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.
Magna chairman Frank Stronach rolled quietly into town to promote his new electric car and to secure loans under the government’s automotive innovation fund. Outside the Centre Block, he ran into Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Environment Minister Jim Prentice and Industry Minister Tony Clement, all of whom took a spin in one of the cars. It would be hard to find a more powerful trio in Ottawa, but Stronach was apparently nonplussed: while talking up the car to the three politicians, he took a call on his cell.
Heritage Minister James Moore hosted a reception for the Canadian motorcycle-road-trip film One Week at the National Gallery. Moore, who rides a BMW 1200GS motorcycle, says there are about as many Conservative MPs with bikes “as the entire NDP caucus.” Laureen Harper, who cried during the movie, has a dirt bike with heated handlebars. She told film director Michael McGowan that Stephen Harper decides what movie he wants to see based on the director, never the stars.
The lineup for Ontario Tory MP Scott Reid’s sixth annual Ontario microbrewery beer tasting/ Quebec cheese reception was huge. Ron Moir of Scotch Irish Brewing and Heritage Brewery says Reid has been of enormous help to microbreweries in getting taxes reduced. Moir is feeling a bit guilty now: in April, he moved his breweries out of Reid’s riding to Liberal MP David McGuinty’s.
The hexagon-inspired National Arts Centre celebrated its 40th anniversary. Asked what architectural structure he would leave for Canadians if he became PM, Michael Ignatieff quipped “a ziggurat.” But the Tories’ current stewardship of the economy, he says, means “we’ll be lucky if we have two matchsticks to put together.”