Author Archive

THE JESTER: Christmas gifts for the politician in your life

BY CHRIS LACKNER

Mulcair2

He’s making a list and checking it twice.

No, I’m not talking about Stephen Harper’s ever-growing “enemy stakeholders” list. I’m talking about the other formidable power in the North: Santa Claus.

Given the sorry state of government transparency in Canada, Kris Kringle may have a difficult time figuring out whether our politicians have been naughty or nice this year. But with a federal election looming in 2015, there is no doubt that party leaders’ stockings will be hung by the chimney with care. Here, some early gifting tips for St. Nicholas.

arcade-fire-press-2013-650b

Arcade Fire. Photo: Guy Aroch

STEPHEN HARPER: Arcade Fire.

Yes, I do mean giving him the actual band. It’s no secret that our prime minister has had a hard time connecting with Quebecers. But he can play a piano and sing. All he needs in his clutches is the popular Montreal indie group. They can join him on stage on the campaign trail or perform a soothing lullaby after a long day of listening to Thomas Mulcair huff and puff and try to blow the House down. (Delivery Warning: Not all band members may comfortably fit under Christmas tree.)

3087835894_5e7e35cb18_o

 

THOMAS MULCAIR: A map to the nearest yellow brick road.

 

I’m sure the Wizard of Oz deals in more than brains, hearts, and courage. Plus, the song “If I Only Had Charisma” would top the charts in Munchkinland.

 

3086073137_960576cacb_o

 

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: A time machine to go back to 1980 and stop his father from introducing the National Energy Program.

The new year will be bright as he sits back and rakes in the Liberal seats in Alberta.

MAYOR JIM WATSON: Watson needs a nemesis to rally against in his new term.After all, enemies challenge us to be better (e.g., The Joker and Batman, Peter MacKay and math).

Suggestions: Gatineau mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin (cross border rivalry); The Glebe (the neighbourhood needs something to complain about other than a music festival and parking); his “Evil Twin” — why not spice things up with an alter ego?

The_Time_Machine_Classics_Illustrated_133

OTTAWA CITY COUNCIL: A time machine to go to the future to whatever actual year the light rail transit will be completed.
They must be tired of devoting energy to a project that might not be finished in their lifetime.

THE BLOC QUEBECOIS: Another federal sponsorship scandal — or another Meech Lake Accord.
A perceived slap in the face from English Canada is exactly what the doctor ordered to save the party from oblivion.

 

Throwback Thursday: Chief John deHooge

RON CORBETT

Chief deHooge, Julie Oliver, 2010

Ottawa’s newly retired fire chief, John deHooge. Photo: Julie Oliver, 2010

On Monday, the city’s fire Chief, Jon deHooge, announced his retirement — he’d been on the job for five years. His retirement was planned before the launch of a new strategic plan coming in the new year. “I thought it best that a new fire chief build and take ownership of that,” deHooge told the Ottawa Citizen.

Five years ago, Ottawa Magazine‘s Ron Corbett took a look at the then new fire chief — including his qualifications and experience, which were largely ignored. Instead, the focus was on the chief’s lack of French language skills — something that, though he took lessons, he was, he admits, unable to become fluent in by the time he retired. But given his accomplishments, was all that controversy really merited?

These thoughts and others come to mind as we return to that moment, five years ago, just as deHooge was donning the all-important helmet.

fire2

Newly retired Ottawa fire chief John deHooge speaking in 2010 to Alex Davey (right) and Ken Walton (left). Julie Oliver, 2010

 

This article originally appeared in April/May 2010 Ottawa Magazine print edition. 

Ask any firefighter how their department stacks up against the other two branches of Ottawa’s emergency services — the cops and the paramedics — and you’ll immediately get an earful about firefighters being the poor cousin. You’ll hear how they went nearly five years without a contract, negotiating with a stingy city hall that didn’t seem to have any sense of urgency — and can you imagine such a thing ever happening to the cops? You’ll hear about shrinking revenue, old fire trucks, and the constant threat of station closures.

And who gets all the media coverage? Don’t even get the firefighter started! It seems you can’t pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio without hearing from Vern White, high-profile chief of the Ottawa Police Service, or getting an update from paramedic chief Anthony Di Monte on the effort to get more paramedics on the streets. In contrast, the former Ottawa fire chief — who held the job for nine years — was seen so rarely in public that his nickname was Bigfoot. Rick Larabie, who retired last May, rarely spoke to the media about anything other than smoke detectors.

I was thinking about all this the other day — cursing under my breath and thinking how appropriate — as I drove in circles trying to find Fire Station 1. Fire Station 1 also happens to be the headquarters of Ottawa Fire Services. But I couldn’t find it. Missed it once, with the address sitting right next to me on the passenger seat. Then missed the parking lot on the second go-round. Bigfoot, it seems, had designed a well-hidden lair. (Fire Station 1, for the record, is on Carling Avenue, butt joint to the Queensway, just past Kirkwood, on a tight curve where you take your life in your hands if you turn into the fire station or even take a second to notice it.)

I finally parked the car and walked up to the front entrance, only to discover that it was closed for renovations. A handwritten sign directed me around the corner. Fenced service depots are easier to get into than the headquarters of Ottawa Fire Services, it seems. As I turned to start walking, a car pulled into the parking lot — a candy-apple red Dodge Charger. Behind the wheel was a heavy-set man with short-clipped grey hair. He stepped out of the car and rose to an impressive height, then pushed back a pair of blue-framed eyeglasses. I remember thinking, Well, the new chief looks a little different.

Last December the City of Ottawa announced that, after a seven-month search, it had hired a new fire chief. The man getting the nod was John deHooge, the fire chief from Waterloo. DeHooge was 53, a career firefighter with 25 years of service at the Oakville fire department, where he rose to the rank of deputy chief, before joining the City of Waterloo in 2004. On paper, he’s perfect. He has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Western Ontario and is a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. He has won many awards for his professional and charitable work, particularly with muscular dystrophy, the charity of choice for firefighters since the heyday of the Jerry Lewis Telethon. He beat 300 other applicants and was referred to glowingly as “the best candidate for the job” by Diane Deans, chair of the city’s community and protective services committee, when the city councillor introduced him at a press conference last year.

But, this being Ottawa, none of the news organizations led with any of this information. Instead, the coverage concentrated on deHooge’s lack of French skills. (CBC was perhaps the most direct with this information, headlining its online story Ottawa Hires Fire Chief Who Doesn’t Speak French.) The stories then quoted the chief, who said he planned to learn French. Councillor Georges Bédard weighed in, defending the choice but expressing concern  about the policy that allowed such a hiring to take place, while Councillor Jacques Legendre said he found it difficult to accept the notion that the city could not find a qualified bilingual candidate in Canada.

Still, when the dust settled, deHooge was still the new fire chief and most of the media had missed the bigger story. After years of perceived neglect by the city — and with morale in the fire service running as low as a lure skipping along the bottom of a lake — is John deHooge the man to turn things around? “I think,” says Ottawa Professional Fire Fighters Association president Peter Kennedy dryly, “that those issues are a little more important than what the media has focused on so far.”

I stand in the parking lot, waiting for deHooge. I have seen his photo in the newspaper. You can’t mistake the man. Too big. The glasses too obvious. When he sits back down in his car to make a phone call, I move on and make my way to the makeshift entrance to the Ottawa Fire Service, which turns out to be a locked employee entrance. I have to knock on the door and wait for someone to let me in. I try to imagine the front door of the police station ever being locked.

When deHooge catches up to me, his cellphone is back in his pocket and he is carrying a stylish leather briefcase. He walks right up to me.

“Ron?”

“Chief deHooge. Pleased to meet you.”

I inspect the man. He’s the poster child for the expression “barrel-chested.” Within his chest could be stored enough provisions for a two-week canoe trip. Yet he isn’t a hulking man. The face is still youthful, the eyes are bemused, and the glasses are a playful touch — one that keeps you guessing about him.

“We can go right to the office,” he says, and I follow him up the stairs.

“Excuse the mess. I don’t really know what is going on yet.” DeHooge has been on the job for less than two weeks, and when we enter the office, a secretary is waiting to show him the new printer on his desk. It’s about the size of a lunar capsule. You can see the chief’s disappointment.

“That’s it?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so,” says the secretary. “Rather large, isn’t it?” Then she looks around and says helpfully, “Maybe we can put it on the bookcase behind you.” Okay — or maybe we can give it its own parking spot.

“Well, we’ll work it out, I’m sure,” says deHooge as he removes his overcoat. Now he’s standing in front of me in his fire-chiefs’ whites. Like a naval officer on parade. Maybe the middle linebacker on the old navy football team.

I quickly survey the room. Like the offices of many successful men, it is bursting with memorabilia. There is a photo of the 1948 pumper that deHooge helped restore while in Oakville. A lot of money was needed for that project, and he helped raise every cent. In the photo, deHooge is standing proudly beside the machine. Here is a muscular dystrophy poster from the mid-1980s featuring an image of deHooge with a large, bushy moustache and wearing a wet firefighters’ slicker — so perfect, you could imagine that the poster designers had called central casting for a firefighter and deHooge showed up. There are citations and awards and medals for meritorious service. In a glass display case are scale-model fire trucks, a few looking old and perhaps expensive. The room is a shrine to firefighting (the personal photos — wife, two grown children — are kept near the desk), and it seems a shame to leave, but deHooge has booked a boardroom for us.

John deHooge, photo Julie Oliver, 2010

Road Warrior: newly retired Ottawa fire chief, John deHooge, poses atop his Harley — the firefighters edition. The fire chief originally wanted to be a cop, but changed his mind when a retiring police officer told him that if he could do it over again, he would become a firefighter. Photo: Julie Oliver, 2010

As we’re leaving, I notice a framed citation and photo in the corner of the office. There is an emblem in the frame, as well — silver wings with the words “Los Silverados” underneath. When I look more closely, I see deHooge sitting on a Harley-Davidson Road King motorcycle. “Oh, that,” says deHooge, already marching out the door and down the hallway. “I belong to a bike club.”

If Rick Larabie ever belonged to anything, it remains a mystery. Bike club, though, would not be your first guess.

“He likes his Harley-Davidson, that’s for sure,” says Mike Noonan, vice-president of the Waterloo Professional Fire Fighters Association. “It’s the firefighters’ edition of the bike. I don’t know if he’s told you that.” The fire service, adds Noonan, is very important to deHooge. “I would go so far as to call him a fire nerd.”

If people in the nation’s capital are wondering what sorts of changes will take place at the Ottawa Fire Service under a new chief, Noonan can provide some clues. He worked closely with deHooge on many charity events and says that in the five years deHooge was chief, he might have missed “two events, maximum.”

One of the most popular events the fire department ran was an idea deHooge brought with him from Oakville. Called the Civilian Academy, it allows average citizens to become firefighters for the day. Members of the public can operate the jaws of life, enter a burning building — even drive the fire truck. Noonan remembers debating the chief on this last point. “I was absolutely opposed to that idea,” he remembers. “I didn’t think it was a good idea, having people drive the truck without any training. But John believed that we needed to do it. And he was right. It’s the most popular part of the event.”

And if the new chief plans to be a more visible figure around Ottawa, no one would be happier than the head of the firefighters’ union. “You see [Ottawa police chief] Vern White in the newspaper every other day. He keeps the police service in the forefront of the community,” says Kennedy. “The fire service, though, is almost invisible and has been for years.”

The relationship between union and management could be another thing to change under deHooge. That relationship has been rancorous since amalgamation. Grievances are a regular part of the workday. In contrast, no grievances were filed against the fire department during deHooge’s entire tenure in Waterloo. DeHooge can’t take all the credit for that (people can’t actually remember the last time a grievance was filed in Waterloo), but his open-door, talk-to-me way of doing the job certainly kept the streak going.

“John was just a delight to work with,” says Brenda Halloran, mayor of Waterloo. “He was professional, courteous, has a great sense of humour. If you can’t get along with John, then you have a problem.”

Diane Deans says this reputation was one of the reasons the city hired the man. “He is very outgoing, very personable, and he has a track record of fostering good relationships in the community and in the workplace,” she comments. “We thought we needed to make a change in that area.”

The boardroom at the Ottawa Fire Service is a drab room with industrial-looking furniture, chalkboards on the walls, and what looks like an Electrohome TV-VCR combo sitting in a corner. The brightest thing in the room might be deHooge’s glasses.

For the next hour, we talk about his hopes and aspirations for the job. The Ottawa Fire Service has a five-year strategic plan that has yet to go before City Council. That’s his first job. “A lot of work to do there,” he says. After the strategic planning, he hopes “on a go-forward basis” to work on “engaging and collaborating” with members of the Ottawa Professional Fire Fighters Association. He wants to create an environment of “mutual trust and respect” between management and union. (He may be a firefighters’ firefighter, but deHooge often talks like the graduate of a public administration course, which he also is.) We talk briefly about his language skills. (“I will learn French. I have already asked some of my staff to start speaking to me in French.”)

We talk about his background. He was brought up in Toronto and was originally going to be a cop but changed his mind when a retiring police officer told him that if he had to do it all over again, he would become a firefighter. “A large part of a cop’s job is enforcement,” explains deHooge.

“A firefighter’s job, when you get right down to it, is to help people out of a jam. The old cop told me he would have enjoyed that more.” So he became a firefighter, joining the Oakville Fire Department shortly after high school. He was trained on the job. All his degrees and certificates also came while he was working. He is a “lifelong learner” and proud of the fact.

He has a grown son, who’s a firefighter in Mississauga, and a stepson attending Carleton University. His wife, Heather deHooge, fostered guide dogs for the blind and was excited to learn that the Canadian National Institute for the Blind has a kennel and training facility in Manotick.

As for the Harley, yes, it’s the firefighters’ edition. The company started making them in 2003, and deHooge bought one the same year. Have to be a firefighter to own one. No wannabes. “I love being on a bike,” he says. “I rode a lot when I was younger, and now I’m getting back into it. At 53.

That’s the prime of your life, right?” It doesn’t really seem like a question, so I just nod.

Phone around and ask about John deHooge — do it for a day or two — and you’ll walk away with the firm belief that there are about to be big-time changes at the Ottawa Fire Service.

The president of the union describes him as “a breath of fresh air” and then almost gushes about the man. Gushing is something Peter Kennedy has rarely been known to do.

The mayor of Waterloo still seems heartbroken to have lost him. (Mayor Halloran provides my favourite deHooge description. “He is a man of manly stature,” says Her Worship.)

Diane Deans almost gloats that she got him. “The best candidate for the job,” she says. Then she goes on quickly to say: “He’s a snappy dresser. He has some style. He really is an interesting man.” Deans also says the city is happy to have a more extroverted person in the fire chief job.

So how much of a profile will the new chief have in the community? He has some stiff competition, with Vern White and Anthony Di Monte already out there. Both men have become media favourites. And both have a running start on deHooge, who is still finding his way around the city. Still, those who know him have no doubt he will make his presence felt. And quickly.

“Have you seen his car?” Mike Noonan asks me near the end of our interview. “You’re talking about his motorcycle, but have you seen his car?”

“The red Dodge Charger, right?”

“That’s right. Everyone in Waterloo knew that car. You know why?”

“No.”

“Because he kept red emergency lights in the back seat. He’d slap them on the roof anytime there was a fire call.”

“He’d show up at the fire in a Dodge Charger?”

“With lights a-flashin’‚” says Noonan.

Get ready, Ottawa.

ROUNDUP: 10 Christmas Markets and Craft Shows

BY KELSEY KROMODIMOELJO

When coffee-lovers switch from pumpkin spice to eggnog lattes, you know it’s the holiday shopping season. This year we are seeing big transformations in the major shopping centres in Ottawa, but 2014 is also bringing more festive fun with lots of Christmas markets and craft shows appearing across the city. A trip to any one of these holiday troves will have you picking one-of-a-kind gifts and supporting local.

In fact, we love these hyper-local events that showcase one-of-a-kind, often hand made, gifts so much that we shone a spotlight on Made in Ottawa products in our Winter 2014 edition feature, “Local Love.” It was through tracking down cool vendors and exploring the local craft scene that we realized many of these business owners only sell through events like those listed below. If you love local, handmade gifts, make sure to get your hands on that issue! Many are participating in these markets — check out Ottawa Magazine tips for highlighted vendors to look for.

This photo from the Local Love gift guide in our Winter 2014 issue shows products by My Stow-n-Tow, Rekindled Lighting, Andrew O-Malley, Julie Thibault, and Becca Wallace. Photo by Marc Fowler - Metropolis Studio.

This photo from the Local Love gift guide in our Winter 2014 issue shows products by My Stow-n-Tow, Rekindled Lighting, Andrew O-Malley, Julie Thibault, and Becca Wallace. Photo by Marc Fowler – Metropolis Studio.

 

Capital Pop-Up Shop! Handmade Charity Show: The Holiday Edition
When:
Nov. 22
Where: Bronson Centre, 211 Bronson Ave., www.capitalpopup.ca

Partial proceeds from this display of local artisanal work will go to the Ottawa Food Bank and other local charities. Love thy neighbours and bring non-perishable items for the community and you will surely be on Santa’s nice list. Admission is free but non-perishable food items are welcomed.

OM Tip: Did you (or someone on your Christmas list) see the Local Love gift guide in the Winter edition of Ottawa Magazine? It featured artists Becca Wallace, Heart Meets Paper, Littlest Bird Workshop, Split Tree Cocktail Co., and Janie & Pamalamalas will be at the Capital Pop-Up.

 

Joy! The 2014 OVCC Christmas Market
When:
Nov. 22 – 23
Where: Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington St., www.ovccshow.com

The OVCC’s Christmas market is self-described as “a unique mélange of traditional, steampunk and geek, all served up with a cup of good cheer.” They’ll have something for everyone, including beautiful cards from Sarah’s Card Company, made by our good friend and former Shop Talk contributor Sarah Fischer. Admission is free.

OM Tip: Look for Violeta Creations and Rekindled Lighting, who appeared in the Winter 2014 edition of Ottawa Magazine, at the OVCC Christmas Market.

 

Home, Heart, and Handmade Indie Craft Fair
When: Nov. 22
Where: Glebe Community Centre, 175 Third Ave.

What we love about local craft shows is the community feel, and if you’re looking for a boutique experience then look no further than this handmade fair at the Glebe Community Centre. (This indie craft show is part of the Capital Craft Crawl on November 22, along with the two previously mentioned events.) Admission is free.

OM Tip: Find Local Love featured artists Purple Urchin, Top Shelf Preserves, and High Tide Bowties at this event. 

 

Canadian Museum of History’s Christmas Market
When: Nov. 27 – 30
Where: Canadian Museum of History, 100 rue Laurier, Gatineau, QC, www.historymuseum.ca

Christmas spirit has arrived at one of our most treasured national museums, as it celebrates the season with its very own Christmas market. In its fifth year running, the marketplace will include 70 exhibitors scattered in the magnificent Grand Hall. Admission is free.

OM Tip: Local soap producer Purple Urchin will be there to help you select their deliciously scented natural products.

 

Baz’Art
When:
Nov. 29 and 30
Where: Shenkman Arts Centre, 245 Centrum Blvd., www.shenkmanarts.ca

Shop gifts for the art lover on your list at Baz’Art, where you will find ceramics, jewellery, painting, and photography by local and regional artists and artisans, carefully selected by jury. As this is an event at the Shenkman Arts Centre, you will hear the sounds of live performers as you peruse the amazing showcase of artistic talent. Admission is free.

OM Tip: If you find all that art to be inspiring, look into joining a workshop at the Shenkman Arts Centre. Available workshops include painting, jewellery making, pottery, and a dance holiday flashmob for the Santa’s Parade of Lights!

 

Ottawa Farmers’ Christmas Market
When: Nov. 30, Dec. 6, 7, 13 and 14
Where: Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park, www.ottawafarmersmarket.ca

A Sunday visit to Brewer Park is a ritual for many, who will be pleased to know the outdoor marketplace will be heading home for the holidays at Lansdowne Park in the Aberdeen Pavilion. The old “Cattle Castle” will be transformed into a Christmas Market and beaming with festive flair, filled with holiday music, decorations and Christmas trees. More space means more vendors, who will all be competing for the best decorated stall for the holidays. Gift vendors will leave you with a lot to choose from with handmade crafts, jewellery, woodwork, toys and accessories. Of course there’s always the food, so shop for local and seasonal ingredients for your holiday feasts or purchase some ready made goods. Admission is free.

OM Tip: Come out on opening day on November 30 at 10:30 am. There will be a traditional burlap ‘ribbon’ cutting ceremony, followed by hot apple cider and holiday desserts.

Urban Craft Market Holiday 2014
When: Dec. 6
Where: Glebe Community Centre, 175 Third Ave., www.urbancraftmarket.com

A favourite show amongst the hip and modern is the Urban Craft Market that is promising the biggest and best show yet with its Holiday Edition. The craft bash will showcase more than 50 indie craft vendors from Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and beyond. Admission is free.

OM Tip: Find out more about Urban Craft vendors  Dapper Beard Oil, Heart Meets Paper, Becca Wallace, Janie & Pamalamalas, Purple Urchin, Split Tree Cocktail Co. and Top Shelf Preserves in our Winter 2014 issue.

 

Christmas in the ByWard Market
When:
Every Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 6 – 22
Where: ByWard Market, www.byward-market.com

The ByWard Market is a bustling marketplace all year round but it really comes alive for the holiday season. Celebrate the season outdoors with free wagon rides and hear the sounds of joy from the Christmas carollers at the corner of William and York. Admission is free.

OM Tip: You’ll find many vendors outside but don’t miss exploring the ByWard Market Square for some local gifts at Eclection and Tickled Pink (also a good option if it’s -30 degrees!). 

 

Originals Ottawa Christmas Craft Sale
When:
Dec. 11 to 21
Where: EY Centre, 4899 Uplands Dr., www.originalsshow.ca

This massive craft show is the perfect place to pick up some unique gifts for your loved ones, as there will be over 200 artisans in display. Offerings include jewellery, fashion and accessories, visual art, bath and body products, and more. Admission is $7

OM Tip: Don’t be left out in the cold! Originals is closed on Dec. 15.

 

The Shopify Holiday Market
When:
Dec. 12 -13
Where: Shopify HQ, 150 Elgin St.

Have you been curious to see the new Shopify office? Well here’s your chance to check out the new digs, as the Ottawa e-commerce company is having its very own Christmas Market. Several Shopify e-stores will be selling face-to-face, including Strut Jewelry, Darling & Dapper, Tealee, The Beard Co., MainStreetKnits, High Tide Bow Ties, Darling Yes, and Scrub Inspired.  As this is a high tech bunch, they will accept credit cards at the booths with their iPhones and iPads.

OM Tip: Take advantage of the Christmas wrapping booth. Wrapping is on the house but donations for local charities will be accepted.

Kelsey Kromodimoeljo is the Sales Coordinator for Ottawa Magazine and loves the ins and outs of working for a magazine. In her spare time, she can be found exploring the local food and shopping scene. Follow her on Twitter @kelseykromodi.

SCIENCE & TECH: Nature in the North

This article first appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Ottawa Magazine, as part of a series of stories about Ottawa’s connections to the Far North.

BY KATE JAIMET

In-the-Field---plant-expedition-2008)

Researcher in the field on a 2008 plant expedition in the North. Photo by Roger Bull, Canadian Museum of Nature

Cassiope_Parry

Cassiope tetragona, collected by Sir William Parry in 1822. Image courtesy of Canadian Museum of Nature

In the vast and silent herbarium at the Canadian Museum of Nature, botanist Paul Sokoloff gently opens a folder containing a pressed plant specimen. The small twig of white mountain heather (Cassiope tetragona) doesn’t look spectacular, but the date beside it reads 1822, and the name of the collector, written in fine cursive, is a famous one: Sir William Parry, the British explorer who led four voyages in the early 19th century seeking the elusive Northwest Passage.

Today, nearly 200 years later, museum scientists continue making pilgrimages to the Arctic to collect samples, dredging strange crustaceans from the ocean floor, unearthing bones of prehistoric animals, and studying the amazing plants that survive months of darkness and extreme cold to emerge and flower in the short Arctic summer.

This unbroken tradition makes the museum Canada’s most important research institution for understanding nature in the North. In light of this, the museum will open a permanent Arctic gallery in 2017 to showcase its research and knowledge, as well as some of the thousands of specimens in its extensive Arctic collection.

“The Arctic is an important part of Canada, it’s a huge part of Canada, and it’s a part of Canada that most Canadians will never visit,” says Mark Graham, vice-president of research and collections. “We have this huge wealth of information about the Arctic, and one of our great functions as a museum is to share it with the public.”

LIPMAN_CMN__LSP6759

Researchers looking at displays of plant specimens. Photo by Martin Lipman, Canadian Museum of Nature

When early British explorers like Parry ventured into the Arctic, they collected samples of plants and animals and sent them home to large research institutions in London. But after the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) was established in 1842, its scientists began to build Canada’s own natural history collection, gathering flora and fauna from the field and engaging in canny trades to repatriate specimens from Great Britain.

“The collection we have here tells about biology for sure, but it also tells about how Canada has grown as a nation,” says Kamal Khidas, curator of vertebrates.

Lipman_2009_F8P7740

Researcher Marisa Gilbert studies Puijila darwini fossil. Photo by Martin Lipman, Canadian Museum of Nature

Later, the museum became the repository for the collection of the GSC, and museum scientists have been adding to it ever since. Their recent discoveries include an astounding fossil of an extinct mammal partway between an otter and a seal. Unearthed in 2007, Puijila darwini proved to be a missing link in the evolution of seals. Today the museum is cataloging its collection of plants growing in the North American Arctic and the fish swimming in the Arctic Ocean.

The new gallery will give visitors a taste of the Far North in all its surprising variety and beauty.

 

“Lots of us think about the Arctic as a snow-covered, barren place, and it’s really so beautiful, with so many flowers blooming all at once in the summer,” says botany curator Jennifer Doubt. “Just the fact that there are these beautiful Arctic gardens in Canada is something that I’d like people to know.”

Also in this series:

PROFILE: Arctic inspires new Art by Leslie Reid

LeslieReidBY PAUL GESSELL

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

BY DAN R140929_043UBINSTEIN

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

DrBY KYLIE TAGGART

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.

CITYHOME 2014: Industrial designers Ian Murchison & Rohan Thakar reveal their current obsessions

This article originally appeared in CityHome 2014.

By PATRICK LANGSTON

Rohan Thakar and Ian Murchison of The Federal Inc. Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio.

Rohan Thakar and Ian Murchison of The Federal Inc. Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio.

Designers too often over-complicate products by piling on features, says Ian Murchison, co-founder, with Rohan Thakar, of the start-up industrial design firm The Federal Inc. Hence the sleek functionality and buoyant good looks of the colourful Loop, The Federal’s rubber-based bike stand (it was a chance to use materials in a new way, says Thakar) that’s coming soon, we hope, to a street near you. Ditto the Xero Golf Towel with its waterproof smartphone pocket, absorbent towel for wiping sweaty hands or brows, and scrub pad for cleaning golf-club heads and balls.

Read the rest of this entry »

SHOP TALK: Lifeline Skin Care at Holtz Spa

This week, SHOP TALK welcomes guest blogger Ashleigh VanHouten. Ashleigh is a freelance writer and editor, as well as the force behind lifestyle magazine, milieu.

I recently attended a press event at Holtz Spa in the ByWard Market for a new skincare line and facial treatment (lucky me!). Holtz spa is wonderful: if you go for a facial, do yourself a favour and ask for Klara. She’s been in the business for decades and her sense of humour is just as awesome as her treatments. Under her knowing hands, I experienced my first facial treatment — complete with the always-uncomfortable extraction process — that didn’t make me think the aesthetician secretly hated me.

Photo by Ashleigh van Houten

The luxurious lobby of Holtz Spa in the ByWard Market. Photo by Ashleigh van Houten

Holtz Spa is now only one of two places in Canada to offer a new facial treatment using products from California-based Lifeline Skin Care (part of the International Stem Cell Corporation, a leader in stem cell research). The product uses proteins extracted from stem cells — and while that may set off some alarm bells in your head, it’s actually not in the least controversial.

The creams use proteins extracted from embryonic-like stem cells made from unused, unfertilized donated eggs (not from human embryos; no life is created or destroyed). This is possible based on a process pioneered by Dr. Elena Revazova, who figured out how to create stem cells without fertilizing the human egg through a process called parthenogenesis. I’ll try to explain this without getting too technical: they chemically stimulate the egg into thinking it’s fertilized so nourishing proteins can be extracted, but since no male components are ever introduced to the female egg, life is never possible. This new technology advances the field of regenerative medicine — and the parent company is hoping to use it to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease; revenue from Lifeline Skin Care go towards this research.

Read the rest of this entry »

THE JESTER: Beware! The year is 2017 … Partisan ghost stories for politicians of every stripe

This article was originally published in the October 2014 print edition of Ottawa Magazine.

By CHRIS LACKNER

Justin Trudeau . Illustration by Alan King

Justin Trudeau . Illustration by Alan King

24 Sussex Drive, Halloween Night, 2014 — The Conservative cabinet gathers for its annual Halloween sleepover. Prime Minister Harper, sporting his standard grey “bedtime suit,” launches into a partisan ghost story:

“Beware! The year is 2017, and the ‘Trucair’ Liberal-NDP coalition government has destroyed the Canada we know and love.

“Prime Minister Trudeau has legalized marijuana, renovated the Peace Tower to look like a giant bong, and appointed Vancouver actor Seth Rogen as Governor General. Every Speech from the Throne now consists of a glassy-eyed, smirking Rogen eating Doritos and chuckling for 40 minutes straight. Oh, and our new national anthem is Neil Young’s ‘Roll Another Number (for the Road).’

“But things are even worse away from the Hill. The National War Memorial has been replaced with a statue depicting Trudeau’s knockout punch of Patrick Brazeau. Deputy Prime Minister Thomas Mulcair has passed a law requiring all men, women — and children — to have either a beard or a moustache and has replaced the caribou on the quarter with a unicorn. The Ministry of Finance has been rechristened the Ministry of Imagination. The ever-rising tax rate has closed the doors of just about any business that isn’t a marijuana shop or taco stand. Productivity is at an all-time low! Our perpetually stoned bureaucrats stay focused only on days where they’re promised a free pizza lunch. And on the international front, we stood powerless to prevent Trudeau from pirouetting behind the newly crowned King Charles and then opting to play his head like a bongo drum.

“Trudeau has also taken his control-freak antics to a whole new level by banning any future Liberal candidate who doesn’t believe in a woman’s right to choose whether to swoon or squeal whenever he enters the room.

“And that’s why Canadians need our treats, not Liberal and NDP tricks … .”

Meanwhile, at the Diefen-bunker The Liberals gather for a top-secret candle-lit meeting. Justin Trudeau makes a scary flashlight face before launching into a partisan ghost story:

Read the rest of this entry »

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Breather brings ‘peace and quiet, on-demand’ to Ottawa

William Johnson is an Ottawa-based blogger who writes at notionport.org about creative people doing creative things.

You’re a professional on the go. You’re sick of holding meetings in coffee shops; you’re sick of taking phone-calls on the bus or on the noisy street; or perhaps you’re just looking for somewhere to rest — somewhere to take a break. Enter Breather, the latest firm to add mass to Ottawa’s sharing economy. Breather, founded in 2013, allows customers — including individuals and organizations—  to rent well-designed, quiet, Wi-Fi equipped spaces on-demand.

Breather offers

Breather rents out well-designed, quiet, wi-fi equipped spaces

Often referred to as an ‘Uber for private spaces’, the service launched here last night with three spaces, one in the ByWard Market (78 George St.), one in the financial district (162 Metcalfe), and a space in Centretown (356 MacLaren). A small party with cocktails and appetizers was held at the Market location, which can hold about 12-15 individuals comfortably; the Metcalfe and McLaren locations hold 4-5 people and 3-4 people, respectively, according to Eric McRae, Breather partner and Ottawa manager, who’d like to see the service expand to have at least six locations.

“I’d like to get another location in the downtown core,” he said. “And then look at some of the other areas like Preston Street, Hintonburg, Westboro as well, so that we can provide a network of spaces where people can access them.”

This

This Breather space at 78 George in the ByWard Market is a bright, chic place for meetings 

To use the service, users simply download an app (available on iOS and Android), pull up a map — similar to how other peer-to-peer economy apps, including Uber and Airbnb work — and reserve a space. “Grab your phone, open an app. Reserve a room near you, anytime, anywhere,” is how founder Julien Smith put when he announced the service over a year ago, which originally launched in Montreal and San Francisco, then made it’s way to New York City. Ottawa, perhaps unexpectedly, can now count itself among three of the worlds most sophisticated cities that have the service.

“They weren’t looking at Ottawa initially,” says McRae. “I approached them, and asked them, because I recognized that there’s a certain market opportunity in Ottawa. It’s a very different city, and it has different needs and different demands from some of the larger cities, but I thought that the market could still really support it…somewhere where people can just kind of stop, connect, take a break, relax, or just to focus on their work.”

The company describes its spaces as ‘agnostic’, as in noncommittal to specific uses. Breather does, however, assess certain city factors before selecting potential spaces, including urban density, traffic, and levels of pedestrian movement.

“What I loved about Breather is that it takes a centralized come-to-my-office type of space, and explodes it out across the city so it becomes local and close to where you want and need to be,” said McRae. “So it’s not necessarily prescribed to a specific location.”

“When I was discussing that concept with [founder] Julien Smith, that’s what really caught my attention,” he said. “It becomes what you need it to be.”

McRae leases and has revenue sharing agreements with Breather with the spaces he manages, and he sees appealing to diverse segments of the population from lawyers, to creatives, to regular people. “Lawyers, who are travelling from other cities, from other places to work in Ottawa, they need places to meet with clients. We look at psychologists and people who are in therapy—they need access to spaces that are close to their clients,” he said.

“Accountants who work from home, and need to meet with their clients once or twice a year—they can easily book a space for those things.  And for myself, what I liked about Breather was that the spaces were really designed in such a way that they can be used based on what your needs are, not necessarily prescribed based on the set-up of the design.”

Breather spaces in Ottawa are available for $20/hour, seven days a week, and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

FOUND: Ritchie’s silos a shrine to city’s agricultural history

BY ROGER BIRD

This article was originally published in the October 2014 print edition of Ottawa Magazine as part of a series of three colourful workspaces in Ottawa.

Four giant, grey, concrete silos facing Highway 417 in the east end are a monument to the city’s agricultural history. Photo by Jackson Couse

The Monument
On the eastern approaches to Ottawa stands a 20-metre-high monument to the city’s agriculture: four giant grey concrete silos facing Highway 417, with a sign on the side that reads Ritchie Feed & Seed Inc. Each of these silos on Windmill Lane can hold about 1,000 tonnes of corn, with comparable amounts for lightweight grains such as barley or wheat. Beside them, a larger white structure looks like a cluster of giant cylinders crammed together. For decades, if you were a dairy cow, horse, chicken, pig, or sheep, this larger cluster was where lunch was made. Cereal crops, along with vitamins, gluten, salt, and antibiotics, were ground, mixed, soaked, and forced through a device called an extruder to form feed pellets for livestock across the city of Ottawa, the province, and northeastern U.S. states.

Lessons of the land
The “city” in the city of Ottawa consists of about 500 square kilometres of streets, houses, pavement, office buildings, shopping malls, and parking lots. Then there’s 200 square kilometres that make up the greenbelt. But inside city limits, almost 950 square kilometres of Ottawa land is in use for agriculture — that’s more than a third of the city. This paradox is audible on Windmill Lane in early spring. Neill Ritchie of Ritchie Feed & Seed is on the phone handling a call about some soon-to-be-shipped baby chickens, turkeys, and Peking ducks. “Do you want them at the same time? We won’t know until they show up whether they’ve been sexed.” He tells the poultry producer that you get a four-pound bird in six to eight weeks. After that, it’s less meat for a dollar’s worth of feed. Ritchie should know: he’s walking agricultural heritage, a member of the family that founded the company in the 1920s, co-manager with his brother Doug, and the company’s all-round expert on growing things, both plant and animal.

Movable feasts
Feed production — and the necessary silos — started on Boteler Street, south of Sussex Drive, in the 1920s. That operation shut down when the National Capital Commission needed the land for what became the Pearson Building, home to the then Department of External Affairs. Ritchie’s moved to Windmill Lane and built new silos in 1963. A couple of years ago, the company moved again and set up a mill in rented silos on Experimental Farm land near Hunt Club and Woodroffe. It used parts from the Windmill Lane site and continued grinding grains and squeezing out feed pellets for livestock in Ottawa and beyond, driven by a need for efficiencies and bigger volume. Inside the old silos, on a tour with Craig Harrison — the company’s fleet supervisor — it looks as if the crew has just left after a day’s work. Spilled grain on the floor, cobwebs in out-of-reach places, light filtering down from windows high above, and the rich smells of last year’s harvest.

Past and future
Aside from community gardens, the Experimental Farm, and small weekend markets across the city, there’s little evidence of Ottawa’s almost 1,000 square kilometres of farmland in the areas where people live and shop. Among the few reminders, the “Vinette silo” on the east side of Centrum Boulevard in Orleans made it onto the city’s heritage register three years ago. But there’s no talk of seeking that official status on Windmill Lane. Harrison, the man who knows the Ritchie silos best, seems a touch wistful when he says they are lying fallow. “But they’re great for signage,” he adds.

OFFICE CRUSH: Futuristic workspace of MD Physician Services emerges from ashes

This article was originally published in the October 2014 print edition of Ottawa Magazine as part of a series of three colourful workspaces in Ottawa.

BY SARAH BROWN

DSC_0648

Photo by Tim Lau

When a small fire led to extensive smoke damage in MD Physician Services’ six-storey office, president and CEO Brian Peters and his team decided to view the setback as an opportunity to redesign and retool for the next decade. Project Phoenix was born. The dramatic cosmetic changes steal the limelight, but Peters is proudest of how the new office works — state-of-the-art communications tools, flexible workstations, and diverse meeting spaces make for a happier and more motivated workforce.

The design team, 4té, that led Project Phoenix used one wall within the building to celebrate the renovation. Here, an artful array of words and sentence fragments highlights the ideas that drove the design. Four key words at the end sum it up perfectly: Small Fire. Lasting Legacy.

By the Numbers…

MD Physician Services

Type of business: Financial management and investment services for Canadian physicians

Number of employees: 600

Square footage: 120,000 on six floors

Design: 4té

Cost: A few million, some of it paid by insurance

Timeline: January 2013–February 2014

DSC_1057

Photo by Tim Lau

What was the impetus for change?
On January 3, 2013, there was a fire on the ground floor. There was a lot of smoke damage. Since everyone was out of the building for the foreseeable future anyway, we thought why not take the opportunity to completely redo the space and retool for the next decade. Project Phoenix was born.

What are the key elements of the new look?
The designers at 4té took us to visit a number of other office spaces as inspiration. We wanted to be modern and functional. The design process was quite collaborative. We had three big meetings at the Hampton Inn over the course of the design so that everyone in the company could see where we were going and vote on their favourite options.

How does the redesign match your company philosophy?
It matches the way we want to be. Financial services can be a very conservative sector, but we feel that we pushed the envelope a bit with this design. I think it helps us retain forward-thinking people.

Does this workspace make employees more productive?
Definitely. If you’re happy, you’re going to be more productive. This space is much more interactive than the old office. You talk to people more; you’re more focused. The combination of the design and all the systems now in place make everyone feel more connected.

Which room has given you the most bang for the buck?
All the spaces get well used, but if I was going to point to one specific room, I’d have to say the Phoenix Bistro. Before the reno, it was a boring high-school-style cafeteria, but it had the makings of a great space.

How do you justify such a big investment?
This renovation has changed the very dynamics around here. We’re already looking at how we can take the lessons we learned here and transfer them to the other offices around the country.

Click on the thumbnails for a virtual tour of the MD Physician Services office:

All photos by Tim Lau