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A moment's pause to remember a bright political light

They came from Parliament Hill to the Gatineau Hills Saturday night. And, as the partisan games begin again in the House of Commons Monday there will be more than a few in official Ottawa reflecting on that remarkable evening of non-partisanship.

More than 200 people - MPs, cabinet ministers, lobbyists, strategists, political staff and journalists - were at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, Que., to honour a bright young woman, Jaimie Anderson, who lost her fight with cancer this year. She was 23.

More than $100,000 was raised for a non-partisan parliamentary internship in Jaimie's memory. It is to be awarded to a young Canadian who will work with an MP with a focus on helping constituents and grassroots democracy.

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Jaimie was a political junkie. It couldn't be helped - she was born into a tight-knit political family.

Her father is Rick Anderson, the former senior aide to Reform Party founder Preston Manning. Her mom is Michelle Williams, whose father, Blair, was a former national director of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Her uncle, Bruce Anderson, is a national pollster and her aunt, Nancy Jamieson, was an aide to Jean Charest when he was the Progressive Conservative leader. (She is also credited with being the only one who could count when in, December of 1979 as a young Conservative aide, she warned prime minister Joe Clark he didn't have the numbers to win a confidence vote. The rest is history.)

Bruce Anderson and Ms. Jamieson were the inspiration behind the internship and event, which they hope will become an annual affair. Family friend, CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge, is co-chair of the fund's advisory board.

As master of ceremonies for the evening, Mr. Mansbridge gave a hilarious speech - perfect timing and delivery - in which he took a few jabs at all parties, politicians and even his media colleagues. His mocking of the so-called "Ottawa elites" (he noted he had come from Toronto for the event) _ brought the house down, given that Government House Leader John Baird was present.

Mr. Baird - who accused the "Toronto elites" (Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton) of pressuring their rural MPs to change their votes on the gun registry last week -came to the fundraiser with Laureen Harper, wife of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Her husband's former boss, Preston Manning and his wife, Sandra, were there, as were former Reform MPs and Harper cabinet ministers Monte Solberg and Jay Hill.

MP5 - a group of Conservative MPs, including Transport Minister (and baritone) Chuck Strahl and his colleagues Kevin Sorenson, Mark Warawa, Ted Fast and Randy Kamp - performed some gospel tunes as well as their rendition of the Beatles' Yesterday.

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The Beatles' tune - which they have also performed for their caucus - is dedicated to Michael Ignatieff. In fact, some Tory MPs refer to it as the "Ignatieff song." The first verse goes like this:

"Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away,

Now it looks as though they're here to stay,

Why did I leave the USA?

Suddenly, I've got problems in the polls you see,

This is not how it was meant to be,

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Oh Harvard, how I long for thee

How I've sunk so low, I don't know, but you'll all pay,

I've done nothing wrong, but I'm stuck at Stornoway."

But there were more somber elements to the evening. Actress Cynthia Dale, who is married to Mr. Mansbridge, performed Jaimie's favourite song, I Will Always Love You.

It was heartbreaking. And so was the speech by Jaimie's Dad, Rick Anderson. He talked about his daughter's hopefulness, optimism and sense of fun.

Displayed around the Inn was a big picture of Jaimie. She is lovely; she is laughing and clearly having a wonderful time. Mr. Anderson noted it was taken at the Calgary Stampede a year ago, just after Jaimie had found out from doctors there was little more they could do to fight her cancer.

An update from Bruce Anderson

Jane Taber's story about the fundraiser held Saturday night to honour my niece's memory and to raise money so that other young people can have positive experiences in politics was wonderful for me to read. It was truly a remarkable evening where people put aside differences and shared a sense of humanity and common purpose.

At the risk of getting too personal, a great many of the comments posted below this story were deeply appreciated. The pain of this loss remains very real, and all who experience loss, realize how much it helps to know that others empathize.

A small handful of posters though, have made assertions that I feel obliged to correct.

First, the group of MPs who sang the adaptation of Yesterday were doing so very much in the warm spirit of the evening. There was nothing but humour and friendship in the room, and a good many jokes were sent in all different directions during the course of the evening. These MPs asked if it would be appropriate to perform that song, and we agreed, because we knew the spirit in which it was offered and would be received. Without context, I suppose the words could be viewed as harsh. I believe Jane provided that context, but lest there is any doubt, in the moment, it was simply gentle ribbing and good fun. They have our sincere thanks.

Second, the notion that Jaimie's family is made up of Conservative partisans would greatly amuse her. But it should not be mistaken for fact.

Jaimie grew up as part of an extended family in which many aunts and uncles and parents and grandparents and cousins have been involved in politics in both major parties, and in which respect for partisans of other parties is abundant too.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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