Leanne Cusack

Leanne Cusack has spent much of the past three decades informing and entertaining CTV Ottawa viewers, first as a reporter, then as the respected host of CTV News at Noon – a role she continues to this day. Leanne is part of the fabric of Ottawa, committed to highlighting the people and causes which contribute to the well being of the city and its citizens.

Leanne also hosts CTV Ottawa’s Amazing People series, which profiles the work of individuals who take it upon themselves to help make Ottawa a better place – a perfect role for a woman who, when not on air, can just as easily be found leading charitable events and fundraising significant amounts of money for dozens of worthy causes. Leanne Cusack, with her boundless enthusiasm, energy and warmth – and her unrelenting dedication to making Ottawa the best city it can be – is one of #150GreatPeople. Here, she answers the questionnaire:

What makes Ottawa special to you?

Ottawa is a “big” small town; a world-class city with nature escapes just minutes away. Where else can you leave a downtown core and be on a hiking or ski trail in a National Park within minutes? Ultimately, what makes this city special isn’t just the exquisite architecture, the landscape, the rich history, or the beauty of the seasons. It’s the people. Those raised here, those who, like me, arrived for a while and stayed. It’s a city of creators, debaters, doers and givers. There is a kindness here, and beauty everywhere. It’s rare to go anywhere without bumping into someone you know. Everyone is connected.

What do you love most about living and working in Ottawa?

I feel so appreciative of this beautiful place that has become my home. I arrived in Ottawa from Halifax as a first year journalism student in 1986. A few years later, when I moved to a farm in Pakenham, I began to know, love and understand the wonderful people of the Ottawa Valley. Twenty years later New Edinburgh became home. It was then I discovered all of the phenomenal walking trails and neighborhoods. This is a great city to discover on foot. I love art and food. Creative and delicious offerings abound! Ottawa has every vibe you would want. I now live in Chelsea, so close to Gatineau Park, one of the best elements of life here. We are constantly hiking, snowshoeing, and kayaking. More recently, I’ve begun exploring my love of landscape painting. My commute feels pretty exquisite. Every morning when I drive across the bridge from Quebec, my heart skips a beat at the cityscape. Looking at the view of Parliament on the cliffs above the river takes my breath away.

The work that you do helps to make Ottawa a better place – why is this important to you?

Being part of this community is such a privilege I feel the need to give back. My role as a television host enables me to highlight organizations in need, and the quiet “difference makers” who create change. When I can host a telethon, or an event, I feel the opportunity is a gift to help share stories of transformation and transcendence. It is a great honour to shine a light on the people who are so deserving.

You give back to the Ottawa community in various ways – is there one Ottawa-related achievement of which you are most proud?

I am most comfortable highlighting the work of others. Any role I have played has been part of a greater team. I have been so proud to work under the leadership of many community and health-care visionaries. I am privileged to have contributed, in some small way, to CHEO, Bruyère, Roger Neilson House, The University of Ottawa Heart Institute, The Youville Centre, The Ottawa School Breakfast Program, The Ottawa Humane Society, the Jane Goodall Institute, St. Joe’s Women’s Centre and various other organizations. I love to do a little bit of matchmaking to bring together great causes and great people. And I’ve match-made a few of my friends, too. (But that’s for another article.)

What do you hope for Ottawa in the future?

I work downtown. There are serious issues of homelessness and addiction. When I see people in need struggling with their personal battles I always say that each of us is an addiction, an accident or a mental illness away from that reality. I am in awe of the many people working in these areas to make a difference. Ottawa, I feel, is a city where we know we need each other. As Mother Teresa reminds us, “if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other”. I hope there is more hope for the hopeless in our town.

Photo: Valberg Imaging