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Artist Ted Harrison visits Laureen Harper at 24 Sussex Drive where a collection of his paintings hang in the front foyer on October 14, 2009. (Jason Ransom/PMO Photo by Jillian Propp)
Artist Ted Harrison visits Laureen Harper at 24 Sussex Drive where a collection of his paintings hang in the front foyer on October 14, 2009. (Jason Ransom/PMO Photo by Jillian Propp)

Ottawa Notebook

A hanging at 24 Sussex Add to ...

T ed Harrison's paintings hang prominently in galleries around the world: in the United States, in Kobe, Japan, and even at 24 Sussex Drive. Laureen Harper ensured that would happen as she is a big fan. But the 83-year-old artist, whose vividly colourful portrayals of the Yukon are so distinctive, does not have any work hanging in the National Gallery of Canada.

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On Wednesday, he was having tea with Mrs. Harper at the Prime Minister's official residence and at least was able to see his works on display in Ottawa.

"I think a gallery that purports to represent the whole of Canada has missed a very important slice of the country because the Yukon is almost forgotten except for the gold rush," he said in an interview.

He said those who hail from Yukon want to be thought of as Canadians. "When they're shut out of the gallery, what have you to think? You could be living in Swaziland."

Mr. Harrison, however, said he was "entranced" by Mrs. Harper, who had brought her daughter Rachel's class in to meet him.

Mrs. Harper said she first realized that there was a Harrison available when she saw one in Maureen McTeer's book on official residences. Ms. McTeer is the wife of former prime minister, Joe Clark. Mrs. Harper found it in an upstairs room at 24 Sussex Dr. and had it moved to the dining room. As well, there is a series of Mr. Harrison's paintings, depicting the country, hanging in the main entrance.

Mr. Harrison is celebrating his 40th anniversary as a Canadian painter - he was born in England and came to the Yukon to teach in 1968. He was in Ottawa also to celebrate his new biography, Ted Harrison:Painting Paradise by Katherine Gibson .

In the book, Ms. Gibson focuses on the fact that Mr. Harrison is not in Canada's national gallery. She describes this omission, "Ted Harrison - loved and snubbed, adored and ignored." Ms. Gibson, meanwhile, who is accompanying Mr. Harrison, said that Stephen Harper was given a copy of the book when he travelled this summer to the Yukon.

The North is a big part of the Conservative's strategy. As for the National Gallery: The curators are aware of the "important gap" in their permanent collection and "are working to fill it," says Marie Lugli, a spokeswoman for the gallery.

Hot and Not

Hot: Jack Layton. Stephen Harper performed on stage at during a gala at the National Arts Centre, but wait - the NDP leader will be performing, rather, busking, on a street corner on Toronto's Danforth Ave. next Saturday. He's trying to raise money for the Stephen Lewis Foundation. You can sing, clap or play along with him. And maybe he'll play his rendition of With a Little Help from My Friends .

Not: Harper Conservative propaganda. Liberals are on the look-out for what they consider abuses of the public trust (this after finding Conservative Party logos on stimulus infrastructure cheques). The latest find from the Liberals is this: Go to the government's Economic Action Plan website and then click on the YouTube icon in the right-hand corner. The icon will take you immediately to the Prime Minister's piano-playing Beatles' performance at the National Arts Centre. This was all noted by Liberal war-room strategist Warren Kinsella : "In case anyone needs any further proof that the Economic Action plan website is nothing more than a $2-million vanity project for Harper."

Hot: Tom d'Aquino is leaving after a long and storied career as the president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (he organized big business to support the free-trade deal in the 1980s). There is to be a huge farewell party - black tie for the gentlemen, cocktail dress for the "ladies" - at the National Gallery of Canada later this month. The guest list is impressive -mostly men, however, who run big companies and banks in Canada, or who serve or have served in public office or the public service. Diplomats are also attending. Paul Desmarais Jr. is speaking as is Royal Bank CEO Gordon Nixon and former prime minister Paul Martin . Another former prime minister, Joe Clark , is attending. Former deputy prime minister John Manley , who is taking over from Mr. d'Aquino, will also be there.

Follow on Twitter: @janetaber1

 

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