Mary Walsh, Deepa Mehta and members of the rock band Rush are looking back at long careers in the arts as they prepare to walk the red carpet in Ottawa.

The capital is paying tribute to six recipients of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards and two winners of special awards with recognition in the House of Commons and a gala on Saturday.

Rush member Alex Lifeson said he was thrilled at his reception on Parliament Hill on Thursday. 

"It’s really quite an honour. We’ve been a band for a very long time and musicians since we were 15 years old and to come all the way here after so many years is really exceptional for us and we’re very, very proud of it," he told CBC News.

South Park’s Matt Stone will pay tribute to Rush’s Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart and Geddy Lee at a gala at the National Arts Centre on Saturday. Stone is a friend of Rush member Neil Peart and appears in a documentary about the power trio – Rush Beyond the Lighted Stage. 

That same gala will see Salman Rushdie celebrate the accomplishments of filmmaker Deepa Mehta.  

The others to be honoured: 

  • Classical pianist Janina Fialkowska.
  • Dancer/choreographer Paul-André Fortier.
  • Director Denis Marleau.
  • Theatre director Des McAnuff, winner of the NAC award.
  • Philanthropist Earlaine Collins, winner of a special award for supporters of the arts.

On Thursday, MPs were all a-Twitter over Rush’s appearance in the House of Commons gallery with Tony Clement tweeting a picture of himself with Lifeson, with the message "FYI I told Alex I have been trying to learn Limelight on my guitar, but the Arpeggios are killing me..."

All of the honourees receive their medals from Governor General David Johnston at Rideau Hall on Friday.

Mary Walsh loves to laugh

Walsh, long-time member of This Hour Has 22 Minutes comedy troupe and producer and star of the television show Hatching, Matching and Dispatching, has recently recovered from an illness that forced her to cancel her one-woman theatre show Dancing with Rage.

In an interview with CBC News, she said the most memorable part of her career is working with other comedians and having a good laugh together.

She looked back on a career that involved ambushing countless politicians, including a controversial smooch with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as Marg Delahunty, Warrior Princess. She said that kind of skit is getting increasingly difficult.

"Now you not only can’t kiss the prime minister – you’re not even allowed to speak to the prime minister," she said, referring to the increasingly restricted access there is to politicians under the Harper government.

Deepa Mehta's unique viewpoint

Mehta, the Oscar-nominated director of Water, is currently working on a film adaptation of Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children. It is expected to be out in cinemas in October.

She said she was tickled to learn Rushdie will pay tribute to her and believes the writer has been very "respectful" of her role as director of Midnight’s Children through the making of the film. 

Mehta says was thrilled by honoured by the country where she makes her home. She said she thinks the unique viewpoint she brings to filmmaking comes from links to both Canada and India.

"I think being a Canadian and coming from India has really helped me enormously because I’ve been able to look at India with a Canadian view and look at Canada with an Indian view. Far from being confused by the two worlds I belong to, I feel by embracing them I’ve been at an advantage."