By now, Public Eye readers should be familiar with Christopher Ian Bennett, the national voice for federal Green leadership hopeful Elizabeth May. But what you may not know is that Mr. Bennett - who has worked on federal Liberal election and nomination campaigns - was also once rumoured to be the chairman of The 20 Club, a "secret society of the young intellectual elite." And he can "quote the great political thinkers from Aurelius to Voltaire, while naming every B-side single brit-rock sensations Oasis ever made." These are just some of the highlights of a 2004 article authored by J.A. Ryan. In an interview with Public Eye, Mr. Bennett explained Mr. Ryan "was an old buddy from my Whistler days. And when I came down here (to Vancouver) he wrote a little thing. It was, I think, more of a promotional piece trying to make me look good. And he's quite a fan. And he wanted (my business) to get running." Mr. Bennett also disclosed he's planning on "making the switch" and joining the Greens. The following is a complete copy of that article, which was originally posted on PRWeb - a press release service for small businesses.
Wonder Boy is Back.Bennett Coastal
Communications Strategist Christopher Bennett is changing the political landscape of Canada. Wonderboy is back, and his business is growing.
Vancouver BC (PRWEB) February 19, 2004--As a freelance journalist, I seek out stories with an unusual appeal, hoping to catch the attention of various editors. A year and a half ago, I met Christopher Ian Bennett - or "Wonderboy" as some of his peers have labeled him. He has been working the political backrooms of Canadian political campaigns, and his ideas on communications could change Canadian politics significantly.
You don't know him yet-But Christopher Bennett is going to be your voice in Ottawa one day. Bennett is the CEO of Bennett Coastal Consulting, a small political communications firm in Vancouver, Canada. A small company, his staff is only 3 people, and yet there is no shortage of big name politicians who have sought his surprising wisdom. As he walks into The Lennox Pub on Granville street, everyone knows him. He has arrived. He's in a good mood as he sits down, he's going to be busy this year. A pint appears in front of him before he even orders. I find myself envious of this type of service. I make a note to mention this to my own neighborhood bartender. His fingers seem worn; I think he bites his nails. The grandson of a British Navy admiral, he seems comfortable in a UK-style pub. "Grandad always ended his day with a pint...or two!" He smiles as we shake hands. He's in a good mood today-something the waitress tells me is unusual for a weekday. I'm told he works too much, and takes his job very seriously. "I wish the Prime Minister would call an election" he announces. I suspect his sarcasm is laced with sincerity. Bennett has met his match in Taleeb Noormohamed, an impressive young liberal seeking the Liberal party's nomination in the riding of Vancouver-Centre. As Noormohamed's director of communications, Bennett is anxious to display what he considers "Generation-Next Politics"
"When we last sat down, I talked about the shift in politics, and how young people are becoming more active. The great thing is that the Prime Minister has embraced this idea (surprisingly) and he's not protecting anyone under his name. This is a gift for young politics! This is our chance! Generation-Next needs to step up and make Canada functional again." Bennett says with no uncertain satisfaction. It's easy to write about the young politicians, the dashing up-and-comers of "generation next", but its Bennett that seems to have all the answers. I ask him about the unusual absence of young people in the backrooms of politics. He is quick to disagree.
"No way, first of all, young is relative term - I'm 25, is that young? I think you'll see more and more twenty-somethings involved in politics as the appeal and opportunities start to present themselves." Bennett insists.
A good freelancer does their homework, and it is hard to ignore the rumors of the "The 20 Club". I'm dying to ask him about "The 20 Club", and if he really is the chairman of this secret society of the young intellectual elite. Rumor and speculation about a "young executives society" of the most exceptional men and women in Vancouver seem to associate themselves with Wonderboy. Two anonymous, but esteemed business people in Vancouver have confirmed it. The myth is that this is one group where membership can't be bought, or sought. "The 20 Club" finds you. I offer to buy him another pint of Carlsberg (his favorite) if he'll talk about it. "I'm not interested in going there. I wouldn't know anything about it." His grin is all too familiar. To someone who doesn't know him, his coy grin is mistaken as arrogance. "He's a Bennett alright. Bennett's aren't arrogant, they're just really self-assured." Says a close family friend, asking to remain nameless.
"He'll kill me if he knew I said that!" It seems that Bennett Coastal is shrouded in secrecy, and that's just the way Bennett likes it. There are names like former Deputy Prime Minister John Manley to his credit. He will confirm that William J. Kurchak is his current Mentor. He speaks highly of Bill, a former writer and a trusted associate of P.E. Trudeau. "I asked him a year ago to take me on, and he has become a very important person in my life. He is a class act all the way." Kurchak, a gifted writer in his own right, was taught English by current Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson. I can only imagine the pride his mentor will feel one day, as he watches his protege take flight.
There is a vast group of politicians who have sought his services. Many US Senators and congressmen have used his communications strategies, but he refuses to name them. It seems Bennett enjoys a good mystery. "Silent Pride" he calls it. Bennett won't talk about the standing ovations his speeches have birthed at the hands of great business leaders across the country. You would never guess the languages he can speak with an uncanny accent. He won't tell you he was a Cello player, and plays classical guitar. You'd never know he was a brilliant poet unless I we printed it. I have to hear about it from others. His silence is respect for his work, he insists, oddly enough. His modesty is overshadowed be his passion for politics and ideas. Maybe he doesn't want his other employers to know how sharp he really is. He doesn't think it's about him-yet.
There is still speculation he will run for elected office at some point. To be honest, I hope he will soon. Most people I've spoken with agree. He has real solutions to real problems. To say he is brilliant would be a literary understatement. He is a natural politician, without question. I revisit the famous question as he takes a sip. "Yes. Yes I will run someday, are you happy Jason?" He laughs, pretending to strangle me. "But that is a long way off-there is still so much for me to learn. I'm really focusing on understanding business right now - it's a fascinating study." he assures me with a more serious tone. Then he laughs that Bennett laugh again. It's a wild laugh, as he leans back and claps his hands, struggling to control himself. It is an honest laugh, something I find rare in those that I interview. His laugh is contagious, as the patrons around us appear to catch his energy and smile as well. I notice there is no shortage of women that drop by to say hello either. I make a note to spend more time with him in social settings. Everyone around him is comfortable-there is nothing artificial in the way he is, perhaps that's what makes him so appealing to politics. I can see he is indeed "Wonderboy", and he doesn't even know it yet. We talk for another 45 minutes about politics. What amazes me is I'm already feeling the effects of the alcohol he's been ordering me, and his sobriety appears firmly intact. He can quote the great political thinkers from Aurelius to Voltaire, while naming every B-side single brit-rock sensations Oasis ever made. I was warned by everyone he could talk politics all night long. I should not have taken those warnings in jest. He is articulate, passionate and fierce in his positions. One wonders if any opponent will ever be heard over his articulate insistence. One wonders what "Wonderdad" is like. His face changes when he talks about his father.
"My father is the best Prime Minister Canada will never have". For some reason, I believe that. He demonstrates on obvious admiration for his father. His son oozes charm and a dignified anger with the status of our national democracy. Most fathers should hope to have a son this passionate.
"If I can help shape the debate in the backrooms, with a candidate I believe in, I can make a difference." He says as he leans closer to me. He is whispering now. He seems almost romantic about his political passion. No doubt this romantic quality translates well with the ladies. I, on the other hand, am inspired. Journalists are not easily inspired these days, so I thank Wonderboy for his time, and wish him well until we next meet. He stays at the pub, he says he has a speech to write. I stumble home realizing I've left him with the tab. I presume I'm not the first person to do that to him. Hurry up Wonderboy, Canadian politics needs you.
J.A. Ryan (Freelance/AP)