Politics and Pen dinner
Last night was the annual Politics and Pen dinner in Ottawa, which has come to be seen as a premiere social event in the capital. It's a fundraiser for the Writer's Trust and as several speakers noted last night, it is such a popular occasion that there are two waiting lists for it - one for tickets and the other for people who want to be sponsors. Imagine - you want to donate to the Writers' Trust and you're told you have to wait in line!
A bit of history here - the P&P dinner actually became a large event during the Liberal years, mainly because it was run by some powerful political spouses, including Sheila Martin, wife of the former prime minister. Martin stopped going to the parliamentary press gallery dinner in the late 1990s, because there were inevitably jokes about his leadership ambitions and he got antsy about how those jokes went over with Jean Chrétien. So the P&P dinner was the place for Martin social sightings and those of his growing band of supporters during those tense years.
Fast forward to today, and we have a prime minister who also isn't big on the gallery dinner, having also banned most of his caucus and cabinet from attending the latest one last fall. But Conservatives do come out in force for this event, including Laureen Harper and a healthy number of heavy cabinet hitters, including Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
The main event at this dinner is the announcement of the winner of the Shaughnessy Cohen award for political books, named after my late friend and subject of my own second book. Shaughnessy was the Windsor MP who abruptly died 10 years ago this December, collapsing on the floor of the Commons and leaving her many friends stunned and saddened. I can tell you, Shaughnessy would be delighted that she gets remembered every year at a party like Politics and the Pen. As one of the hosts, CTV's Mike Duffy pointed out last night, Shaughnessy actually spent her last evening on earth at the Chateau Laurier, where last night's party was held.
I think I can also tell you that Shaughn would have been delighted with the winners of last night's prize - The Unexpected War, by Eugene Lang and Janice Gross-Stein.
Neither of the authors expected to win. Janice told the crowd she was so sure that she wasn't winning that she had four glasses of wine before the prize was announced.
Nonetheless, she and Gene were remarkably lucid and eloquent.