Dewar hopes to duplicate Broadbent’s success

By Janan Mosazai and Nicolina Lanni

When Paul Dewar’s university friends used to tell him he’d run for political office one day, he kept mum on the subject.
But now, the 42-year-old former schoolteacher who insists he doesn’t “plan things in advance” is the NDP candidate in Ottawa Centre, seeking to fill the shoes of retiring MP Ed Broadbent.
Dewar was born and raised in Ottawa, part of a family with a long history in community, church and local politics.
“I was socialized as a Catholic, but believe in social democratic values, NDP values,” Dewar says during an interview in his campaign office.
As a self-described progressive Catholic, Dewar says he has concerns about the church’s position on same sex marriage, women’s rights and birth control. He has attended the First United Church for the past four years.
Dewar says his mother – former Ottawa mayor and federal MP Marion Dewar – has been the inspiration for some of the core values and interests he holds dear. But he also credits his father Ken Dewar with shaping his formative years.
Dewar’s parents were well known to the local priest, who sent people in need to the Dewar household for food and protection. The family gave sanctuary to U.S. draft dodgers during the Vietnam War and also took in aboriginal citizens in need of help and hungry children. For several years, Dewar’s family cared for a malnourished child from a farming family.
Dewar’s mother, a former public health nurse, taught her son that politicians “should bring more than politics to politics,” he says. In fact, Dewar says his mother taught him more in her role as a public health nurse than she did as mayor.
Dewar, now a vice-president at the Ottawa-Carleton School Board and a board member of an immigrant services organization, says as an MP he would carry on with the kind of work he did as a student representative and community activist. “I see my past role to be similar to my role as an MP,” he says.
Dewar earned a degree in political science from Carleton University, then worked and travelled in Central America.
“I wanted to learn more than what I was taught in my textbooks,” he says.
It was during this first trip outside Canada that Dewar had the biggest scare of his life.
On a flight to Managua, Nicaragua, the plane had to land in San Salvador for repairs. The airline offered to put passengers in a hotel 25 minutes from the airport. At the time, there were anti-government peace marches going on in El Salvador. On the way to the hotel, Dewar heard gunshots and threw himself to the floor of the bus.
“People were surprised when I did that,” Dewar says. But the gunshots continued and everyone was soon seeking cover.
Dewar says he hasn’t been so frightened since, “except for being a father, that is,” he says.
Dewar’s wife Julia Snewd is an elementary school teacher, whose uncle John Sewell was mayor of Toronto while Dewar’s mom held office .
They have two sons, Nathaniel, 9 and Jordan, 7. Dewar gleefully describes his two boys as completely opposite personalities. “The older one is linear and more serious while Jordan is a ‘seize the day’ kind of guy.” Dewar says he loves talking with the boys and learning from them. “They are constantly probing the 13 layers of why.”
Dewar says he sometimes finds it difficult to balance his life as a father and husband with his political ambitions but says he tries to spend as much time with his wife and children as he can. “I always make it a point of making it home for dinner.”