Photograph by Blair Gable

The Senate is Canada’s institution for sober second thought, but some senators have been distracted by other matters lately—namely Sen. Rod Zimmer, 69, and his 23-year-old wife, Maygan Sensenberger. The fascination began before their wedding. “Literally, the senators would pass Rod notes—one of them made a joke about something silly. I think it had something to do with Hugh Hefner. It was just fun,” laughs Sensenberger during an interview this week.

In Ottawa circles, rarely is the water cooler discussion this sensational: a prominent Manitoba Liberal marrying an attractive blond 46 years his junior. Sensenberger and Sen. Zimmer became international news in August—their one-year wedding anniversary—when Sensenberger caused a disturbance on a flight from Ottawa to Saskatoon and received a 12-month suspended sentence with one-year probation. Other charges of uttering threats against her husband and endangering the safety of an aircraft were dropped.

The couple was back in the spotlight last week. With her husband at her side, Sensenberger appeared on CTV’s Power Play to talk about her volunteer role in a short film. She has the lead part in a movie about a world run by women. (The working title is First Ladies.) Sensenberger was also part of Ottawa Fashion Week, modelling pieces by her designer friend, Gwen Madiba. One headline read: “Redemption on the runway. Maygan Sensenberger catwalks back to Ottawa.”

In an interview at their five-bedroom, red-brick home in tony Rockcliffe Park, surrounded by portraits of her and her husband, wedding souvenirs and posters of her idol, Marilyn Monroe, Sensenberger spoke to Maclean’s about what happened on the plane, her hopes of becoming a film star and the ongoing curiosity about her marriage to Sen. Zimmer.

She says she met her husband while working as a nanny in Toronto four years ago. “I was waiting outside the men’s washroom for the boy I was looking after. This guy in this fancy suit walks up to me and he’s like, ‘Hello, my name is Sen. Rod Zimmer. How are you?’ I forget exactly how he worded it but it was pretty much, ‘Don’t worry, I am not hitting on you.’ He thought the boy was my son. He kind of insulted me because the boy was nine years old and I was 19. I made a joke that I didn’t know what a senator is. I really didn’t know what it was—I knew they were in politics but I didn’t follow politics. We exchanged cards and he said he knew someone in the entertainment industry.”

It went from there, despite the difference in age and backgrounds—she grew up in cottage country in Collingwood, Ont., the daughter of restaurant owners; he was a business executive, Liberal fundraiser and philanthropist in Manitoba who was appointed to the Senate under Paul Martin.

“I felt something for him,” says Sensenberger. “I was raised right by my parents. My parents love me and I love them. I don’t have daddy issues. It is pretty obvious this is not something people look fondly on so it was very confusing at first. Both of us were like, how is this going to work? We would go for coffee and, for the most part, it was just friendship at first. I liked him—but he’s older than my grandfather.

“Eventually, we were having dinner and he was flirting with the waiter about French wine—I didn’t even understand what he was talking about—and I was like, ‘I love you.’ He is the best man I’ve ever met. They don’t make them like him anymore.”

She kept the relationship a secret from her parents for six months and his family did not attend their wedding (she says it was not the age difference, but because they were married in an Anglican church—he was raised a Roman Catholic). “To anybody who doesn’t know us, there’s a lot of judgment. But as soon as people talk to us, they’re like ‘Okay, I get it.’ We just work together.”

She says they have a lot of mutual interests. She is a certified personal trainer and he was a champion swimmer, diver, lifeguard and water skier. They love ballet (she did ballet and he was the president of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet) and movies. “We go to receptions for embassies and some little things like that. But we’re not really big partiers. A regular night is watching movies or watching whatever team is on. Then we have dinner and a nice romantic night in. That’s pretty much our social life. We’re kind of boring.”

They take their dog Tinkerbell for walks, enjoy picnics, flying on small planes and shopping for knick-knacks. “We raid Value Village every weekend,” she says, joking that her house looks like a yard sale.

The lifestyle Sensenberger paints is a stark contrast to the image portrayed in Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper at the time of the incident—the paper posted photos of her partying from her Facebook page, and referred to her as a “good-time girl.”

She says she was hurt by the coverage and online attacks, and says the airline affair was “humiliating” and overblown. “They completely blew up everything. There were statements that were put in the papers—they were violent, evil things that not only could they have been misheard, but they weren’t said.

“Yes, I did cause a disturbance and any wife would cause a disturbance if she thought her husband needed help.” She blames the commotion on worries over an earlier hornet attack and her husband’s refusal to go to hospital. At the time of her guilty plea, she was ordered to undergo an addictions assessment and seek counselling. She says a parole officer concluded she did not need to get help and the conditions were dropped.

It is unlikely Ottawa will lose interest in the couple anytime soon. Tim Powers, a Conservative insider, describes Sen. Zimmer and Sensenberger as “lead actors in some oddball reality show. The senator and his bride seem to be both inviting and embracing the curiosity that some have about their union. It almost looks like they want to nurture some sort of celebrity.”

For his part, Sen. Zimmer seems delighted about the next phase in his marriage, saying in an email to Maclean’s: “Stay tuned & keep ur seat belt on!!”

He added that he is very proud of his wife: “It brings tears to my eyes.”

At home with Maygan Sensenberger

  1. I was appalled at the treatment this couple received in SK, and embarrassed to be living here. I am sure they were targetted simply because they were Liberals in a hostile place, to tell the truth. The horrible gossip that was smeared about was humiliating — most people take photos of themselves when they are dressed up at parties with their friends, and this young woman is no different. If you went and looked at my son’s or daughter’s pages, you would see almost all photos of them holding up glasses at parties. Pretty normal stuff. Love is love. Nobody else’s business about the age difference, nor is it particularly rare. She comes across as a sweet and loving partner to her husband, who clearly dotes on her. Isn’t that the way it is supposed to be in a marriage? They are a happy couple and I wish them nothing but the best.

    • I sat behind her on the plane. I can assure you that none of it was gossip. The charges should not have been dropped because she sat in the emergency aisle, window seat as she continuously threatened his life for two hours straight and then threatened to “take down the whole ___ plane”. I sat with two other members of my family; we, along with everyone else within earshot of her on the plane, were terrified of her very shortly after taking off from Ottawa. The age difference had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the fact that she terrorized our plane for the entire three hour duration.

      I wish you nothing but the best, and hope that next time you don’t comment on things that you know nothing about.

      • I comment on things I know nothing about all the time. That’s what internet fora are for. Anyway, thank you for posting and I also wish you the best. I respect that you had a personal experience and I did not; I wonder why your experience was so different from your fellow passenger who was in the news?

        • the passenger that was in the news was sitting 15 rows ahead of us. He was only called back to the situation for the last 30 minutes of the flight to administer oxygen. There was a woman sitting across the aisle from Ms. Sensenberger that begged staff to find her somewhere else to sit on the crowded plane after twenty minutes of sitting next to this woman and listening to her tirades and threats. She was terrified and crying; I’m sure she’d also tell you how threatening this girl was.

          She was threatening to take down the aircraft. She was within arms reach of an emergency door. It was threatening.
          Not a single person on the plane knew they were Liberals. They may have been targeted in the media, but if anything, their political standings helped them in this situation. Possible life sentence charges don’t usually get dropped to one year probations.

          • Exactly! I believe your story. I also believe the pair of them are jackos.
            How proud her family must be and how embarrassed his must be.
            Freaks the pair of them.

      • I should say that while I do respect that you were there, I still stand by my original statement, except perhaps that they were targeted as Liberals because, as you say, your experience was that she seemed truly threatening. She sure doesn’t look threatening, and he doesn’t look threatened, but hey, you were there and I wasn’t!

        • pachouli shorter
          @skp you are full of it,
          if you think you can create an alternate reality and be taken seriously… write a SF novel.

          • you’re an idiot. send me your address and i’ll send you my plane ticket.

    • Just which one of them ARE you related to? Or friends of?
      Hmmmm?

  2. The 15 minutes of fame has gone into overtime and 15 minutes has been too long!

    • Yeah, sure, but you read the article and commented anyway, so you are helping to extend the fame time. Irony is a bitch sometimes, isn’t it?

      • Nope…just the headline buck….the Power & Politics interview was also impetus to switch channels.

        • I think it’s only fair that after being vilified and humiliated in the press for days on end that the couple has an opportunity to speak and defend themselves in that same media glare. They never asked for any 15 minutes of infamy, not fame, on that flight, so if she can use that now to propel her career, so be it.

          • What “career”?
            She is a nobody who was in the news in an unfavourable light.
            The pair of them are a joke, no matter what.

  3. I hope the police and social services offered Rod appropriate contact information for his own safety from his violent wife.

  4. Kinky…. eh.. ??!!!

  5. As the passenger sitting directly behind Mr. Zimmer on the plane, I can tell you that they do not in fact ‘just work together.’

    The original charges should not have been dropped; she said “I will take this whole [f-ing] plane down” after threatening her husband for two straight hours. I was happy when she was told she would have to meet with police when we landed. The alleged medical issues, which Mr. Zimmer repeated denied having, were brought up by Ms. Sensenberger with demands that she be taken to the hospital with him. Gee, I wonder why.

    • Why do you think she wanted to go to the hospital with him?

    • Were you and your family asked to be witnesses in court? Two or more hours of fear would feel a lot longer — any reason why the pilot didn’t land somewhere closer and call the cops?

      • cops only talked to me for about 15 minutes that evening, told me they’d call us all back, and never did. She pled out before witnesses were needed in court, but no I was never asked. I think if any of us were, the sentence would be very different.

    • That must have been a terrible time….!!!
      What a classless tit she is.

  6. Just how does one apply for the position as Canada’s Paris Hilton?

    • Yes I see your point. But even loser Hilton doesn’t creep out with someone 42 years her age, older than her grandpa.

  7. It would appear the Senator has lost his sensenburger. Only in Canada, eh?

  8. The perfect symbiotic (and beyond) relationship. She feeds his ego. He supports her. They entertain us. We feed both their egos. Just not sure what Tinkerbell (really?) gets out of this.

  9. I think the wrong animal in that house has been name “tinkerbell”.

  10. He added that he is very proud of his wife: “It brings tears to my eyes.”

    And if the condition lasts for more than four hours, contact your doctor.

  11. This is not news, it’s just sad. The more we pay attention to this, the more we perpetuate it.

  12. No one believes the excuses they are trying to make so they are not accountable for their actions. The recent news articles are a smoke screen to detract from her behavior. The other readers are correct we would have to go to trial, but he has used his” wasta” to brush it away. Who cares if she sleeps with grandpa?

  13. He’ll have many more tears in his eyes when she decides her act is over and she robb’s him blind in the divorce settlement!!

    • As an actress she may end up making more money than him.

  14. no fool like an old fool

  15. Until I read a few articles featuring reader comments about Maygan Sensenbeger, I never really understood the nature of a ‘hater’. Now I do. A hater is someone who really has nothing better to do with their time but sit around making hateful comments which in no way create a better world for anyone. In fact, the hater appears to attempt to drag everyone else down to some dark and nasty place where there is no joy, happiness, no support or kindred spirit, and certainly no access to World Peace. I applaud Maygan’s performance in First Ladies and her poise in conducting difficult interviews. She is an absolute joy to work with on set and I hope to have the privilege to work with her in the future. ~ Allen Roulston (Director of First Ladies)

    • This crazy broad deserves every ounce of criticism she gets

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