By GLENN NUOTIO
Photos by Jake Wright and Matt Usherwood
The lavish and head-turning Writers’ Trust Politics & the Pen gala, held at Ottawa’s Fairmont Chateau Laurier on March 11, was described by a seasoned press photographer to me as “one of the only events any Canadian politician can attend without worrying about backlash. This night is bigger than Toronto. They all come out for it.”
As nationally-acclaimed writers of almost every literary genre showed up to sip and sup alongside all stripes of political beast, it soon became easier to find out who wasn’t going to be at the Chateau Laurier rather than try to capture everyone who was in attendance.
Some guests, including 2015 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize nominees John Ralston Saul and Chantal Hébert, along with outgoing MP John Baird, may each have tried unsuccessfully to stay out of the event’s media spotlight. But most of the hundreds of VIPS filling the French Corridor and Laurier Room reception areas seemed happy to rub their sequined (or black-tied) shoulders in the corporate and parliamentary sea — all while acting book smart enough to elbow their way to the bar before they were all led to dinner and festivities in the adjoining Ballroom.
Honouring the best in Canadian political writing, with 2015 nominees including Naomi Klein, Chantal Hébert with Jean Lapierre, Graham Steele, and John Ralston Saul, the evening belonged to author Joseph Heath, who won the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for his book Enlightenment 2.0: Restoring Sanity to Our Politics, Our Economy, and Our Lives.
This year’s gala raised more than $330,000 for the Writers’ Trust, to support their programs to advance, nurture, and celebrate Canadian writers and writing.