One for the books: 2022 Politics and the Pen

Literary gala raises more than $300,000 for Writers' Trust of Canada, awards Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing
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Federal cabinet ministers Marci Ien and Seamus O'Regan, who had former broadcasting careers on CTV's Canada AM, reunited to host the Politics and Pen literary gala dinner held at the Fairmont Château Laurier in support of Writers' Trust of Canada. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Pity poor Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota, who had the job of getting a roomful of social butterflies to hush up and listen during this year’s Politics and the Pen dinner, which was back in the flesh Tuesday for its first time since 2019.

It took a bagpiper to get the roughly 500 guests to clear out of the cocktail reception areas and into the Fairmont Château Laurier's main ballroom, where the laughs, smiles and chatter continued. Rota repeatedly called for order. Former politician Brian Tobin, now vice chair of BMO Financial Group, tried the tapping-the-utensil-against-a-glass trick. Eventually, folks took their seats and settled in.

“After two years of COVID, an event like this is just wonderful for the soul,” Rota told the black-tie dinner crowd. “It’s nice to see people interacting in person rather than on video conference.”

The sold-out gala, which had the support of CN, CIBC, Imperial and other corporate sponsors, is the largest fundraiser for the Writers’ Trust of Canada, a charitable organization that advances, nurtures and celebrates Canadian writers and writing. It also brings politicians together with prolific authors and journalists to poke a little fun at each other and themselves. 

The event raised more than $300,000 this year, culminating with the awarding of the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing to Joanna Chiu, senior journalist for the Toronto Star and author of China Unbound: A New World Disorder.

Rodger Cuzner, former long-time Liberal MP for Cape Breton, may have left politics but everyone was happy to have him back for his always-popular video to open the evening program, done by Shaw Communications. Cuzner is now Canada's consul general in Boston.

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Elizabeth Gray-Smith and Patrick Kennedy were co-chairs of the Politics and the Pen literary gala that took place at the Fairmont Château Laurier on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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It was a sold-out crowd at this year's Politics and the Pen gala held in support of the Writers' Trust of Canada on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at the Fairmont Château Laurier. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota tries to quiet the crowd in order to start the evening program at Politics and the Pen. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Elizabeth Gray-Smith, co-founder of GSD&Co, co-chaired this year’s Politics and the Pen with Patrick Kennedy, principal at Earnscliffe Strategies. They were joined by fellow volunteer committee members Jim Armour (Summa Strategies), Hardave Birk (Shaw Communications), Maureen Boyd (Parliamentary Centre and Carleton University), Heather Bradley (Office of the Speaker of the House of Commons), Catherine Clark (Catherine Clark Communications) and Dan Mader (Loyalist Public Affairs).

Clark also chairs the board of the Writers’ Trust of Canada, a Toronto-based national organization led by award-winning Canadian author Charles Foran as its executive director.

Clark’s famous parents — former prime minister and former PC leader Joe Clark and Maureen McTeer, who’s a long-time advocate for gender equality and women’s health — attended that night as authors.

So did former governor general David Johnston and his wife, Sharon Johnston, and retired Supreme Court chief justice Beverley McLachlin, who in 2020 was presented the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for her memoir.

Former prime minister Jean Chrétien, 88, was also among the distinguished guests. 

Marci Ien and Seamus O’Regan, both of whom are federal cabinet ministers, served as this year’s delightful co-hosts. They’re close pals from their days together in television broadcasting on CTV’s former morning news show, Canada AM.

“It is so much fun, I have to say, co-hosting with you here again,” Ien told O’Regan on stage during an affectionate moment shared between the two. 

Ien went on to point out that she’s the second black woman from the GTA to serve in cabinet, after Jean Augustine, while O’Regan is the second gay man to serve in cabinet, after Scott Brison.

“Yeah, yeah, the second gay man to serve in cabinet,” replied O’Regan with a ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink’ expression that had the whole room laughing. “This is a political award for non-fiction, right?”

Ien, who’s the MP for Toronto Centre, is minister of women, gender equality and youth while O’Regan, who’s the MP for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl in Newfoundland and Labrador, is minister of labour.

Also finalists for the literary prize were Mike Blanchfield, international affairs writer for The Canadian Press, and Fen Osler Hampson, Chancellor’s Professor at Carleton University, for The Two Michaels: Innocent Canadian Captives and High Stakes Espionage in the US-China Cyber War; Stephen Poloz, former governor of the Bank of Canada, for The Next Age of Uncertainty: How the World Can Adapt to a Riskier Future; Geoffrey Stevens, former managing editor of Maclean’s and The Globe and Mail, for Flora!: A Woman in a Man’s World; and Jody Wilson-Raybould, former justice minister and attorney general, for “Indian” in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power. Wilson-Raybould was not in attendance.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Lisa Raitt, vice chair of global investment banking at CIBC, was part of the three-member independent judging panel for the literary prize, joined by Charelle Evelyn from The Hill Times and Jacques Poitras from CBC News in New Brunswick.

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Federal cabinet ministers Marci Ien and Seamus O'Regan, who had former broadcasting careers on CTV's Canada AM, reunited to host the Politics and Pen literary gala dinner held at the Fairmont Château Laurier in support of Writers' Trust of Canada. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Former prime minister and former PC leader Joe Clark and his wife, Maureen McTeer, both published authors, with their daughter Catherine Clark, board chair of The Writers' Trust of Canada, and her husband, Chad Schella, general manager of government and community affairs at Canada Post, at the Politics and Pen literary gala held at the Fairmont Château Laurier. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Stephen Poloz, finalist for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, with his wife, Valerie, at the Politics and Pen literary gala held in support of the Writers' Trust of Canada on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at the Fairmont Château Laurier. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Sen. Donna Dasko, a former pollster, with retired Supreme Court chief justice and author Beverley McLachlin at the Politics and Pen literary gala held in support of the Writers' Trust of Canada on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at the Fairmont Château Laurier. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Allan Thompson, head of the journalism program at Carleton University, with former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien at the Politics and Pen literary gala held in support of the Writers' Trust of Canada on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at the Fairmont Château Laurier. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Michael Scrivens, partner  at Scrivens Insurance and Investment Solutions, with Janice McDonald, author of Fearless: Girls With Dreams, Women With Vision, and Heather Bradley, member of the organizing committee for Politics and the Pen and director of communications for the Office of the Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada, at Politics and the Pen. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Former Newfoundland premier and federal cabinet minister Brian Tobin, vice chair of BMO Financial Group, with his colleague Kimberley Goode, chief communications and social impact officer with BMO Financial Group, at the Politics and Pen literary gala held in support of the Writers' Trust of Canada on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at the Fairmont Château Laurier. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Power Play, with National Post political columnist John Ivison, former environment minister Catherine McKenna (who's now chairing a UN panel related to climate change), Rodger Cuzner, consul general of Canada to New England, and François-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovation, science and industry,  at the Politics and Pen literary gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Sharon Johnston and her husband, former governor general David Johnston — both of whom attended as published authors during this year's Politics and the Pen literary dinner — seen with Joyce Napier, Ottawa bureau chief for CTV National News, at the Fairmont Château Laurier on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Sean Finn, executive vice president, corporate services and chief legal officer for CN, with Politics and the Pen committee member Jim Armour, managing partner of Summa Strategies, and author Alex Marland at the Politics and Pen literary gala held in support of the Writers' Trust of Canada on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at the Fairmont Château Laurier. Photo by Caroline Phillip
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From left, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade Mary Ng with Cindy Woodhouse, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Susan Smith, co-founder and principal at Bluesky Strategy Group, at the Politics and Pen literary gala held in support of the Writers' Trust of Canada on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at the Fairmont Château Laurier. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, former Conservative cabinet minister Lisa Raitt with Treasury Board President and Ottawa-Vanier MP Mona Fortier at the Politics and Pen literary gala held in support of the Writers' Trust of Canada on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at the Fairmont Château Laurier. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Jennifer Madigan, executive vice president of media and communications at Syntax Strategic, with Jennifer Stewart, president and CEO of Syntax Strategic, and Liberal MP Jenna Sudds (Kanata-Carleton) at the Politics and Pen literary gala held in support of the Writers' Trust of Canada on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at the Fairmont Château Laurier. Photo by Caroline Phillip
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Charles Foran, executive director of The Writers' Trust of Canada, with Geneviève Dumas, who recently took over as the new general manager of the Fairmont Château Laurier, at the hotel on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, for Politics and the Pen. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Dan Mader, founder of Loyalist Public Affairs, with Rob Rosenfeld, vice president, national capital region and public sector lead, at LifeWorks at the Politics and Pen literary gala held in support of the Writers' Trust of Canada on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at the Fairmont Château Laurier. Photo by Caroline Phillip
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From left, retired senator Jim Munson with Rodger Cuzner, consul general of Canada to New England, and Paul Genest, senior vice president of Power Corporation of Canada, at the Politics and Pen literary gala held in support of the Writers' Trust of Canada on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at the Fairmont Château Laurier. Photo by Caroline Phillip

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