved them. I hate to tell you this, but they are going to be as big to Canadians as Blue Rodeo.” She knew I loved Blue Rodeo as the number one Canadian band of all time. Her gushing was  over the top and so sincere. She is a pretty serious person so maybe that’s why I was so surprised. GBS had obviously touched something in her. I’d have to check them out. I would eventually attend one of their concerts and then buy their CDs. I became a fan myself. Being of Newfie birth, I immediately felt a kinship with their music. But it was more that that. These guys were just a BIG presence – full of fun, loaded with talent and you really felt like you were part of them as you listened to them sing and play. However, it would not be until over a decade later that I would come to really appreciate the deep soul, compassion and caring nature of this band. A very close friend of mine had a sister who was dying of cancer. Obviously, he was distraught, as was his family. He loved his sister so much and it broke my heart to see his family on that journey. When it was close to the end, my friend had ensured his sister was in a special treatment hospital in Vermont where there was a very slim possibility that a last-chance cancer drug might help her. I called him one day to see how she was doing and the news was not good. He said that she was in rough shape and he had hoped he might take her to see Great Big Sea – her favourite band. GBS were to play in Burlington (Vermont) that weekend on the Friday night but it was for naught because she was too bedridden and weak. I figured there must be a way to get GBS to visit her at the Burlington Hospital before the gig. I didn’t know anyone in GBS, but being a Maritimer, I figured through the six degrees of separation thing, I might be able to connect with them somehow. I called a friend in Newfoundland who called a friend who called a friend and soon I was speaking to one of the members of GBS. I told the story and made the request. I could feel in his voice his disappointment that they were not going to be in Burlington until just before the show. They were on a bus and stopping in Montpelier to do a radio interview. But he said: “Dan, I’ll talk to the lads.” And then he called me back and said, “Tell your buddy to put the radio next to his sister’s bed in the hospital when we are doing the radio interview in Montpelier and they will sing her favourite song (which was a GBS song). So later that day, they did just that and GBS not only dedicated the song to her but the whole radio interview and mentioned her several times. And I know as a result of this there was joy and there were tears all around. Great Big Sea did that because they have great big hearts and they love their fans. And there was no bigger fan than my buddy’s sister. God bless them – it just goes to show the power of  kindness. My friend’s sister died days later. Her family sang her favorite GBS song at the funeral. Welcome to Ottawa, lads!

 

We Erred in SPACES Issue: In the March-April 2013 edition of Ottawa Life Magazine, we featured a story entitled Bringing the Comforts of Home Outdoors. The main photograph in the story features a property designed by award-winning, Ottawa-based Welwyn Wong Landscape Design (www.welwynwong.com). As well, Advantage Group (www.theadvantagegroup.ca) – also based in Ottawa – did the landscaping work and Techo-Bloc (www.techo-bloc.com) provided the landscaping stone that appears in the photograph. The photo was taken at an Ottawa-area home that used the design services of Welwyn Wong and the landscaping expertise of The Advantage Group to create what is truly an exceptional backyard SPACE. Ottawa Life apologizes for not crediting these companies in the story.

Publisher’s Message: Spaces

March 20, 2013 10:00 am
Dan_Donovan

Tanya Collins is one of the premiere interior design and decorating firms in Canada’s capital. Established in 2006,Tanya has quickly developed a clientele who appreciates her passion for style, design and her highly-personalized and intuitive approach.

Tanya’s trademarks are her ability to see space used to its fullest potential and her flair for creating timeless and fashion-forward interiors. By creating dynamic design tension with unexpected pairings — feminine curvy shapes with masculine linear lines, intense colour, graphic patterns, and abstract art with traditional furnishings, antiques and rustic woods with modern architecture, vintage with custom-designed and mass-produced with one-of- a-kind — her interiors look more evolved and personal rather than contrived and “done.” For the past three years,Tanya has been a regular columnist for Ottawa Life Magazine and our readers have come to expect her latest insights in each issue.

We hope you enjoy this special edition – a glossy, grand and glamorous affair that showcases some of the elegant homes and chic spaces of Ottawa, as redefined by Tanya.This issue is a visual feast for the eyes, packed with loads tips for your home reno and lifestyle.

We begin a new feature on the Canadian Coast Guard and continue with both the Pensions and Peace of Mind and Health-Care series. Finally, if you need to get away, enjoy our stories on Slovenia and Belgium.

Publisher’s Message

November 13, 2012 2:15 pm
Dan_Donovan

Numerous Canadian public policy academics, public health experts and writers, including André Picard and Jeffrey Simpson at The Globe and Mail, claim that Canada’s health-care system is lagging behind other western countries. As Picard noted in a column last spring in The Globe and Mail entitled Dragging Medicare into the 21st Century: “Canadians take pride in besting the United States on the health front, but it is a hollow victory. The reality is that every other developed country has universal health care that is better, fairer and cheaper than ours. We are big on grand pronouncements such as, ‘Medicare is what defines us as Canadians.’ But we are laggards on the practical side. Canadians want care that is appropriate, timely, accessible, safe and affordable, from birth until death. Yet our system is failing on virtually all those measures. Why? For starters, we lack vision and goals. Canadian health care is a $200-billion-a-year enterprise with no clear goals and a dearth of leadership. We talk endlessly about the sustainability of Medicare but have no idea what we want to sustain.”

It is an interesting and relevant comment in these days of austerity and increased demand on the health-care system. A great Christmas gift is a book called Chronic Condition by Jeffrey Simpson that highlights the serious crisis in Canada’s health-care system and blows up the “myth” of Canada having the best system in the world. Simpson maintains that Canadians have only four options to end this growing crisis: 1. cuts in spending 2. tax increases 3. privatization and 4. reaping savings through increased efficiency. Ottawa Life Magazine begins its Health-Care Series Are We as Good as We Think We Are? in this issue with an overview of some of the serious challenges in our national Medicare system. Over the length of the series, we will look to Wendy Nicklin of Accreditation Canada and other health experts to provide readers with some insight into how Canada’s health-care system can be made more efficient and accessible for all without bankrupting the nation.

Health care should be one of the top priorities for discussion during the upcoming Liberal leadership race. It will be interesting to see which of the candidates has the courage to take on this behemoth. As Simpson notes: “Medicare is the third rail of Canadian politics. Touch it and you die. Every politician knows this truism, which is why no one wants to debate it. Privately, many of them understand that the health-care system, which costs about $200 billion a year in public and private money, cannot continue as it is — increasingly ill-adapted to an aging population with public costs growing faster than government revenues.”

The Liberal leadership candidate who addresses this issue head on may find that he/she has more support than he/she thinks. Time will tell. Be happy. Be healthy. Merry Christmas!

 

 

Letter from the Publisher

September 7, 2012 8:24 am
Screen shot 2012-09-06 at 9.30.05 PM
Twelve years ago when we started the first Annual Top People in the Capital issue, JDS Uniphase CEO Jozef Straus was our number one pick. Remember him? Do you even remember JDS Uniphase – the Halley’s Comet of Ottawa high-tech companies? Other picks in 2000 included then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and hometown chanteuse Alanis Morissette (still going strong). One of the people who made the list in that first year was comedian Mike MacDonald – a legend in comedy circles and every comic’s favourite comedian. This Ottawa boy is the Woody Guthrie of Comedy whose bits are repeated time and again by other comedians – the highest tribute in comedy land. A generation of stand-up comics from Canada and the United States grew their craft watching Master Mike do his thing. Saturday Night Live’s Norm MacDonald (a fellow Ottawa boy, but no relation to Mike), Jim Carrey, Angelo Tsarouchas, Russell Peters, Chris Finn, Jeremy Hotz and others will all tell you “their Mike story.”

This year, Mike is TOPs on our list again but the honour is not just for his comedy career but more for his courage in facing down the juggernaut of Hepatitis C which is destroying his liver. Mike’s story and courage in returning home to beat down this demon is truly inspiring and he does it while not losing his sense of himself or his sense of humour. Mike honours us because his love for his hometown of Ottawa is what brought him here to heal. We wish him only the best. (Be sure to read the entire 5,000-word interview with Mike MacDonald at www.ottawalife.com.)

Our number 1 pick on our Top 25 list for 2012 is the TIPES (Thinking in Pictures Educational Services) team of Dr. Jeff Sherman, Deborah Wyatt and Jennifer Wyatt. TIPES is an Ottawa-based professional service providing affordable applied behaviour analysis (ABA) therapy, social integration, family relief services, and training courses for parents and professionals. TIPES’ success in teaching children and youth with Autism and other exceptionalities to reach their potential in a positive learning environment by using a team-based approach, individualized program planning and recreational activities is being recognized across Canada and internationally. TIPES’ costs are lower than similar government-based programs – with a great success rate!

Other picks this year include an athlete, a foodie, business people and a politician. One thing never changes. Ottawa is home to some extraordinary people!

Publisher’s Message: Canada Lives in the Centre

May 8, 2012 8:47 am
Dan_Donovan

Ottawa is still a small big town. Federal politics are deeply woven into   the community and play a large part in the vibe of the city.  Politics can be a nasty business and I believe that over the past two decades the political arena has become exceptionally partisan and toxic to a point where even reasonable people will take a pass on a good political discussion.

I am one of those Canadians who lives in the middle. Prior to the Alberta election, I found myself privately cheering on Alberta Premier Alison Redford, hoping that the majority of Albertans would re-elect her rather than elect Danielle Smith (who is a kind of Sarah Palin with a brain, which is really scary). I’ve been to Alberta many times and found that Albertans have similar values as other Canadians. So why would all these Albertans vote for Danielle Smith’s extreme agenda? In the end, Redford’s Conservatives won 61 of the 87 seats up for grabs, crushing the Wildrose Party and Smith. Redford did this by appealing to the common values of the diverse, optimistic and polyglot community of people living in the province. (Sound familiar? They live in the rest of Canada too!)

In fact, Redford won using the same strategy in Alberta that Stephen Harper has deployed. Govern from the centre because the majority of Canadians live in the centre. When Stephen Harper was first elected, people seemed unsure about him. He was this serious guy who had a view of Canada that many postulated was more right-wing conservative than conservative. He was not a warm and fuzzy guy or particularly charismatic. But over time Canadians have warmed to him. They haven’t embraced the guy, but they do respect him and seem prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt on most matters of public policy.

May 2012 Issue of Ottawa Life

A big part of Prime Minister Harper’s success has been his family and in particular his wife Laureen.A former graphic designer and entrepreneur before being thrust into political life, Laureen Harper has represented Canada with class and distinction at home and abroad. In addition to  her  official duties with  the Prime Minister, Mrs. Harper works on behalf of several charities while coping with the daily demands that come with raising two teenagers. For many, her kind disposition and easy going manner have helped soften the harder image many Canadians have of her husband. This has really made a difference for Stephen Harper and it shows whenever the two appear together at public events.  Margaret Trudeau, Maureen McTeer, Mila Mulroney, Aline Chrétien and many other spouses of former Prime Minister’s evoke certain responses when their names come up in conversation.Mention Laureen Harper’s name in Ottawa and the response usually involves the descriptive that she’s funny, smart, classy, a great mom, friendly and community oriented. My favourite descriptor is that she is Stephen Harper’s “centre.”

Last but not least, I’m very excited to be presenting to you the premiere edition of OLM Live!, a unique and vibrant video product and one of OLM’s newest projects. I wholeheartedly invite you to join our Ottawa-savvy host, Sara Mendoza, in her adventures into the best that Ottawa has to offer. This edition will sharpen your sweet tooth as well as take you to the Ottawa Convention Centre for a sneak peek into a very special photo shoot. Visit www.ottawalife.com to watch OLM Live! episodes and to stay up-to-date with what life has to offer in Ottawa!

Northern Lights, Spies and the Bright Light – Georgiy Mamedov – Russian Ambassador

January 31, 2012 4:00 pm
Screen shot 2012-01-26 at 6.14.08 PM

Today, some of the most influential voices guiding the social and economic development of Canada’s North are women and the ones gracing our cover  will attend the second Northern Lights conference in Ottawa – a business and cultural showcase celebrating Canada’s North and the eastern Arctic, including the regions of Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and Labrador.

Northern Lights Conference

The event is a joint venture of the Labrador North Chamber of Commerce and the Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce. Of particular interest is the Northern Ambassadors’ Forum, hosted by the Hon. Bill Rompkey, former Senator for Labrador. Five ambassadors will serve as panelists, including David Jacobson from the United States, Erik Vilstrup Lorenzen from Denmark, Else Berit Eikeland from Norway, Teppo Tauriainen from Sweden and Georgiy Mamedov of Russia. This should be a riveting session, given the interest surrounding Arctic sovereignty and issues related to the development of Arctic natural resources. It will also be one of the last opportunities to catch a glimpse of Georgiy Mamedov, the very popular Russian ambassador to Canada who is in the final year of his nine-year posting. This will be the first time Ambassador Mamedov is present at a public forum with Canadian government officials and the American ambassador since it was disclosed that a Canadian Forces soldier in Halifax was arrested and charged with supplying top secret U.S.-Canada military secrets to Russian agents in Canada, working out of the Russian Embassy in Ottawa.

Georgiy Mamedov. Photo via CBC News

Georgiy Mamedov is a well-known, recognized political and diplomatic force in international circles. Prior to his Ottawa posting in June 2003, he was a key advisor to then President Putin, the current Prime Minister, and a trusted mentor and advisor to  President Medvedev. I have interviewed Mamedov on several occasions and appreciate  his refreshingly candid responses. In 2003, I asked him about Russia’s views on the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He replied that it would prove to be a costly and disastrous tactical error that the United States would eventually come to regret. He also added that George W. Bush should listen more to Jean Chrétien, whom he viewed as a very wise man. In 2005, I asked him why Russia should expect to become part of the G-8 and a member of the international trading community if it imposed illegal trade and business practices against legitimate Western entities investing in Russia. Mamedov replied that “Russia’s first priority would be to protect natural resources in the state interest and that Russia and Russia alone would decide what natural resources were in the national interest. If BP, Petro Canada, Shell or other multinationals didn’t like it, too bad.” He noted that Canada and other Western countries are hypocrites because they do the same thing to protect their national interest so there should be no problem for them if Russia did the same. Several years later, when the Harper government moved unilaterally to protect Canada’s potash industry from falling into foreign hands, I was reminded of Mamedov’s remarks. In May 2010, I asked if Russia had any interest or claims on Canada’s Arctic territory or in the Northwest Passage. He laughed and said: “Listen… your problem is with the Danes in the eastern Arctic over that little island. Besides, we don’t have any claims against your Arctic territory. We are too busy dealing with our own Northeast Passage so Canada can relax about any such claims.” Then he added …“but the Americans have interests there, so you should be careful”… and he smiled. We are going to miss you, Mr. Mamedov.

Note from the Publisher: Leaderless

November 22, 2011 12:57 pm
police

I consider myself to be a law and order guy. I have always been a proponent and big supporter of the police. My dad was in policing for 38 years.

He trained military police and was on duty in Canada and in Europe and dealt professionally for his entire career with police services from across Canada. He always told me that if I felt troubled or threatened in any way to call the police and they will help. I used to tell my kids that. Now I am not so sure. Lately it’s hard to tell who the good guys are. I even have a person on our staff who I greatly respect who asked not have his name in this issue because he said “the police don’t like criticism.”

As our cover story shows, there appears to be a systemic problem in policing across Canada. The last few years have seen a litany of disturbing cases of police in Canada assaulting its citizens. Poor judgment, poor training, aggressive and boorish behaviour, and a pervasive us versus everyone else mentality seem to be the norm across Canadian police forces. There is a general perception in our society that the police have become a power onto themselves and no longer exist to “serve and protect”. Police officers are subject to the same laws as the rest of us. When they do not obey the rule of law themselves, or break the law, they cause damage to the very fabric of our democratic system. This is why it is imperative that police services have the highest standards of leadership and be led by people who are prepared to be held accountable for the actions of their police constables. But what do you do if the police leadership itself is setting a bad example or is prepared to turn a blind eye to police malfeasance.

Leadership experts will tell you that in any organization the tone is set at the top.

Ottawa Police Chief Vern White seems to have no idea what is going on in his own cellblock, the Toronto Police Chief misrepresents the facts and spouts innuendo to discredit a citizen in an SIU investigation on a live CBC radio interview, the Vancouver Police Chief doesn’t charge anyone for 5 months after the Stanley Cup riots even though he has loads of video evidence, Montreal’s Police Chief does not account for how two of his officers shot an innocent bystander dead on the street. The former Commissioner of the RCMP is accused by his subordinates of having anger management issues, a London Police Sergeant with years of service Tasers an 11-year-old boy in the head without issuing a warning or using other methods to control the situation.

Chief White’s response to the Stacy Bonds case was deplorable, matched only by the ignorant comments of Ottawa Police Association President Steve Boucher and the chronically inept President of the impotent Ottawa Police Services Board, Eli El- Chantiry. They should all resign.

Police officers are only human and, like everyone else, they are going to make mistakes. Nonetheless, with great power comes great responsibility. With their privileged role in society, police forces must be transparent in admitting to errors and account for their actions to ensure public trust and faith in them is maintained. Expecting the highest degree of professionalism at all times from our police services and calling them on the carpet when they do not deliver makes for a better police service and stronger communities.

As we go to press the main story in the national news is about Catherine Galliford, a former Royal Canadian Mounted Policewoman and the high profile spokesperson who was involved with the Air India bombing probe and the arrest of serial killer Robert Pickton. She alleges that she faced sexual advances from senior RCMP officers during the 16 years she was with the force. She went off duty sick in 2007 and is now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. She alleges that one of her bosses tried to have sex with her and she has been asked by her bosses to sit on their knees. “It just got to the point that after I had about 16 years of service, I broke. I completely broke,” she said. It is both sad and maddening. What is really broke is the leadership in Canada’s policing.

Note from the Publisher: Top 25 of Ottawa

September 14, 2011 2:22 pm
Oct11_final_web

Well, this issue marks our 11th Top 25 People in the Capital issue. I am always intrigued to see what the result will be after we go through suggestions sent in from readers, writers and staff to see who finally makes the list. The first year we did this was over a decade ago and we jumped into it with a Top 100 List. For the past decade we have published an Annual Top 50 People in the Capital cover. This year we are changing the format to a Top 25 list to allow for more depth and exclusivity of those selected. The list is pretty darn impressive. We starts with the irreverent, funny, friendly, informed and quirky bunch who collectively host the CTV Morning Live Show each day. Yes we cheated and picked all of them as Ottawa’s # 1 Top Person(s) in the Capital this year. They are easily the most entertaining and fun to watch personalities on any morning show in the Capital.

The #2 pick is Stacey Bonds, the young woman who was violently assaulted by the Ottawa Police, who subsequently attempted a cover-up until they were caught red-handed; on video, no less. Another inspired pick is our #3 selection Agathe Côté, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada. Côté may not be well known to many but herf star shines bright in the Canadian business, banking and government world. She is inspirational in a quiet competent way.

Mark Monahan needs no introduction as the successful co-founder and Executive Director of the Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest which he helped create. The Bluesfest has grown to become quite possibly the largest and most popular blues gathering on the planet. We felt it was important to highlight Mark this year because we were so impressed with how he dealt with the collapse of the stage during the frightening windstorm on closing night. Bad things do happen but Mark and his team put health and safety issues first and foremost. Further, with a level of transparency not usually associated with Ottawa, Mark was 100 per cent upfront about what happened, why and what the Bluesfest was doing to ensure it does not happen again.

Roger Greenberg makes the list for having the patience of Job in getting the Lansdowne Park redevelopment through, after dealing with some crazed silver-spooned socialists in the Glebe who appear to be against investment and against reason. Reason prevailed! Speaking of reason, we also added to our list Kash Pashootan, a financial services and investment advisor who has helped steer some of Ottawa’s biggest investors through these troubling economic times with sound investment advice. We also asked him to write a column for us to share some of that savvy with our readers.

At the community level, it is hard to ignore the contributions made by Lynne Whitehead of Rogers Ottawa. She flies under the radar yet does so much great work in Ottawa that we wanted to highlight her contribution. Finally, our hat is off to Jeremy Hunt, the Executive Assistant to Prime Minister Harper. He has been with the PM for several years and deserves credit for his efforts in a tough role that most often goes unrecognized.

The men and women on our list are outstanding individuals who have accomplished much and contributed greatly to the success of a city that is growing rapidly while maintaining the “small town” feel for which Ottawa is famous. We at Ottawa Life applaud them for their success and thank them for their efforts. Hear, hear!

The Shame of our Generation

July 14, 2011 10:47 am
Native_Homelessness

The condition and treatment of Canada’s Aboriginal people is the shame of our generation. The statistics speak for themselves. One in four First Nations children live in poverty; twenty-five per cent of Aboriginal people live in seriously substandard housing; overcrowding among First Nations families is double the rate of that for all Canadian families; more than 100 First Nations communities are under continuous boil water advisories and have almost no access to clean water for drinking and sanitation; First Nations people still suffer from Third World diseases such as tuberculosis; more than half of First Nations people are not employed; one Aboriginal child in eight is disabled; high school graduation rates for First Nations youth are half the Canadian rate; First Nations youth commit suicide at five to eight times the Canadian rate. More than half of First Nations and Inuit people are under 25 years of age. The statistics are staggering. And yet, Canadians for the most part ignore this reality. To his credit, the Prime Minister apologized for the residential schools issue and that went a small way to healing the wounds of generations of Aboriginal people. However, real change means tackling head on the disastrous Third World living conditions Aboriginal people face each day. This past winter, I learned of the plight of the Ochapowace Nation in Saskatchewan. The Ochapowace have been held in what is called “third party” financial status for ten years by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (Formerly Indian and Northern Affairs – INAC) because they refused to turn over financial information about small mom and pop type businesses in their community to federal officials. They maintained it was an illegal and improper request and outside of any federal jurisdiction. Several legal experts agreed. In response, the department cut off funding and turned over management of all funds to a non-Aboriginal management company which was paid handsomely to run the financial affairs of the Ochapowace. They were treated like children. As a result of this “third party status”, the Ochapowace were disqualified from applying for any federal housing money and lost 4 million dollars for housing over a ten-year period. The Ochapowace live in poverty directly caused by INAC. I witnessed it on a recent visit. It is a wonderful community comprised of resolute and proud people with strong traditions who have been decimated by stupidity. In twenty-five years of working with Aboriginal communities I have seen INAC put various Aboriginal groups in “catch 22” positions but this beggars belief. In conjunction with Aboriginal organizations, INAC is tasked with working to improve the social well-being and economic prosperity of Aboriginal peoples; developing healthier, more sustainable communities; and encouraging Aboriginal people to participate more fully in Canada’s political, social and economic milieu – to the benefit of all Canadians. By that standard this department is a complete failure. The Ochapowace requested a meeting or an intervention by Minister John Duncan this past winter, but were advised by officials that he was too busy. The Deputy Minister Michael Wernick did not have the courtesy to respond to their registered letters. When we called the Department to find out why he had not responded to such a dire situation we were told he had not received the letters. So we sent copies to them ourselves and they still did not contact the Ochapowace. We called back to inquire once more and were told the Ochapowace were being taken out of third party status. We called the Ochapowace and they had not yet been advised. A week later they were informed by the Department. Even amongst others in the public service, this ministry has a bad reputation. It is obvious Mr. Wernick is not capable of identifying priorities or even having a credible process to respond directly to Aboriginal leaders. He is after all working for them– right? The best thing Ottawa can do for Canada’s Aboriginal community is shut down this redundant and patronizing department and provide all funding directly to credible Aboriginal organizations and let them run their own affairs. Contrary to the bigots who think our Aboriginal neighbours can’t run their own affairs, I would put money down they will manage far better and Canada will be better off for it. All it will take is for Prime Minister Harper to take a leap of faith. Your move Mr. Harper.

Misguided, Ignorant and Improper: Brigette DePape is No One to Admire

June 6, 2011 3:03 pm

Brigette DePape’s unprecedented protest on the floor of the Senate chamber last week during the reading of the Throne Speech was misguided, ignorant and improper and is nothing to cheer about. DePape’s antic did nothing but diminish her in the eyes of many. Her ploy came at a time when Opposition Leader Jack Layton has called for more civility in the house. The bigger problem of course is that she paraded into the red-carpeted centre aisle carrying a red “Stop Harper” sign that she’d pulled from beneath her skirt as Gov. Gen. David Johnston read the new government’s speech from the throne. Where was security!?

The University of Ottawa graduate stood silently holding her hand-painted sign for at least 20 seconds — while the vice-regal made a barely perceptible hitch in his address and a stunned room full of dignitaries and invited guests stared in mute astonishment.

The cowardly part of her protest of course is that she did it with less than two weeks left in her job as a page. What courage. What dedication to her beliefs. She lost two whole weeks of compensation when she was rightly terminated on the spot. Pages agree to be non-partisan in taking the privileged jobs that are granted to a select few talented students from across Canada. Integrity, honesty, tact and duty are all part of the job. She has besmirched and stained the role of Pages with her tasteless action which was obviously preplanned.

What is more offensive than her tawdry stunt is her rhetoric where she claims Conservative values are not Canadian values. She is obviously not very bright and must have forgotten the Harper Conservatives were just elected with a significant majority government by Canadians from coast to coast.

I am not Conservative but totally respect the fact that Mr. Harper has earned the right from the electorate to represent Canada and I have great respect for him in this singularly difficult achievement. Democracy is about respecting our institutions and the desires of the electorate. If we have different ideas and/or values we should put them forward in a responsible and dignified manner. DePape has demeaned Parliament and, in the process, demeaned the millions of Canadians who share Stephen Harper’s conservative values. Perhaps a return to school to learn the basics of democracy, our electoral system and the “first past the post” system is in order.

Veteran Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett is right in calling the protest” by DePape “an abuse of parliamentary privilege.” Green party Leader Elizabeth May is way off base in lauding DePape “for her bravery”. What a crock! Bravery is the guy who stood in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square or the protestors who are being shot in Syria for demanding reform. Is Ms. May kidding? She diminishes the actions of true democrats by calling DePape’s actions “brave.”

DePape is quoted as saying that “I really got to see first-hand the politics of Harper and his agenda going forward,” adding “I decided that I could not just sit idly by any longer and decided this was a good time to take action.” Frankly, if Ms. DePape felt that strongly then, she should have left the Page Program and run for office against the Conservatives like many young Quebec NDP’ers did rather than abuse her position and put a stain on the Page Program with an immature hissy fit. How could any future employer trust this person? We’ll ask that of Elizabeth May. I’m sure she is looking for an assistant.

 

Publisher’s Message

May 8, 2011 10:33 am
ParliamentHillOttawa1

On election night my friend, a long-time Liberal, called me and said, “well, that’s what happens to a Party that tries to be everything to everyone and stands for nothing at all.” The great Liberal Party of Canada, the Party of Laurier, King, St. Laurent, Pearson and Trudeau had been demolished by Liberal hacks and an old boys’ network whose infighting and insatiable lust for power trumped any chance at earning the continued support of Canadians. Where did it all go wrong? The destructive Paul Martin-Jean Chrétien feud is as good a place as any to begin. A fundamental reason for the long time success of the Liberals had always been the constant regeneration and renewal of the Party from within. The virulent animosity of the Martin-Chrétien feud cost the Party a generation of politically active young centrists who saw no room for themselves in a party fraught with insider fighting and unseemly public power struggles. Young people of the centre-left drifted toward the NDP and those on the centre-right toward the Conservatives.

The 2006 unexpected Dion leadership triumph should have been an early indication of the division between grassroots Liberals and the old boys’ club running the show. While Dion would prove to be hopelessly inept and out of his depth, it did not change the fact that Liberals across the country were clamouring for something better. In the ensuing coup d’état staged by the hacks, Michael Ignatieff and his supporters, Party insiders, in a bout of collective stupidity, ignored the grassroots and colluded to appoint by acclamation Ignatieff as the leader. The spin at the time was that the party under Dion was on the verge of bankruptcy and required stability. It proved to be the worst decision in the history of the Liberal Party. Ignatieff, in accepting the post by acclamation, lost any legitimacy with both party members and the Canadian public. Many recalled that Ignatieff did not run for his own nomination back in 2004. He was acclaimed there too. Ignatieff’s only true test of his capacity to run and win a real race was for the leadership in 2006, which he lost. Then, to buy off the unbridled ambition and ego of failed NDP Premier turned “Liberal” Bob Rae, Ignatieff handed him the high profile Foreign Affairs Critic portfolio. He gave ex-B.C. NDP Premier turned “Liberal”, Ujjal Dosanjh, the key Defence Critic portfolio. As a troika they used their roles to regularly attack the Afghanistan mission and the Canadian Forces. Even former Liberal Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham was genuinely disgusted with their behaviour and ludicrous claims. After all this, Ignatieff, Rae and Dosanjh demonstrated their cynicism and disdain for Canadians in one of the most brazen political flip-flops of all time by concocting a secret deal with the government to keep the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan until 2014. No debate, no vote in the House of Commons. It was not their sons and daughters laying their lives on the line. Jack Layton deserves credit for strenuously objecting and demanding a vote.  The point?  The Afghanistan policy, like many other issues faced by Ignatieff, Rae, Dosanjh and other Liberals in the House was not about principle. It just reeked of politics.

On election night, before his own seat was even announced as a win, Bob Rae was on television musing about the Liberal Party and a potential merger with the NDP and his own leadership aspirations. Then, former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, almost a decade retired from politics, was shilling for Rae to become the interim leader of the defeated party. Chrétien’s good friend and key advisor since the 70s is John Rae, Bob Rae’s brother.  Sadly, it diminishes Mr. Chrétien, truly one of the most successful Liberal Prime Ministers in history. As for Bob Rae, I share the feeling of grassroots Liberals across Canada who think that his idea of the Liberal Party merging with the NDP is a non starter. If Mr. Rae was truly interested in helping rebuild the Liberal Party, his resignation would be a good start. But those who have declared the Liberal Party dead and buried are wrong. The Party will rise out of the ashes. It has done it before and it will do it again.

Publisher's Message

10:33 am
ParliamentHillOttawa1

On election night my friend, a long-time Liberal, called me and said, “well, that’s what happens to a Party that tries to be everything to everyone and stands for nothing at all.” The great Liberal Party of Canada, the Party of Laurier, King, St. Laurent, Pearson and Trudeau had been demolished by Liberal hacks and an old boys’ network whose infighting and insatiable lust for power trumped any chance at earning the continued support of Canadians. Where did it all go wrong? The destructive Paul Martin-Jean Chrétien feud is as good a place as any to begin. A fundamental reason for the long time success of the Liberals had always been the constant regeneration and renewal of the Party from within. The virulent animosity of the Martin-Chrétien feud cost the Party a generation of politically active young centrists who saw no room for themselves in a party fraught with insider fighting and unseemly public power struggles. Young people of the centre-left drifted toward the NDP and those on the centre-right toward the Conservatives.

The 2006 unexpected Dion leadership triumph should have been an early indication of the division between grassroots Liberals and the old boys’ club running the show. While Dion would prove to be hopelessly inept and out of his depth, it did not change the fact that Liberals across the country were clamouring for something better. In the ensuing coup d’état staged by the hacks, Michael Ignatieff and his supporters, Party insiders, in a bout of collective stupidity, ignored the grassroots and colluded to appoint by acclamation Ignatieff as the leader. The spin at the time was that the party under Dion was on the verge of bankruptcy and required stability. It proved to be the worst decision in the history of the Liberal Party. Ignatieff, in accepting the post by acclamation, lost any legitimacy with both party members and the Canadian public. Many recalled that Ignatieff did not run for his own nomination back in 2004. He was acclaimed there too. Ignatieff’s only true test of his capacity to run and win a real race was for the leadership in 2006, which he lost. Then, to buy off the unbridled ambition and ego of failed NDP Premier turned “Liberal” Bob Rae, Ignatieff handed him the high profile Foreign Affairs Critic portfolio. He gave ex-B.C. NDP Premier turned “Liberal”, Ujjal Dosanjh, the key Defence Critic portfolio. As a troika they used their roles to regularly attack the Afghanistan mission and the Canadian Forces. Even former Liberal Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham was genuinely disgusted with their behaviour and ludicrous claims. After all this, Ignatieff, Rae and Dosanjh demonstrated their cynicism and disdain for Canadians in one of the most brazen political flip-flops of all time by concocting a secret deal with the government to keep the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan until 2014. No debate, no vote in the House of Commons. It was not their sons and daughters laying their lives on the line. Jack Layton deserves credit for strenuously objecting and demanding a vote.  The point?  The Afghanistan policy, like many other issues faced by Ignatieff, Rae, Dosanjh and other Liberals in the House was not about principle. It just reeked of politics.

On election night, before his own seat was even announced as a win, Bob Rae was on television musing about the Liberal Party and a potential merger with the NDP and his own leadership aspirations. Then, former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, almost a decade retired from politics, was shilling for Rae to become the interim leader of the defeated party. Chrétien’s good friend and key advisor since the 70s is John Rae, Bob Rae’s brother.  Sadly, it diminishes Mr. Chrétien, truly one of the most successful Liberal Prime Ministers in history. As for Bob Rae, I share the feeling of grassroots Liberals across Canada who think that his idea of the Liberal Party merging with the NDP is a non starter. If Mr. Rae was truly interested in helping rebuild the Liberal Party, his resignation would be a good start. But those who have declared the Liberal Party dead and buried are wrong. The Party will rise out of the ashes. It has done it before and it will do it again.

Recent Posts