On which lucky wife met Obama

And where Laureen was that day

Mitchel Raphael on which lucky wife met Obama


“Are you absolutely sure?” asked Michael Ignatieff’s wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, after being told she wouldn’t be able to meet Barack Obama. For protocol reasons, political spouses do not usually meet major dignitaries unless the dignitary brings their spouse. Since Michelle Obama was not on the trip, Zsohar was told there was no way she could even just come along when Iggy met the President. Zsohar can take solace in the fact that even Laureen Harper was not on the Hill that day. In fact, she told Capital Diary, during all the hoopla the PM’s wife was at Loblaws. The closest she got to things presidential was President’s Choice. Ottawa NDP MP Paul Dewar, on the other hand, did manage to get his wife, Julia Sneyd, in to meet the President. MPs are always allowed to go wherever they want on the Hill, and apparently Dewar found out it was okay to bring his wife as long as she had on her MP spouse pin. He waited with her in a line of people as the President and Stephen Harper made their way to their press conference. Dewar introduced himself to Obama as the local MP and his wife shook the President’s hand and thanked him for offering everyone “hope.” When Harper saw Sneyd, he joked, “Oh, I don’t have to shake your hand.” Dewar and Sneyd’s son Nathaniel Dewar and the PM’s son Ben Harper played on the same hockey team so the families know each other well. Another person who did not get to see Obama was Jack Layton. He had important business with another politician that day. A release went out from his office saying that on Feb. 19 the NDP leader would be meeting with the mayor of Sarnia, Ont., Mike Bradley.


During his visit, Barack Obama used the office of Noël Kinsella, the Speaker of the Senate. It’s the office the Queen would use on a visit to the Hill and the one the Governor General uses when she is there. Obama said he liked Kinsella’s traditional black and white Speaker robes and noted that perhaps U.S. senators should adopt a similar look. “It might bring more tranquility to the place,” said Obama, to which the PM replied: “Our place isn’t that calm.” On his office bookshelves, Kinsella placed a bust of Abraham Lincoln, which Obama noticed. “I think he was touched by that little gesture,” noted Kinsella. The PM’s and President’s working lunch was in the Senate Speaker’s dining room. The table was very Valentine’s Day: there were four beautiful flower displays, each with a dozen red roses. Inscribed over one of the doors in the dining room is a Latin phrase from Horace: “Dare to be wise.”


The only real Barack Obama pre-party the night before the President’s arrival was put on by the advocacy group Environmental Defence at the Métropolitain Brasserie & Restaurant. Partiers posed with a slightly-smaller-than-life-sized cardboard cut-out of the President. ED’s executive director, Rick Smith, felt that Obama’s greener approach would push the Canadian government to go further on environmental issues. Interestingly, at the joint press conference, it was Obama who was drinking from an environmentally unfriendly bottle of water while Harper sipped from a glass.


When the American reporters saw Michaëlle Jean arriving to greet Barack Obama, many commented on how the Governor General was “hot.” The Canadian press egged them on, saying things like, “Wait until Michelle Obama sees the pictures of the two of them.” Canadian journalists, however, weren’t too impressed with their special yellow security passes for the day. The passes just said “Media” in both official languages, had the reporter’s name, a bar code, and Canadian and U.S. flags. “It doesn’t even say Obama on it!” huffed many.