Sir John A Macdonald. vs. John Diefenbaker for best prime minister
Dief was the Chief again, or so it seemed at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s third Annual Soirée, where a pair of politicians voiced their choice for Canada’s best prime minister.
The institute, a national public policy think tank based in Ottawa, hosted the sold-out evening at the Rideau Club on Wednesday.
John Diefenbaker, our leader from 1957 until 1963, was the top pick made by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney while Green Party leader Elizabeth May went with Sir John A. Macdonald.
Kenney eloquently listed off Diefenbaker’s many accomplishments (passing the Bill of Rights, appointing the first woman to cabinet, promoting multiculturalism) but his story about meeting Diefenbaker as a kid was a really nice touch.
He was “deeply, deeply a man of the people, more at home with the ordinary people of his beloved Prairies than with titans of industry and foreign potentates,” Kenney told the room of MPs, senators, political watchers and journalists. “I know, because as a nine-year-old boy I remember attending a charity fundraiser in Regina, Saskatchewan, attended by the great Chieftain.”
The former PM took the time to speak with the young Kenney and, upon learning the boy’s name, recounted the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts. Kenney later wrote Diefenbaker a thank-you note and got a lovely handwritten reply.
May lauded Macdonald for introducing mass transit in the form of coast-to-coast railway, creating our national park system, and expressing his concern over the reckless destruction of Canada’s timber as early as 1871. “He essentially set out the concern for sustainability before anyone else knew the word,” said May.
Present were institute managing director Brian Lee Crowley and honorary chair Peter Milliken. The 200-plus attendees included Tory Sen. Marjory LeBreton, former NDP national party director Robin Sears, Nigel Hannaford, manager of speech writing for Prime Minister Stephen Harper; and Ken Boessenkool, former chief of staff to B.C. Premier Christy Clark.
SINGING FOR THE ARTS
Hearts melted as outgoing interim Liberal leader Bob Rae played piano and crooned I Want to Spend a Little Time Alone With You at CAO’s annual Sweetheart Cocktail for the Arts event.
The senior statesman popped into the fundraiser with his wife, Arlene Perly Rae, and performed two songs that he’d written himself.
His endearing performance brought a tear to painter Barbara Gamble’s eye. Art Bank director Victoria Henry thought Rae was good enough to quit his day job (“I don’t think so,” retorted tougher critics like Cube Gallery’s Don Monet). Rae will step down soon enough, but not to seek out a record deal.
The evening was held at the ultracool Shopify Lounge in the ByWard Market and included folks from a number of local arts organizations and beyond, including Saskatoon’s Grant McConnell, head of the CARFAC national association of visual and media artists.
On hand was CAO (Council for the Arts in Ottawa) executive director Peter Honeywell to present the organization’s business recognition award to Patrick Gordon of Patrick Gordon Framing.
Mayor Jim Watson spoke about the importance of the arts and how “they’re good for the economy, they’re good for our soul, they’re good for our culture”, as well as for attracting tourists and creative minds to Ottawa.
CHARITY ALWAYS IN FASHION
On Sunday, Around Town beelined backstage, past the racks of haute couture and through the clouds of hairspray, to mix with celebrity models in Ottawa Fashion Week’s UNICEF Canada charity fashion show.
Award-winning opera singer and fashion icon Measha Brueggergosman was found chatting, with a glass of red wine in hand, with the likes of retired competitive skiers Patrick Biggs and Ryan Semple, both of whom were in the show.
“I love fashion and attend as many Canadian fashion events as my schedule will allow,” Brueggergosman told Around Town.
The opera diva was part of the 2012 OFW charity show. This time around, Brueggergosman wanted to “watch and cheer inappropriately loud” from her seat in the front row (where also seen was retired news anchor and resilient cancer patient Max Keeping).
During the show, soprano Julie Nesrallah wore a fetching red dress by Jana & Emilia Fashion Design to belt out a popular operatic aria from Carmen.
Also on the runway was Citizen fashion editor Janet Wilson in Sukhoo Sukhoo. She followed in the footsteps of her late mother, Eleanor Wilson, who worked as a top model in the ’70s and ’80s.
The male models, including the Citizen’s V-P of marketing, Paul Sarkozy, flaunted trendy designer duds from Schad Blü. Councillor Mathieu Fleury, sighted in a pair of John Varvatos, commented backstage he’s never worn such tight pants. “But I’ll survive,” said Fleury, who later showed off swag dance moves on the runway.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH HELPS CHEO
Black History Month was at its glamorous best as some 100 well-heeled partygoers came together at Vivante to raise money for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).
The gala, held Feb. 9, took place at the Ottawa Police Association’s Meryle Cameron Hall. Upon arrival, guests had their photo snapped with Miss Galaxy 2013, Solange Tuyishime, in front of a backdrop banner.
Haitian-Canadian artist Allan André was seen with brush and palette, working on a fresh painting that he finished by night’s end. Meanwhile, pouting fashion models showed off the latest from Stacey Bafi-Yeboa’s Kania Couture.
The night of dinner and dancing was co-chaired by Denise Siele, Serge Bijimine and Suzette Weekes.
Vivante “is about bringing together folks during Black History Month in support of an institution that really impacts everyone in the community,” said Siele, who was dressed to the nines (unlike five nights prior, when she bundled up and camped out in support of Sleep Out for Ottawa Youth).
The evening featured remarks from Dr. Carrol Pitters, chief of medical staff at CHEO, and the honourary patron, Jamaican-born Conservative Senator Don Meredith, who’s been an advocate for youth. On the Monday, he hosted on Parliament Hill some 50 at-risk youth from Toronto.
Guests also included Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi and Beacon Hill-Cyrville Councillor Tim Tierney, who showed Around Town the bells and whistles on his new best friend, the BlackBerry Z10.
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