Context: I don’t like to think of this blog as existing in a vacuum. You may not be aware of it but I am also an avid user of the twitter and the facebook (my twitter feed is there on the right side of my blog btw.) On twitter (you can follow me at @Uranowski) whenever I notice someone being awesome I like to give them a “You go girl!” It is a friendly, 1990sesque way to acknowledge a job well done. Anyone, man, woman, child, or particularly heroic animal, can receive one. However, last year, I decided that I would start an official, end-of-the-year, “You Go Girl” Award for women in Canadian politics, journalism, the arts and public life who have been excellent on multiple occasions. For my “Third Annual “You Go Girl!” Awards, I asked some of my favourite writers to profile the 2012 winners. In no particular order, here are recipients of the 2012 “You Go Girl!” Awards:
Joyce Murray by Joseph Uranowski
I am a huge fan of Joyce Murray and I think that she brings a lot to the Federal Liberal Leadership race. Joyce’s business experience and her ministerial experience from British Columbia make her a real contender. From the moment she announced her candidacy for the Liberal leadership she has put forward a positive and progressive agenda, ensuring that the environment, progressive crime policy, democratic reform and gender equality in governmental appointments are not left out of the LPC leadership conversation.
Joyce Murray has already made Canada a better place with a distinguished career in business and as a B.C. cabinet minister. No matter what the outcome of the Liberal Leadership race, Murray has improved its quality with her presence and ideas.
Alison Loat by Susan Delacourt
Toward the end of 2012, Alison Loat lost her voice before a big Samara event in Toronto and I was drafted to fill in for her as moderator. I was happy to do it, but I much prefer that Alison Loat keep her voice, especially as shes using it to help move political debate beyond the narrow, dispiriting ruts of late in Canada.
In her work with Samara these past few years, Alison has practiced a purposeful optimism, asking often-jaded politicos and reporters to imagine ways to improve our democracy. In the process, people come away from encounters with her feeling a little less jaded, a little less cynical. The fact that this feat is being performed by a woman — a young woman, to boot — is another reason to value her contributions to our world.
You go girl is not a phrase in my everyday lexicon, but if it was, Id throw it in Alisons direction, with an extra instruction: Keep that voice of yours. We need it.
(Susan Delacourt, the Star’s Senior Writer in Ottawa, has covered federal politics for more than two decades as a reporter and bureau chief. Follow her on twitter @SusanDelacourt, and check out her blog here: http://thestar.blogs.com/politics/)
Tonya Surman, Karen Stintz and Teriano Lesancha by Chris Drew
As the Executive Director of the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), Tonya is one of Toronto’s leaders in collaboration, social change, and city-building. This has been a busy year for Tonya and her leadership on a number of initiatives deserves recognition. CSI is a social enterprise with three locations in Toronto (Annex, Spadina, and Regent Park). CSI’s mission is to spark social innovation through collaboration, bringing people together, and inspiring new partnerships. It provides shared workspace for entrepreneurs, small businesses, charities, non-profits, and innovators of all shapes and sizes.
This year, Tonya’s leadership has resulted in three important developments: the creation of a crowdfunding platform for projects and initiatives by CSI members, the opening of two new locations (Regent Park and New York!), and the launch of a book on Community Bonds to highlight how they can be used successfully to fund projects. Crowdfunding and Community Bonds will open up new avenues for project funding for CSI members. The Regent Park location will empower residents of this neighbourhood and is a key component of the Regent Park revitalization plan. The New York location demonstrates Tonya’s model for social innovation is spreading and is not a fad but a new way to work, collaborate, and build.
Tonya’s vision and drive is inspirational and in a city with governments and corporations still dominated by men, her leadership on creating new economic and social opportunities makes her a role model for women.
- Check out this TEDx talk by Tonya
- CSI’s nomination for a Social Finance Award for its Community Bond model
“Subways, subways, subways!” the Mayor proclaimed. Until Karen asked a simple question, “How are you going to pay for them?” Mayor Rob Ford offered no realistic plan and so the TTC Chair had to act. The Province’s transit funding was capped and time was running out (“Toronto’s transit cliff”). Tunnelling is expensive and Light Rapid Transit (LRT) was the appropriate, evidence-based choice for Finch, Sheppard, and Eglinton. LRT allows the city to serve more people, capture more residents in lower-income neighbourhoods, and maximize the funding from the Province.
Challenging Mayor Ford wasn’t easy and was politically risky. Although Karen had been supportive of the Mayor’s fiscal conservative decisions at council, she believed that cancelling two LRT lines to burry the Eglinton line east of Laird Road was the wrong decision given the planning and engineering evidence available. She rallied her fellow council members to call a special council meeting and won support to return to the original plan. When the TTC General Manager provided an honest answer to Councillor Doug Ford’s question in Council by stating that LRT was the best option the Mayor’s allies decided to by fire him. Karen then led the charge to replace the TTC Commission with a new set of Councillors who would support the will of Council and get the LRT lines built.
It was a dramatic scene at City Council when the LRT lines were approved and was a tremendous example of strong Toronto women standing up for good planning and fiscal principals. Karen provided remarkable leadership on ensuring the best transit plan for Toronto would be implemented in a realistic way for the entire city.
- Metrolinx’s website for the Eglinton LRT
- Posts from Matt Elliott’s blog covering the transit debate here and here.
- Steve Munro’s transit blog
Photo credit: Clifton Li
For many of us, going to university can be an intimidating, worrying, and nerve-wracking experience. I’ll admit to getting lost at Ryerson University on my first day which I found highly embarrassing. Imagine then the experience of Teriano who was not only going coming to Ryerson from a different continent, Africa, she was the first in her village to leave for post-secondary education and the first girl to do so. As someone who grew up in the comfortable suburbs of Brampton where children attending school isn’t questioned, it’s easy to forget that there are hundreds of millions of women who are in the same position Teriano was.
At birth, Teriano was placed into an arrange marriage by her father as is the custom for the village. Additional barriers to Teriano receiving an education in Kenya included the costs she faced and the need for children to help their parents heard cattle. Despite the challenges, Teriano decided that she wanted a different future than the one so many women in her village experienced. She decided that she would stay in primary and secondary school where she excelled. That path led her to Ryerson University to continue her studies. This Toronto Star story outlines the challenging journey and experience Teriano had. Teriano completed a four year degree at Ryerson. She showed to her village the value of women receiving education and how it could be economically successful.
Sheldon Levy, President of Ryerson University, went to Teriano’s village this summer to conduct the convocation ceremony and thousands of people came to watch. It was a stunning moment as a woman was officially receiving a university degree. It is amazing to think of the change Teriano created by being determined to get an education and how she can be a role model for other women in similar situations.
- A trailer for an upcoming documentary on Teriano’s experience
- A CBC New Toronto video profile of Teriano’s convocation
Leesee Papatsie by Adam Goldenberg
(Photo Credit: Samantha Dawson, Nunatsiaq News.)
Last summer, a civil servant in Iqaluit named Leesee Papatsie started a Facebook group that mushroomed into a movement that started a conversation about the high cost of food in the North. South of 60, Canadians noticed.
From Kugluktuk to Coral Harbour, Nunavummiut gathered outside grocery stores to protest prices that any Southerner would consider extreme. $20 for a head of cabbage. $100 for a flat of bottled water. Nearly $35 for a kilogram of all-purpose flour. $12.95 for four litres of milk.
Water coolers around the world buzzed with curiosity. Southern politicians like Carolyn Bennett and Jean Crowder responded with concern. And, online, families across the North came together to confront a crisis that otherwise would have remained remote from Canada’s common consciousness. The photos from store shelves kept coming. They still are.
Leesee Papatsie, meanwhile, has largely avoided the spotlight. “What’s good about it is that people are initiating [the conversation],” she told the Nunatsiaq News. “I just have to sit back and smile.”
You go, girl.
(Adam Goldenberg is a former speech writer. Follow him @AdamGoldenberg)
Tracy MacCharles by Meagan Trush
When I first met Tracy, it was in her kitchen, a day or two before the Pickering-Scarborough East nomination meeting in June 2011. It had that day-before-E-day feel, but also with a sense of family. I was greeted with a hug, thanked profusely for coming to help, and introduced to her team –built mostly of a group of girlfriends from the PTA of her children’s school. What still floors me about Tracy is her capacity to bring people together who might not vote for the same party or consider themselves to be political, and work together for the betterment of the community. Her tenacity is exceptional, and her selfless advocacy for accessibility and a compassionate society make her riding and her province a better place. It has been with inspiration and pride that I’ve observed her grow into her new role as MPP, never afraid of a challenge. In early 2011, Tracy MacCharles was already a mother of two great children, a wife, an accomplished professional, a cancer survivor, and a community organizer. Then she decided to serve further. Tracy,you GO girl!
(Meagan Trush, Liberal staffer, Womens Commission exec member, and campaign enthusiast.)
Margaret Atwood and Emily Haines by Toks Weah
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Margaret Atwood will be Toronto’s next mayor despite becoming a symbol for the vibrancy of the arts and patronage of public libraries versus the Ford brothers. This doesn’t mean that Ms. Atwood is any less engaged. 2012 saw the debut of a stage adaptation of her novella “The Penelopiad”–a creative reimagining that focuses on the marginalized voice of Penelope. Another one of her works was adapted into a Sundance Film Festival documentary “Payback.” She’s also quite vocal about Canadian politics as a whole, recently participating in #IdleNoMore.
Maureen O’Neil, Renee Filiatrault and Barb Stegemann by Jane Daly
Maureen’s bio is about as exemplary as it gets. She is presently President of the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation. Her previous positions include President of the International Development Research Centre, Interim President of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, President of the North-South Institute and Deputy Minister of Citizenship for the Government of Ontario. Ms. O’Neil is Chair of the Board of Trustees of the International Institute for Environment and Development; a member of the Board of World University Service of Canada and the Board of International Institute for Sustainable Development; Chair of the International Advisory Group, Think Tank Initiative and a member of the Carleton University School of Public Policy & Administration Leadership Council. Ms O’Neil has represented Canada on the UN Commission on the Status of Women and on OECD committees, and has been a member of the UN Committee for Development Planning and the Board of the UN Research Institute for Social Development. It goes on and on with one incredible credit after the other. Her energy and enthusiasm for her work is unﬂappable and unending. She has spent her career working to better the many systems that support our social and government systems, as well as helping those much less fortunate around the world. Add to this her unconditional love and support for her family and you basically have Superwoman. Her children and grandchildren are scattered around the world and ﬁnding time to spend with them ranks even higher than the superhuman energy she ﬁnds for her work. Her grand-daughters are proud and grateful to have such an amazing role model in their life. Her passion for politics and making the world a better place has been passed down to them by example. They can happily discuss politics, music, art, fashion and literature with an equal amount of enthusiasm, thanks to her shining example. She has helped my daughters be passionate about the politics of the country they live in, to be proud and proactive Liberals, and to understand how important it is to vote. Her grand-daughters (who are also my daughters) know that as Canadian women, the world is their oyster and there is simply nothing they can’t do. She has shown them that having a meaningful life is important. That family is something you will always have standing behind you, holding you up, that love is unconditional, that learning and improving oneself is the best thing you can do for yourself. And, that there are pretty much no doors you can’t open with good manners, a good sense of humor and of course, a stylish outﬁt. Also, being witty, polite and engaging can make any dinner party a success. This past year, Maureen O’Neil was awarded an Ofﬁcer of The Order of Canada as well as a Silver Jubilee Medal.
Renee Filiatrault has served as Senior Public Diplomacy Ofﬁcer in Afghanistan with Task Force Kandahar. Before that, she served two Ministers of National Defence and was Head of Media and Public Affairs for the British High Commission in Canada. Renee is a regular commenter on foreign and defence matters, appearing on CTV’s Question Period and PowerPlay, as well as on CBC’s The National with Peter Mansbridge and CBC Radio and has been a contributing writer for Policy Options Magazine and the Ottawa Citizen. So – Renee is basically a kick-ass smart woman who has put her life on the line to report on and better the way we deal with policy and defense in some of the most dangerous places in the world. She is deﬁnitely a woman in a man’s world, but you don’t ever get that from speaking with her. She is smart, kind and open to hearing what one has to say. She is hopeful about what our troops can acheive with the right governance , while being a realist and understanding what is really going on “on the ground” in combat zones. Reading her recent piece on military drones and how invaluable they are to our soldiers. We need people like Renee helping our government, helping our troops and helping us to understand what safety means. She is passionate about what she does, and respects the rights of those who are effected by government policies. She understands the way technology has changed and complicated the way the military can and does operate. And thankfully, people are listening to her.
Barb Stegemann was born in Montreal, Quebec and holds degrees in Sociology and Journalism from the University of King’s College. Barb built her own boutique PR ﬁrm and created innovative, award winning campaigns that garnered private sector and government funding and won numerous marketing awards from the Economic Developers’ Association of Canada while living in British Columbia. Barb tells me she had a normal life, a good life, and business was good at her PR ﬁrm in BC. Then, the unthinkable happened. Her best friend, a Canadian soldier, was attacked and wounded while in Afghanistan. She spent a year in the hospital with him, visualizing his healing journey with his wife and family. She promised him she would take on his mission of economic empowerment for families in Afghanistan while he healed [I told you – Barb is no ordinary woman]. She realized that she was not a brave soldier, nor was she a world leader with political clout. But, as a North American, she felt she didn’t have a way to touch peace. Yet- she knew she had buying power. She began writing her book and dedicating it to her friend- The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen. The 7 virtues are: Wonder, Moderation, Truth, Courage, Justice, Wisdom and Beauty. She told me that her fragrances are the thesis rising up out of her book. The principles of the book, the stoic wisdom she has is the action through the fragrances. With her best friend’s mission in mind, Barb read about this gentleman named Abdullah Arsala. He was growing the legal crops of orange blossom and rose to provide an alternative to the illegal poppy crop. Barb knew Abdullah was the way to peace. She reached out to him and began to purchase his legal oils for her fragrance collection. She has invested over $100,000 legal dollars in Afghanistan instead of the illegal poppy crops. This liberates farmers and is her way of helping to build peace. Every time The 7 Virtues sells a fragrance, they can buy more oils to liberate farmers from the same oppressors that attacked her dear friend. Again. No ordinary woman.
Carolyn Bennett by Brad Lister
A hearty you go girl for 2012 to Dr. Carolyn Bennett. I always knew Dr. Bennett was a solid hard working MP, what I didn’t know was what a warm and amazing woman she was when I finally got to meet her in person. I expected a committed politician who would have just chatted with me for a few minutes and then move on. That was never the case. She always met my gaze and now whenever we meet each she knows exactly who I am and is very interested in what project I am currently working on. Dr. Bennett has been a huge ally of all the work I have done as one of the original founders of Queer Liberals and our attempts to help rebuild the party.
On Aboriginal issues and other health issues Dr. Bennett has been an amazing advocate. I am glad to count this woman amongst the rank of the greatest Liberals.
(Brad Lister is a Liberal activist. Follow him @AllPopGuy)
Deb Matthews, Theresa Lubowitz and Alice Funke by Zach Armstrong
Whether it’s leading Ontario’s health care system or organizing a children’s book drive, Deb Matthews is always working hard for the people of Ontario. First elected in 2003 as the MPP for London North Centre, she has served her constituents with strength, poise, and dedication. In 2007, Deb was appointed Minister of Children & Youth Services and later promoted to Minister of Health & Long-Term Care. Early this year she introduced Ontario’s Action Plan for Health Care. Above all, her Action Plan prioritizes keeping Ontarians healthy and makes sure everyone gets the right care, at the right time, in the right place.
Deb has also shown national leadership this year. In July, she strongly urged the federal government not to let generic OxyContin into the Canadian market. With the support of her provincial and territorial counterparts, police chiefs, and pharmacists, she stated that “national problems require a national solution.” Despite estimates that allowing generic OxyContin would result in social costs of up to $500 million, the federal government ultimately approved it in November.
For her dedication to her constituents in London, in Ontario, and indeed, all of Canada, Deb deserves a resounding “You go,girl!”
If you’re involved in the Liberal Party, either nationally or in Ontario, you know Theresa Lubowitz. Born in Moose Factory, Ontario, but eventually settling north of Toronto, Theresa studied Philosophy at the University of Ottawa. Theresa runs the blog “What Have You Done for Democracy Lately?”, and actively promotes the use of social media by politicians and politicos alike. Leading up to the 2012 LPC Biennial Convention, Theresa produced “Delegates Guide” with in-depth profiles of each candidate for table officer. Shortly after the convention, Theresa was snapped up by the Ontario Liberal Party where she seemingly does anything and everything.
For her tireless commitment to liberalism, democracy, and civic engagement, Theresa deserves a full-throated “You go girl!”
While researching Alice Funke, publisher of Pundits’ Guide, I stumbled upon this blog which named her a Champion of Democracy earlier this year. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll simply give my enthusiastic endorsement to this quote:
“Never before has a Canadian done so much individually to help other Canadians keep tabs on the democratic health of the nation or given them the tools to knowledgeably participate in our democratic system. Funke is trusted by journalists, politicians, and political enthusiasts alike, and is probably one of the few Canadians out there who can boast this.” -Theresa Lubowitz
For her data-driven obsession over Canadian politics, Alice deserves an enthusiastic “You go, girl!”
(Zach Armstrong is a Liberal activist living in London Ontario. Follow him @Zb_Armstrong)
Chief Theresa Spence by Daniel Nowoselski
When the conditions at Attawapiskat were first revealed earlier this year, there was an uproar. Then, nothing happened. The way she’s very actively stepped forward and taken a stand has brought people’s attention back to the terrible conditions and injustices that First Nations people face back to the forefront. She’s put a face on the suffering of the First Nations people that makes the #IdleNoMore movement seem much stronger, more consistent, and hopefully more successful than the previous initiatives to help First nations people. However, I think the thing that’s the most inspiring about what she’s done is that she’s made it clear that she’s willing to die for her cause. In a time where it’s very easy for people to be cynical about their political leaders, seeing someone who believes in her cause so much that she’s willing to be a martyr for it is completely and totally inspirational. I pray she doesn’t have to die for her cause, but seeing someone with such commitment to her cause makes it really hard to remain cynical about people in leadership positions wanting to make a positive difference in the world.
Chief Theresa Spence by Conner Marvin
Perhaps the person with the most potential for political change in Canada going into 2013. She most certainly is not doing this on her own, especially considering that the #idlenomore movement has laid the groundwork for a considerable push for change. Her attention has allowed her name to generally be the one associated with the movement. Standing as the figure head for a political movement that aims to change the relationship between the First Nations and the federal government is indeed a large endeavour. She, inevitably, also draws light on what we all acknowledge as problems arising from our dark past in Canada. Her determination, along with others, very well may change the very basis of how our peoples relate to one another.
Christine Sinclair and Laurel Broten by Daniel Nowoselski
In addition to being one of the most talented at her sport in the world, she demonstrated an amazing amount of leadership during the 2012 London Olympic Games. In addition to the two goals she scored in the semi-final, she spoke her mind about the terrible officiating in the Semi-Final, accepted the punishment for doing so, and still lead the Canadian Women’s soccer team to a Bronze medal finish. Our Summer Olympians never get the same recognition as our Winter ones, but if anyone is deserving of the praise and glory we shower upon our Olympic heroes, given the talent and leadership she demonstrated, it’s Christine Sinclair.
Minister Broten is totally deserving of a You Go Girl Award. I recognize that she is my hometown MPP, so I have a soft spot for her, but I think she’s accomplished some really significant things this year. The most notable accomplishment for me is the passage of the Accepting Schools Act, which I think is a landmark piece of anti-bullying legislation for a variety of reasons, but got the most attention for its section on GSAs. Seeing a heterosexual cabinet minister from a suburban riding be such a vocal advocate for making things better for LGBTQ youth was incredibly moving for me and made me incredibly proud. Her other major accomplishment this year was how she has handled Bill 115. I think, regardless of whether or not people are supportive of Bill 155, it is hard to ignore that in an era where people are very cynical about their politicians, seeing a politician take a controversial stance and stick by it regardless of the political consequences is something that should be recognized. I’ve been really impressed with how, throughout the ensuing events, Minister Broten has maintained her trademark softspoken and steady style, which is something that I can’t imagine was easy to do. She also looked absolutely fabulous in a sparkly top as the Grand Marshall of the Toronto Pride Parade.
(Daniel Nowoselski is a University of Ottawa student and Liberal organizer. Follow him: @DanielNow)
Alison Redford by Jonathan Scott
It’s really rather simple. I quite like Alison Redford.
It’s not just because she’s brought a new face and focus to Alberta. It’s not just because she’s her province’s first female premier. And it’s not simply because she’s a brilliant lawyer with a penchant for social equality.
I like her because she’s calm, principled and steadfastly progressive.
Her Party ran ads during the election campaigning say, “This isn’t your daddy’s Conservative Party”. It’s true. Premier Redford is putting the “Progressive” front and centre.
She’s navigating economic realities and ecological concerns with considerably — no, infinitely — more consultation, explanation and negotiation than the roughshod, disengaged, “environment be damned” approach from her fellow Calgarian, Prime Minister Harper.
The conservative movement in Alberta often seems split three ways between the right-wing radicals and social conservatives (the Wild Rose); what we in Ontario used to call, before their near extinction, Red Tories; and the libertarian and parliamentary-procedure activists of the old Reform Party. Redford is decidedly a Red Tory.
In an era of political polarization between an increasingly radical conservative movement and a left myopic to economic realities — what Bob Rae disparages as the Tea Party versus the Occupiers — Premier Redford is at the vanguard of the progressive-centrist resistance.
She was the first Albertan premier to participate in Pride. She’s created sensible policies to connect government to the great work of non-profit organizations (http://nonprofitsectorlink.com/home/index.php/resources/news-archives/170-a-a-a-alison-redford-promises-changes-to-benefit-the-nonprofit-sector), she’s increased social-assistance funding (http://www.laclabichepost.com/article/20120221/LLB0801/302219971/0/LLB) and pledges to build or rebuild hundreds of schools.
Her calm, sensible, progressive leadership reminds me of the best days of Premier McGuinty’s government here in Ontario. She’s the kind of leader I hope Ontario will be lucky enough to have once again after the Liberal leadership convention at the end of the month.
(Jonathan Scott is president of the UofT Liberals and a freelance writer. Follow him: @J_Scott_)
Sara Farb, Alysha Haugen/Magali Meagher, and Stephanie Guthrie by Kritty Uranowski
Sara Farb is the best singer I’ve ever heard live in my life. (And I’ve seen both Bernadette Peters and Aretha Franklin live.) In 2012, she starred in the first Canadian production of Next to Normal. She’s also written and produced her own show at the Luminato, Paprika and Fringe festival’s called REBECCA. I never saw it, because I’m a bad friend, but this isn’t about me. She is a Canadian treasure and you’re welcome that you know who she is now. She will be joining the company at the Stratford festival next year, playing Jessica in The Merchant of Venice. She is awesome and a wonderful, bright light in the Canadian theatre industry.
Alysha Haugen and Magali Meagher founded Girls Rock Camp Toronto. Girls Rock Camp Toronto provides campers age 8-16 with the opportunity to learn how to play instruments, form bands, write songs, and get along. Girls learn how to take care of their gear, and do basic instrument troubleshooting and maintenance – the confidence that comes with their new found abilities and skills is staggering. The week ends in a packed showcase concert, where each of the bands play original tunes and covers for an audience of supportive fans.
This is a video of The Fairy Whispers, one of the groups I coached this past summer:
I am so grateful to be a part of this organization – one of which would be possible without the tireless efforts of Alysha and Magali.
Rock on, Ladies.
To donate – http://girlsrocktoronto.org/donate.html
Stephanie Guthrie is many things. She is a political activist who gained notoriety in 2012 for defending Anita Sarkeesian (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1224659–gamer-campaign-against-anita-sarkeesian-catches-toronto-feminist-in-crossfire) against misogynistic trolls and internet dingbats She also made great strides in helping keep more women informed and in discussion about politics in our city through Women in Toronto Politics (http://witopoli.com/ ). This You Go Girl award is being given to Steph not only for her amazing community work, but also her ability to be an incredibly strong, supportive and available friend. In addition to saving the city / world, she is always there with a helping hand, a wonderful set of pipes (she sings back up vocals in my band, Patti Cake -http://patticake.bandcamp.com), and literally has come with me to the hospital in the middle of the night because she is JUST THAT KIND OF PERSON.
You go girl, Steph Guthrie. You go girl.
(Kritty Uranowski is a singer and actor based in Toronto. She is the front woman of the band Patti Cake, and she is very beautiful. Follow her @Let_It_Bea )
Beverley McLachlin by Micah Goldberg
The current Chief Justice has a history of landmark decisions, including an order to keep Insite operating and reasoning that Federal same-sex marriage legislation was valid and operable. In my opinion, her greatest achievement of 2012 is keeping the court seen as a neutral body after the results of Opitz v. Wrzesnewskyj. Mr. Wrzenewskyj (affectionately referred to by the court as “W”) argued that the potential of votes cast by ineligible voters ought to cancel the result of an election. While the argument was ultimately rejected, it was not defeated along party lines. The dissenting opinion, arguing for Mr. Wrzenewskyj’s position, was written by Mulroney-appointed McLachlin. Along with Martin-appointed Abella, McLachlin ignored party lines to promote reason over political sentiment, as Canadians expect our most powerful judges to do. Whether you agree with her reasons or not, the Chief Justice has consistently shown a depth of thinking that goes deeper than an exchange owing to her Progressive-Conservative patron. For maintaining the integrity of institutional roles, and a politically independent adjudicative body, I hope we all take time to recognize one of the greatest Chief Justices our country has ever enjoyed.
(Micah Goldberg is a blogger and Liberal activist. Follow him @MicahGoldberg)
Amanda Lang by Conner Marvin
Few have ever played the role in Canadian journalism that Amanda Lang plays. She is a senior business correspondent on the CBC who passionately defends against the staunch free-market ideals of Kevin O’Leary on a daily basis. To offer not only a balancing factor to O’Leary’s personality, but to do it consistently is nothing short of a feat. Her role as a journalist in the states and, obviously, in Canada has given her the platform to express something of substance every time she is on screen. How very lucky we are to have her combat Kevin O’Leary. Very few could do it, and even fewer with such grace.
(Conner Marvin majors in political science at Glendon. Political scientist by day, oyster shucker by night.)
Liz Evans by George Takach
Liz Evans, Community Builder, Vancouver, B.C.
Earlier this year, I visited the Insite Supervised Injection Site in downtown Vancouver. Insite’s founder, Liz Evans, gave me a sense of what the facility has accomplished since it was established in 2003.
It’s an incredible story. Essentially, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government gives drug addicts two choices: either go to jail, or scramble on the street until you die. Insite gives them a third option: a safe place where they can begin to get their lives back on track, especially as they connect with other community supports with which Liz is involved (such as social housing and a dental clinic). In short, Liz strives to create a community where the previously marginalized can find a safe harbour and rebuild shattered lives.
Interestingly, Insite got off the ground in 2003 because a federal Liberal Health Minister earmarked modest funding to start it up. All other official funding channels were very skeptical about how Insite could help get people off the street and move on with their lives. But in a very short time, Vancouver’s Insite project produced positive results and other cities wanted to set up their own supervised injection sites.
After Stephen Harper became Prime Minister, the Conservative government wanted to shut down the facility, even though the evidence – including numerous peer-reviewed articles – showed the reduction in harm, crime and poverty Insite helped achieve.
Thankfully, the Supreme Court of Canada thwarted the Conservative’s attempt to shut down Insite in order to impose its ideologically driven agenda.
Liz Evans is a master community builder, a woman of courage and dedication who has helped our most vulnerable citizens in downtown Vancouver. We have so much to thank Liz for, and so much to learn from her.
(George Takach is one of Canada’s pre-eminent technology lawyers, he is a Canadian for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. Follow him @GeorgeTakach)
Jennifer Crane by Steve Feinstein
For any Quebec political junkie when Parliament is in session, Tommy Schumacher’s “Political Panel” on CJAD, Friday’s at 10 AM is a must-listen. And promoting the Federal Liberals—usually in studio so her voice is loud and clear—is Jennifer Crane. Her verbal sparring with Conservative Geoff Norquay and whoever is the NDP representative of the week is done with enthusiasm, verve, and a quick witted sense of humour. As the old saying goes, she leaves no shot unanswered. Jennifer clearly makes “Political Panel” the fastest moving, most entertaining hour in Montreal talk radio. But Jennifer is more than just a radio personality. She is also the two-time Vice-President English of the Federal Liberal Party of Quebec, re-elected with ease in 2012. As such, the fluently bilingual Crane, has become known as one of the staunchest defenders of Anglo rights, and bilingualism within Quebec. When Jennifer is on your side, you’ve got no greater ally. Just ask Ken Dryden, for whom she organized in Quebec in his 2006 leadership run. Or ask Liberal leader Bob Rae. For the past four years, Jennifer has been one of Mr. Rae’s “go-to” organizers whenever Mr. Rae is in Montreal, advancing trips, organizing events and generally ensuring the leader’s Montreal trips are productive as well as enjoyable. A recent farewell dinner on Montreal’s West Island in Mr. Rae’s honour drew an overflow crowd at the largest venue in the area. And given her skills behind a microphone, she was the M.C. Or ask long time Quebec Liberal Party President Marc Tanguay, who needed Jennifer’s help in winning two elections, a by-election and a general election- within an 85 day period before he was able to take his National Assembly seat in LaFontaine. And the list goes on and on. A prolific Blackberry user, Jennifer keeps up on multiple political sites, moderating conversation, defending her friends and follow Liberals, and providing deft commentary and perspective. I never seen a status update from her with fewer than 5 likes, usually all coming within 10 minutes of posting. Jennifer Crane is one of a unique species of Canadian—a through and through Montrealer. Much like another great Montrealer, the late, great Nick Auf der Maur, they share a passion for their beloved island city. Born, raised, and educated in Montreal, she did spend a brief period of her career in Ottawa. But, as she explains it, she escaped at the first opportunity. Like all Montrealers, she lives for her city, her province, her hockey team (much to the chagrin of this Bruins fan and former Washington Capitals season ticket holder), for good white wine, even better food often from Atwater Market, and especially for electing Liberals to office and for the Liberal Party of Canada. 2012 saw her in an active role at the January biennial in Ottawa, her re-election as Vice President English, successful provincial campaigns, and her being wooed as an organizer by nearly every current contender for the Federal Liberal Leadership. 2013 promises to be busier with federal and provincial leadership races, a likely provincial election, and province-wide municipal elections including an open Mayor’s seat in Ville de Montreal. Look to hear much more from Jennifer Crane in the upcoming 12 months.
(Steve Feinstein is the Area 1 Coordinator for Central Ontario for the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario).)
Christine Moore by Joseph Uranowski
Early in 2012, it was reported that the Canadian government was playing the mercenary organization Blackwater (now, rebranded as “Xe”) to train Canadian troops. I was quite livid. My party, the Liberals, did work to hold Prime Minister Harper and Minister McKay accountable but I would like to highlight as well the excellent work of Christine Moore. Ms. Moore, the NDP MP for Canadian Parliament for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, is a nurse by training and has served in the Canadian forces for 3 years. Day after day in the House of Commons she hammered the government for abdicating its basic responsibility to provide for the national defence of Canada and for giving money to a firm as reprehensible as Blackwater/Xe. Defence Minister Peter MacKay would try to employ the knee-jerk Conservative attack on Ms. Moore’s patriotism but she handle his attacks with true class (the fact is that his only military experience comes from hitching rides on military helicopters helped.)
For making sure that this important issue wasn’t swept under the rug. I give Christine Moore a hearty “You go girl!”