Author Archive

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Mark Bourrie’s Kill the Messengers “the most damning books ever written about a sitting prime minister”


It’s all about “the base,” that 30 per cent or so of voters who are on the right-leaning flank of the electorate, the people who can be counted on to support Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, as long as the prime minister continues to give them what they want. With that 30 per cent locked up, Harper only has to woo another 10 per cent of voters. In our multi-party, first-past-the-post system, winning 40 per cent of the vote at election time can be enough to form a majority.

The Mike Duffy Senate scandal was supposedly all about “the base,” according to the man at the centre of the expense controversy. Duffy told the Senate that he had a meeting with Harper and his then-chief of staff, Nigel Wright, soon after news reports surfaced alleging the senator had fudged his expense accounts.

“I said that despite the smear in the papers I had not broken the rules,” Duffy claims he told Harper and Wright. “But the prime minister wasn’t interested in explanations or the truth. It’s not about what you did. It’s the perception of what you did that has been created by the media. The rules are inexplicable to our base.”

Kill the Messengers hits bookstores Jan. 27

Kill the Messengers hits bookstores Jan. 27

In other words, the Conservative “base” would disapprove of Duffy living high on the hog at taxpayers’ expense, even if the senator had broken no rules. The verdict: Duffy had to go.

Now Duffy is hardly an unbiased person in this story. But his version of events plays into widespread attitudes about Stephen Harper — namely that, right or wrong, his main concern is to nurture that 30 per cent of the electorate.

Such sentiments are at the heart of Mark Bourrie’s tough, new book, Kill the Messengers: Stephen Harper’s Assault on Your Right to Know. The book paints Harper as ruthlessly attacking and even silencing journalists, scientists, judges, environmentalists, and intellectuals in a drive to remake Canada, rewrite our history, and keep the Conservatives in power. It is one of the most damning books ever written about a sitting prime minister.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Paint Nite brings rookie artists, friends, and couples to local pubs


Paint Nite at the Clocktower Pub in Westboro

Instructor Olga Climova talks participants through the process of recreating “Italy” at Paint Nite at the Clocktower Pub in Westboro

It’s a Monday night and the ClockTower Pubin Westboro has had a makeover. Instead of sports fans watching the Sens on mammoth screens, rows of 35 easels and canvases line the back room. It looks more like a kindergarten room than a pub.

At the head of the class, instructor Olga Climova is handing out aprons and paper plates covered with blobs of paint. Red, yellow, blue, black and white. That’s it. Those are all the colours these budding Picassos will need for tonight’s lesson/creation.

Their mission? To recreate a painting from Paint Nite’s (their spelling) gallery. Tonight’s painting is (not-so-creatively) called “Italy.” It’s a silhouette of a big-wheeled bicycle leaning against a sunny yellow brick wall. The budding artists — all but three are women, the average age is 30 — wield paint brushes, wine glasses, and a positive attitude to go with their lack of experience. Only one says she’s had formal training; the others are complete newbies.

Michelle Madill

Michelle Madill

In spite of its questionable spelling and boiler-plate painting designs (local artists such as Climova must choose a painting to teach from a gallery prescribed by Paint Nite), the Boston-headquartered company is now global. It’s been in Ottawa — operating out of bars and restaurants downtown and as far afield as Orleans and Kanata — for a year, but it also has chapters in China, Australia, Ghana, Hong Kong, South Africa, and the U.K. It’s in Canada’s largest cities and even some smaller spots in Ontario (think Peterborough.)

Michelle Madill, a nurse who’s having her first baby in a month, was there with her friends Kristan Wadden and Connie Tuttle, who was six days away from giving birth.

“We’re trying to get lots of girl time in before they deliver,” Wadden says with a laugh.

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DESBRISAY DINES: Anne Finds Yak and Other Pleasures at the Winter Market

Anne DesBrisay is the restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine. She has been writing about food and restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau for 25 years and is the author of three bestselling books on dining out. She is head judge for Gold Medal Plates and a member of the judging panel at the Canadian Culinary Championships.

PHoto by Anne DesBrisay

Katie of Needham’s Market Garden. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

They have lots of pretty things at Whole Foods, but they don’t have Tibetan yak. If you need yak this week, you need to do this. Head to Whole Foods and buy a few things. They need to add up to twenty five bucks (won’t take long). Get your parking pass stamped, return to your warm underground car, deposit your purchases and walk the five minutes to the Cattle Castle, where you can spend the rest of your 90 minutes of validated parking spending the rest of your money to support local producers.

The second stall on the right as you enter the grand old building is where you’ll find artist-farmer Rosemary Kralik and her pasture-raised Tibetan yak. The meat, that is. Rosemary famously (at least that’s what put her on my map) partnered with chef Jamie Stunt (then of Oz Kafé) for his winning Gold Medal Plates 2012 dish. The plate featured loin of yak along with a special bottle of Ashton Brewing Company’s beer. (And a lot of other things as well, but this post is about the Farmers’ Market.)

Jamie Stunt visits with a yak at Rosemary Kralik’s farm. Photography by Luther Caverly.


Kralik sells her yak (plus Highland beef, smoked lamb and other treats) on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., bringing wares from her farm, Tiraislin Fold, in Maberley, Ontario.

The Winter Farmers’ Market in the Aberdeen Pavillion was launched last Sunday. It seemed to me about a fifth the size of the summer version, which meant we could hit most of the stalls.

Other than yak, we bought frost-sweetened carrots and Jerusalem artichokes from Rainbow Heritage Garden, winter kale from Acorn Creek, squashes from Bryson Farms, venison from Trillium Meadows, honey from the Kositsins of Ottawa Valley Honey, Beau’s-Wurste sausages from The Elk Ranch, apple cider from Hall’s, freshly rolled oats from Castor River, plus beets, corn salsa, and a container of spicy edamame hummus from Katie at Needham’s Market Garden. Then before heading for the canal, we joined the winter queue (much shorter than the summer one) for a loaf (or three) of Art-is-In bread.

The music is much better at the Farmers’ Market too. They were playing Adele at Whole Foods. We got King of the Road on double bass at the Cattle Castle. All under the same roof where you can buy yak. How’s that for a splendid Sunday outing?


DESBRISAY DINES: Huong’s Vietnamese Bistro

Anne DesBrisay is the restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine. She has been writing about food and restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau for 25 years and is the author of three bestselling books on dining out. She is head judge for Gold Medal Plates and a member of the judging panel at the Canadian Culinary Championships.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Photo by Anne DesBrisay


She was putting on her winter coat and helping an elderly woman into hers. And then she walked the few steps to my table and said this to me: “My mother would like you to know that she thinks you order very well.” (Mom was nodding and smiling.) “She’s been watching the food come to your table and she says you order like a Vietnamese person.”

A week later I’m still chuffed! 

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Throwback Thursday: Seven Ways to Get in Shape this New Year

This article originally appeared in Dec/Jan 2007/8 Ottawa Magazine print edition.
All photos by David Kawai


Jacqueline Ethier Photo: David Kawai

IT’S A NEW YEAR, and with it come new ways to get fit and fabulous. Forget the gym craze of the premillennium. Such mind-numbing step routines are the old codger to the ahead-of-the-curve activity-based routines of the young.
Here are seven sporty Svengalis with kicks, skates, and new moves to get you in gear:

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NORTHERN CONTACT: Exploring Ottawa’s connections to the Far North


Photo by Michelle Valberg

This series first appeared in the print edition of the Winter 2014 issue of Ottawa Magazine.

Like Leslie Reid, whose profile appeared earlier on this site, many Ottawans have travelled to the Arctic. Whether for work or pleasure, these trips often seem to involve life-changing experiences.

In addition, due to a variety of factors — the land claims process and the role of government organizations in mapping the north are just two examples — Ottawa has seen a growing Inuit population. This strong, unique community is a remarkable treasure that contributes much to the city’s identity.

Take the case of Michelle Valberg. “I discovered the Arctic, and my whole world changed,” says Ottawa photographer Michelle Valberg. In 2009, Valberg visited the Baffin Island community of Pond Inlet to begin what she envisioned as a coffee-table book about Canada — but she never got over the North.

Cover 1The result is Arctic Kaleidoscope, which features photographs taken over five years to reveal the people, places, and wildlife of the North with unique vibrancy.

But it was something else she saw on that initial trip that led to Project North. Explains Valberg: “These small communities have hockey rinks, but not hockey equipment.” Knowing that a two-litre bag of milk can cost upwards of $15, she saw the need and filled it by campaigning in Ottawa for equipment. So many bags, pads, helmets, and skates were gleaned in the roundup that she had to call on First Air for help transporting it all. More corporate sponsors joined, and Valberg recently travelled to Iqaluit, Stephen and Laureen Harper in tow, with $100,000 worth of goods from Canadian Tire.

Ottawa photographer Michelle Valberg with Laureen Harper, who serves as honourary chair of Project North, and Canadian Tire president Michael Medline at a Project North event this past summer. Photo by Valerie Keeler

Ottawa photographer Michelle Valberg with Laureen Harper, who serves as honourary chair of Project North, and Canadian Tire president Michael Medline at a Project North event this past summer. Photo by Valerie Keeler

“I was so touched by the people that I just wanted to give something back,” says Valberg. “On that first trip, I realized how little I knew about Canada and the North and the Inuit.”

Watch for more stories like Valberg’s in the coming weeks as Ottawa Magazine explores the North as a thriving, dynamic area from which we can draw knowledge and inspiration.

Also in this series:

PROFILE: Arctic inspires new Art by Leslie Reid


Renowned for her landscape paintings that evoke emotional responses, Leslie Reid reveals the sublime, fragile nature of the North in her latest series, Mapping Time.



PROFILE: Ottawa’s Inuit centre ignites cultural pride


From women’s healing circles and drop-in baby playtime to book-making workshops and throat-singing lessons, the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre is a “hub for celebrating Inuit culture.”


ShoeBOX: a perfect fit for the North


Thanks to an iPad-based tool invented by CHEO physician Dr. Matthew Bromwich, children from Nunavut can skip the plane ride from Iqaluit to Ottawa to have their hearing tested.

ROADTRIP! Mont Tremblant for outdoor fun (and indoor luxury)


Photo courtesy Mont Tremblant Living

Photo courtesy Mont Tremblant Living

When a property management company called Tremblant Living reached out to me about visiting Mont Tremblant earlier this year, I was intrigued. After ten years in Ottawa I had never been to the well-known Quebec ski resort — I thought I had turned my back on the ski industry as such when I moved here in 2003. (I would be a journalist, not a ski bum!)

Alas, it seems you can take the girl out of the mountains but you can’t take the mountains out of the girl. That urge to head for the hills, especially in late November, when the first snow fall has served as a reminder of all the fun things winter brings, is still firmly part of my psyche. And so I packed up my two-year-old, my husband, and my dog — along with plenty of gear, wine, and cheese — and headed east.

Photo courtesy Mont Tremblant

Photo courtesy Mont Tremblant

First off, I was surprised how quick the drive was. It’s not an easy drive, per se, there are plenty of twists and turns along Highway 50, but we arrived in less than two and half hours. I was also surprised at how few roadside eateries we passed — there’s really only a gas station with a small, overpriced  grocery store. So best stock up before you go! Or inquire about “fridge fills” — Tremblant Living offers these, and they’re definitely better than what you’ll find in Brébeuf.

Now, I’ve been inside of plenty of slopeside condos, but the four-bedroom townhouse we stayed at really blew my mind. It might be because it wasn’t the temporary crash pad of five work-hard/party-hard 25-year-old guys, as was the case with most of the condos I enjoyed “après ski” in Sun Peaks and Panorama. No, this place was impeccable, with huge baths, two fireplaces, a hot tub, the works. I soon found myself wishing for a huge dump so we would be forced to stay an extra day.

Photo courtesy Tremblant Living

Photo courtesy Tremblant Living

A huge dump did not arrive, but I was on the hill on Saturday morning anyway. I thought my ski bum instincts would kick in, but the Mont Tremblant village is bigger than I expected. Pay parking, a tram to get to the gondola, and lots of people who were clearly there to shop (and eat, and drink) rather than ski. I expected to be murmuring “kids these days” and “city slickers” like a curmudgeon. Instead, I realized the that, rather than infringing on my ski time, the amenities at Mont Tremblant — the shopping, dining, kiddie play stuff — actually brings me closer to more ski time.

How? Because now I can convince more family and friends to make this our destination. I can ski while they dine/shop/rock their snow-bunny attire. Everyone wins! And this is even more so when you have the luxury of ski-in/ski-out accommodation. Pop in for lunch or nap time with the toddler! Then ski back to the action …

Because even with the marginal skiing conditions I expected on opening day, the adrenalin that weekend was palpable. As someone who learned to ski in London, Ont. (yes, we have a hill!), and continues to enjoy skiing “local” hills like Camp Fortune, I’m still surprised when I get winded or tired on a run. (Or maybe I’m getting older? Nah.) Long runs, a good base of man-made snow, and a dusting of the real stuff, plus all those stoked skiers made for a great day on Mont Tremblant. And my family hardly missed me.

WHY EAT OUT? Shawna Wagman on The New Rules For Eating Out

This article first appeared as part of The Encyclopedia of Eating Now in our Winter 2014 issue.

Why eat out? It’s a question that challenges assumptions and calls restaurateurs to make their pitch, which is exactly what Shawna Wagman was trying to do when she invited five insiders from the city’s foodie scene to gather at Urban Element earlier this year. As Wagman wrote in her introduction, cooking for chefs — and probing them with questions about the industry — was an exhilarating and frightening experiment. In fact, the same words might be used to describe running a restaurant. This past year was a particularly tough one for the industry, but hard economic times don’t appear to be stifling the creativity in our city’s kitchens. While many were saddened to see the end of Domus, this year also saw the opening of five new restaurants on Bank Street alone. So it would seem Ottawans have plenty of answers to the question on our cover.

In this story, Wagman rounds up some of the comments made by her guests for a tongue-in-cheek list of directives for restaurant-goers.

Stephen Beckta, Shawna Wagman, and Marysol Foucault discussed the local restaurant scene at a private gathering this past summer at Urban Element. Photo by Miv Fournier.

Stephen Beckta, Shawna Wagman, and Marysol Foucault discussed the local restaurant scene at a private gathering this past summer at Urban Element. Photo by Miv Fournier.

1. Before you write a negative review online, contact the chef or restaurant owner to give them an opportunity to handle the complaint. Stephen Beckta (Beckta, Gezellig, Play) says, “If someone chooses to contact me directly, I will turn around their experience.”

Marysol Foucault. Photo by Miv Fournier

Marysol Foucault. Photo by Miv Fournier

2. Do not be afraid to ask for what you want. If you want a table by the window, ask for it. If you want to be left alone for 20 minutes before considering the dessert menu, tell your server that you are in no rush.

3. Order something you might not normally think you’d like. There is no other way to develop and expand your taste vocabulary, and it’s a great way to encourage chefs to be more adventurous. Marysol Foucault of Chez Edgar says, “People are curious, and that’s the best thing you can ask for.”

4. Do not expect every bite of restaurant food to transform your life. The Food Network is a fantasy, and it is warping our expectations of what kind of religious awakening should be happening in our mouths.

5. Say goodbye to the super-size mentality.Recognize the value of a little less of something that is top quality.

Stephen Beckta. Photo by Miv Fournier

Stephen Beckta. Photo by Miv Fournier


6. Recognize that food, cooking, and hospitality are human endeavours. As Beckta admits, “Sometimes we screw up.”

7. When you spend money on food, think like a European and factor in the whole package. In other words, think of it as a fee for renting a tiny piece of real estate and some hospitality for a few hours.

8. Do not let parking or poor weather dictate where and when you eat out. Make dining out and socializing an important part of a balanced and civilized urban life. Sometimes the extra effort to make it happen makes the experience even sweeter.

9. Vote for hospitality with your dollars. Dine at the places that make you feel great.

10. Eat out early on weekends. If you go early, you get more attention from the server, the music may be quieter, and it’s probably easier to find a parking spot. Pat Garland says Absinthe has a no-7 p.m. reservation policy on weekends and adds, “The reason you can’t get a reservation at seven is because everyone else in Ottawa has a reservation at seven.”


FOUND: Hockey Night in Addis

This article first appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Ottawa Magazine.



Photo by Samuel Taye

You’re wandering in Addis Ababa, the gritty, bustling capital of Ethiopia, and you have a sudden craving for home. What to do? You find improbably named Mickey Leland Street and the even more improbable Oh Canada restaurant. Inside, there’s a big red maple leaf on the ceiling and photos of the Rideau Canal on the wall. You ponder Arcade Fire Pizza but finally succumb to the Ottawa Senators Bacon Cheeseburger. A heavily laden donkey plods past the window. You’re home, but you’re not.

Market Memories
Lily Kassahoun knows how you feel. The former owner of Memories, the venerable ByWard Market dessert palace, was born in Addis. After more than 20 years away, family circumstances have brought her back. But her heart remains in Canada. “I miss it so much,” she says. So, in December 2012, she opened her unabashed ode to all things Canuck. While the locals remain baffled by the giant Erik Karlsson cutout on the back patio, they have embraced Canadian cuisine.


Coast to Coast
“That’s what you guys eat?” wide-eyed customers exclaimed when they first sampled poutine. Well, not every day, she had to explain — it’s comfort food. Before opening her restaurant, Kassahoun spent months searching, fruitlessly, for cheese curds, finally having to settle for a very soft mozzarella that would melt under the heat of the gravy. Her local adaptation — like the Newfoundland and Labrador Fish & Chips made with Nile perch — has since become an Oh Canada signature dish.



SERVING SENS Lily Kassahoun brings Canadian cuisine to the capital city of Ethiopia with her restaurant Oh Canada. Photo by Samuel Taye

Sensational Fandom
During the hockey playoffs, Kassahoun gets to bed early — because at 2:30 a.m., her alarm goes off. She makes herself a coffee, flips on her computer, and lies in bed listening to her beloved Senators streaming on Team 1200. “My mind is like a 50-year-old Canadian man’s,” she says, laughing. “I absolutely love hockey.” She was, in fact, set on calling her eatery Sensation Café — until her father informed her Sensation was a popular Ethiopian condom brand.

Maple Leaf Forever
Kassahoun fretted that her restaurant would be branded a ferenji place, strictly a place for foreigners. And certainly the diplo and NGO crowd, particularly the staff from the nearby American embassy, has embraced the shiny upscale café. But on the day we drop by, 90 percent of the patrons are young white-collar Ethiopians eating burgers named for hockey teams beneath photos of moose and beavers and Alanis Morissette. Kassahoun wears her maple leaf on her sleeve — and everywhere else too.


CONTEST! Ottawa Magazine Short Fiction Contest


Illustration by Alanah Abels

It might be snowy outside, but at Ottawa Magazine we’re gearing up for summer — our Summer issue, that is.

Every year, Ottawa Magazine publishes short fiction by local authors in our Summer issue. For 2015, we’re switching things up a bit with the inaugural Ottawa Magazine Short Fiction Contest.


So hunker down and bring to life that great tale that has been simmering away in the back of your mind, or dust off the manuscript that is sitting on your desktop.

The winner will receive $700, the runner up $300, and both stories will be published in the Summer 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.

NOTE: the contest is open only to residents of the National Capital Region.

Winners will be chosen by a panel of judges through a blind judging process.

Entries must be no longer than 3,000 words. Entries can be short stories or excerpts but must not have been published elsewhere.

Participants may enter as many times as they wish, but once submitted entries may not be submitted to other contests (or published elsewhere) until the winning entries have been announced in April 2015.

The deadline is March 1, 2015.

Submit entries in a Word document to Ottawa Magazine via Kelsey Kromodimoeljo

“A short story is the ultimate close-up magic trick – a couple of thousand words
to take you around the universe or break your heart.”
– Neil Gaiman