Origin stories: Rosemary Barton, CBC Chief Political Correspondent

‘I sort of stumbled into’ journalism

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Rosemary Barton originates from our wintry city. A couple of years ago, I interviewed her mother, Mary Barton, a beloved early childhood educator who had an honorary street in Winnipeg named after her.

At that time, I learned Mary was Rosemary’s mother. Mary was known to encourage young women to be strong. That fact helped explain the confident person and strong interviewer the CBC chief political correspondent is known to be.

Rosemary’s path to journalism and her rise to her current position with the CBC was not planned. “I sort of stumbled into it, is probably the best way to put it,” she says.

She was working on a French literature degree at Université de Saint-Boniface when a political-science professor recommended her for a part-time research job with ICI RDI – Radio Canada.

“That was my first space in a newsroom. One of the things I liked about it was learning about different things every day and talking to people,” Barton says. It was then that she decided to pursue a journalism degree at Carleton University in Ottawa, and the rest is history.

Today, Barton realizes her interests growing up were indicative of the career she enjoys in the present day.

“I was in a lot of public-speaking contests, and it kind of all makes sense now,” she says.

Some viewers may not realize that Barton is bilingual. “I get a chance to use French often, either by communicating with MPs or sometimes doing translation on TV live,” Rosemary says.

I asked her what it was like to hear former premier Brian Pallister tell her in a November 2020 interview “You haven’t come up with a single idea in this interview that would have made this plan work better.” He was referring to Manitoba’s pandemic response plan as the province experienced the highest COVID-19 numbers in the nation at that time.

“When politicians don’t have a good answer, they evade the question. I think the most important thing is to call out the person, which is what I did. That’s my job,” she says.

Now living in Ottawa, Barton spends her spare time reading fiction, cooking, baking and working out. “Just regular things,” she says.

What she misses most about Winnipeg is her family, whom she usually visits twice a year. As a child, Barton remembers that all family vacations were trips to Northern Ireland, visiting her parents’ relatives. She remembers one exception, which was a car trip through Western Canada.

Winnipeg is “a lovely place to grow up. I think there’s a lovely sense of community. There’s lots of exciting things to do. Summers are fantastic. Winters I could do without,” she says.

Barton has a special fondness for the Riverview community, where she grew up.

“I remember biking around the neighbourhood with friends and feeling very safe and secure in my environment. Having love and big networks of people in that community, being able to grow up that comfortable and secure does lead you to be a more confident person,” she says.

That self-confidence is what enabled her to make bold life decisions.

“I took a lot of risks in terms of what I would be and where I would go. It just allows you to do a very public-facing job like I do. I think that foundation helped enormously,” she says.

Published in Volume 76, Number 18 of The Uniter (February 17, 2022)

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