Sunday, May 1, 2011

Will the ex-VP become an MP?

This time last year, there was a lot of buzz around VANOC CEO John Furlong and whether he would stay in the public eye and run for public office. It was one-way hype.

Furlong always issued an abrupt denial when asked. What's more, his leadership of the Vancouver Olympic committee was a tiring, nearly decade-long campaign fraught with politics and economics. He once said he would have done his job with a paper bag on his head if he could have. Despite his rousing speeches and sometimes feisty answers to relentless journalists, Furlong always seemed a tad reluctant to be in the public eye.

Different story for Taleeb Noormohamed. Noormohamed, 34, is a former VANOC vice-president of strategy and partnerships who worked closely with Furlong. That's Noormohamed with Furlong pictured above at the United Nations in October 2009. The charismatic, intelligent North Shore-raised Noormohamed was born in 1976 (after the Montreal Olympics) in Ottawa and he wants to go back to the nation's capital. This time as the Member of Parliament for North Vancouver.

Noormohamed is running for the Liberal Party in the May 2 election against incumbent Conservative Andrew Saxton. It was at a Noormohamed-hosted rally for Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff that the legendary Nardwuar the Human Serviette convinced Ignatieff to do the Hip Flip. One of the best moments of the campaign, I say.

I caught up with Noormohamed on election eve.

Q: Talk about the experience of running for office in this election.

"It's been a really good opportunity to hear the issues and talk to as many people as you can. I've knocked on thousands of doors, I would hazard to guess, I would say over 4,000 doors.

Q: What have you learned about yourself and the process?

Taleeb: "It's a process that requires you to really trust in people and you have to be willing to work extremely hard. I've been knocking on doors quite literally eight hours a day. This is a team sport and so many people are doing this with you and around you.

"It's a very humbling experience, you have to really be aware of how important elections are to people and how seriously people take them. I've heard people share some amazing and very sad challenges they're facing. It really does inspire you to do this and do better for people.

"If I win, I carry this responsibility that I do keep that dialogue going not just when it's election time."

Q: What are your thoughts on the Jack Layton surge and how the campaign has evolved?

Taleeb: "It's very easy to make whatever promise you want when there is almost no chance you're going to form government.

"Mr. Ignatieff has quite literally years of the Conservatives putting out negative media, negative press, leaving Jack fairly untouched. Part of the fundamental image of Ignatieff that was created was created by the very offensive, negative media work done by the Conservatives. At some point, what Mr. Ignatieff had to say got lost in the hype around Jack…

"Mr. Ignatieff got a much rougher ride than the others did. I was surprised that the media let Harper get away with the kind of campaign that he ran, where questions didn't get answered or Conservatives didn't show up for all-candidates meetings. People didn't scrutinize as closely just the fundamental disrespect Harper had for the media in this campaign."

Meanwhile, though Furlong did not become a candidate, he did endorse Gary Lunn, the Conservative running for re-election in Saanich and the Gulf Islands. See the photo below. Lunn was the junior sport minister before and during the Vancouver Olympics. Furlong appeared at the opening of Lunn's campaign office on April 3.

VANOC needed more taxpayers' money -- including at least $74.4 million directly from the federal government -- because of the Great Recession. The Conservatives have still not disclosed the final bill to taxpayers for the Vancouver Olympics, yet Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been campaigning across the country while wearing his Team Canada jacket. At least one political blog has noticed and it even posted a gallery of Harper modelling the jacket. The Canadian Olympic Committee did not respond to my query about whether Harper signed a commercial rights agreement to use the jacket in such a way.

On May 2, voters get to decide which party forms government and, ultimately, which leader can attach himself to the Olympic rings.

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