Girl power? Helena Guergis in Obamaland

Tory Minister scores a diplomatic coup

Michael Wilson, Valerie Jarrett, Helena Guergis

Michael Wilson, Valerie Jarrett, Helena Guergis at the White House. Photo: Leslie Kossoff

One of the most prized gets in town is face time with Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s closest advisors, who mentored him in politics, co-chaired his transition team and has followed him from Chicago to Washington, DC. Her appearance last week at an event by a newly-formed Democratic-connected business group, Business Forward, was a major draw for a group that costs up to $75,000 to join. “If I am a company and if I see these folks are delivering Valerie Jarrett, I am signing up because there are few people in town who can deliver her right now,” a Democratic lobbyist told The Hill newspaper.

So guess who else got personal delivery of Jarrett? On Thursday, Helena Guergis, Minister of State for the Status of Women, had her own meeting with the Obama confidante. A nice little diplomatic coup.

As it happens, Jarrett is the head of a newly formed inter-agency White House Council on Women and Girls, a group that activists have complained has no full-time staff, cabinet level leader or set meeting schedule.

Guergis was happy to explain how such things are done in Ottawa, where she has a staff of 80. “It really did seem to be of interest to them .. me being a minister dedicated to the status of women, actually having a seat at the Cabinet table. They recognize that to be important,” she said in a telephone chat after the meeting.

According to Guergis, she and Jarrett talked about how the two countries could work together on women’s issues and “made a commitment to working together and will be meeting again.”

Guergis’ visit had a business connection too. She is in town to attend an Embassy event promoting WEConnect Canada, an initiative to get more women-owned businesses into global supply chains. It’s cosponsored by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.

I asked Guergis whether Jarrett express any desire for her own seat in Obama’s cabinet, but Guergis laughed it off. “They do a very different approach,” Guergis said. But, no worries, girls. Jarrett has clout. Says Guergis: “Her office is right there near his.”

Filed under:

Girl power? Helena Guergis in Obamaland

  1. Good job of connecting dots on a fascinating story. The Hill piece in particular tweaked my curiosity — especially in relation to the lobbing reference. I sure wish I could improve my ability to read between the lines.

  2. Do you know exactly how many cabinet ministers have visited D.C. since Obama’s visit?

    I imagine that roughly 90% of the Cabinet has met with their counterpart officials by now. How normal is this? What does it say about the relationship between the two administrations (Harper and Obama)?

    Just wondering.

  3. I don’t know the exact number but it’s been quite a few. But I think it’s far too early to judge the Harper-Obama relationship. I think a flurry of visits is the norm when a new administration comes in — especially when you have such a wide-ranging close and relationship as between Canada and the US — and you are allies in a war, plus you’re enduring a global financial crisis and economic mess. Given that the last administration was there 8 years, I would have been surprised if we didn’t see a flurry of meetings.

    That said, I would worry more about bilateral irritants coming out of the US Congress on issues such as trade or energy/climate change or agriculture, than about friction with the White House.

  4. Thansk for his post Luiza Ch. Savage .

    Helena Guergis is the MP from where I grew up. Alot of PPG people have taken alot of shots at her. I am just happy to see somone from my area make it..

    PS:Yes I understand Wells,Coyen,Wherry and Kady think she is dumb. But Helena rocks in my book….

    • It’s true.

      No one will touch this with a ten foot pole by suggesting, for example “Rahim, recently defeated MP and hubby, must be a good cook”

      I’m just happy she’s not down there pleading the case of the female wannabe Olympic ski jumpers.

  5. If meeting with a woman who has an office close to a powerful man means you have made it then what does that say about your status as a woman?
    Ms Georgis needs to re-evaluate her definition of what her job is. She has been AWOL in her constituancy and now we know where she has been. Spend some time lobbying in Cabinet to restore funding to women’s advocacy activities and re-open Status of Women Canada’s Regional offices.
    Maybe even take a read of the alarming conclusions drawn by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, November 2007.

  6. So another of Harper’s bobbing house plants goes to Washington for a photo-op and this is news? What about women’s rights here in Canada? The Status of Women’s starving for funds, womens’ rights to equal pay, the Court Challenge rights of women, all that Harper has trampled….

    • “Bobbing house plants”?

      It was all an act, wasn’t it? Feminism, I mean. Heaven forbid you are an attractive woman not on the public teat; the scorn of fellow women, many of whom proclaiming themselves feminists, must be crushing.

      We’re at the point where we conservatives are going to have to run “closet” conservative female candidates. Give her a henna pentagram tattoo, dress her in a wife beater, teach her to slouch, and cut her hair, but, like Hannah Montana, she has a secret life as the loving mother of 3 children and adoring wife of a lucky husband.

      “Bobbing house plants”. I can’t believe you’re all secretly more “sexist” than me, and that’s saying a lot frankly.

      • To be fair, I think houseplants was meant to apply to all of Harper’s cabinet, implying they are compliant robots. I am reminded of the “anecdote” (it was actually from an episode of Spitting Image, but got circulated as a story) about Margaret Thatcher:
        [Margaret Thatcher is at a restaurant with her cabinet]
        Waiter: “What will you be having tonight, Madame Thatcher?
        Maggie: “I’ll have the steak.”
        Waiter: “And the vegetables?”
        Maggie: [looks at cabinet members at table] “They’ll have steak also.”

        • re. “bobbing”— ever watch QP? That’s Guergis’ contribution, to nod vigorously to the Prime Minister’s comments and say “that’s right” repeatedly.

          re cabinet visits– I am guessing after the memo that was leaked about Obama last year by Ian Brodie has Harper’s office concerned about any residual animosity that Obama’s staff may have toward the Harper government.

  7. I don’t think it’s fair to compare the US and Canadian cabinets.

    They have something like 9 cabinet positions, things that matter.
    We have something like 40, including cabinet positions for things like Amateur Sports.

    Soooo…. in reality, you can call all 40 of them Cabinet ministers, but there is clearly a hierarchy of cabinet ministers (that is determined by the PM of the day, presumably) and just having the Status of Women as a cabinet position for all our governments does not mean any real power rests there, unless the PM grants them that power.

Sign in to comment.