Archived entries for Canada

Vancouver’s close-up begins

Going into Gym Bar last night to watch the Vancouver opening ceremonies, I warned my friends that I would be insufferable all evening, peppering the historic night with useless trivia about my favo(u)rite city on the continent. And I didn’t disappoint, although my friends did humo(u)r me and let me explain every nuance of the evening. I have to admit it was one of the greatest joys of my (sad, sad) life to see Vancouver shown off to the world. I’ve been going there religiously for years and have both enjoyed — and tired — of people knowing so little about it. My friend Steve didn’t believe me. (Click that damn link, Steve!)

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First off, I am thrilled that on TV they keep showing where Vancouver is on the map. Maybe fewer people will think it’s near Anchorage (I often get that), when in fact, it’s closer to New York than San Francisco is.

I had frissons from the first second of the broadcast, as BC natives Kim Cattrall and Ryan Reynolds and then Vancouver’s gleaming skyline flickered onto the screen…and then I teared up (true!) when Georgia walked in just hours after the sad death of one of its own on Whistler’s slicker-than-slick luge run. (For the record, I want to die in a place as beautiful as British Columbia – the license plate isn’t lying.)

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But it was when Romeo Dallaire marched in that I really flipped! So cool to see him included in the ranks of Canadian celebrity (too bad no one at the United Nations took note back in 1994, but I digress).

Two fashion observations: I’m still wondering whether Pucci or Lily Pulitzer provided Azerbaijan’s outrageous yet quite chic costumes. Entertainment Weekly gave them the distinction of having the night’s Worst Outfit. And on the flip side, I thought Michaelle Jean looked positively dazzling in her silvery bronzy suit. Someone definitely made a run into Holts before hitting BC Place. And she looked a helluva lot better than Laureen Harper, who was seated next to her and who resembled a ketchup bottle (the squeezable ones, not the svelte Heinz ones).

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The bottom line?

I haven’t talked to anyone who liked the opening ceremonies. The New York Times kindly called it “tasteful.” Let’s face it: Beijing was a tough act to follow, and in 2008 China had a lot more to prove to the world than Canada does today (they also spent 10 times more than Vancouver did). The show was beautifully done — malfunctioning caldrons notwithstanding — but I think the main problem was simply the fact that it was very Canadian, and Americans don’t know much about Canada. Anything Canadian state-side requires subtitles for people to understand what’s happening. Everyone was puzzled at how indian-heavy (that’s First Nations, people!) it was. Never mind that British Columbia is basically one big native land claim. Don’t even get me started about the questions about Who the hell is Stephen Harper? and What the hell is a governor general?

(One minor post-script: Where on earth was NBC broadcasting from? In the pre-opening broadcast, one could only presume they were on a barge in Coal Harbour — perhaps at the float plane gas pumps? — if the backdrop of the Vancouver Convention Centre was to be believed. Clearly they were not.)

Kim Cattrall on Canada

cosmo awards 2 051008Every now and then you read something you simply can’t get out of your head. Earlier this summer, a group of Canadians was invited by The New York Times to write a few words about their homeland in celebration of Canada Day (that’s July 1 for those wondering).

My mind wandered back to that piece this week on the afternoon I swooped into Vancouver Island, the childhood home of Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall. Ms. Cattrall contributed her evocative, almost hauntingly simple recollections of youth on Vancouver Island to the paper, and it’s well worth a read, especially for those of us who’ve spent times sitting on British Columbia logs!

“In Canada’s Pacific Northwest, where I grew up, the beaches were strewn with thousands of fugitive logs that had escaped the water transporters bringing them down toward the prospering lumber sawmills and pulp and paper factories all around Vancouver Island.

“On our gray sand shores, those shaved logs became home to insects, birds and small rodents and made great hiding places or impromptu tents. A favorite childhood game was to see who could traverse the most beached logs without ever touching the sand.

“As teenagers, we’d drive out to the beaches with our sleeping bags in tow, stack up smaller moveable logs and build bonfires before bedding down to sleep protected by those fallen trees.”

Nova Scotia in Jamaica

Not everyone knows that the Caribbean’s largest bank is actually a Canadian bank — the Bank of Nova Scotia, aka Scotiabank. It was funny juxtaposition to see this photo, from this morning’s “hijacking” in Montego Bay, with a plane from a Nova Scotia airline, headed to Halifax, hooked up to a jetway advertising the home province’s bank.

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What a bust!

harper_dionLeave it to Canada to have a completely lame federal election! The government spent upwards of $300 million to barely reconfigure itself. Tuesday’s results — in which the Conservative Party gained more seats and upped the numbers in its minority government — left everyone scratching their head wondering, ‘And the point of this exercise in democracy was…?’ While the Tories made some headway into Canada’s biggest cities, it was another story for the Liberals, who lost votes in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver and received a mere 25% of the popular vote, their lowest share since 1867, the year the Dominion of Canada was formed. Ouch.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has retained control of Ottawa, but the real excitement of this rather ho-hum campaign is the much-begged-for action by Stephane Dion, leader of the Liberal Party, to call it quits in May following his botched attempt to gain more seats in Parliament for the waning party. The writing on the wall is painfully obvious, and was long before Parliament was dissolved last month and an election was called. Mr Dion is quite possibly the least telegenic politicians to, well, ever grace the national stage in Canada. With his party suffering mounting losses, it’s good to see him go.

Dion’s departure opens the door for our BFF Scott Brison to give another whirl to the party leadership. But Scott claims he is not up for it this time around. Truly sad! While Michael Ignatieff (you remember, the one who couldn’t spell Ottawa on his C.V.) is considered a front-runner, I’ve got my hopes set on Frank McKenna, the former Canadian Ambassador to the United States and former Premier of New Brunswick.

Hedy gets re-elected

hedy_fryYesterday’s Canadian election, which overall could be considered a -2 on the excitement scale, did have a few local races of intrigue, most notably the riding (that’s electoral district for you Americans!) of Vancouver Centre.

One of my fav politicians, Hedy Fry, managed to hold onto the seat that she’s held since 1993, when she unseated the standing prime minister. Keenly aware of her constituents, the fabulous Fry held a raucous election night party last night at The Majestic, a Davie Street gay bar.

Many of us wondered if Hedy would be able to keep her seat after her long run and numerous political gaffes in Ottawa. But in the end she prevailed, benefiting not only from a fairly decent track record but also from what was truly boring competition in Lorne Mayencourt, the gay pol who started Vancouver’s Friends for Life Society, a local nonprofit, and Michael Byers, a UBC professor (yawn).

Election eve in Canada

Tomorrow Canadian voters go to the polls to elect a new government after last month’s dissolution of parliament. I’m the first to admit I haven’t been very interested in this campaign, falling as it does in a slightly more exciting U.S. election year. In Vancouver yesterday, I had the pleasure of watching Liberal-turned-Conservative candidate Lorne Mayencourt and his supporters grip-and-grin with walkers and joggers on Sunset Beach, while over at the Oasis Pub, the wildly popular Hedy Fry — downtown Vancouver’s current representative in Ottawa, and the woman who unseated Prime Minister Kim Campbell back in 1993 — was showing her political acumen by holding court with her gay constituents (she was also spotted at the PumpJack Pub). Mayencourt, though gay himself, does not seem to have much support in the gay community if my friends are any indication. Although I didn’t see Hedy’s big competition, the New Democrats’ contender, Michael Byers, anywhere in town, his campaign did have a cute little information stand stationed by the beach:

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Mallick on Palin

heather_mallickThe New York Times has really been overdosing on Canada coverage lately, and it’s been good to see. The latest dispatch from north of the border appears in today’s paper, with the Times’ man in Canada, Ian Austen, writing about the controversy that’s swirled around Heather Mallick, a brilliant writer who admittedly went a little too far in her criticisms of Sarah Palin.

In a piece for the CBC, the former Globe and Mail columnist said Palin had taken on “a toned-down version of the porn actress look,” had “white trash” supporters, and even claimed that Republican men are sexually inadequate (“It’s possible that Republican men, sexual inadequates that they are, really believe that women will vote for a woman just because she’s a woman,” she wrote.).

Of course she was summarily denounced for it by some in the U.S. media — including, you guessed it, FOX News. Following the receipt of hundreds of complaints, the story was removed from the CBC web site.

Mallick explained, “My problem is that I have to write with a certain kind of reader in mind, and that person is always going to be my vision of an intelligent Canadian…I don’t write for Fox viewers.” In the final zinger of the Times article, Mallick went on to say, “It wasn’t satire though; it was straightforward political commentary, admittedly with jokes…I had no idea anyone would take the remark about sexually inadequate Republican men literally!”

The Bay begins to says buh bye

It seems Canada’s most famed name in retailing is on its way out. The Hudson’s Bay Company — the oldest corporation in the Americas, for those who know their history — has been sold to the parent of Lord & Taylor. Many stores in The Bay chain will quickly be converted to Lord & Taylors. I’m the first person to whine about how crappy The Bay is (except for its Vancouver flagship with its awesome Olympics gear collection), but it does seem sad to see the Hudson’s Bay name winding down.

The history of the Hudson’s Bay Company, as a fur trader, land explorer, and territorial ruler, is fascinating. There’s perhaps no more Canadian an institution than the HBC.

Canada’s day

Happy Canada Day! On this day the Dominion of Canada was created by the joining of the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Canada. (The Province of Canada became Ontario and Quebec).

Test your knowledge of Canadian — and American — history on the Globe and Mail’s quiz. I got 18 out of 20 correct, thank you very much.

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Max gets the boot

Commons 20080416My BlackBerry was on fire yesterday with comments from friends north of the border on news that Maxime Bernier, Canada’s foreign affairs minister, stepped down amid an embarrassing scandal of incompetence. Incompetence seems to be nothing new to the MP — who represents Quebec’s Maine-abutting Beauce region on Parliament Hill — whose career has been more about his impeccable appearance and charming good looks than his capabilities.

As the New York Times so aptly explained the situation, “First Maxime Bernier lost his girlfriend. Then he lost his job as Canada’s minister of foreign affairs.”

“Mr. Bernier’s political and personal setbacks are directly related. His former romantic interest, Julie Couillard, was linked to Quebec’s motorcycle gangs, which have long tried to infiltrate politics and the justice systems. On Monday night, Mr. Bernier resigned shortly before Ms. Couillard disclosed in a heavily promoted television interview that he had left confidential government documents in her suburban Montreal apartment.”

A friend who is a Toronto journalist quickly emailed to ask me if I could get him a date with Maxime (for the record, I’ve never met the guy). “He’s hot,” my friend said. So I shot that little request and physical assessment over to another friend, this one in Ottawa who knows Maxime well, who I knew could make it happen. Of Maxime’s supposed hotness, I got this sharp retort: “Umm…not really.” No word on whether, now that he’s had his heart broken by Ms. Hells Angels, he is going gay.

O Canada, where have your bargains gone?

toronto_may19From the Sunday Times: “ONCE upon a time, not all that long ago, there existed a magical country that was a lot like the United States, only less expensive. Its enchanted currency — the other dollar — allowed Americans to indulge as they could not back home. This delightful fantasyland was called Canada, and for centuries it was synonymous with frugality.

No more. With the precipitous decline of the United States dollar, Canada has slid off the budget-travel map, and nowhere is the challenge to stay frugal greater than in Toronto, a city of 2.5 million whose ascendancy is not merely attributable to fluctuating exchange rates.”

Toxic bottles!

I’m addicted to Nalgene bottles. I have at least a half-dozen of them, in all colors and sizes. But now the Canadian government is on the verge of declaring one of the bottle’s main ingredients toxic and retailers and racing to pull their stock of the cool bottles.

Toronto Star: Major stores pull plastic bottles off shelves

Candidates look north for votes

Bet you didn’t know that a couple Toronto voters will have a hand in whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton wins this year’s U.S. presidential primary. Two superdelegates are at stake in Robert Bel and Toby Condliffe, leaders of Democrats Abroad in Canada. The Toronto Star has an interesting piece on the pair, who are planning to split their votes: one for Hill, and one for Barack.

$1 CDN = $1 US

OMG, I’m in disbelief: “The Canadian dollar reached parity with the U.S. greenback on Thursday for the first time in almost 31 years, capping a spectacular run that has seen it rise 62 per cent since 2002.”

Toronto: A metaphor for a country in decline

toronto_verticalI’ve been meaning to mention this article for weeks. Toronto Star columnist Chirstopher Hume takes on complacency in Canada’s biggest city, a place plagued by chronic government underfunding with the scathing but true commentary:

“Democracy boasts many virtues, but it also has serious weaknesses, including the fact that it allows citizens to vote thoughtlessly and without regard to reality. Indeed, look at who gets elected to see just how irrational, even moronic, the process has become.

“One of the truths the politicians would like us to forget is that you get what you pay for. Civilization costs money. If the city’s going to remove snow, pick up garbage, pay the province’s social services bill, fill potholes and so on, it must be able to cover these costs.

“Instead of voting for councillors who promise we can remain forever in dreamland, where taxes never go up and roads are free, we should think first and ask whether they are able to do the opposite, i.e., insist we return to the real world. It, of course, is not such a nice place.

“Toronto, like all of Canada, is based largely on myths that border on lies. We like to think that the city is among the greatest and the country a respected world citizen. We may be a middling power, but always sensible and responsible.

“We continue to demand European-style public services on American-level taxes. As we Torontonians are finding out, it doesn’t work that way.”

Oh man!

The Canadian dollar hit a new high of 96 cents US today, making that $12 cocktail at 1181, well, $11.50. Is parity next? So much for cheap Canadian getaways…

NLGJA in San Diego

Last night during the closeout of the NLGJA convention, the Canadian Tourism Commission threw a fab ending party replete with white feather boas, (gay) Mounties, and “Torontinis”: 2 ounces vodka, 1 ounce blue Curacao, and a splash of white cranberry juice — delish! Best of all, the Torontinis came dripping out of an ice sculpture in the shape of a British Columbia Orca whale. Together with Matt and Jason, we cornered the Mounties and snapped this all-feathered-out shot.

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This is what trouble looks like…

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Everyone’s fav girl: Yo from Vancouver…love you honey!

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Brandy and Jason (not visible: the girls) showing off their perfect pearly whites.

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This was my sixth NLGJA convention and it was by far the worst. And it wasn’t just the water spots on my hotel room carpet, the slow under-reno elevators, and the no-A/C exhibit hall that made it all less than appealing! It felt like the organization has had its energy sucked out of it. NLGJA was founded largely to fight for equal benefits and non-discrimination policies for gay journalists in the workplace. Now that those goals have been largely achieved, the group has moved its mission toward promoting fair and equal coverage in the media. Certainly a great goal, but there does not seem to be the same energy that was there five years ago. People have understandably become more complacent. That said, NLGJA plays a crucial role in bringing together journalists and media people of all ages and from communities of all sizes, who might not otherwise know others like them…and to me, that alone makes its annual convention worthwhile.

Congrats Scott and Max

scott_and_max_smallCongrats to Scott and Max, who tied the knot amid pouring rain yesterday in Nova Scotia, making Scott the first-ever Canadian Member of Parliament to marry a same-sex partner.

Frank McKenna, the former Ambassador to the U.S., was at the wedding and said, “I think everybody in the room felt like they were part of a history-making event. It seemed like a validation of a long process. I think everybody who was here was very moved by the experience.”

Canadian heiress, 107, lives in Cuban poverty

greatexpectationsI thought this article was really interesting. It seems the once fabulously wealthy Canadian Mary McCarthy, whose assets are frozen in a Boston bank, is living Miss Havisham-style in Havana. While her friends fled for Miami during the 1959 revolution, she stayed behind, and today still lives in the home where, “Peacocks still strut the garden under royal palm trees, but the lawn is overgrown and the house filled with Napoleon III furniture, chandeliers and a Steinway grand piano is falling apart.”

Reuters tells her interesting tale and reports that recently, at the insistence of the Canadian consul general in Boston, the U.S. has agreed to let her withdraw $96 per month from her frozen assets. “She is an unfortunate, albeit unintentional, victim of political circumstances,” the consul general wrote. “She relies on charity. She deserves to live the rest of her days in comfort.”

Scott and Max to wed next weekend

scott_maximeI have to give our BFF Scott Brison some credit. Two years ago the prominent gay Canadian politician announced he was getting engaged to his partner of six months, Maxime St. Pierre. At the time, I wrote in this very blog that “I’m not against starting a betting pool to wager how long this fairy tale engagement actually lasts.”

Well, I was wrong. Scott and his hunky boyfriend Maxime (shown here at the Calgary Stampede) — who looks remarkably like me — will finally tie the knot this coming Saturday in Nova Scotia. In doing so, he will become the first federal politician to take advantage of Canada’s recent legalization of marriage for same-sex couples.

Although my invitation to the Big Gay Wedding seems to have been lost in the mail, I wish Scott and Maxime a fabulous party. And if that invitation just happens to appear before the week is out, I’ll happily hop up to Halifax for what is sure to be the event of the summer for Ottawa insiders.
“>tie the knot this coming Saturday in Nova Scotia. In doing so, he will become the first federal politician to take advantage of Canada’s recent legalization of marriage for same-sex couples.

Although my invitation to the Big Gay Wedding seems to have been lost in the mail, I wish Scott and Maxime a fabulous party. And if that invitation just happens to appear before the week is out, I’ll happily hop up to Halifax for what is sure to be the event of the summer for Ottawa insiders.



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