By Paul Wells - Thursday, December 29, 2011 - 0 Comments
Belinda Stronach has a new idea! Let’s take it seriously for a few minutes.
“Despite the apparent stability of a majority government, Canadian politics is in ferment,” she begins, to which some readers may wish to reply, “Sorry, what?” She adds that her last known party, the Liberals, have been “liberated by circumstance to think about the state of politics and the future of the country in a way the government just can’t do.” As in, a wildly undisciplined and unrealistic way? Yup!
Canada, you see, has political institutions created in the 19th century that are “unsuited” to the 21st. What does that even mean? Don’t ask. “The body politic needs an MRI and a treatment plan for what ails it” — sorry, what? — “but that’s a long-term and multifaceted project that requires national will to modernize our ways of governing ourselves.”
And what’s the right thing to do to a patient before you undertake a long-term and multifaceted diagnosis?
“I think the time has come in Canada for limits on the number of consecutive terms that a parliamentarian can serve,” Stronach writes.
Sorry, what? Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 2:36 PM - 3 Comments
At this year’s Politics & the Pen gala, Anna Porter took home the $25…
At this year’s Politics & the Pen gala, Anna Porter took home the $25 000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for political writing for her book The Ghosts of Europe: Journeys Through Central Europe’s Troubled Past and Uncertain Future. Below, Porter with House Leader John Baird.
Belinda Stronach and Peter Mansbridge.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 10:28 AM - 17 Comments
Belinda Stronach calls for a roaming Parliament.
“I think we should consider some radical adjustments to the way that Parliament does its business,” she said. “We could, for example, institute video-conferencing and afford people the option to participate in committees or caucus meetings by video-conferencing. We now have the reliable technology and it’s used elsewhere, all the time, for distance work.”
Similarly, she asked why in this day and age, MPs actually have to be physically present in the Commons to cast a vote. “We could even put in place electronic distance voting in the House. This would allow a greater number of women and men to feel more able to balance family and public service,” she said.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 10:03 AM - 0 Comments
As someone who is employed for the expressed purposes of describing—”sketching,” as they say— the words, actions, behaviours and appearances of public figures, I am a keen student of community standards as they relate to physical description. And so, of course, I have been watching with great interest the discussion that has resulted from the printing and retracting of Stephen Marche’s description of Toronto mayoral candidate Rob Ford as “fat.”
This description—”great deflated tires of defeat,” Mr. Marche wrote quite illustratively—has provoked a great deal of consternation and, indeed, condemnation. To the greater community, the use of the term “fat” is apparently offensive. And on those grounds, Mr. Marche has been soundly and publicly rebuked. We have, as a society, identified a line over which it is unacceptable to tread.
So be it. But we should not let this pass with that as the only result. Here, indeed, is a teachable moment—a chance to ask ourselves pseudo-intellectually serious questions about how we describe the shapes, sizes and features that constitute the human mosaic. If, indeed, we are to describe them at all. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 11:28 AM - 0 Comments
Mercer and Stronach play with water guns (PHOTOS)
Politicos and celebrities marched with drag queens in this year’s Pride parade in Toronto. Some were armed with water guns. Below, Rick Mercer and Belinda Stronach.
Proud Liberals carry the Liberal banner, while Bob Rae carries the Canadian flag.
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, July 16, 2010 at 12:56 PM - 0 Comments
Large protests over civil rights violations at the G20 continue to happen in Toronto….
Large protests over civil rights violations at the G20 continue to happen in Toronto. Last week, people “took back” the intersection of Queen and Spadina where riot police famously held people for hours in the rain. On July 17th, Canadians Advocating Political Participation (CAPP) have rallies planned in three cities – Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 72 Comments
Why toilets matter more than teachers, MPs say it with hair, and The fake lake lives on
Why toilets matter more than teachers
Former Liberal cabinet minister Belinda Stronach held a special G(irls)20 summit in Toronto as a warm-up to the G20 hitting the city. Twenty-one women from the G20 countries and the African Union gathered to participate in workshops fostering ideas to tackle global challenges. Stronach said what struck her was the order of priorities in many developing countries when it comes to educating girls. The number one need is for dormitories, especially for girls who live far from a school and don’t have proper security for the trek. Next come latrines: some schools only have boys’ washrooms—or none at all. Then come teachers, and last on the list are books. “It’s a reminder of how unsafe some of these places are for young women,” says Stronach. When asked if the G(irls)20 summit also featured a “fake lake,” Stronach noted, “This is a very serious endeavour. We have a lot of sponsors and we manage their money very carefully.”
MPs say it with hair
Many MPs rushed over worriedly when Bloc MP Nicole Demers, a breast cancer survivor, turned up recently with a shaved head. She calmed their fears, telling them she’d shaved—for the fourth time—to support Leucan, a Quebec organization for children with leukemia and other cancers. “This is for kids to realize they are not alone,” Demers says. Also using her tresses to promote a cause is Vancouver Liberal MP Joyce Murray, who has been sporting bright red hair as part of the cystic fibrosis awareness campaign Reddy for a Cure. The campaign honours Eva Markvoort, a fiery redhead who blogged about her ordeal with CF and died at the age of 25. How long will Murray keep the bright red locks? She quipped, “Well, Canada Day is coming.” Nothing says Canada Day like red.
The fake lake lives on
The “fake lake” at Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff ’s annual garden party for the media was so popular that the Grits decided to keep it for the subsequent MP and staff parties. But the kids’ swimming pool, complete with fake ducks to create a Muskoka-like “fake lake” ambience, had to be dismantled and set up again for each party, lest it destroy the lawn. Noted one Liberal staffer, “We’d get in trouble with the NCC [National Capital Commission].” Jokes about the Conservatives’ “fake lake” were a constant on the Hill as Parliament wound down for the summer. Justin Trudeau’s aide Louis-Alexandre Lanthier cracked, “They build a fake lake right beside Lake Ontario—can you imagine if the G20 had been held in Niagara Falls?”
Why he won’t run for mayor
There has been buzz on the Hill about whether Nova Scotia NDP Peter Stoffer will run for mayor of Halifax in the next election. He says it all started when he was asked if he would consider entering the race and simply replied, “I never say never”—thereby sparking a frenzy of speculation. For the record, then: Stoffer says he is the candidate for his riding in the next federal election and if re-elected—almost certain for the popular MP—will serve out his mandate. He says he does not like it when politicians job-hop, sticking taxpayers with a costly by-election.
What the Speaker can’t speak about
Protesters on the lawn of Parliament Hill made a ruckus over the closure of prison farms, created in the late 1800s. Save Our Prison Farms notes on its website that the government fails to appreciate “the value of a restorative approach to justice and a sustainable, local approach to the future of farming and food.” The government says the program was losing money and questions the marketability of agricultural skills post-prison. One riding hit hard by the closures is Speaker Peter Milliken’s. The Speaker has to remain neutral on such issues, but his riding office has been getting an earful over the closures.
By Chris Sorensen - Monday, June 28, 2010 at 10:45 AM - 40 Comments
Frank Stronach’s big payout
For much of the past decade, the annual meetings of auto parts giant Magna International followed a rhythm as familiar as it was frustrating: a handful of shareholders would stand up and express outrage at founder and chairman Frank Stronach’s hefty annual pay packages; the Austrian-born Stronach, with the squinted eyes of a gunslinger at high noon, would respond by effectively telling everyone to go to hell. In 2003, for example, Stronach bluntly told reporters “I should get more” when asked whether he deserved the $58.1 million he pocketed a year earlier.
The following year he offered his personal philosophy on why company founders should continue to receive rich pay packages even if they’re no longer occupying the job of CEO—it helps foster an entrepreneurial spirit, he explained—but not because he felt the need to justify himself to critics. “I could say, ‘Look, if you don’t like it, sell your shares. It’s a free country.’ ”
That, more or less, was where the debate ended every year, much to the chagrin of corporate governance types. Stronach has been criticized for essentially milking the company he founded with the board’s acquiescence. His average annual take-home pay over the past decade was over $41 million, much of it in the form of so-called “consulting fees” calculated as a percentage of Magna’s pre-tax earnings. In 2007, at the peak of the market, he hit a personal best of $70 million. (The next best paid CEOs that year were Mike Lazaridis of Research In Motion, who earned $51.5 million in total compensation, and Royal Bank’s Gordon Nixon, at $44.2 million. Magna’s co-CEOs Siegfried Wolf and Donald Walker earned $13.4 million and $12 million, respectively.)
And it’s not just Stronach’s hefty pay that rankles investors. It’s his tendency to use his clout as controlling shareholder, made possible by the family’s ownership of a special class of multiple voting shares, to periodically grab Magna’s steering wheel as he pursued a host of risky business ideas. They included building a racetrack and casino empire, trying to buy Chrysler, the most troubled of the beleaguered Detroit Three, and selling part of Magna to a Russian tycoon with a murky background. As a result, the company’s stock trades at a significant discount to its rivals—a phenomenon known on the Street as the “Frank Factor.”
So there was a palpable sigh of shareholder relief when Magna said in May that Stronach had finally accepted a management proposal to buy out his voting control. The jubilation initially overshadowed the deal’s jaw-dropping $863-million price tag, which represents a nearly 1,800 per cent premium for Stronach’s voting shares. But even as Magna’s regular shares began to climb, a feeling of bitterness set in among several big institutional shareholders. After all, it was one thing to look past the consulting fees as long as the company was growing and making money, but quite another to allow Stronach a final egregious handout simply for agreeing to relinquish his iron grip.
Faced with mounting complaints, the Ontario Securities Commission decided to hold a hearing on the issue this week. Much of what the regulator is looking at are the technical details of the transaction, including whether the board provided sufficient information to investors before a vote on the deal, scheduled for June 28. Critics are worried that if the transaction is approved without serious changes—a likely scenario judging by the 15 per cent rise in Magna’s stock price on the day the deal was announced—it could send the wrong message to the country’s capital markets, namely that bad behaviour is rewarded. “There’s an enormous premium being paid here,” says Joseph Groia of Groia & Co., a former head of enforcement for the OSC who is now acting on behalf of shareholders’ rights group FAIR Canada in the Magna case. “And in a marketplace with a large number of two-tier share structures, that would set a terrible precedent.”
Of course, it’s not like Magna shareholders didn’t know what they were getting into. Magna and Stronach have a long history of what Richard Powers, the associate dean at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, called “non-best practices” when it comes to corporate governance. Nevertheless, Powers points the finger at Magna’s board for being too timid to offer a recommendation on how shareholders should vote. “That’s why they get paid,” he says. “The only inference you can take from that is they had questions they weren’t willing to raise in front of Frank.”
For its part, Magna has said it is doing its best to satisfy the OSC’s concerns about disclosure, raising the possibility of some sort of compromise. Last week, Magna released two internal reports about the transaction, one of which warned that the proposed deal would be “controversial.” As for why the arrangement was struck in the first place, Stronach, 77, who declined an interview request, has offered only vague references about it being time to let go of the company he started in the late 1950s. He has also said he hopes there will still be a role at Magna for his daughter Belinda Stronach, who served as CEO of the company before entering federal politics (she is currently Magna’s vice-chairman).
It’s a major about-face for a man who has long argued that family-controlled companies are desirable because they’re not as beholden to short-term goals like meeting analysts’ quarterly profit targets, and can instead focus on long-term strategies. Critics, however, say such ownership structures aren’t fair to the company’s real owners—the shareholders—and create opportunities for abuse.
Few investors are thrilled with the idea of paying a massive sum just to see Stronach go away, but not everyone agrees that the regulator should have become involved. If the OSC decides to kill the deal, it could mean the era of Stronach rule at Magna will continue indefinitely, since no one can force him to sell his shares. “I think Frank Stronach is extracting a pound of flesh,” says David Taylor, a portfolio manager at Goodman & Co., which own $5 million worth of Magna stock. “But the beauty of this deal is you get to vote on it. I can’t think of anything fairer than that.” Taylor also dismisses the idea that Magna’s board could have handled things better. “We can all do the math,” he says. “We know the price they are paying per share and it’s a ridiculous number. So the board can do all the analysis and calculations it wants, but it wouldn’t change anybody’s view whatsoever. We know it’s a stupid price.” At the end of the day, he says, the elimination of the dual-class structure should boost the stock from its current price of about $69 to around $100, based on the valuation of Magna’s rivals. “So we’re paying $800 million and change to add $3 billion in value—there’s your analysis.”
Other investors, however, say it’s time to take a stand. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan was previously a big Magna shareholder, but sold off all but one share (to remain involved with Magna as it fights dual-class share structures as a matter of principle) several years ago following Stronach’s decision to sell a big piece of the company to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, an industrialist with close ties to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. (Deripaska sold his shares a year later amid the global economic collapse.) “We had repeatedly spoken to them about the compensation they provide to Mr. Stronach in terms of these consulting arrangements because we didn’t think there was any justification for that,” says Wayne Kozun, the senior vice-president of public equities for Teachers’ investment arm. “We’ve had an issue with that because he’s not actively involved with running the company but he’s getting a life-long annuity of tens of millions a year. And we didn’t like the dual-class shares and the lack of independence of directors either.”
Like other critics, Teachers’ is concerned the deal to buy out Stronach will set a bad precedent, but Kozun says there’s other dangers lurking under the hood. Under the current arrangement, Stronach will get control over Magna’s new electric car division (and another four years of consulting payments) even though he would have a minority financial interest in the undertaking. At present, the project is considered to be peripheral to Magna’s core auto parts business, but if that changes, Kozun says Stronach could once again end up in the driver’s seat. “What they could be setting up here is a new dual-class Magna similar to the way it has existed in the past,” Kozun says. “And then if we wanted to buy out Mr. Stronach, we would have to pay another 1,800 per cent premium.” All of a sudden, $41 million a year is starting to look like bargain.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 12:50 PM - 0 Comments
Bowling for Haiti
IT gets hot, hot, hot when you’re all wearing sealskin
“A Taste of the Arctic,” held at the National Gallery of Canada, kicked off 2010 as the Year of the Inuit. The room, packed with people wearing sealskin outfits, got so hot doors needed to be opened to let in the winter air. Inuit leader Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, was in a new head-to-toe sealskin ensemble complete with caribou antler buttons, made by Victoria Okpik of Nunavik Creations. It was the ofﬁcial debut of the outfit Simon plans to wear for the opening of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. Food at the Taste of the Arctic included dried caribou jerky, agnolotti with muskox tomato sauce, and a shepherd’s pie made with ground seal meat. On the tables were rocks that looked like ice, covered in flowers. At ﬁrst glance the decorations resembled giant spiders, causing more than a few alarmed double takes. Among the guests at the event were Nunavut’s government leader Eva Aariak and federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, the MP for Nunavut. Laureen Harper, invited by Simon, also attended. Noted Mrs. Harper: “Mary said there would be Arctic char and I love Arctic char.” Over the Christmas break, the Harpers, including the PM, made a snow fort at Harrington Lake; at the event, Mrs. Harper asked the Inuit leader if she could help her make an authentic igloo. “We have lots of snow there,” Mrs. Harper said. “I’m not sure it’s the right kind.” Another guest was former Nunavut MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell. She recently saw the birth of her sixth granddaughter and told Capital Diary she loves spending time with the girls after raising four sons. CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge was honoured at the event with an award for his coverage of the Arctic. It was also announced that several Inuit groups would be donating nearly $100,000 to help Haiti.
SHE’S HELPING Haitians stranded in quebec
The earthquake in Haiti has politicians dealing with a variety of issues. Bloc MP Nicole Demers says her office is working with Haitians who were visiting Quebec and are now stranded here because their homes have been reduced to rubble. Montreal Liberal MP Marlene Jennings says two nuns from the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Anne in her riding are still looking for two missionaries missing in Haiti. Former Bloc MP and current vice-president of the Bloc Québécois, Vivian Barbot, who was born in Haiti, managed to get texts and cellphone photos of the devastation from people. Sadly, while Barbot’s cousin managed to survive, his wife and her entire family were killed. Fortunately, the son of Barbot’s cousin is in Canada studying. Barbot says the Bloc is calling for a Marshall Plan for Haiti.
Bowling for Haiti
Last week, Ottawa NDP MP Paul Dewar had planned to hold a Bowling for Paul fundraiser for his riding association. He changed it to Bowling for Haiti. More than $1,000 was raised for the Humanitarian Coalition (Oxfam, CARE and Save the Children). On Jan. 25 there is a nonpartisan event called Hill Helps Haiti, being organized by the government relations ﬁrm Summa Strategies.
Former MP Belinda Stronach’s Belinda Stronach Foundation is planning a special women’s summit in Toronto to coincide with the upcoming G20 Summit. Twenty groups are involved, including the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and UNICEF. It’s being billed as Girls20.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
And who flirted with Rosemary Thompson
To Martha, from Stephen
After Toronto Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay made a fuss about “partisan” images of the Prime Minister all over government websites, the pictures suddenly disappeared. Later, in the House, wanting to make a point of the Conservatives suddenly trying to mask the blatant advertising, she asked why “someone” had “removed dozens of photos of the Prime Minister from the website for the economic action plan.” The response came from Transport Minister John Baird: “While the Liberal party is trolling the Internet looking for pictures of the Prime Minister, it is this Conservative government that is working hard to create jobs to inspire more hope.” The next day Baird came over to Hall Findlay with a signed picture of Stephen Harper. The PM had inscribed it: “To Martha, I heard you’re looking for a photo!” Continue…
By Katie Engelhart - Friday, October 9, 2009 at 10:39 AM - 1 Comment
Why the Larry O’Brien trial might have politicians thinking twice about switching sides
The week’s juiciest political story turned out to be a dud. Not long after the Toronto Star published a front-page article about a “trio of Liberals” looking to defect to the Tories, the paper backed away from the story, claiming it had been misled by Alykhan Velshi, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s communications director. Needless to say, the defections never materialized.
But let us consider the consequences of an alternate ending—one in which three Liberals had in fact switched sides. Let us further imagine that one or more of them had taken a cabinet post. After all, it’s not unusual for defectors to be rewarded with high-profile jobs. When Belinda Stronach left the Tories in 2005, she was immediately appointed the minister of human resources and skills development. More recently, David Emerson was elected under the Liberal banner in 2006 after vowing to be “Stephen Harper’s worst nightmare,” but he soon left the party to become minister of international trade in Harper’s new minority government. Though Stronach and Emerson faced the wrath of voters and columnists across Canada, their troubles never escalated to the legal arena. But things might have been different this time around for the Liberals’ supposed malcontents thanks to a ruling in the trial of Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien.
This past spring, O’Brien was accused of influence peddling for allegedly promising a political rival a seat on the National Parole Board in exchange for dropping out of the city’s mayoral race. For O’Brien, even though he was eventually acquitted, it was the latest in a seemingly endless series of political headaches since his 2006 election. But for prosecutors, it was an opportunity to test arcane Criminal Code provisions against political corruption that hadn’t been litigated in decades.
Midway through the trial, O’Brien’s lawyers argued the case should be thrown out on the basis the Crown was seeking to criminalize commonplace political wrangling—in this case, promising a political appointment to an opponent in exchange for help. Going into the trial, lawyers had speculated the Crown’s case against O’Brien might be dismissed for that very reason. Even Justice Douglas Cunningham conceded that “the very nature of political activity does involve a certain amount of trading and promises. If you support the party, you will be rewarded, whether it’s actually stated or implied. That’s the nature of patronage.” But Cunningham ended up not only rejecting O’Brien’s request for a dismissal, he opened the door to future prosecutions against politicians who deal in high-level quid pro quos.
“The Crown submits that just because this activity is one of politics’ dirty realities does not make it any less odious, indeed criminal,” Cunningham wrote in his decision. “I agree with this submission. In short, just because it happens doesn’t necessarily make it acceptable.” Cunningham’s ruling now stands as the reigning precedent for such cases, meaning floor-crossings could be subject to investigations similar to the one that befell O’Brien if they’re suspected of having been motivated by the promise of a promotion.
“There is a warning out there,” says Errol Mendes, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa of the impact Cunningham’s decision might have on political life in Canada. He suggests lawyers will likely be advising MPs to be more cautious about the kinds of promises they make while striking deals. “Just the fact that [O’Brien] had to go through the allegations, the trial, etc.,” says Mendes, “those things alone should send a warning to people—don’t go anywhere near those sort of possible allegations.” Mendes hopes Cunningham’s “rap on the knuckle” will persuade politicians to be on their best behaviour in Ottawa. “The Canadian electorate is getting very tired and losing trust in politicians,” he says. “The most destructive impact of this is that it loosens trust in all democratic institutions.”
No matter how much they anger Canadians, defections aren’t likely to disappear from the political landscape any time soon. Still, had the Conservatives successfully lured three of their putative opponents to switch sides, it may have at least provided an opportunity to test whether Cunningham has succeeded in making them less lucrative.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, August 10, 2009 at 3:57 PM - 19 Comments
Sylvia Bashevkin talks about her new book, women in politics and this government’s attitude toward women.
“So we see this pattern of speech where we often speak about women in those leadership positions using their first names. … We find this pattern of dissecting their appearance, their clothing, their hair, their style of speech, their personal lives. This is probably not just trivializing the women who may seek to run for top office but it also serves to discourage individuals from trying out those careers. It tends to dampen the supply of women as well as men who are willing to submit to that kind of public microscopic examination so part of it is the stakes that are involved.
“There is high stakes in all fields but very few of them are as exposed, stark, public inspection as public political leadership. … So therefore, we tend to see women who become party leaders, leading parties that are really very weak and then blaming them when the party in fact turn in weak results in an election, which is entirely consistent with the fact that the party was in a weak position.”
The first name basis on which we seem to be with most female politicians is an interesting point. Part of it probably has to do with little more than the fact that the lack of women in positions of political power makes female names all the more singular—you know who is being discussed when someone mentions Belinda or Ruby, there’d be more possibility of confusion if we talked about Michael or Stephen.
None of which gets around the fact that the use of first names in this context is almost always implicitly diminishing.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, July 27, 2009 at 1:08 PM - 21 Comments
A few interesting reads from the weekend: Susan Delacourt looks at new research into the electability of women in Canada, Alice Funke adds her own analysis, and Linda Silver Dranoff reviews Canada’s Unfinished Democracy. From the latter.
She points out that this “women+power=discomfort” equation makes people focus on the contests that women lose and extrapolate from that, that women are losers. Many do run in ridings they have no chance of winning, or for parties that have no chance of governing.
The examples she provides are persuasive, including Agnes MacPhail, Thérèse Casgrain, Kim Campbell and Belinda Stronach, but the one that resonated with me was Flora MacDonald. In 1976, she was considered a shoo-in for the Progressive Conservative leadership; members of her party had promised her enough votes to assure a win. But when they went into the voting booths, they didn’t vote for her. Has Bashevkin provided the explanation about 30 years later? Were MacDonald’s supporters just plain uncomfortable with a woman in power? It would seem so.
One other way of looking at this: what precisely is the model for female political leadership in Canada? Who would you tell a 25-year-old women thinking of getting into politics to model herself after? Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 5:00 PM - 2 Comments
What made Laureen cry and the rock and roll senator
Senator Nancy Ruth’s complaint
The gay advocacy group Egale held its first-ever big gala in Toronto’s Le Meridien King Edward Hotel to mark the 40th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada, an event encapsulated by Pierre Trudeau’s famous line, “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” Justin Trudeau was the keynote speaker. Egale’s executive director, Helen Kennedy, says the group has never had so many MPs at an event. Political attendees included Transport Minister John Baird, Liberal MPs Scott Brison and Mario Silva, former Liberal interim leader Bill Graham, NDP MP Olivia Chow and former Liberal cabinet minister Belinda Stronach. Conservative strategist Jaime Watt, who is chairman of the Navigator communications firm, was presented with the group’s inaugural Leadership Award for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) human rights. Stronach was impressed by the way Watt and his partner raised his daughter Heather Watt from a previous marriage. “They were such great parents,” she says. Derek Vanstone, Jim Flaherty’s chief of staff, called Watt “a trailblazer who made it easier for people to be gay and Conservative, including myself.” Vanstone notes it is thanks to Watt that Ontario, under the Conservative government of Mike Harris (Watt played a key role in getting him elected), changed every single statute that dealt with common-law couples and gave same-sex spouses the same rights. “It was the single biggest voluntary step [for gay rights] any government in Canada has ever taken,” says Vanstone. Flaherty, who was Ontario’s attorney general at the time, noted in a congratulatory letter to Watt that “Some were surprised our government took this decision . . . but conservatives fundamentally believe in equality and fairness. It does, however, sometimes take leaders such as Jaime to help us live up to our ideals.” At the after-party, Tory Senator Nancy Ruth was the first to hit the dance floor but was upset when the DJ spun electronic beats and no rock music.
By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 10:48 PM - 20 Comments
Here are bonus pics from the gay advocacy group EGALE’s first-ever big gala. The…
Here are bonus pics from the gay advocacy group EGALE’s first-ever big gala. The event took place at Toronto’s Le Meridien King Edward Hotel and marked the 40th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada. To see the full gallery click here.
Former Liberal cabinet minister Belinda Stronach chills backstage with the models from the Superstein fashion show.
Conservative strategist Jaime Watt (right), who is chairman of the Navigator communications firm, was presented with the group’s inaugural Leadership Award for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) human rights. He is with his partner Paul Ferguson.
Transport Minister John Baird (right) and Jaime Watt.
By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 11:51 AM - 0 Comments
Event marks the 40th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada
The gay advocacy group Egale held its ﬁrst-ever large-scale gala in Toronto’s Le Meridien King Edward Hotel to mark the 40th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada. Conservative strategist Jaime Watt, who is chairman of the Navigator communications ﬁrm, was presented with the group’s inaugural Leadership Award for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) human rights. Justin Trudeau was the keynote speaker. Designer John Walke served up a fashion show with his Superstein label.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 1:37 PM - 20 Comments
Susan Delacourt considers some of the scorn directed Ruby Dhalla’s way.
Ambition is a tolerable trait in male politicians, but it’s still true, by and large, that ambition is seen as a flaw for women. When Belinda Stronach defected from Conservatives to the then-ruling Liberals in 2005, for instance, Stephen Harper said it was “just ambition” that drove her away.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 9, 2009 at 11:39 AM - 52 Comments
Belinda Stronach on women in politics.
We are of course long past the time when a woman entering politics prompted men to gasp at the audacity of it all. But we haven’t achieved equality of numbers. In fact, we’re not even close.
While women represent 52 per cent of the Canadian population, only 22 per cent of federal Members of Parliament are women; this ranks Canada 46th out of 189 countries in this indicator, behind countries like Rwanda, Iraq and Afghanistan.
We haven’t achieved the kind of progress that so many Canadian women seek in advancing social justice and improving the tone of political discourse in the House of Commons and beyond.
It’s possibly even worse than that. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 19, 2008 at 5:23 PM - 8 Comments
Today, looking dignified and crisp in black and white, the Governor General sat upon her crushed-velvet and wood throne and read into the record this government’s intentions—its legislative agenda for these infinitely troubled times. Next week, she will depart for a series of state visits in Eastern Europe. There she will dine with the leadership of Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia. When she returns in December, someone will inevitably total up the cost to taxpayers and report it in breathless detail.
Such is the duty—the pomp and circumstance—of the vice-regal. None of which seems perhaps as significant—interesting? meaningful? relevant?—as what Michaelle Jean did of her own volition a few days ago.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 10:35 PM - 0 Comments
Ralph Goodale re-elected. Belinda Stronach’s riding goes to the Conservatives. Bonnie Brown is out.
Looks like Denis Coderre, Raymonde Folco, Marlene Jennings, Irwin Cotler, Bernard Patry, Francis Scarpaleggia, Pablo Rodriguez and Massimo Pacetti will all be re-elected around Montreal.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, October 11, 2008 at 4:26 PM - 0 Comments
(From now through the end of the campaign next week, I’ll be with the Liberal tour. Regular reports should appear here irregularly.)
This afternoon’s stop at a rather palatial community centre north of Toronto included guest appearances by Belinda Stronach and, traveling separately, a dozen protesters carrying signs upon which were written slogans that corresponded neatly with Conservative party talking points. One wore a poorly fitting hockey jersey. Another insisted on holding his sign upside down (better to express his objection to the carbon tax perhaps).
Mr. Dion and the local candidate strolled around the community centre, flanked by two young girls sporting leather caps and feather boas, with the Liberal leader’s surname painted on their faces. The two politicians talked hockey while overlooking an ice rink, then stopped to pick up some popcorn from the refreshment stand. In keeping with his commitment to a proper social safety net, Mr. Dion gave his to a group of children.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 13, 2008 at 10:58 AM - 0 Comments
A moment please for Peter MacKay.
It’s been almost two years now since he allegedly made canine reference to Belinda Stronach, but still, whenever discussion turns to sexism in Canadian politics, his is the standard that is cited as precedent. And this time he has only to look across the cabinet table and ask why Rona Ambrose was apparently unable to resist calling into question Stéphane Dion and the entire Liberal party in demanding Robert Thibault apologize, thereby making such comparisons inevitable.
But MacKay, in his eternal defence, is hardly alone in this glass house Ms. Ambrose (who, herself, once demeaned Ken Dryden’s age, race and gender) has neatly constructed. Maurice Vellacott resolutely remains a member of Conservative caucus despite his questionable comments on the matter of Ms. Stronach. As does Monte Solberg.
Mind you, the latter’s comments are not so easily referenced, published as they were on a blog that is long ago defunct. In fairness then to Mr. MacKay and so that Mr. Solberg might get his due credit, we reprint them here.
By Jeff Harris - Monday, June 18, 2007 at 2:16 PM - 0 Comments
Stars pull out all the stops to make an impression at the MuchMusic Video…
Stars pull out all the stops to make an impression at the MuchMusic Video Awards. Jay Manual, of Canada’s Next Top Model, sports a “fierce” hat to the annual show and Tara Reid looks bright and beautiful (seriously). We’ve also got pics of Alexisonfire, Sum 41, Hilary Duff and Fergie.