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Ryan Gosling was just Ken: The Hub’s stand-out Canadians of 2023

Commentary

There were plenty of news stories of Canadians not making the best decisions in 2023 (*ahem*). But instead of getting bogged down by all the negativity, here at The Hub we see no harm in highlighting the postive things in life. We figured the best way to do that would be to stop and take a moment during the holiday break to appreciate some of our fellow country folks’ contributions to the year that was. We asked The Hub staff and contributors to nominate Canadians they thought made a positive impact, no matter how big or small, on Canada and the world in 2023.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin: ‘A towering figure’ in world music

By Howard Anglin

As a part-time ex-pat, I would like to speak up for the contributions to Canada that Canadians can make from outside her borders. Raising a country’s profile abroad while feeding its pride at home is a real contribution to national identity. I speak from direct observation of Canadians earnestly regaling indifferent foreigners with which B-list Hollywood actors are Canadian (Jason Priestly! Alan Thicke! Seth Rogen!).

This year, the international stage offers rather juicier pickings: Celine Song, writer-director of the acclaimed debut film, Past Lives; Ryan Gosling, star of the year’s most popular movie, Barbie ($1.4 billion worldwide and counting); and Sarah Bernstein, whose second novel, Study for Obedience, was short-listed for the Booker Prize.

But I am going with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the musical director of two of the world’s most important orchestras, the Metropolitan Opera and Philadelphia. Although there was no one thing that vaulted his 2023 above any other year since he took over the Met’s baton, I don’t think most Canadians appreciate the towering figure he is becoming year-by-year in world music. To get a sense of his omnipresent impact, just look at his last month:

· November 19th, he led his hometown Orchestre Métropolitain in a crowd-pleasing performance of Shostakovich’s “Leningrad” symphony.

· He then returned to New York, where he is conducting the Met’s production of Florencia en el Amazonas until December 14.

· November 28th, he led the Philadelphia Orchestra, Itzhak Perlman, and Jonathan Biss at Carnegie Hall.

· November 30th and December 1st, he stepped in for an ailing Daniel Barenboim with the Staatskapelle Berlin at Carnegie Hall in what was supposed to be the 81-year legend’s American swan song, but instead became another tribute to Nézet-Séguin’s versatility as he conducted the four Brahms symphonies over two nights.

And if that weren’t enough, his marathon Rachmaninoff concert with Yuja Wang earlier this year was just named one of the Best Classical Musical Performances of 2023 by the New York Times, and his fingerprints are all over Bradley Cooper’s performance as Leonard Bernstein in Maestro, which opens this month. Few Canadians have done more to raise Canada’s cultural profile with some of the most important audiences in the world.

Elliot Kaufman meets the moment

By Sean Speer

Since Hamas’ horrific terrorist attacks against Israel on October 7, there’s been a lot of morally specious analysis and commentary in a lot of mainstream news outlets. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page has been a clear exception. It has emerged as a key source of information, analysis, and moral clarity over the past few months. A big factor has been a 27-year-old Canadian named Elliot Kaufman. 

Kaufman grew up in Toronto and started reading the National Post at an age when most of us still aspired to play centre for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Soon he was writing letters to the editor and unwittingly launching his eventual trajectory into journalism. 

After attending Stanford University, Kaufman held fellowships and internships at major American conservative outlets, including National Review and the WSJ. He joined the WSJ full-time in 2018 as an opinion editor. 

He became the letters editor in 2021, where he’s responsible for curating the newspaper’s highly-coveted letters page from start to finish. (I was pleased earlier this year when he asked me to contribute a letter on the Trudeau government’s neglect of defence and security issues.)

Since October 7, however, he’s also contributed to the WSJ’s editorials, particularly ones on Israel and its war with Hamas. It’s here where he’s distinguished himself for his first-rate mind and a maturity that far exceeds his age and youthful appearance. 

It’s not easy for a young Canadian to enter the U.S. journalism market and succeed. It’s big, crowded, and highly competitive. That Kaufman has not only accomplished a great deal so early in his burgeoning career, but also played a key role at the WSJ in a true moment of intellectual and moral test, speaks to the impressive progress that he’s made in establishing himself as an up-and-coming thinker and writer on the American Right.  

For that reason, I nominate him as a Canadian who has made a difference in 2023 and undoubtedly will continue to make a big difference in the world of ideas for the years to come. 

If Hub readers want to learn more about Elliot Kaufman, his background, and his worldview, you can check out his appearance on Hub Dialogues from July 2022. 

Lucia Bertelli is an invaluable community builder

By Patrick Luciani

I would like to recognize Lucia Bertelli, the head pharmacist at the local Shoppers Drug Mart in Little Italy in Toronto, as deserving of recognition as a community builder. Not in the political sense—there are plenty who fill that gap—but as someone who leaves those she encounters better for doing so. Lucia has an infectious personality with her lilting Italian accent that delights everyone who hears it. Over the years, she has tended to thousands of clients, helping them with their prescriptions, and ensuring they take them properly. Her clients have come to love her and her dedication. In return, she has come to love the hundreds of locals and immigrants who depend on her. She’s a whirlwind of activity, dispensing pills and homespun wisdom on health and life. She kept everyone’s spirits up during COVID. 

Many times, she has followed up on whether I’m taking my medication as prescribed. Undoubtedly, other pharmacists have that same dedication, but her sense of responsibility to her community and clients seems unique. There are thousands of communities throughout Canada with Lucia Bertellis that make our country better; this is to thank one of them. 

Canada’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander during the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Americas Qualifiers in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, August 25, 2022. Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press.
SGA, Canada’s MVP

By L. Graeme Smith

Steve Nash, for all his professional accolades, never quite made his mark on the international stage. This is not to diminish Canada’s greatest basketballer. Nash led Team Canada to the Olympic stage in Sydney in 2000, but despite his herculaen talent and a surprising four wins, including an upset over powerhouse Spain, Canada’s tournament ended in tears in the quarter-finals.

They have not been back since.This dubious record applies only on the men’s side of things. The women’s team have more than held their own and have had considerable more success on the world stage in the intervening years. But that ignominious streak will end with the upcoming 2024 games. In one of the country’s best sporting stories of the year, Canada’s men’s team qualified for the Paris Olympics this past summer behind the brilliance of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who led the team to a third-place finish in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Already an All-NBA player and All-Star in the NBA, the 25-year-old emerging superstar proved, on the biggest stage of his career to date, that his blood runs as cold as his slippery, slithering play suggests.

A win over Spain, the reigning World Cup champions, was enough for Canada to qualify for the main event next summer. Going on to upset USA in overtime to win bronze—the first-ever men’s World Cup medal in the country’s history—was just the delicious capper to the tournament.

Canada basketball unequivocally once again has their man. SGA—with a (black) hat-tip to Dillon Brooks, his sneering villain of a backcourt partner—was the man most responsible for the tremendous result this past summer. He is the deserving figurehead for what could be a golden era of Canada basketball and a worthy successor to Steve Nash.

Three young Canadians Vladimir Putin despises

By Harrison Lowman

This November, 25-year-old Austin Lathlin-Bercier sacrificed his life for a free Ukraine. The Cree man from Manitoba enlisted in the Ukrainian army in March 2022 after spending time travelling in Europe. His hope was to later join the Canadian Armed Forces, having participated in a program for Indigenous youth and receiving laser eye surgery upon discovering his poor vision disqualified from the infantry. When he heard the war broke out Lathlin-Bercier knew he had to help. “I couldn’t just stand by while a sovereign country was attacked by an authoritarian regime. Seeing all the people losing their homes and loved ones, while Russia was indiscriminately killing civilians and committing war crime after war crime, it was extremely infuriating,” he wrote in a Facebook post.  Lathlin-Bercier was reported missing on Remembrance Day. He joins around 10 other Canadians who have died fighting in the conflict.

In 2023, 36-year-old Giancarlo Fiorella spent hundreds of hours painstakingly scanning the web for atrocities. The senior investigator at Bellingcat, a Netherlands-based digital open-source investigative group, helped lead a project that allows people around the world to crowdsource incidents of civilian death in the war in Ukraine. This geo-located evidence of the bombing of schools, and hospitals, initially recorded by those on the ground, picked up by volunteers aboard, and verified by Fiorella may be accepted in the International Criminal Court as examples of war crimes. 

This year, 29-year-old university drop-out turned director Daniel Roher experienced what he described as “a fever dream whirlwind”, winning Best Documentary at the Oscars for his thriller Navalny, focused on Russia’s most prominent opposition figure. In the film, Roher captures in real time Navalny prank calling the Kremlin hit squad that poisoned him, pretending to be a high-ranking Russian FSB secretary. They confess, exposing their plot to murder him. Roher aimed an international spotlight on the dissident when many never knew who he was or had forgotten him. While Navalny is currently trapped somewhere in the Russian prison system serving a trumped up 30-year sentence, and is also someone who does court controversy, he is the closest thing Russia has to a leader who could bring down Putin once and for all. 

Ravi Kahlon, housing hero

By Chris Spoke

Ravi Kahlon was appointed as British Columbia’s housing minister just over a year ago. Since then, he’s kickstarted a number of high-impact initiatives to increase the supply of housing in the province.

The most important might be a new requirement that municipalities designate transit-oriented development areas within 800 meters of rapid transit stations and 400 metres of major bus exchanges. Developers would be permitted to build high density midrise and highrise housing within these areas.

Another personal favourite is the start of a year-long process to update the province’s building code to allow for taller buildings to be built with a single point of egress. That change, as esoteric as it sounds, would have a meaingful impact on the viability of small scale multi-unit development and on the provision of more family-sized units.

He’s done more this year than any other politician in the country to advance the cause of housing availability and affordability. If he maintains that same pace and commitment to reform over the next couple of years, history will remember him very kindly.

B.C. Minister of Housing and Government House Leader Ravi Kahlon speaks during an announcement about the construction of new modular housing projects to house the homeless, in Vancouver, on Wednesday, December 14, 2022. Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press.
The valuable lessons of Mark Critch and Anthony Rota

By Alisha Rao

My choice for a Canadian who has had a positive impact this year would have to be anyone from This Hour has 22 Minutes cast (Trent McClellan, Aba Amuquandoh, Stacey McGunnigle, and Mark Critch). I’ll simplify my answer and say 22 Minutes anchor Mark Critch. I can always appreciate satirizing the news to be a form of destressing during rather tenuous times, and Critch has provided ample entertainment in this capacity. His discussion with East Coast premiers on fish and chips and heading to the United Nations with Bob Rae provided real insights, even if it had a comedic twist. As Critch says in a recent episode, where he critiques entrepreneur and American presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy’s desire to build a wall at the U.S.-Canadian border, we should be building bridges, not breaking them.

My other (non-serious) choice for a Canadian who had a positive impact would be Anthony Rota, who, by dint of his unfortunate example, showed us that it is important to not celebrate Nazis, inadvertently or otherwise, and the benefits of knowing history and understanding political contexts. At the end of the day, though, Rota’s blunder in the House of Commons has led to Canadians across the aisles to reaffirm that Nazism should be condemned. That’s a good thing, right? 

Ryan Gosling was just Ken

By Amal Attar-Guzman

On the lighter side of things, a Canadian who has made a positive artistic and cultural contribution to Canada—and globally—during the past year is Ryan Gosling in his rendition as Ken in Greta Gerwig’s 2023 summer blockbuster film Barbie. 

Not only did his role make millions jeer and laugh, but it portrayed important sociocultural themes—from self-identity, individuality, and gender norms—relevant to today’s present climate. Many, regardless of gender, found his role to be useful in facilitating difficult and yet important conversations surrounding equality, masculinity, self-esteem, alienation, and the importance of dressing for the occasion. Deservedly, he has already has been nominated for a 2024 Golden Globe.

Whether or not Gosling’s performance wins any awards on the world stage, we could do worse than to follow the lead of our fellow Kenadian and take his attitude into 2024: he was just Ken, and that was more than Kenough.

‘Cash is cold. Gifts are warm and meaningful’: The best comments from Hub readers this week

Commentary

This past week saw Hub readers discuss zero-emissions vehicle regulations, the impact of the Online News Act, a green agenda for conservatives, and whether spending on gifts remains a meaningful tradition or reflects inefficient spending, among other topics.

The goal of Hub Forum is to bring the impressive knowledge and experience of The Hub community to the fore and to foster open dialogue and the competition of differing ideas in a respectful and productive manner. Here are some of the most interesting comments from this past week.

Sign up for our daily Hub Forum email newsletter today.

Zero-emission vehicle regulations put auto industry competitiveness at risk

Monday, December 18, 2023

“From what I’ve read, the infrastructure to a hydrogen fuel alternative could easily be put in place. Existing service stations could easily retrofit gas dispensers, existing gas powered vehicles could be retrofitted to run on hydrogen. Why then is the federal government pushing EV vehicles, where the infrastructure to generate and supply a reliable electric power grid to meet future demand will cost billions?

Why is the federal government paying out subsidies towards purchase of these overpriced vehicles to individuals and companies, and why are companies such as Canadian Tire being subsidized to add electronic charging stations to their sites?”

Arthur Larner

The government surrenders to reality with rewritten Online News Act—and pleases no one

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

“Despite the failure of its ‘101 Dalmatians’ approach in trying to save all the puppies, the Liberals naively roll along in the belief there isn’t any problem in the market that can be solved through their unique brand government meddling. What’s more surprising is the willingness of many across the country to go along with that and ask them for more.”

RJKWells

“Our news media has caused its own demise with a combination of outright lies and slanted journalism.”

Kim

The CBC prioritizes allyship over objectivity in Saskatchewan parental consent coverage: An empirical analysis

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

“I look to the news providers to obtain facts and information so that I can form my own views and perspectives. Any other perspective is derided and presented in a condescending manner. Thus I have stopped watching and listening to the CBC. It is a shame because it used to be my ‘go to’ for facts and neutral reporting.”

Susan

“CBC needs a massive overhaul not only to correct its lack of objectivity but to improve its quality.”

Ted Kelly

A green agenda for true blue conservatives

Thursday, December 21, 2023

“We should re-vitalize our CANDU reactor program and export this vital Canadian-made energy source. We are world leaders in nuclear energy and have the largest uranium deposits in the world. Lastly, we need pipelines to the east and west coasts to export our petroleum, thereby decreasing the reliance on corrupt governments exporting dirty oil.

richard webber

“If we want Canadians to be environmentalists, the average citizen can’t feel like he or she is starving or could be in the future. Pro-growth policies that stimulate the economy and raise the standard of living are really the only sustainable path to a climate friendly agenda being accepted.”

Gord Edwards

Christmas gifts: Worthwhile tradition or inefficient waste of time and money?

Friday, December 22, 2023

“Cash is cold. Gifts are warm and meaningful.”

Paul

“Well, yes and no: Obviously for kids, Santa and Christmas presents are sacrosanct. That to me is the real magic of Christmas (and yes, not negating the miracle of the birth of Jesus Christ, don’t hate me). Christmas Gifts bring joy to the little ones. Children, like others without income, are dependent on charity for their possessions. Adults, especially affluent adults, are likely to buy whatever they need/want whenever they need/want it and so gift giving becomes less meaningful.”

Peter Byrne