Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Federal Minister Lisa Raitt draws a crowd at Montreal breakfast reception

When Richard Yufe personally invited me to the  Place Ville Marie offices of the marquee law firm Norton RoseFulbright to hear Federal Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt speak at a breakfast reception, I chose to attend. For one thing I wanted to personally thank Raitt in person for blocking a strike by Air Canada pilots two years ago which would have stranded me in Florida. I got to deliver that message and whole lot more, rubbing elbows with some of the movers and shakers of the Conservative Party of Canada who clearly intend to have a strong presence in Montreal leading up to the 2015 federal elections.
Yufe and Mulroney.

Introductory remarks were delivered by none other than former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright. He praised Raitt for performing "yeoman service for the Harper government and Canada." Looking back at his years as PM, he added: "I remember the contribution of women in Canadian public life. They have to be quite as good to get half the credit. Keep an eye on her. Remember her name. Get her autograph. You will be able to say 'I knew her when.'"
 
Sochaczevski, Bachand, Wajsman, Caspar Bloom and Assouline.
Weiner and Drabkin.
Yufe, the National Council Vice-President of the Conservative Party of Canada, introduced Raitt who has quite a CV. She was first elected to the House of Commons in 2008 and re-elected in 2011. In July 2013, she was appointed Minister of Transport. Previously, she was appointed Minister of Natural Resources in October 2008 and Minister of Labour in January 2010. Prior to her election to the House of Commons, she  was the president and Chief Executive Officer of the Toronto Port Authority (TPA). She had previously served as the TPA's general counsel and harbourmaster. 

As a lawyer,  Raitt specialized in the areas of intellectual property, commercial litigation and shipping arbitration. Raitt is an active member of her community. She volunteered as a Halton canvasser and fundraiser for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and for her children's hockey, soccer and gymnastics organizations. In 2002, Raitt was invited to become a member of the Canadian chapter of the worldwide Young Presidents' Organization. She is a graduate of St. Francis Xavier University (like Mulroney)  and holds a Master of Science degree from the University of Guelph. She earned her law degree from Osgoode Hall at York University. She resides in Oakville, Ontario, and is the mother of two boys whom she talked about a lot in her speech.
Corey Bloom and dad Caspar.

Raitt started off with a few words in French, promising to improve her skills in that regard.She planned to spend a few days doing business in Quebec and will be back here again for more meetings September 22. She called the Bloc Québecois "a radical party and something we need to be concerned about." On her party's record, she said: "What makes me proud is our own projections of lowering taxis and our projections of spurring on the economy. Who does not love lower taxes?"

After Raitt's address, it was interesting to watch those on hand line up to shake her hand and that of Mulroney's. In fact there was a lengthy lineup of people requesting photos from the former PM. Even noted photographer Joe Papa handed his camera to someone and shared a pose.
Raitt, Papa and Mulroney.

Former Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand, now a member of the Norton Rose Fulbright team, was on hand and looked like a man who would not turn his nose up at a chance to get back into politics if a winnable seat opened up for him with the Tories.  Arnold  Cohen, another partner at  the firm, was an interested observer as well.

Also in the room were Suburban owner Amos Sochaczevski, editor Beryl Wajsman and architect/politician Robert Libman.  Former Tory cabinet minister Gerry Weiner reunited with immigration lawyer Neil Drabkin, his former chief advisor and most recently chief of staff to Stockwell Day and Joe Oliver in Ottawa.  West Island lawyer Valerie Assouline was on hand as was Marianopolis College head of alumni affairs Dino  Mazzone, noted lawyer Caspar Bloom and his multi-talented daughter, Corey Bloom, perhaps one of this country's top specialist in  investigative and forensic accounting. Naseer Mehdi Khan, the president of the India Canada Organization, was on hand.

I chatted with Cheryl Stein, recently appointed to the new position of director of major gifts for the party. "It was a crazy opportunity that I just couldn't pass up," said the former head of the Canadian Jewish Parliamentary Affairs Committee in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. "It happened over the summer. I got a call that was life changing. I am still staying in Montreal, but get to develop a national program"
 

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