In a parliamentary league of her own
By Anthony Carricato
Heather Bradley, a long-time resident of the Glebe, recently retired from the House of Commons after serving as director of communications and spokesperson for five Speakers over 10 parliaments dating back to 1993.
Politicians and staffers come and go on Parliament Hill; Bradley is one of those who stay and leave their mark on an institution vital to our democracy. She will forever be remembered in the heart of everyone who worked with her during her 29-year career. It is difficult to imagine the House of Commons without her leadership, kindness and love of Parliament.
After growing up in Navan, Bradley did an undergraduate degree in communications and Canadian studies at Carleton University, then started working at the National Capital Commission in 1982 on Winterlude and other events. In 1986, she went to work at Expo ’86 in Vancouver, supervising visitor services at the Canada Pavilion. After Expo, Heather returned to Ottawa, where she met and married Michael Scrivens. They have lived for almost 30 years in the Glebe, where they’ve raised their three boys, Nick, Jake, and Sam. More than anything, Heather is proudest of her boys and the family that she and Mike have created in their beloved Glebe.
In January 1994, just months after Jean Chretien’s Liberals won their first majority, Robert Marleau, then clerk of the House of Commons, asked Bradley to “help out for a few days” after Gilbert Parent was elected as Speaker, and the rest is history. As well as Parent, Bradley worked for Peter Milliken, Andrew Scheer, Geoff Regan and the current Speaker, Anthony Rota.
She served the longest-serving Speaker (Milliken) and the youngest (Scheer). She has seen a lot: a House with five political parties; the separatist Bloc Quebecois as the Official Opposition; online Question Periods during COVID; and the move out of Centre Block to allow restorations to begin. She led the communications strategy during every security breach over the past three decades, including the horrific events in October 2014 when a gunman was taken down outside the Library of Parliament after killing a soldier at the National War Memorial.
Importantly, Bradley’s efforts to increase transparency and to help journalists get the information they need to keep Canadians informed about the work of the House of Commons is among her most lasting contributions.
“It has been an honour to serve the last five Speakers and to have been able to observe Parliament from this unique perch,” says Bradley.
On October 5, MPs paid tribute to Bradley in the House of Commons before Question Period. “Heather was an absolute joy to work with,” said Scheer, as Bradley and her family listened from the visitors’ gallery. “Her extensive knowledge of the precinct, members and historical precedence was invaluable. Her ability to interact with journalists and the trust she had built with all parties over the years was essential in assisting the Speaker as part of a non-partisan office in the backdrop of a highly partisan environment.”
“Our success as parliamentarians depends on the quality of the staff who support us,” added Ottawa-Centre MP Yasir Naqvi. “Ms. Bradley was one of the best.” Rota said he was “privileged to receive advice from Heather, a consummate professional with the gift of wisdom, intelligence and tact. We hope that retirement brings her time to enjoy her beautiful family and many friends, as well as time to reflect on the legacy of excellence, kindness and everything else that she brought to this place.”
As her colleague for the past 15 years, I had the privilege of learning from one of the best communications professionals that our city and country will ever know. Heather literally paved the way with elegance and grace for so many of us who look up to her and consider her a role model. We were lucky to have her as a colleague and count her as a friend.
Heather and her husband Mike are often out for a walk or shopping in our neighbourhood. If you happen to see them, I encourage you to stop Heather and thank her for her years of service to us all.
Anthony Carricato is the director of outreach and events in the Office of the Speaker of the House of Commons and a board member of the Glebe Community Association who is active in municipal public affairs.