Written by Bruce Deachman in the Ottawa Citizen
City Councillor Stephen Blais on superheroes and what he stole from FDR
1. What was the earliest thing you can recall wanting to be when you grew up?
An insurance agent. My father has been in insurance for 30 years and my grandfather ran a small insurance brokerage for decades. I remember wanting to follow in his footsteps, and those of my grandfather’s.
2. What was on your bedroom walls as a kid?
I had pennants everywhere. Whether they were for sports teams or other things I was interested in like TV shows. The A-Team, The Dukes of Hazzard and Return of the Jedi are some of the TV shows I remember having prominent wall space. And there were GI Joes everywhere. Tanks, helicopters, bases and, of course, the Real American Heroes and their nemesis, Cobra.
3. What comment most often appeared on your report cards?
I honestly can’t remember the comments — I was more interested in the grades.
4. Name a favourite book, album, TV show and movie.
My favourite album has to be Fully Completely by the Tragically Hip. There isn’t a bad song on the album and I can sing almost every one start to finish — as my wife will attest to. My favourite movie is The Godfather. The opening scene with Don Corleone and the undertaker is something unmatched in cinema, in my opinion.
My favourite TV show is The West Wing. It’s perhaps the only TV show I have watched from start to finish more than once (I own the box set). With classic episodes like Two Cathedrals, Martin Sheen demonstrates his gravitas on the screen.
My favourite book is a little tougher because I have so many. The first book I can remember being so enthralled with that I couldn’t put it down was Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy. I was never a big reader until that point and I read it in about a week, which for me at the time was pretty fast. More recently, Where Have All the Leaders Gone? by Lee Iacocca. His nine Cs for choosing a leader I think are something everyone should think about.
5. If you could have 100 pounds of anything, what would you choose and why?
Well, at today’s market rate, 100 pounds of gold would be worth around $2.1 million, so that is definitely something that comes to mind. Whether through direct donations or using it to retire to devote more time to the community, a lot of good things could be done with $2.1 million.
6. Weddings and births aside, if you could go back and re-live one day in your life, what would it be and why would you choose that day?
A few months ago, I came home from a long day of work and campaigning in the rain. I was tired and soaking wet. When I walked in the door it was the first day my son ran up to me (more of a superfast crawl) to welcome me home. That was pretty cool.
7. What would your friends most like to change about you?
I think if my friends could change one thing it would be to make me more happy-go-lucky. I’ve been fairly serious most of my life and there are some interesting stories my mother has to back that up. Sometimes when I’m out with friends they think I’m being grumpy but I’m having a good time. Sometimes I just need to more outwardly show it.
8. What makes you squirm?
I don’t like it when people embarrass themselves to the point where you feel their embarrassment.
9. What useless skill(s) do you possess?
Like many of my generation, I’m pretty good at video games. I’ve spent my fair share of time tapping buttons. I still remember the code for Contra on the original Nintendo. I’m also pretty good at trivia. I have, as it turns out, absorbed a lot of otherwise useless information.10. What are your favourite and least favourite buildings in Ottawa?
My favourite buildings have to be Parliament. I have fond memories of going up to the Parliament Buildings as a child. My least favourite has to be the building at City Centre. It’s dilapidated and that whole site is in desperate need of gentrification.11. What do you miss most?
I miss being really excited for summer vacation.12. What is the best thing you ever stole?
I’m not much of a thief so the best thing I ever stole was a quote from FDR, which I’ve heard used by a number of politicians. His advice when speaking in public was to “be sincere; be brief; be seated.” It’s a pretty good joke to lead off a speech and I’ve used it a few times.13. On what occasion have you most feared for your life?
I’m fortunate in that I haven’t really ever come very close to death. There was a time as a teenager where I borrowed my parents car for a road trip and I made an unwise decision about when to pass and braking distance.14. Not including Ottawa, what is your favourite city and why?
My favourite city is Washington, D.C. The transit system in Washington is amazing. My wife and I stayed in Southern Maryland and a short walk to the red line (subway) would take us into the heart of the District in about 20 minutes. The mall from the Capital Building to the Lincoln Memorial is stunning and a testament to good capital planning. Also, the Smithsonians (national museums) along the mall are all free to the public.
It’s an example of where the national government has stepped up and said our capital is going to be top notch and demonstrate our prestige and heritage. Ottawa and our federal government could learn a lot from Washington from that perspective.15. What can you do better than anyone you know?
I’m the best driver I know. I don’t often sit anywhere but the drivers seat, so when someone else is driving it’s pretty hard for me to relax and just sit there.16. Describe your ideal day off.
Spending time with my wife and my young son, Stephen Jr.17. What four people, living or dead, would you most like to invite to a dinner party?
Jesus Christ — As a Catholic this is obvious, but beyond that he was a teacher, someone who cared about his community and tried to bring people together.
Pierre Trudeau — One of the most dynamic leaders in Canadian history. From the October Crisis to the Constitution, there would be a lot to talk about.
Margaret Thatcher — She was tough as nails when in office. I think she would have some great stories. She’d probably also go at it pretty good with Mr. Trudeau– and I always enjoy a good debate.
Jerry Seinfeld — I love Seinfeld. How could you not want someone who can go on for hours about nothing and make it funny at a dinner party?
18. What three songs should everyone have on their iPods?
Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits – this goes back to the Two Cathedrals episode of The West Wing. Ordinary Day by Great Big Sea and At the Hundredth Meridian by the Tragically Hip.
19. What piece of advice do you wish you’d received or heeded?
I wish someone had told me to slow down and enjoy university. I worked so hard both in and out of school that the “university experience” was lost on me.
20. Who or what will be the death of you, and what would you like your headstone to read?
I hope that my headstone will read “Caring husband and Father” and “He made a difference.”