Pub gains political notoriety after recent election
By Rob Thomas
Oliver’s pub has attracted its share of media attention over the years, but the proverbial pint glass has hardly been an overflowing one. There have been student protests, liquor licence violations and the occasional bar brawl, but little that compares to the brouhaha generated by the election of former Oliver’s assistant manager Ruth Ellen Brousseau to the House of Commons. Brousseau made national headlines when The Globe and Mail discovered she had vacationed in Las Vegas for part of her uneventful campaign to represent the Quebec riding of Berthier-Maskinongé.
Blake Brooks, BAHons/08, an interim manager at Oliver’s, says that at the height of the controversy, reporters were calling the pub every 20 minutes or so and staff turned off the ringers on the phone. “You’re at work and all these calls are coming in,” he explains. “And you know what they are about.”
Imagine their surprise when the 27-year-old was elected with nearly 40 percent of the vote. Brousseau speaks little French and had never visited the largely francophone riding. Brooks says Oliver’s has no plans to name a drink for its famous alumna. “Nothing has come up yet,” he says. “I think maybe everyone is still in shock.”
Oliver’s might be better known for inexpensive draft, air hockey and its Thursday-night DJ party, but Brousseau isn’t the first politico to put in time there. Gordon Brown, BAHons/83, is the Conservative MP for Leeds-Grenville. He never worked the bar, but he did share more than a few pints with his buddies Warren Kinsella, BJ/84; Jim Watson, BA/83; Bob Richardson, BAHons/85; and James Villeneuve, BA/85.
“I wouldn’t say [Oliver’s] was the launching pad of my political career, but there was a lot of spirited political discussion when the gang got together,” Brown says.
All four have been involved in politics with the Liberals or Conservatives. Kinsella is a well-known Liberal spin doctor. Watson is the mayor of Ottawa and a former Ontario cabinet minister with the McGuinty Liberals.
Brown, who is also a hotel owner and restaurateur, calls Brousseau’s win “a bit extraordinary” but has encouraging words for the rookie. “I know how hard it is serving the public,” he says. “Working in the hospitality industry is certainly good preparation for being an MP, and I’m sure she’ll do a great job.”
Brousseau isn’t the only MP with a Carleton connection. She joins Conservatives Paul Calandra, BA/08; Barry Devolin, BA/86; Scott Reid, BAHons/85; New Democrats Niki Ashton, MA/06; Robert Chisholm, MA/89; Paul Dewar, BA/85; Rathika Sitsabaiesan, BComm/06; and Liberal Party MP and former Carleton chancellor Marc Garneau.