Saturday, September 27, 2008


If it really matters, Ottawa's arts and cultural community is aghast at Laureen Harper's pull-out of next weekend's fundraising gala at the National Arts Centre.

Mrs. Harper's decision comes following this past week's Saskatoon campaign whistle stop by her husband, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in which he referred to artists as subsidy-seeking "gala-goers" whose requests for government support doesn't resonate with ordinary Canadians.

Since coming to the National Capital as wife of the Prime Minister, Laureen Harper has been for three years honorary chair of the star studded gala, an Ottawa social calendar highlight, which supports the National Arts Centre.

This past week celebrated actors, authors, musicians and artists from every media, English and French, galvanized against the Conservative Government's plan to slice nearly $50-million in arts funding. On Saturday next, October 4th, international violin virtuoso and NAC Music Director, Pinchas Zucherman, the Arts Centre's President and CEO, Peter Herrndorf, and celebrity guest, crooner, multi-Grammy winner, Tony Bennett, will be left to explain their patron's absence from the sold-out gala.

Obviously sensitive to the Prime-Minister's complaint that the arts community is made-up of "a bunch of people at a rich gala", the Liberal Leader, Stephane Dion, and his wife have also declined the National Arts Centre's invitation...And, meantime Ottawa dress designer, Justina McCaffrey, putting the final touches on Mrs. Harper's exclusive elegant evening gown, although disappointed, says she understands the decision to bow out of the gala.

The designer hopes that Laureen Harper will...."wear this dress many other times at many other occasions because she goes to many black-tie events." Worse case scenario: If the Tories win big in Quebec in this election, Laureen Harper could always wear the dress as a member of the "Chemin des Sanctuaires" pilgrims.

The pilgrims can be best described as a loony group of faithful who for the past three years have left Ottawa in groups of six every day from late May to June to walk to Montreal's St. Joseph's Oratory. A retired Treasury Board employee, Rudy Latreille, is responsible for organizing the 12-day, 234 kilometre event. Maybe the Harper's should give him a call about next spring.

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