The Car: 2012 Subaru Forester
Profession: Actor and broadcaster
Hometown: Truro, N.S.
- Hosted the award-winning documentary series Ancestors in the Attic ( History, Global)
- Starred in the documentary series Things That Move (History Television/National Geographic Canada), Working Over Time (History), and Making History (National Geographic)
- Received three Gemini nominations
- Co-host of CBC Radio One’s As It Happens, Weekdays at 6:30 p.m. (7:00 NT)
- Racing with Team Evatik, a master’s level bicycle racing team, at Coupe des Ameriques in the eastern townships of Quebec, July 6
He’s best known as Joe Canadian from Molson’s iconic and passionate “I Am Canadian” advertising campaign.
His role in The Rant landed him a 2001 Kari Award for best performer in a TV commercial. Nowadays, actor Jeff Douglas doesn’t proclaim his love for Canada on television any more. He’s a broadcaster on the radio airwaves.
The native of Truro, N.S., is the co-host of CBC Radio One’s current affairs program, As It Happens. To get to work and play, he drives a 2012 Subaru Forester.
Why did you buy a Subaru?
When I was working for National Geographic and History Television, I spent a lot of time in Europe and that gave me a new respect for the wagon.
We had a Ford Escape before and we thought this is a nice crossover.
We need space because my wife has an interior painting business and I race bikes competitively so we have to throw bicycles, stinky gear and stinky guys in there.
It’s a good car to get a lot of stuff around and still drives relatively like a car.
It’s white and wicked. It has a pearl white finish and depending on how the light hits it, it’s got a bunch of different colours that come out of the white.
It has just enough tint in the glass that we can pretend it’s sexy.
And it’s got a wicked moon roof – I don’t know why they call it moon roof now – when I was a kid it was a sunroof. I don’t know if it’s because the sun kills you these days, but it has an incredible moon roof.
Do you know anything mechanically about it?I’m not a car guy. All I know is it’s a five-speed manual transmission, which was very important to us, and frighteningly hard to get.
It’s got a boxer engine – they make airplane engines so it’s got to be a good engine – that’s about all I know.
Does your wife mind driving a stick?
No. No. She’s South American. It’s the other way around in our house. She was nervous that I would have a hard time learning it.
Did your wife teach you to drive a stick?
No. No way.
I don’t think that’s ever a good idea.
It’s a very special, special couple where one can teach the other anything. let alone how to drive.
She stayed away when I was learning .
Who taught you to drive stick?
I learned driving in Europe on the fly because they’d put me in a car and they’d point a camera at me and say drive it. It was either stall and look like an idiot or learn to drive.
I remember the time I began to shift flawlessly. I was in Iceland. It was the end of a long day and the crew was getting really pissed off because I had stalled a couple of times. That’s when I was, like, focus and learn the rhythm. And that was it. Once you learn it it’s like riding a bike.
What’s your worst driving memory?
The worst place for me to drive is in England because you’re shifting on the left and the gear box is still oriented the same way. It’s weird. First gear, which is usually closest to you, is now over to the left. It’s awkward.
My worst experience was in London on tight, tight streets. The production company had rented a 17-passenger van. I was driving in London on the opposite side of the road, manual shift and got lost on a dead end – an arrow one way and I had to turn it around. It was brutal. I was sweating. The whole time the GPS system kept saying, recalculating, recalculating the route. We ended up killing that GPS!
What does a Subaru Forester say about you?
It says I’m practically adventurous. It’s like the mullet of the car world. It’s all business in the front and party in the back. This is like business during the week and party on the weekends.
What was your first car?
I bought a Datsun S10 in Cranbrook, B.C., in 1993 or 1994. It was a ’79-’80 for $400. I didn’t have $400 to spend on a car so I put in $200 with a friend of mine, another guy, and we drove it all summer out there.
In B.C. at that time, the vehicle didn’t have to be inspected. We insured it, but it was minimal.
We drove it all summer and then, when we went to the Cranbrook airport, we just left it with the keys sitting in the front seat. I didn’t realize until years later that’s highly illegal. I often wondered what happened to that vehicle.
What did you own after that?
Because my background was acting, there’s a huge hole in my vehicle ownership. Around the turn of the millennium, my wife and I bought a Ford Escape after the “I Am Canadian” commercial. I always said it was the car that Joe bought me. We drove that until last year. It was written off in a little accident.
In between, we had a Vespa Piaggio. It was a 200. It was wicked – I loved that bike.
When did you get your motorcycle licence? I’m one of these people who had my M1 about five times. I’m not great at following through. I keep going this year, this year I’m going to do it.
It was just too easy getting the M1 and driving around all summer and then getting it again next year.
If I can bring you the keys to any vehicle, what would it be?
I would love an old Toyota Land Cruiser – the old ones that are like safari vehicles with the two benches facing each other along the sides. That would be great!
This interview has been edited and condensed.