Liberal Penny Collenette likes a beach party
By Harris Macleod
A rare hot and sunny summer Saturday in Ottawa, and Young Liberals beckon Party Central to a beach party at Mooney’s Bay
The Hill Times, Monday, July 29, 2008
It was a hot and sunny Saturday and a pack of Young Liberals were out at Ottawa’s Mooney’s Bay Beach to have some barbecue, play some volleyball, and show some support for Ottawa Centre candidate Penny Collenette. Ms. Collenette, who is vying to unseat first-term NDP MP Paul Dewar, said the idea to go to the beach came from the Ottawa Centre Young Liberals, as well as the Eastern Ontario Young Liberals who were there to support Ontario MPP Yasir Naqvi.
Mr. Naqvi said the Young Liberals are “just excellent” when it comes to organizing activities, though he made sure to note that Mooney’s Bay is not in Ottawa Centre.
“We’re not in the riding right now, I can tell you that much. That’s the beautiful riding right there,” he said, as he pointed across the Rideau River with jovial enthusiasm. Mooney’s Bay is where the Rideau River and the Rideau Canal split. “You can see the shores of the riding.”
Mr. Dewar won the riding in the 2006 general election with 36.9 per cent of the vote, and you might recall that his mother, Marion Dewar, served as mayor of Ottawa from 1978 to 1985.
Party Central was tipped off about the Grit beach gathering by Ottawa-Centre Young Liberal President Ryan Dyck, who was enjoying schmoozing with beachgoers and working on his tan, however, he steered clear of the athletic activities. “I learned very early on this morning that I’m not very good at volleyball. I enjoy it, but I don’t think that anyone really wants to have me on their team.”
Barbecue attendees paid $10 each, the proceeds of which went to the Carlingwood Community Centre, and Mr. Dyck drew for prizes, which included a poster of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. The autographed poster, featuring a two-tone silkscreen-like image of Mr. McGuinty with a popped collar, made him look more like a rock star than a politician, and to the young politicos the Liberal premier is a rock star.
The beach-goers were relaxed and upbeat, however a few were slightly perturbed that they couldn’t go for a dip due to a no-swim advisory that was indolently enforced by a horde of Baywatch-esque young lifeguards. Upon arriving at the beach, Party Central made the mistake of asking one where the Liberal beach party was happening, however the perma-tanned looking young woman responded that she had “like, no idea” (despite the red swimsuit, it turned out she wasn’t a Liberal supporter).
The prohibition on swimming was apparently because the water at Mooney’s Bay didn’t quite pass the city’s daily test. The City of Ottawa’s public health issues no-swim advisories whenever the levels of E. coli get too high.
Ms. Collenette said the pollution problem in the Ottawa River is something she will address if she is elected to Parliament in the next election.
“My first policy forum last summer was on water, and the leader came to that and you can see how important it is when you get here today. I mean, none of us can go for a swim.”
Ms. Collenette, whose husband David Collenette was a Cabinet minister in the Jean Chrétien government, is a longtime Liberal Party worker. She was the national director of the party in 1993, right after she completed law school. “I went to law school when I was 37, which is not something I advise other people to do.”
She served as Mr. Chrétien’s director of appointments in the PMO, where she said she got the number of female appointments up 10 per cent in four years. “And now I’m shooting for the one-third,” she said, referring to Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion’s pledge to have one-third female candidates in the next election.
Ms. Collenette was aware of Party Central’s tendency to be a bit critical when it comes to cuisine, so she was quick to issue a disclaimer; “I’m sorry we don’t have gourmet here today.” Indeed, the event’s status as a “party” was made suspect by the fact that it was as dry as the federal Liberal Party’s coffers, however it was such a nice day Party Central almost didn’t mind supplementing the usual Pinot Grigio for Diet Coke (almost).
The buffet scored points for its varied selection of potato chips, and Party Central learned that in addition to sharing initials with the Ottawa-Centre candidate, we were also the only ones at the barbecue to request a veggie burger. Unfortunately, they were not the simulated-meat veggie burgers that Party Central knows and loves, but rather the mashed together vegetable patties McDonald’s stopped selling because of lack of interest. It’s the kind of food gaffe that ordinarily would really stick in Party Central’s craw, however it was such a nice day that Party Central decided to hold the tepid indignation, and opted for lots of toppings and a handful of Doritos instead.
Ms. Collenette was nothing if not a trooper; having recently fallen down a flight of stairs and chipped her anklebone in two places, the feisty candidate was bounding around the beach chatting it up with her fellow Grits. She said that, despite her swollen ankle, she was planning on going canvassing the following week and joked that what she really needed was a ‘Segway’ personal transporter, which led to a discussion about what Ontario’s regulations were regarding the personal motorized vehicles. When the debate about whether one is allowed to drive a Segway on the road got too heated, however, Mr. Collenette, who was the federal minister of transportation from 1997 to 2003, was called in to settle the matter (according to him, they are for sidewalk use only).
And a final note to Conservatives, NDPers, Greens and Blocers: Party Central is always open for an invite to a party.
Penny is a frequent public policy commentator on national television. During the 2011 federal election, Penny was a commentator for Global TV. Penny tweets @penottawa.
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