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REASON TO LOVE OTTAWA #36: Doesn’t everyone love Lowell Green?

Because we’ve had LOWELL GREEN since before Rob Ford was even born

It’s not something you would normally ask a man of almost 75, sounding, as it might, like an ageist question. But this is the seemingly rhinoceros-skinned Lowell Green, cantankerous and iconic host of the long-running CFRA radio talk show that’s named after him. So I ask, over lunch, if he thinks he’s still relevant.

A veteran of the quick response, he replies at once: “More relevant than ever. The bent of most journalists today, particularly younger journalists, is to the left wing. I’m one of the few in the mainstream media who are more conservative, questioning a lot of this stuff.”

As anyone knows who listens to Green’s show or has read his latest, hyperbolic book, Mayday! Mayday! Curb immigration. Stop multiculturalism. Or it’s the end of the Canada we know!, lefties are anathema to the man. He may be opposed to capital punishment and, in 1984, represented the Liberals in an Ottawa Centre by-election. He may even, in the late 1960s, have tried to wrest the nomination away from a sitting Liberal MP in Quebec’s Pontiac riding. But leftism, he now says, is a non-starter that just encourages bad behaviour by shifting responsibility for it from the individual to society. He combats this attitude with blunt comments that go against the grain of political correctness. “I’m sorry you had a rotten childhood. So did I. In the end, you’ve got to take responsibility and realize there are consequences.”

In fact, he did have a lousy childhood, or at least partly so, according to his memoir, The Pork Chop and Other Stories (which, according to Green’s website, was eastern Ontario’s bestselling book in 2005). Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Green wrote that he’s the son of a “manipulative, mean-spirited, rigid woman” and the child of a broken marriage.

But that’s not the subject of our conversation. And Green, whose website (www.lowellgreen.com) describes his CFRA gig as one of the top-rated talk shows in North America, tends not to dwell on the past — at least not with a stranger. He would far rather clang the alarm, sounded in his latest book, that complacent Canadians are threatened by nothing less than the end of our European Judeo-Christian tradition. That’s because, says Green, our immigration and multicultural policies beckon non-integrating and frequently not very nice non-Europeans to live here. The fact that fans of the website stormfront.org (whose logo reads White Pride World Wide) sing paeans to the book is unsettling, although, to be fair, who reads it and how they react is not its author’s responsibility.

But though some find his views polarizing, Green doesn’t lack personal appeal. Rumpled and clearly no fitness freak, he jokes easily with co-workers and the guy running the lunch counter in the ByWard Market building where Green works. His gaze is direct, his self-awareness sharp. “It’s show biz. You have to have a bit of fun,” he says of his confrontational radio style. Then he adds, “But people have to sense you are sincere underneath.”

And he cares deeply about his wife, Deborah, about his grandchildren, and about how we live and our responsibility as citizens. “The ones who worry me are the people you see with iPods in their ears all the time instead of reading newspapers. People who listen to talk radio, they’re curious.”

In a government town, where few work into their 70s, Green says he does so because he’s self-employed, with no pension plan. Perhaps more importantly, he still loves his job. “We’re not put on this earth to do nothing. Work: it’s bred in the bone. It’s bred in the bone.” — Patrick Langston

Read all 44 of Ottawa Magazine’s “Reasons to Love Ottawa” in the March/April edition. On newsstands now.

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