Hobnobbing with Canadian Political Leaders

I’m not a name-dropper (exactly). I’m more of a hobnobber. In my case, the spelling should likely be amended to “hob-knob-ber,” as I can now truthfully say I have “rubbed shoulders” with Canadian political leaders of ALL persuasions.

Me & Elizabeth MayThis week, I hob-knob-bed with Elizabeth May, leader of Canada’s Green party, when I spotted her on VIU’s Nanaimo campus. By luck, I was wearing green. I pressed my shoulders into position, cozied up, and snagged this super snapshot. When I posted it, people asked if we were sisters. (Nope—but if we were, I’d be the elder.)

Jack Layton & Judy MillarSpeaking of sisters, I once looked up from my laptop in a Nanaimo Starbucks and was surprised to see the New Democratic Party’s then-leader, Jack Layton, having coffee with his! I quickly shoved my shoulders into place, and his sister agreeably captured this photo (which I treasure, given Jack’s untimely passing).

I’m an equal-opportunity hob-knob-ber, so I also gave a Liberal party leader a chance. a-rose-from-pierre2Justin Trudeau might be surprised to learn that his dad once pinned a rose on me. (The very rose from his own lapel. I wore it for days. Until it was just a stem his fingers had touched.) If things had progressed, I might have become Justin’s mom! (Darn that Margaret Sinclair.) The story of how Pierre Trudeau and I “got pinned”was first published in Shells, but you can read it here: Oh, Mon Cher Pierre

I gave the Tories a tumble too. Literally. During a public school trip, I bumped into then-PC leader, John Diefenbaker. He was hurrying down a House of Commons staircase as I rushed up to rejoin my group. (He stumbled and had to grab for the handrail—cementing my celebrity among my classmates as the girl who’d nearly dumped Dief the Chief.)

Clearly, I am a hobnobber par excellence, and I exhibit égalité in pursuit of my hob-by. Assemblée_nationale_-_Statue_René_Lévesque2I even rubbed shoulders with PQ founder René Lévesque at Glendon College’s “Québec Year Eight” conference. Years later, I snuggled up to his statue for a photo op, and toyed with the idea of inserting a lit cigarette between his fingers to provide a whiff of the real René.

Yes, I get around when it comes to Canadian political leaders. Our current hopefuls are out on the hustings, hurling invective at each other while trying to sweet-talk the undecided among us. It’s exhausting—for them, and for those of us who try to make sense of it all. Still, I admire people who put their convictions into practice and devote their lives to public service, whether or not I agree with their positions. It’s a tough gig, and not one I’d want. Me—I’m more of a hobnobber.


Pierre, Justin, Jack and me

With the Liberal leadership race in the home stretch this week, Canadian eyes are on Justin Trudeau. Can he turn his youthful supporters into voters? When push comes to shove, does he have his papa’s panache?

I’m the last one to speculate on political outcomes, seeing as how I’ve planted the kiss of death on pretty much every political party I’ve voted for over the years. In spite of that, I’ve had my share of (ahem) political affairs. It may come as a shock to Justin, but I once had an “affair” with Pierre. What’s more, my essay about our dalliance just won first prize in the North Shore Writers’ Non-Fiction contest! I’ll receive my prize at this year’s NSW Festival. Want to read my essay? Here’s: “Oh, Mon Cher Pierre .”

Whether Justin can make the kind of mark on Liberal hearts or Canadian history that his dad did remains to be seen. But that was neither my first nor my last brush with well-known Canadian politicos. I gave the Conservatives the brush-off (or rather, they did me) when then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker bumped my elbow while I climbed the steps of the Parliament Buildings during my Grade Eight school trip. And in 2011, while working on my laptop at my local Starbucks, I glanced up and was shocked to see the NDP’s Jack Layton sitting just a few feet from me, enjoying a coffee with a woman I later learned was his sister. I approached him for a photo (opting not to mention my fling with Pierre, of course). He graciously consented.Jack Layton & Judy Millar

Like lots of Canadians of all political stripes, I admit I’m still carrying a torch for Jack. Sadly, we lost him a few months later.

Clearly, I’ve experienced “close encounters of the political kind” with Canadian politicians of all persuasions. Which politicians have you met in person? Never mind politics. What kind of real-life impressions did they make on you?  I’d love to know (in the comments below).