On Martin’s exit tapes and the GG’s snowball fight

PLUS: Why silent auctions make Michael Ignatieff nervous

Mitchel Raphael on Martin’s exit tapes and the GG’s (she started it!) snowball fight


Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was honorary chair of the Winter Palace Ball fundraiser for Ruskoka Camp, which helps underprivileged Russian-Canadian youth. The evening was called “Dancing with the Tsars.” Ceremonial Russian guards lifted their swords as guests entered the ballroom of the Old Mill Inn in Toronto. After walking under the swords with her husband, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, Ignatieff’s wife, made a beeline for the silent auction. Interested in a cream-coloured hand-knit Orenburg shawl, Zsohar took off one of her rings to test its authenticity. (The cloth should be fine and airy enough to go through, she told Capital Diary.) The scarf passed the test and Zsohar put in a bid. “An occupational hazard of my life,” noted Ignatieff, “is keeping my wife from bankrupting us at silent auctions.” Over on the dance floor was a glass case (loaned by Natasha Bronfman, one of the ball’s organizers) with souvenirs that had been given by Czar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Fedorovna to guests at what would be the final Christmas ball at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Paul Ignatieff, the Liberal leader’s grandfather, served as education minister to Nicholas II.


Governor General Michaëlle Jean held a special ceremony on the grounds of Rideau Hall to unveil the Olympic torch for the 2010 Vancouver Games. Schoolchildren, including a Grade 3 class from Leslie Park Public School located in Transport Minister John Baird’s Ottawa riding, were brought in to watch. Baird, who was on hand for the ceremony, welcomed the kids. “You have Quatchi on your face,” he told one child, referring to his temporary tattoo of one of the three Olympic mascots (there are also young sea bear Miga and animal spirit Sumi). The third-grader had no idea his tattoo was one of the mascots, but after the minister explained it, Baird was bombarded with “Who’s on my face?” For the record, the young sasquatch Quatchi is Baird’s favourite. After the ceremony, the Governor General took the kids snowshoeing on the grounds of Rideau Hall and had a fun snowball fight with them. Capital Diary feels obligated to report that the GG appeared to throw the first snowball.


Former prime minister Paul Martin spoke at the University of Ottawa about the G8 being obsolete and how the future belongs to the G20. The talk was presented by the university and Library and Archives Canada. At the top of his speech, Martin mentioned how, after he was no longer PM, the archives sat him down for taped interviews and peppered him with questions about his time in office. In the audience was the president of the university, Allan Rock, a minister under Jean Chrétien, and Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale. Martin said he had great things to say about both Rock and Goodale in those interviews but, he added (not too optimistically for his former colleagues), they will never get to hear them because the archives seal the tapes for 30 years. One can only imagine what Martin said about Chrétien.


Heritage Minister James Moore presided over a special Flag Day celebration in Speaker Peter Milliken’s Hill reception room. A stunning collection that includes all of Canada’s historical flags (including ones like the white flag of the French navy before Canada was even a country) was created by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney when he was in a prior portfolio. Kenney noted that the Speaker’s reception room was where the parliamentary committee first met to discuss the new flag that resulted in the current Maple Leaf, which first flew on Feb. 15, 1965. A Tory MP noted with a smile that one of the options for the new Canadian flag on display featured a green leaf that, in his opinion, looked a lot like a cannabis leaf.

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