Last Friday, Andrew MacDougall celebrated his last day as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 7th director of communications with a long flight home (with me and other reporters) from the G20 summit in St. Petersburg. Today, MacDougall tweeted:
— Andrew MacDougall (@AGMacDougall) September 12, 2013
And so, MacDonald begins his term as the 8th top comms official in Harper’s PMO. His last port of call was the director of communications for the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. He served both Ministers Bernard Valcourt (the current minister) and his predecessor John Duncan in that role.
In 2011, MacDonald was a candidate in the Ontario provincial election, serving as the Progressive Conservative sacrificial lamb in the riding of Ottawa South where the incumbent premier Dalton McGuinty had presided.
The late Ottawa Sun scribe Earl McRae did a profile then of MacDonald and I’ll bet a lot more people are interested in reading that now than when it was first published! It appears MacDonald the candidate dodged two of McRae’s questions — but not the one in which McRae asked him if he’d ever smoked pot:
An informal moment with Jason MacDonald who has the most formidable challenge of any candidate in the provincial election: To slay a sitting premier in his own riding. To be Jason MacDonald, giant killer.
Jason MacDonald, 39, director of communications at Carleton University, Progressive Conservative candidate in the riding of Ottawa South that Dalton McGuinty has held since 1990, his father for three years before that, the premier’s brother David, federally, since 2004.
Jason MacDonald, husband of Lara, father of seven-year-old twins Molly and Ella, who has knocked on the doors of 30,000 of the riding’s 47,000 households.
He has strong positions on health care and education reform, but before he can hope to do anything about them, he has to vanquish McGuinty of the Family Compact; the ingrained sense of political entititlement in Ottawa South.
MacDonald knows premiers have been brought down before in their ridings. Such as Liberal David Peterson, Ontario, 1990; Tory Don Getty, Alberta, 1989; Liberal Robert Bourassa, Quebec, 1976; Tory George Drew, Ontario, 1948.
Jason, trying to knock off McGuinty, how daunting is it?
“Sure. You’re running against the premier whose family has been a well-established political presence in the riding over 20 years.”
At the riding level, where is he vulnerable?
“You have to spend time at the doors. Talking to constituents one-to-one. They don’t see Mr. McGuinty. Yes, he’s premier, but there is still time to connect with the people at their doors. They’re the ones who elected you in the first place. People want to know that you’re still listening. Not that you went to a picnic. I think he’s lost touch with some of the folks he represents.”
How will you be different?
“I’m not saying ‘Snap your fingers and it’s fixed.’ But they know how hard I will work to make it so. The focus will be on people, the individual, not, as it is now, on bureaucracy and administration.”
Voters want to know the person behind the politician. Your first car?
“A used Pontiac 6000. Silver. It was loud, the manifold needed repairs. After a couple of years, I sold it.”
First love of your life?
“Tracy Gagne. Grade 6 at Beaconsfield elementary school in Montreal. She was cute. Just the fact she’d talk to me was great. We went to see the movie Oxford Blues. My parents dropped us off, hers picked us up.”
“Delivering the Montreal Gazette. I’d get up at 4:30 a.m. I had over 100 houses. I was about 10. At the same time I had my own lawn mowing business. About a dozen customers.”
Happiest moment in life?
“Standing beside my wife and watching the two girls being born. I still get tears in my eyes thinking about it.”
“The death of my grandparents, and Lara’s.”
First record you ever bought?
“An album. Led Zeppelin II vinyl. I have a huge vinyl collection. I love vinyl.”
“My Happiness by Powder Finger.”
Favourite article of clothing? “A ratty, old. zip-up blue hoodie I’ve had for years. When I get home, it goes right on.”
Most sentimental belonging?
“A piece of fabric from my wife’s wedding dress when it was being made. I have it in my wallet.”
If you could spend an hour with a person you’ve never met?
“Three. Sir John A. Macdonald. Samuel de Champlain. Margaret Thatcher.
Last meal on Death Row?
“My wife’s home-made macaroni and cheese. And a beer.”
“The soft pretzels you could get at the Big O in Montreal. With mustard on them.”
One thing you’d like that you don’t have?
Your best quality?
“I work hard.”
Biggest misconception of you?
“My impatience being misinterpreted as uncaring and unforgiving. I just like to see stuff get done, and done well.”
Best advice you were ever given?
“Work hard. From my dad, and from Mr. Gregory, my Grade 10 teacher in Montreal.”
Your definition of success?
“Knowing I’ve done things in life that have left my small corner in it better.”
Disturbs you most about present-day society?
“The need for instant gratification. Sometimes things worth having and doing require work and effort.”
Do you drink?
Smoke? “I tried cigarettes in high school.”
“I tried marijuana in high school.”
“To play in the NBA. Boston Celtics.”
The one thing you’d change about yourself physically?
“If I ever wanted to play in the NBA, I’d have to grow five or six inches.”
Believe in God?
“I prefer not to answer.”
Would I be surprised if another life form was out there? Probably not.”
Most unusual place you ever had sex?
“I’ll pass. I want to stay married. My wife would kill me.”