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Five Calgary city councillors talk about their real names

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Calgarians might be surprised to learn that five city councillors do not use their real names.

It’s a curious thing, given that in politics your name often becomes part of your brand. 

Are these elected officials not being true to themselves? Or are they just going with what’s practical, comfortable or familiar?

It’s not your everyday question but I recently asked them:  Councillor, what’s your real name?

Without further ado, let’s meet these councillors. 

Councillor Harnirjodh Chahal ​

Coun. George Chahal chose his first name as a child. (CBC)

Chahal said his birth name is one with religious meanings and comes with a lot of history behind it. 

From Punjabi, he said it translates in English as, “God’s immortal warrior.”

But the rookie councillor said, “I like George.”

And he has been George since his pre-school days. 

He recalls how the switch came about as one day, when he was young, he got into trouble for something and he was asked for his name.

“I said my name was George Washington.”

Huh?

“I loved the name George and we’ve had some amazing people throughout history that were named George so why not?”

From then, he just kept using the name George.

Chahal said nobody calls him by his real name, not even his parents.

“I’ve actually considered legally even using George but I think out of respect to my parents and grandparents and generations before me, the importance of the name was given to me and out of respect for that, we’ll keep it as is.”

And by George, that’s how it will stay. 

Councillor Wen-Hsiang Chu

Coun. Sean Chu chose a name that sounds like part of his real name (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Sean Chu came to Canada in the 1980s from his native Taiwan.

But even before he arrived here, he said he was known as Sean.

Soon after came to his new country, he recalls being at a barbecue with friends. “The daughter said ‘Hey, your nickname is Sean. So why don’t you just use Sean. S-E-A-N.’ And I said ‘I like it.’ So at that time, that was how the idea started.”

When he applied for his first Canadian passport, Chu said he needed an affidavit stating that he’d been using Sean for a number of years and the name was added to Wen-Hsiang Chu in his passport.

Eventually Sean became his first name and Wen-Hsiang his middle name.

Now, he’s just Sean Chu.

He said his mom still calls him Wen-Hsiang but he feels no need to revert to his real name.  

Sean is, “who I am. Not changing it at all.” 

Councillor Prabhjote Gondek 

Coun. Jyoti Gondek goes by her nickname. (CBC)

The rookie councillor said it’s important for her to use her full and legal name whenever she signs documents.

But Prabhjote Gondek says she’s always been better known by a shorter version of her first name.

“Jyoti is the typical abbreviation for Prabhjote in Punjabi or Hindi. It’s very much like William is Bill or Bob is short for Robert,” said Gondek.

As for how that came about in her case, she said her parents started the habit but everyone has called her Jyoti since childhood.

“People who are of Indian origin get it because they’re used to it. People who are not tend to struggle with it,” she said.

“It’s a little bit like being an Indo-Canadian if you will, I find Peggy to be a very strange abbreviation for Margaret. Yet most people who are exposed to that name get it.”

And if you’re wondering about the meaning of Prabhjote, Gondek said it translates from Punjabi as “a little flame” or “light from God.”

“So when I light myself on fire in (council) chambers, now you know why!” 

All joking aside, she said that she hopes everyone known as Jyoti can, “get a little exposure out of people like me getting into positions like this.”

Councillor Eric Jones

Coun. Ray Jones uses a shortened version of his middle name, just like his dad. (CBC)

Who?

That’s right. Even the longest-serving member of Calgary city council isn’t known by his real name.

To most, he’s Ray or perhaps even Rundle Ray, his home community in northeast Calgary. But his real name is Eric. 

As for why he’s been known as Ray all his life, it sounds like either his dad’s to blame, or it’s what has become a family tradition.

“My dad was Thomas Alfred and he went by Alf. Second names. My son is Randall Scott and he goes by Scott. We all go by our second name,” said Jones.

“Except my girls. They go by their first names,” he said smiling.

Jones signs documents using his full name (Eric Raymond Jones) and uses Eric in email accounts too.

But does actually anyone call him Eric?

“My doctor. Revenue Canada,” he said laughing.

“Everyone calls me Ray.”

Councillor Biagio Magliocca

Ward 2 Coun. Joe Magliocca chose his name because it’s easier for many to pronounce than his Italian first name. (Mike Symington/CBC)

When he ran unsuccessfully for city council in 2007, his lawn signs said Biagio.

But in 2013 and 2017, the signs just said Joe. 

“Biagio is really a true, traditional Italian name and there’s a lot of Biagios in Italy,” said Magliocca who readily and often talks about his family’s heritage. 

But how he came to be Joe isn’t just a derivation of Biagio. 

Magliocca said many people couldn’t say his first name. “They’d say ‘bee-ah-jo’, ‘badge-jo’ and then they’d just call me ‘joe’ and I’d say ‘Just call me Joe. That’s my middle name. Just call me Joe.'”

He said when he visits Toronto, family members all call him Biagio. But to friends, it’s Joe. 

When he was growing up playing road hockey, one of the other kids on the street was a guy named Paul Coffey, who went on to become an all-star defenceman in the NHL.

“He used to call me Joe the Slasher,” laughs Magliocca, who jokes he’s moved on from shins to budgets.

Any thoughts about going back to the real deal, Biagio?

Nope.

“I heard a lot of feedback from a lot of people [in the 2007 election], saying I can’t even pronounce your name. How do you pronounce it?’ And I said: Just call me Joe.”

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25 Best Senators’ Memories From 25 Years at Canadian Tire Centre

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There is a special birthday in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata this weekend.

Canadian Tire Centre turns 25. Its doors first opened on Jan. 15, 1996, for a Bryan Adams concert. The Senators played their first game in their new arena on Jan. 17, 1996, when they lost to the visiting Montreal Canadiens.

I’ve spent a great deal of my life has at that arena. I don’t know how many Sens games I have been to there — I would ballpark it somewhere between 600 and 700. But I thought it would be fun to look back and share my 25 most memorable moments at the arena. I am not counting numerous concerts as great moments in the building — I often joke that the four best concerts I have ever seen there are Garth Brooks, Garth Brooks, Garth Brooks and Garth Brooks. I am not counting the 2009 World Juniors either. I am sticking entirely to the Sens.

25. Paul MacClone

Mike Watson was just sitting in his company seats, minding his own business, watching the Ottawa Senators take on the Florida Panthers on a January night during the 2012-13 season. The casual discussion among reporters after the game was how he broke Twitter.

Watson’s friends had told him that he looked like then-Senators’ head coach Paul MacLean. When he got face time on the new high-definition scoreboard, in the front row and directly behind the coach, the crowd buzzed and cheered.

Senators coach Paul MacLean had a doppelganger behind the bench.

The shot of Watson behind the bench spread quickly on social media. Surely, everyone thought, he must have been planted in that seat. He wasn’t. The last time he had sat in those seats, Cory Clouston was the coach, and no one noticed him.

As the season went on, the MacLean doppelganger became a local celebrity and was somewhat of a mascot during Ottawa’s playoff run.

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With spare parts and derring-do, Ottawa’s own Rocketman reinvents skating

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An Ottawa man is turning heads on frozen stretches of the Ottawa River with a homemade device he jokingly refers to as his “jetpack.”

In reality, Brydon Gibson’s gas-powered, propeller-driven invention is more Rona than NASA.

“I got my hands on some weed whacker motors and I figured strapping one on my back and making skating a little bit lazier would [be] a good idea,” said Gibson, 24.

He bolted a 38-centimetre propeller to a wooden frame, fashioned a throttle out of a brake handle and cable salvaged from a 10-speed bike, then added padded straps cut from a dollar store backpack. He laced up his skates, and suddenly Gibson was zipping along at speeds reaching 40 km/h. 

“I was actually getting a little scared at one point because I was going a little too fast,” the inventor admitted.

There are no brakes, but there is kill switch to cut the power “when something goes wrong,” said Gibson. “It’s actually a little finicky.”

This is not the first iteration of Gibson’s invention. As a teen, he built an electric propulsion device in his parents’ basement, though it never got to the testing phase.

“Ever since I was a kid … I’ve been taking apart things I found on the side of the road, making a mess of my parents basement, spreading electronics everywhere,” he said.

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‘It is frustrating’: U.S-educated nurse from Ottawa hits barriers to getting licensed in Ontario

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Before she accepted a swimming scholarship to attend Boston’s Northeastern University, Ottawa’s Rachael Geiger made sure it had the kind of nursing program she wanted. The school’s baccalaureate nursing program offered a fifth year of co-operative placement after four years of study — something Geiger thought would leave her well prepared for a career as a nurse when she returned home after university.

But it hasn’t worked out that way.

Two and a half years after graduating summa cum laude from Northeastern, the 25-year-old is unable to work as a registered nurse in Ontario.

Geiger said she was initially surprised, especially since she wrote the same licensing exam in Massachusetts as is written in Ontario, the NCLEX-RN exam. She is licensed to practise in Massachusetts and Illinois.

“I never thought it would be such a challenge.”

She and her family are frustrated at how difficult it has been for her to get registered to be able to practise in Ontario. That frustration is heightened by the fact that nurses have seldom been in such high demand in Canada and around the world as the COVID-19 pandemic strains health systems and shortages loom. Local hospitals are among those trying to recruit nurses. The Canadian Nurses Association has been warning that Canada will experience extreme shortages in coming years.

“It is frustrating to sit and see all the news about nursing shortages and not be able to help,” said Geiger.

Doris Grinspun, chief executive officer of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, the professional association that represents registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in the province, said she was “more than surprised” to hear of the difficulty Geiger has had.

But Grinspun, who initially studied nursing in Israel and then the U.S. before becoming one of the country’s nursing leaders, said the system of allowing foreign trained nurses to work in Ontario is unnecessarily slow and complicated and leads many valuable nurses to simply give up or find another career. Grinspun herself challenged the system when she first came to work in Ontario.

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