With Rod Zimmer currently in the headlines, Aaron Wherry considers his journey to the Senate:
In 1999, Rod Zimmer, a prominent Winnipeg businessman and fundraiser, was reportedly among the final two candidates for the posting of Lieutenant Governor in Manitoba. Jean Chrétien chose the other finalist, Peter Liba.
Six years later, Zimmer received a decent consolation prize—an appointment to the Senate. Zimmer was among five senators selected in August of that year by Paul Martin.
From 1968 to 1971, Zimmer was an assistant to Cyril MacDonald, the Liberal minister of welfare in Saskatchewan, and for most of the rest of the 1970s he was an assistant to James Richardson, the federal minister of defence. He was the Manitoba chair for the federal Liberal campaign in 1980 and while then building a career in business—including prominent positions with CanWest and the Manitoba Lotteries Foundation—Zimmer continued to work within and around the Liberal party. He was a member of the fundraising committee for Paul Martin’s leadership campaign in 2003 and revenue chair for the federal Liberals in Manitoba from 2004 to 2006.
“People will comment on the fundraising that he’s done for the Liberal party, but what is overlooked is the incredible amount of work he’s done for all sorts of other causes in Manitoba,” Manitoba Liberal leader Jon Gerrard told the Winnipeg Free Press when Zimmer’s Senate appointment was announced. “That kind of commitment is a positive thing. He has a lot of public spirit.”
After Martin’s resignation, Zimmer helped raise funds for Ken Dryden’s leadership campaign.
From 1989 to 1991, he was president of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and from 1981 to 1993 he was a member of the board of directors for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. And according to Zimmer’s official biography, he is a “champion swimmer, diver, and water-skier” and “he has actively participated in hockey, baseball, football, basketball, volleyball, curling, tennis, golf, soccer, squash, handball, badminton and downhill skiing.”