News / Ottawa

The other side of Deborah Coyne

The Green party candidate in the newly created Ottawa riding of Carleton opens up her son's Asperger diagnosis, starting a hockey team and her love of Meryl Streep movies.

Deborah Coyne is the Green party candidate in Carleton.

Ilana Reimer / For Metro

Deborah Coyne is the Green party candidate in Carleton.

For Deborah Coyne, politics and personality go hand in hand. Her book, Unscripted: A Life Devoted to Building a Better Canada, was intended as a memoir, but you have to sift through pages and pages of Canadian political history before you find any details on her personal life.

A reader as well as a writer, Coyne, the Green party candidate in the Carleton riding, particularly enjoys biographies and history books.

“You should come to my apartment – you’ll see,” Coyne said, laughing. “There’s a lot (of books).”

Coyne is also an avid movie-watcher. She leans toward comedy, but values good acting as well. She will watch anything with Meryl Streep. This was one of the interests she shared with Pierre Trudeau during their famous relationship.

As the single mother of two children, Coyne’s taste in movies expanded to include Disney. Her son, Matthew, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at a young age.

“He’s always been very visual, and so for any parent with a child like Matthew, you’re looking at how to get his language skills up,” she said. “I think that’s why we became such movie-goers.”

In Unscripted, Coyne touches briefly on Matthew’s diagnosis. “It made parenthood fascinating, challenging, and sometimes a nearly all-consuming commitment,” she wrote.

But to Coyne, the most important thing was raising her children. She admitted that she’s had to make a number of compromises.

“The kids come first,” she said. “Which is possibly why I’m still not elected.”

Her other interests include sailing and hockey. Coyne said that one of her greatest achievements was starting the women’s hockey club at Oxford in 1982.

“I tried cricket, but my pitching wasn’t quite right, so I thought, ‘why the heck not?’” She became captain of the team, which is still running today.

Coyne also enjoys travelling on a low budget because it gives her a down-to-earth view of what the life, politics and conditions are like in different countries. She has backpacked alone through places like India, Pakistan and China.

“You really have to be there, in the moment, to figure out what is going on,” she said. “It is an eye opener.”

Her father was an enormous influence in Coyne’s life. He taught her and her four siblings about fairness, paying attention to the world around them and helping to make a difference.

Coyne said that growing up in Ottawa, life was political from the get-go. She considered going into medicine, but got hooked on history, economics and public policy instead.

Her belief is that politics is about the people, and that it is they who need to be persuaded of the merit of something before it goes forward.

“She is driven, compassionate and unrelenting when it comes to things she cares about,” said long-term friend Paul Torrie. He met Coyne at Osgoode Hall in 1977, and they organized regular public debates together.

Coyne said that she handles the cynicism in politics with a good sense of humour and determined positivity.

Pierre Trudeau also referred to her as “the wild optimist,” a description that could hardly be better illustrated than by her switch to the Green party from the Liberals last February. Coyne said the move was based on her desire pursue change, certainly not a grapple for power.

“I am really, passionately interested in the future of this country,” she said.

With the federal election now in full swing, Metro Ottawa and Algonquin College have teamed up to provide the most comprehensive campaign coverage in the city.

More on