By Andrew Macdonald
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Newly minted at age 50 as a government lobbyist, Greg MacEachern is firing on all cylinders in Ottawa.
The Cape Breton native also dabbles as a political pundit on the CTV news network — a media role he has performed since 2008.
A senior vice-president with Environics, his roster of lobby clients is impressive.
To give you a sample of his clients, he does lobby and government relations work for Netflix, eBay Canada, and The Home Depot.
Born in Parrsboro on the shores of the Bay of Fundy, MacEachern grew up in a politically active family in Port Hawkesbury.
His father, the late well known Allan MacEachern (no relation to Allan J. MacEachen), served as Liberal campaign manager at times, including in 1988, the rare time that Tory Billy Joe MacLean lost an election.
Greg’s late mother, Anne Marie MacEachern ably ran the office of then Cape Breton MP Francis LeBlanc, who served from 1988 to 1997.
Greg cut his teeth in Liberal trenches in Halifax, when he was a Liberal caucus researcher under the John Savage regime, and later went on to serve as communications director to Premier Russell MacLellan, and Danny Graham.
He also did a stint as executive assistant when Shelburne MLA Cliff Huskilson went into the MacLellan cabinet, a job that developed a long close friendship with the Huskilson family.
After he left Halifax in 2004 for the bright political lights in Ottawa, he worked for cabinet ministers in the Paul Martin administration, and for a time did PR work for the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
For a time, he was also assistant to Liberal MP Belinda Stronach.
On the TV pundit role, he has appeared on the CTV news network since 2008 on its show Power Play, dispensing political chatter along with a panel that includes a Tory supporter and NDP toiler.
The show airs Friday afternoons in Atlantic Canada at 6:20 p.m. and 9:20 p.m..
“When I am in Halifax, I always tape out of Robie Street (at CTV Atlantic HQ), and Steve Murphy always calls me over to chat and give me a couple of kind words and treats me very good and makes me feel very good about my contributions to political commentary,” says MacEachern.
“When I first started with CTV, Power Play was on the Mike Duffy show,” MacEachern tells The Macdonald Notebook.
MacEachern has a BA degree from Saint FX University.
The job that he learned about the political trade was when undertaker Clifford Huskilson went into the Russell MacLellan cabinet in the minority government, and MacEachern was hired as executive assistant by Huskilson.
“It was a huge opportunity. I learned a ton from Clifford. I spent a lot of time with Clifford and his family in Shelburne, they are a terrific kind and generous family,” says MacEachern.
“I still talk to him all the time, and his son Andrew and I are good friends as well.” Andrew is an undertaker in the family business.
Clifford is back in the mortician role. “Clifford is probably done with politics – but never say never,” quips MacEachern.
“His daughter Andrea is a school board trustee and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Andrew at some point throw his hat into the political ring,” adds MacEachern.
MacEachern logged six months with Danny Graham when he was Liberal party leader. “We probably weren’t suited to each other, and I moved on in 2003 to City Hall, working in then mayor Peter Kelly’s office.
In Ottawa, he worked for Martin ministers Geoff Regan and Reg Alcock, the latter who was president of the Treasury Board, a role now performed by Valley MP Scott Brison.
“Sometimes I was seconded to the Martin PMO to help with media relations,” says MacEachern. “I was the East Coast media wrangler for Martin in the 2004 and 2006 elections.”
A self-described political junkie, “I find politics tremendously interesting and I have seen and done a lot in Ottawa.
“I grew up in the house where the news was very important. We always had a couple of daily newspaper subscriptions, the weekly subscriptions to the Scotia Sun (where I once worked) and the Port Hawkesbury Reporter. My dad used to buy the Globe and Mail when no one knew what the Globe and Mail was, and we watched the supper hour news on TV and the National at night,” notes MacEachern.
“Conversation at the supper table — you were expected to know current affairs and be able to contribute to the conversations. My parents felt very strongly about that.
“I see the decline of media today — it is very concerning. There is an old joke, ‘A well informed citizen panics much more intelligently’,” he observes.
“Growing up in Port Hawkesbury in a mill town that made both pulp and newsprint, you knew how important the newspaper industry was and is.”
MacEachern is on friendly terms with national media – and many journalists attended his recent 50th birthday bash when MacEachern rented out an entire Ottawa pub.
He was also close to former Globe journalist Jane Taber, who is now doing PR work for National PR, based in Toronto.
“Having done national work for Paul Martin on two occasions, you get to know the national media and the members of the Ottawa Press Gallery.
“Again 12 or 14 years since, a lot of journalists have changed or moved on.”
MacEachern also does a satellite radio political show and contributes to the Hill Times, the weekly paper which covers Parliament from gavel to gavel.
Having dealt with MacEachern on political machinations since 1995, the year I took my first Halifax media job, I’d say he also has the makings of being a first rate journalist. He certainly has a robust political contact data base.
“I sometimes wonder if I should have gone into journalism as I am a fan of media,” he says. “I am a pretty pragmatic person and decided politics was more appropriate for me.”
I asked MacEachern if there will ever be a future run for public office?
“Probably not. I am not suited to be a candidate. Candidates and families put up with a lot. Being a politician is a big sacrifice and I am more than content to advise and observe for politicians, than being the main political participant.”
Each summer, MacEachern tries to visit Parrsboro where his mother grew up, and where many friends of the MacEachern family reside.
At times, MacEachern has toyed with the idea of buying a cottage on the Bay of Fundy, but has decided against the idea for now because he spends a great deal of time in Ottawa.
I asked if he has any future plans to move back to Nova Scotia and Halifax, but MacEachern says he is content living in the nation’s capital.