As lead anchor of CBC’s flagship nightly news program, The National, and host of Mansbridge: One on One, there’s no doubt Peter Mansbridge’s schedule can get pretty tight. But when he’s not staying on top of national events as they unfold, he’s doing the very opposite: unwinding at the cottage. Peter took some time away from the news to talk with us about how he spends time at his cabin in the Gatineau Hills.
Cottage Life: Generally, the cottage is a place to unwind and disconnect from the outside world. Do you get the chance to shut off daily news when you’re at the cottage?
Peter Mansbridge: When I get to the cabin—we don’t call it a cottage—the whole idea is to totally unwind, and that means no news. When I’m at the cabin I really can disconnect. Little things, like simply looking out onto the water, become big very big things and help clear the mind. I love it.
I know if something really big happens, [work] will be calling me anyway!
CL: I actually read that you received a call at the cottage for an interview with President Obama. How does that affect your time at the cottage, knowing you can get calls for important business at any time?
PM: It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I know it’s going to be big. When the White House called, I didn’t mind—that may have been the biggest interview of my career.
CL: How would you describe your cottaging style—are we more likely to find you lounging on the dock, being active, or puttering around doing chores and maintenance all day?
PM: It’s really a combination of all of that, but the moments of sheer delight are those I spend lounging and swimming. I find total peace when swimming; it’s the first thing I do when I get there.
CL: Lots of families have cottage traditions, so what about yours?
PM: One of the traditions we have is jumping off a rock on an island at the north end of the lake every year. As the years pass and I get older, the rock seems to get higher! There’s also cooking breakfast over an open fire—nothing tastes better.
CL: The Gatineau Hills is quite a hike from your home in Stratford. What is it about the area that makes it worth the drive?
PM: It is a long drive—seven hours—but once you get there, it feels like seven minutes. I grew up in Ottawa and purchased the land I would later build the cabin on in 1980. It was a connection to my youth and still is.
CL: Being born in Britain, is there something about spending time at your cabin that makes you feel distinctly “Canadian”?
PM: When we arrived as a family in Canada in the mid fifties, the idea of a “cottage” or “cabin” was unknown to us, but quickly became part of the great Canadian dream. I think there is absolutely something distinctly Canadian about cottage life, and I love that we are able to have that distinction.
CL: You’re known to be a great storyteller—any good anecdotes you can share from the cottage?
PM: Probably being awoken in the middle of the night by a bat and desperately trying to get it out of the cabin. Thank God nobody has a video of that pathetic experience!
Mansbridge taking his 60th birthday jump.