Ex-Ottawa mayor Jim Durrell, pictured here in his home on Dec. 29, 2012, was awarded the Order of Canada.
Photograph by: Jean Levac , Ottawa Citizen/Postmedia News
OTTAWA ? When Jim Durrell got a phone call on Dec. 3 from Rideau Hall, and was told it concerned the Order of Canada, he assumed he was being asked to vouch for a nominee as part of a reference check.
When he was told that he was being appointed a Member of the Order, he replied, ?I?m speechless ? and that doesn?t happen very often to me.?
And as part of the award process, he was told he had to remain mum on the matter until its official announcement Dec. 30.
?It?s been the hardest secret I?ve ever had to keep,? he said.
But it?s finally official, and the former Ottawa mayor is now, along with 90 other distinguished countrymen and women, a newly minted member of the Order of Canada, free to hang the letters C.M. (or, in the case of the vaunted Companions and Officers of the Order, C.C. and O.C., respectively) after his name. Or simply mention them in conversation.
Durrell, 66, was appointed to the order for his decades-long contributions to Ottawa as mayor, businessman and volunteer. He?ll be presented his award by Governor General David Johnston at date still to be announced.
?To be honoured by your country like this is special,? he said over the weekend. ?To be recognized by your peers and community for things you don?t look to be recognized for is nice.
?My dad raised us with the mantra that the world should be a better place because you?ve been here, and that?s just how I lived and have raised our kids to live.?
He added that he hopes the beneficiaries of his and other appointees will be their children and grandchildren.
?I have grandkids who are six and four and who wouldn?t have any idea what the Order of Canada is,? he said, ?but I hope that as they grow older and start to understand and look back, one of the legacies I?ll leave is that everybody?s got to chip in to make this world a better place.?
Durrell was first elected to city council in 1980, and took over as mayor five years later when, following Marion Dewar?s resignation from the post, he defeated Marlene Catterall with nearly 60 per cent of the vote. Three years later, with no serious contenders running against him, he was the runaway winner for a second term, capturing more than 85 per cent of the ballots cast.
During his time as Ottawa?s mayor, Durrell was a strong proponent of raising the city?s profile through sports and tourism, and was instrumental in helping the city?s CFL franchise get a tax grant, bringing Triple-A baseball to town, hosting the 1988 Grey Cup and spearheading a bid to host the 1994 Commonwealth Games.
He was also part of the group that brought the Ottawa Senators back to the NHL and, in 1990, while still mayor, became the team?s first president, a career overlap that was criticized by many as a conflict of interest. In January 1991, he announced he was stepping down as mayor to devote all his efforts to the fledgling hockey club. He remained president for two years.
He currently owns Capital Dodge Chrysler Jeep and serves on a number of boards, including as past chairman of the Ottawa International Airport and chairman of the Ottawa Convention Centre.
His volunteer work extends to numerous organizations, including the Salvation Army, the Ottawa Hospital Foundation, Kiwanis, the United Way and his church.
His Order of Canada medal caps off a year filled with tributes. In June he was awarded the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce?s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award, and three months later was given the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. In November, he received the Order of Ottawa.
?If somebody had ever told me 45 years ago (that) this would be your life, I would have just said, ?Wow, what a ride!? I don?t know how else to describe it.?
Apart from its 53rd mayor, Ottawa?s halls of power, past and present, are well-represented in the latest group of Order of Canada appointees, with former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Louise Charron earning one of two nods to the Order?s Companion level, the highest of its three ranks. The other was given to Montreal banker and Concordia University chancellor L. Jacques M?nard.
Additionally, Sheila Copps and Brian Tobin ? half of the federal Liberal party?s 1980s-era Rat Pack ? were made Officers of the Order of Canada, as were MP and former Montreal Canadiens? goalie Ken Dryden, aboriginal leader Phil Fontaine and former MP Howard McCurdy. Journalists Stevie Cameron and Michael Enright were also made members of the Order.
Other notable recipients announced Sunday include writer Kildare Dobbs; former NHLer and 1972 Summit Series hero Paul Henderson; Quebec judo coach Hiroshi Nakamura; Dani?le Sauvageau, who coached the women?s national hockey team to a gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics; Indigo Books founder Heather Reisman; and cosmetics icon Lise Watier.
? Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen