Mitchel Raphael on the power couple who are heading for Calgary

The giant belt buckles just had to go, An MP’s starring role in Vienna, and Ignatieff’s wife doesn’t get a preview

The giant belt buckles just had to go
Ottawa is losing one of its top, not to mention better-looking, power couples. Conservative House leader Jay Hill has announced he will not run in the next election. His wife of 11 years, Leah Murray, one of the capital’s best-dressed women (her taste in footwear is superb), has already moved to Calgary to take up a position with the public relations firm National. The two are having a home built in Calgary, which will be ready in September. When Murray met Hill, he was a rural B.C. MP with the Reform party. He wore black jeans, giant belt buckles (“satellite dishes,” as she called them), bolo ties and he had a toothpick in his mouth. “He was one below [former Alberta MP] Myron Thompson when it came to worst-dressed on the Hill,” says Murray. A month after they met, Hill suggested the two of them go shopping. When the press gallery members saw Hill in his new Harry Rosen duds in the House, they couldn’t believe it. Hill noticed them staring at him and pointed up to Murray, who was sitting in a viewing gallery. The media looked over to her and burst into applause. Over the last several years the two have teamed up for a number of charity events, including selling Afghan silk scarves to help with literacy programs in Afghanistan and selling goats (buttons represented each goat bought) to help with orphanages. Murray was involved with the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s prestigious Politics and the Pen award gala for political writing, which Hill co-hosted last year. She also sat on the gala organizing committee for the Governor General’s performing arts awards and helped bring a large number of MPs to the ceremony. Murray says the two always planned to retire to Calgary, but thought it was best to move their lives and careers there now to build a base for the future. Two of Hill’s three children from a previous marriage live there.

An MP’s starring role in Vienna
NDP MP Libby Davies returned to Canada last week after attending the XVIII International AIDS conference in Vienna. Jet lag prevented her from attending a rally with iconic singer Annie Lennox, but she was the only North American MP to participate in the first-ever politicians panel at the conference. Davies was pleased with the conference’s Vienna Declaration, which endorses drug harm-reduction models like the safe-injection health facility Insite located in her East Vancouver riding. The federal government is still fighting the B.C. government over Insite. On Davies’ first official day as an MP in 1997, she was walking to the Senate to hear the Speech from the Throne beside the health minister at the time, Allan Rock. Seeing her chance to discuss the record number of drug overdose deaths in her riding, she introduced herself and began talking. Rock said he would meet with her, but Davies says follow-up calls and emails went unanswered. Finally, she went and sat in the minister’s office and said she was not leaving until she got an appointment. She got one, and after they met, the ball got rolling on what would become Insite.

Ignatieff’s wife doesn’t get a preview
The Liberal Express, Michael Ignatieff’s cross-country summer tour, rolled into Toronto this week. Stops included the riding of Thornhill just north of the city, which the Liberals lost to Conservative Peter Kent in the last election, and the riding of Trinity-Spadina, which they lost to the NDP’s Olivia Chow two elections ago. In Thornhill, Ignatieff’s wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, listened attentively to Iggy’s speech, which was much more passionate than the scripted questions the leader asks in the House. Does her husband do dry runs of his speeches for her? No, said Zsohar. In fact, much of what she was hearing was “for the first time.” One Liberal noted it’s all a dry run for when the next election is called, an opportunity to make sure the team works well together.

Photographs by Mitchel Rapheal

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