THE BLOG

The "O" Stands for Originality, or the Oxymoron to "Ottawa"

04/10/2013 05:03 EDT | Updated 06/10/2013 05:12 EDT

This week is momentous for legions of moms and women in general: the "Big O" is comin' to town. Yes, the former Queen of Television, the one then-Senator Obama called "possibly the most influential woman in the country," who Life Magazine called "the most influential black person of her generation": none other than Oprah Gail Winfrey.

The seismic jolt conjured by her name is enough to draw dignitaries and well-heeled men that go far beyond her expected audience of women.

So when Winfrey arrives today in the nation's capital -- her first-ever visit to Ottawa -- the Mayor Jim Watson will be there to bask in the residual glow of the venerable global phenomenon known by her unique one-word moniker.

Surely there must have been careful planning of this most anticipated visit between Harpo Inc. (yes, that's Oprah's company, which is her famous name spelled backwards) and the Mayor's office.

The Mayor tweeted that he would give Oprah some gifts -- a great idea. But what do you give to the billionaire Black woman who has everything? Who do you consult? How can you make a mark, draw her in, make a lasting impression?

Give her an NHL hockey jersey.

Really? Is that the best we could come up with?

This is the kind of choice that passes as "brilliant" when there is no diversity at the decision-making table. It's not the first time we've seen this visible vacuum surface like an oil spill -- a reminder that performance has not followed the usual platitudes of Canadian diversity.

This became evident when Bloomberg Businessweek magazine decided to publish cover art featuring an all-visible minority cast of greedy, cash-grabbing housing-bubble bursters.

There are many other "what were they thinking?" gauche incidents (Bank of Canada's "neutral ethnicity" fiasco) that could have been prevented by simply consulting a Binder full of Minorities to enhance the brainstorming (and vetting) process.

If the Mayor's office had consulted any number of Oprah-philes, the hundreds of thousands of televiewers who tuned into her show for 20 years, they would have come up with more appropriate, personalized ideas.

Here's my quick brainstorming list of top three gifts that Ottawa's Mayor should have offered to the Queen of Book Clubs the occasion of her first visit to Canada's capital.

1. A (signed?) copy of the soon-to-be classic Canadian novel "The Book of Negroes" by Lawrence Hill. The tome was awarded the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize and it was the winning selection for CBC Radio's Canada Reads in 2009. The epic story would make a great film, and maybe Oprah would want a part in bringing it to life if she were presented with the book in a grandiose way.

2. A (signed?) copy of "Half-Blood Blues" by Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan. The Giller-prize winning story might not have met Oprah's Book Club digest yet. Wouldn't it be grand to have the mayor of Canada's capital shine a light on Canadian literary talent?

3. A book entitled "Season of Rage: Hugh Burnett and the Struggle for Civil Rights." Rural Mississippi-born Oprah, herself being a product of the civil rights struggle in the American South, would appreciate learning about the lesser-known but equally important parallel journey in her neighbouring country.

Alas, Oprah Winfrey will have to pretend to venerate a National Hockey League team as much as her audience her gift-bearer does. Another wasted opportunity for the City already struggling to define itself to the world. The city that fun forgot also oh-mitted any oh-riginality for the Big O.