Mitchel Raphael on who Harper hugged at the Olympics and Ambrose’s grateful date

And the medal for best staffer goes to…

Jennifer Heil and Stephen HarperA wet PM Stephen Harper waited for almost an hour in the cold rain—without an umbrella—to congratulate moguls skier Jennifer Heil, who won Canada’s first Olympic medal at the Vancouver 2010 games. The PM could have waited inside, but chose to remain outdoors. He was with his daughter, Rachel Harper, and in a tender moment explained to her that Heil had done the best she could and won silver. When Heil won a gold medal in Turin in 2006, she came to Ottawa and got to meet Harper in his office. On Saturday night, the PM hugged Heil and said, “I got to see where you work today.” Watching the skiing events for eight hours in the rain was Minister of Public Works Rona Ambrose, who brought her mother, Colleen Chapchuk, as her Olympic date.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Colleen ChapchukChapchuk bought them both matching official Olympic mitts, scarves, and toques. Heil is from Spruce Grove, Alta., which is in Ambrose’s riding. Ambrose is also taking her mother to other events. “She loves figure skating. This is her birthday and Christmas present.” Ambrose scored best-daughter-ever points when she brought her mom to Michaëlle Jean’s reception for heads of state; among the guests were U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden and Princess Anne. But the guest everyone wanted photos with was California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he arrived, there was an empty seat next to Ambrose’s mom and he plunked himself down beside her.

Deirdra McCracken and Jean Chretien

Photograph by Ron Joyce (Left) and Jason Ransom (Right)

And the medal for best staffer goes to…
Heritage Minister James Moore accompanied the Olympic torch in B.C. as it went through his riding of Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam. Accompanying the minister was his director of communications, Deirdra McCracken. But there was no room in the official torch vehicle (especially with the sponsorship Coca-Cola girls), so she had to run seven kilometres to keep up. “It was a good thing I chose to wear running shoes and not heels that day,” quipped McCracken. At the opening ceremonies, Moore, whose portfolio includes the Olympics, heard a man behind him shout, “Good job!” He turned around and saw that the fellow, who was holding a beer, was Jean Chrétien.


Laureen Harper and David SerkoakLaureen Harper finally got the igloo she’s been wanting at 24 Sussex with the help of David Serkoak, who teaches Inuit culture at the Nunavut Sivuniksavut training program in Ottawa. He was recommended to her by Inuit leader Mary Simon. Mrs. Harper and a few of her friends were the igloo-building assistants; it took the team about four hours to complete the project. The snow was icy and difficult to carve: “We were going to do something bigger but the snow wasn’t right,” said Mrs. Harper. They used a saw and a knife that Serkoak made himself to carve out the blocks. “David was amazing with his knife, and once he was finished he was entombed in his creation and he dug from the inside and we dug from the outside and we created a door at the bottom,” noted Mrs. Harper. The plan now is to furnish the igloo with seal and caribou skins along with a dog sleigh. While building the igloo, Serkoak told the team stories about surviving in the North. His family spent their winters in an igloo until 1961. Farley Mowat wrote about the area he is from, which is west of Hudson Bay, in his book People of the Deer.

Not a white collar in sight
The Liberals have been holding round-table discussions during prorogation on everything from Afghanistan to Alzheimer’s. At one round table on white-collar crime, Capital Diary noted that not a single MP in attendance was wearing a white collar. Sporting a new peach dress shirt, for instance, was Liberal MP Mark Eyking. His wife, Pamela Eyking, had told him she was tired of seeing him in pink and blue shirts and that it was time for him to get a new colour.

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