Tag Archives: Politics

CTV National Affairs Correspondent Lisa LaFlamme

2 Dec

Lunch with Mary 026

Date of lunch:
Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The company:
Lisa LaFlamme is the national affairs correspondent on CTV National News. She also sometimes fills in at the anchor desk for Lloyd Robertson. She has covered stories all over the world from the war in Iraq to the war in Afghanistan, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami from Sri Lanka, Conrad Black’s trial in Chicago, Hurricane Katrina, on the ground after 9/11 and more. Pretty much every major news event that has happened in my adult life, Lisa was there reporting on it. She’s currently gearing up to anchor the daytime broadcasts of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. I have always thought Lisa’s job was so cool. If you watch CTV National News regularly, I feel like every day she’s somewhere different and reporting on really important stories wherever she is. I’m glad this blog gave me the opportunity to meet her.

The food:
We actually met for an early morning coffee rather than lunch as Lisa has been extremely busy and this was the only way to get together. We met at the Starbucks at Yonge and Craighurst. I had a “grande” Christmas blend coffee but I ordered “medium” because I always forget the Starbucks lingo and I got some weird looks. Grande means big, not medium – I don’t get it. Lisa had a “venti” coffee which inexplicably means “large”. Confusing. Anyway, the coffee was tasty and the bill for both was under $5. Lisa actually paid for her own so I still owe her a lunch, or at least a coffee.

The lunch lesson:
Lisa and I started our coffee chat with me explaining my blog a bit. Lisa said she thought it was brave of me to have set off on this adventure and simply outreach to people and then meet up with them. Although I don’t know if I am actually brave, I do know that the whole process has been a big step out of my comfort zone. Lisa said that with her job she outreaches to people as well but she is always on a deadline and needs to speak with them right away. The timeliness of the story takes away any nervousness or hesitation as she needs to tell the story while it’s relevant. This got me to thinking that for me to break out of my nervousness, I need to approach this blog a bit like a journalist and see myself as someone with a story to tell. I’m not quite there yet but if I keep telling myself that, maybe eventually I’ll believe it.

The lunch:
I was a bit nervous to meet Lisa as I have watched her on the news so many times and I just wasn’t sure what to say to her. I was afraid I might be a bit star struck. But she is so nice, from the second I met her all my nervousness was gone.

Of all the stories that Lisa has covered, she said it is definitely her reporting from areas of conflict that stay with her the longest. Being in the refugee camps and seeing the people that so desperately want the conflict to end is something that stays with her long after the story has been filed and she has returned home. I can imagine that there would be a lot of feelings of helplessness after meeting the completely innocent people stuck in the middle.

She did say that she also really enjoyed covering the Michael Jackson funeral this year. She said once the shock of his death had faded, everyone was there honouring his life and you easily got caught up in it. She says there are few moments in our lives that everyone remembers where they were when they first heard – JFK’s assassination, Princess Di’s death, 9/11 and, I proved her right by remembering, Michael Jackson’s death.

We chatted about her upcoming anchor desk role at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. This is a completely new area of reporting for Lisa and she is really excited. I am a huge fan of the Olympics (and recently found out that I am going to the Olympics with my work – wahoo!) and think it would be amazing to interview the athletes after they have won a medal – basically moments after they achieved what they have dreamed of their entire lives.

Lisa also talked about her volunteer work with Plan Canada. For a number of years, Lisa has spent a vacation week a year traveling with Plan Canada to remote areas around the world where child poverty and hunger are rampant. The money raised through the organization is used to help build up communities with water wells, schools, hospitals and more. I am sure many of you have seen Lisa on the Plan Canada programs that run weekend mornings.

Lisa told me how her and her friends get together every year and fundraise together rather than exchange gifts. This year they were able to raise $2,000, which incredibly covers the yearly salary for two female teachers in Afghanistan. Watching the news about Afghanistan, I think the battle that girls are enduring to get an education is one of the saddest and bravest struggles in the world today. Lisa explained to me, having been to Afghanistan, that many women teachers sleep in the schools because it is too dangerous for them to travel back and forth from their homes, but they keep teaching. Such courage.

I really enjoyed my coffee with Lisa, too bad it couldn’t be longer. She is so friendly and great to talk to. She must have so many more amazing stories to tell. But hopefully I can take a little bit from Lisa and try to find that journalist hiding inside me.

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Member of Parliament Olivia Chow

21 May

Date of lunch:
Thursday, May 21, 2009

The company:
Olivia Chow is the New Democrat MP for Trinity-Spadina, which makes her my MP. Olivia has a diverse and fascinating career in public service. Beginning as an advocate for Vietnamese Boat People seeking asylum in Canada, Olivia worked with many others to successfully push the Canadian government to help these people. In the end, Canada took in 200,000 refugees. She then worked as the constituency assistant in the office of Dan Heap, who held the position Olivia holds now. This taste of seeing how she could make a difference led her to run. Olivia became a school trustee in 1985, a Toronto Metro city councilor in 1991 and continuing to be a councilor in the amalgamated city hall in 1997 and finally a federal MP in 2006. I never have had the opportunity to talk with one of my representatives so I emailed Olivia and asked her to lunch. She wrote me back (which was exciting for me and my blog) and the rest (of the lunch) is history.

 

The food:
We ate at Supermarket in Kensington Market, right near Olivia’s constituency office and smack in the middle of her riding. I have hung out at the Supermarket at night but had never enjoyed food on the patio in the sunshine. I had Thai Green Curry Chicken and Olivia had mango salad with grilled shrimp and we both shared edamame. We both drank water (it was 30 degrees out!!!). The food was great but the food came out at all different times, including getting my rice five minutes before my curry. Total bill was $27 with tax which we split, which she insisted.

The lunch lesson:
Olivia told me about a big lesson she had learned at the beginning of her career which she shared with me. Working in Dan Heap’s office, constituents would often come into the office looking for help for a number of things. She noticed quickly that you can help people one at a time, but if you can change laws and policy, you can help a lot more people. This is what encouraged her to get into politics and something that has got me thinking…

The lunch:
Secretly, but I guess not so secretly now that I am writing this online, I have often thought that one day I want to be on city council. I thought it would be great to hear from Olivia about her experience on city council and beyond.

For anyone who dreams (or thinks or ponders) of political office one day, no matter your leanings, hanging out with Olivia Chow will inspire you to get involved. She is so passionate about what she does and the people she helps. It seems what drives her is being able to change things for the better.

Olivia asked me what organizations or causes I feel strongly about. I told her how I have always supported international aid organizations but most recently, I have focused my attention on the issues facing women in many of these countries. We talked at length about this, as well as Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma and Canada’s pledge in international aid.

I think this was the point when I fully realized that Olivia is actually in a position to make a difference. I watch the news about women being stoned for protesting the “rape law” in Afghanistan and I want to do SOMETHING but I don’t know what. I started to imagine myself in a position when I can truly enact change. I do realize that you don’t have to be in office to make a difference, of course, but the idea that Olivia can give a cause (for many local and national issues as well) a voice on a national stage is pretty amazing.

I really enjoyed spending my lunch hour with Olivia. I was REALLY nervous about this lunch. Once Olivia showed up on her bicycle, adorned with flowers, I felt a little bit better and by the end the nerves were gone. Olivia is wonderful company and ensures a fascinating conversation. She may have just pushed me a little closer to running one day…