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Jodi White, in her Ottawa office on Dec. 2, 2005, was named one of the 100 most influential women in Canada in 2008 for her career in journalism, politics, business and the non-profit sector.Bill Grimshaw/The Globe and Mail

Jodi White, whose professional career spanned the worlds of journalism, politics, business and the non-profit sector, was named one of the 100 most influential women in Canada in 2008. Not surprising: She had been chief of staff to Canada’s foreign minister, Joe Clark; campaign manager of the national leadership campaign of Jean Charest and the first female chief of staff to a prime minister, Kim Campbell. But Ms. White, who died of breast cancer on Feb. 10 in Ottawa, was just getting started.

Born in Toronto on Dec. 27, 1946, Joanne White, as she first was known, grew up in the city’s affluent Lawrence Park neighbourhood. The only daughter of three children of Shirley, a university-educated homemaker, and Norman White, a financial reporter-turned-bank executive, Joanne showed her calling at an early age. She was 11 when she and her neighbourhood friend, Kirby Chown, started their own monthly newspaper, The Buckingham Times, that reported on big events on their street: “The Braces are calling their new baby boy John;” “Mr. and Mrs. Gibb are sailing on the SS Exeter from New York;” “Lucky, a beagle, is missing …” The Times cost 5 cents per issue and lasted six months.

Joanne attended nearby St. Clements School, an Anglican independent school for girls, followed by political science studies at Victoria College at the University of Toronto. While at U of T in the mid-1960s, Jodi, as she started to be known, shunned the more social sororities on offer and signed up at Alpha Phi, an international “Women’s Fraternity” that bills itself as “a community of empowered women supporting one another for a lifetime.” It was a good fit.

After Toronto, Ms. White took an honours degree in Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa. She soon received an offer of a position at the Free Press in London, Ont., but her excitement plummeted when she saw the reporting position was for the “women’s section.” She found a more receptive attitude at the CBC, which led the way in hiring highly qualified women. She began as a TV reporter for CBOT, the Ottawa CBC station, just before the October Crisis of 1970, cutting her teeth on one of the biggest stories in Canadian history. She moved on to CBC Radio and its more national coverage of political affairs as a producer. Its operation was based on the top floor of the Château Laurier Hotel, half a block from Parliament Hill, so anybody who was anybody in the country passed through its studios.

Ms. White met the man she would marry on the picket line: Terry Hargreaves, a senior parliamentary reporter for CBC Radio. In 1975, he and 300 other reporters and editors walked out to protest the CBC’s use of an announcer as a news reporter, a violation of their union’s contract with the corporation. Ms. White walked out, too, since radio producers were joining the protest. She soon found that the gruff reporter had a softer side – he loved acting and was a gifted pianist.

The couple bought a house on Monkland Avenue in the upscale Glebe area of Ottawa. Mitchell Sharp, a long-time Liberal cabinet minister lived across the road. Ron Atkey, a PC cabinet minister, was down the street. “In those days you invited both Liberals and Tories to your parties,” Ms. White said.

Their sons, Tyler and Blake, were born in 1977 and 1979, and the couple divorced in 1993. Ms. White leaves her sons and her brother, David.

The late 1970s saw another side of Ms. White emerge: She became active in PC politics. When the 1979 election was called, Joe Clark hired Bill Neville, a former senior adviser to Liberal cabinet minister Judy LaMarsh, to manage the campaign. Mr. Neville asked Ms. White to join him as director of communications handling the national press.

Ms. White admitted that she had always leaned toward the PC Party – a result of her upbringing, she said. But, as a journalist, she kept it under wraps. Now, she would have to keep political secrets from her reporter husband. “We both had a lot on our plates,” she said, and two young children to deal with.

Following the Clark government’s early defeat in the 1980 election, Ms. White opened her own firm, Sydney House Consultants, but remained an adviser to the party.

Brian Mulroney succeeded Mr. Clark as Tory leader and won a majority party victory in 1984. To most everyone’s surprise, Mr. Mulroney asked Mr. Clark to join his government as foreign minister. Mr. Clark agreed and promptly asked Ms. White to be his chief of staff.

“I couldn’t resist, so I said yes,” Ms. White recalled. “It was one of the smartest things I ever did.”

Indeed, she shone in the role and was able to participate in several major issues: the Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement; the Ethiopian famine; sanctions against South Africa’s apartheid government; the Air India terrorist attack and a successful trip to the Middle East.

That trip was especially significant. Seven years earlier, Mr. Clark, as the newly elected prime minister, sought to improve his international image by visiting a number of Middle East countries. It was a PR disaster: Mr. Clark’s luggage was lost, he bumped into a Jordanian soldier’s bayonet, a king kept him waiting for hours after a protocol faux pas, among other embarrassments.

Ms. White made sure there were no slip ups this time, though Mr. Clark cited one close call: When the party landed in Riyadh, Mr. Clark was met by a senior member of the Saudi royal family and escorted to the limousine that would take him to his hotel. Ms. White was directed to a vehicle at the back of the motorcade. “Without saying a word, she calmly strode to my car and got in with me,” Mr. Clark said, laughing at the memory. The Saudis could do nothing.

“Jodi was cool under fire,” he said.

Governing and politics are messy businesses, Mr. Clark noted. But when history examines these times “Jodi will be among those people whose reputation was never besmirched.”

Following the election of 1988 – another Mulroney majority – Ms. White stepped back from politics and joined Mr. Neville in establishing a successful consulting company known as the Neville Group.

She also increased the time she spent volunteering for non-profit organizations including the National Theatre School in Montreal, where she would become chair of the board, Ottawa General Hospital (vice-chair) and Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Que.

She was lured back to politics in 1993 when Mr. Mulroney, then prime minister, announced he was retiring and Jean Charest, the MP from Sherbrooke, asked her to run his campaign for the leadership of the PC Party. He was a long shot, but lost only narrowly to Kim Campbell, who became Canada’s first female prime minister. In a surprise move, Ms. Campbell asked Ms. White to be her chief of staff, the first woman to hold that post as well. It would not last long, as the PCs could not make up the ground Mr. Mulroney had lost in his second term and were defeated badly in the coming election.

It was during that campaign that Jodi had her “toughest day in politics.” Desperate to pick up votes, the campaign rolled out a series of attack ads focused on Liberal leader Jean Chrétien, one of which played on his facial deformity. There was widespread outrage and Ms. White, who had not seen the ad in advance, ordered it killed. Ms. Campbell directed that the remaining ads not be shown.

It was time for a shift and Ms. White welcomed an offer from Imasco, owner of Imperial Tobacco, Canada Trust and Shoppers Drug Mart, to be vice-president of corporate affairs from 1994 to 2000. That did not prevent her from managing the PC Party’s 1997 election campaign under Mr. Charest, who had inherited the leadership from Ms. Campbell. Ms. White guided the party back from the edge of oblivion (only two MPs) garnering 10 times as many seats, mostly in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.

After that, Ms. White turned her attention to a growing consultancy practice and to working with numerous non-profit organizations. She became president of the Public Policy Forum, a brain trust that sought to bring together people from the public and private sector to better create public policy.

And she turned to Tides Canada, for what would be her last great hurrah. The West Coast-based organization was in a battle with the Stephen Harper government over the role of foreign contributions in Tides’s environmental and Indigenous initiatives. Ms. White became chair of the Tides board.

Conservative dogmatists argued that U.S. money was pushing Tides into projects that conflicted with Canadian resource extraction, thereby harming the economy. The government launched “a predatory audit campaign” against Tides, said Ross McMillan, then company president and chief executive. Projects such as the Great Bear Rainforest agreement were at issue.

“Jodi was a huge asset in our talks with levels of government across the country,” Mr. McMillan said. And, eventually, the battle was won.

“Jodi brought backbone to Tides,” said Velma McColl, a principal at Earnscliffe Strategies in Ottawa, “and kept them on track.”

“She’s not ego-driven – doesn’t need public recognition, Ms. McColl noted. “This gives her great strength.”

Nevertheless, Ms. White did receive recognition for her accomplishments, including induction as a member of the Order of Canada in 2013 and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Carleton in 2016.

Janice Charette, a former Clerk of the Privy Council and another big fan of Ms. White, said: “She knows how to work with people and she inspires loyalty.”

Globe and Mail columnist Sheema Khan credits Ms. White with breaking down barriers in Ottawa’s political establishment.

In 2015, Ms. White, a member of the exclusive Rideau Club Roundtable, arranged an invitation for Ms. Khan, a hijab-wearing Muslim who was born in India, to address members of the group at the exclusive Ottawa club where they have met for 40 years. Ms. White had heard Ms. Khan challenge Senator Marjory LeBreton at an event marking International Women’s Day. She had asked the former Harper cabinet minister why Conservatives make Muslims feel excluded, make them feel like “the other” and Ms. White was impressed.

At the Roundtable, Ms. Khan was a bit taken aback. “It was quite the crowd,” she said, including the likes of Joe Clark, Beverley McLachlin, Jeffrey Simpson, Monique Bégin. “I felt like a deer in the headlights.”

But the Harvard graduate and legal expert on scientific patents was a big success.

True to form, Ms. White was proud of Ms. Khan for speaking so forthrightly and put her up for membership in the Roundtable, to which Ms. Khan still belongs.

You can find more obituaries from The Globe and Mail here.

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Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Jodi White arranged for Sheema Khan to speak at the Rideau Club, an upscale private club in Ottawa. In fact, she arranged for Ms. Khan to speak at the Rideau Club Roundtable, an exclusive discussion group at the club. The obituary also contained errors regarding statements made elsewhere by Ms. Khan. At an International Women’s Day luncheon in Ottawa, Ms. Khan did not ask Senator Marjory LeBreton “Why do Conservatives hate Muslims?” She asked why Conservatives make Muslims feel excluded from society. These errors have been corrected.

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