Ties make the man

It was Maryon Pearson, wife of Prime Minister Lester Pearson, who coined one of the most telling lines in Canadian political history:  “behind every successful man there is a surprised woman.”

Some spouses of prominent politicians give lots of speeches, some none or very few.  Terri McGuinty, wife of the premier,  falls into the latter category.  She has taken a leave from her job as a kindergarten teacher to be at her husband’s side throughout this campaign and is a popular presence on the tour, often chatting with reporters in the entourage, inquiring about their families and generally charming the crowd who are daily badgering her husband.  But she is loath to speak from the podium.  The other day she made a rare exception, introducing the Premier at a stop at the Women’s Executive Network.

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“I have known Dalton for 35 years,” she said. “When I look at him I still see the same lanky guy who came up to me sheepishly and asked me for money in the school cafeteria.”  She managed to extract a good laugh from the crowd. 

When she and the premier arrived at the Global studios the next day to tape a Focus Ontario interview, I asked her about her public speaking engagement.  

“I’m still recovering,” she said.  

Neither she nor McGuinty could remember whether she ever gave him the money he was nervously requesting those many years ago in the cafeteria, or whether he ever paid her back. 

“The lamest pickup line of all time,” admitted McGuinty with a laugh.  Given that they’ve been married for more than three decades and raised four children, it seems to have worked well enough.  

Even if she does not give many speeches, Terri McGuinty is clearly a trusted advisor on many levels.  

As we sat down on the set, getting ready for the taping, Terri sat at a desk a few feet off camera.  I couldn’t resist inquiring whether she picked the tie that he wore for the debate.  Sure enough, she did.  When McGuinty settled into the chair, minus a tie on this occasion, he asked for her advice on whether he should have his jacket opened or buttoned.  

I cannot honestly remember when he ended up buttoned or not.  But I do recall asking whether she liked my tie.  Yes was the answer.  I did not ask afterwards whether she also liked my questions.