He already had the shoes. Next, there was the matter of his hair.
“I don’t want a pompadour,” Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told hairstylist to the political stars Stefania Capovilla on Monday morning.
Basically, he didn’t want a repeat of Budget Day 2010, when Ms. Capovilla went for a new style that landed his hair in the headlines. Ever since, the minister visits her downtown Ottawa salon the day before a budget unveiling.
In a city rife with ritual, Ms. Capovilla has inadvertently ingratiated herself into the parliamentary scene. She cuts but doesn’t tell, earning clients such as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau – political rivals who apparently didn’t know about their long-time stylist link until just months ago.
Beyond revealing that Mr. Flaherty revived the pompadour fiasco, chatted about the Olympic Games and didn’t discuss the economic plan, the Winnipeg-born, Kelowna-trained hairdresser wouldn’t disclose the details of their conversation on the eve of Mr. Flaherty’s ninth budget.
“That’s why I retain clients like that,” said Ms. Capovilla, a friend of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird who typically accompanies him to the annual Politics and the Pen gala.
In an e-mail, Mr. Flaherty said that while he has shifted his Budget Day routine to a day earlier “just to be on the safe side,” he trusts Ms. Capovilla and praised her for yet another “great job” on his hair this week. “Stefania is now such a part of my pre-budget routine that I almost don’t feel prepared until this haircut has happened,” he said.
Ms. Capovilla said her chats with politicians touch on topics much like those with any other clients: celebrity gossip, vacations, the news. Mr. Flaherty, Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Harper pay the standard $40 fee for a men’s cut, and book by appointment like anyone else.
Ms. Capovilla jokes that she has “mass market appeal,” though her reach doesn’t extend to NDP Leader Tom Mulcair. Sometimes cabinet ministers Rona Ambrose and Lisa Raitt sit in her Laurier Avenue West salon chair. And she used to cut suspended senator Patrick Brazeau’s long mane – once lopping off several inches in the House of Commons foyer after he lost a charity boxing match to a then long-haired Mr. Trudeau.
She landed Mr. Trudeau as a client after cutting his mother’s hair, garnering his trust over the years that have seen his famous locks get shorter as his political ambitions reach higher. “[His hair has] just kind of evolved over time,” Ms. Capovilla said. “There was never a specific, ‘I need to change my hair’ conversation. He kind of always lets me use my judgment.”
Ms. Capovilla, who mentioned her support for skilled trades as an alternative to university education, said she’ll likely be working when Mr. Flaherty tables Tuesday’s budget, which is expected to include job training measures to help match young workers with areas of skills shortages.
She has continued to use her own skills to cut across the political spectrum. “I think it’s ironic that [Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau] share a hairstylist… They thought it was interesting … and definitely funny, not bad.” As she puts it, “it’s just hair.”