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Ruby Dhalla's many woes

Margaret Wente took questions on the Liberal MP, the nanny-abuse allegations she faces and how it's playing out in the press

Globe and Mail Update

With many in Ottawa turning their eyes to a defiant Brian Mulroney as he makes another effort to explain his dealings with Airbus lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber, The Globe's Margaret Wente says in her Tuesday column:

"Oh, never mind. No one cares about that old story any more. Give us sex appeal and intrigue. Throw in a hint of class oppression, flesh and (this being Canada) a multicultural angle. We want Ruby!

"Ruby Dhalla (or 'Dr. Ruby Dhalla,' as she styles herself) is young, beautiful and Sikh. She'd be a catch for any political party. She's a hard charger who loves the spotlight. When her lawyer told her to shut up at her press conference the other day, she could scarcely restrain herself.

"'There are so many powerful people who might have an interest in damaging my client's career,' he said on her behalf. He wouldn't say who they might be. But the implication was that three former foreign workers in the Dhalla household had been encouraged by her enemies to rat her out.
And oh, what ratting. 'I had to polish their shoes for Miss Ruby and her brother,' said one, conjuring up images of Miss Scarlett and the Old South. 'Her mother had me shovelling snow at midnight,' said another. 'She wanted a slave, not a caregiver.'

And with the nannies and the Liberal MP set to appear before a House committee, Ms. Wente concludes: "Nothing can sink a woman's political career faster than suspicion she's abused the live-in help. It's as bad as a man who gets caught having sex with boys or hookers. Not that certain people even in her own party would be sorry to see Dr. Dhalla go down. She's known as someone who'd rather hog the limelight than do the parliamentary scutwork. Some people thought she'd got just a bit ahead of herself when she wondered aloud about running for party leader last fall. (She's 35, and can't speak French.)

"Even Michael Ignatieff is distancing himself from this one. Her lawyer said that 'she is receiving unending messages of support from the Liberal party,' but I'm not so sure.

"Poor Ruby. She's got enemies all over.

With all that in mind, we welcome Ms. Wente online Tuesday to take your questions on Ms. Dhalla, the nanny-abuse allegations she faces and how the scandal is playing out in the press. Your question and her answers appear at the bottom of this page.

One of Canada's leading columnists, Ms. Wente provokes heated debate with her views on health care, education, and social issues and has won the National Newspaper Award for column-writing.

Ms. Wente has had a diverse career in Canadian journalism as both a writer and an editor. She has edited two leading business magazines, Canadian Business and ROB Magazine. She has also been editor of the Globe's business section, the ROB, and managing editor of the paper. Her columns have appeared in the Globe since 1992. For the past two years she has been writing full-time for the paper, and she is a frequent commentator on television and radio.

Ms. Wente was born in Chicago and moved to Toronto with her family when she was in her teens. She holds a BA from the University of Michigan, and an MA in English from the University of Toronto.

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Stephen Wicary, globeandmail.com: Margaret, thanks for joining us today to engage with our readers. Ms Dhalla has just appeared before the House of Commons immigration committee. Did you catch her testimony?  How do you think she performed?

Margaret Wente: I heard a bit of it on the radio.  She sounded very stiff and scripted.  Obviously she was well coached by her lawyer.  She's following the same story line he laid out last week: She didn't hire these people, didn't  supervise them, and was always kind to everyone.  So it's a matter of who you believe -- the caregivers, or her. 

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