Things that mattered: The most memorable objects of 2015

From the shrubs Mike Duffy trampled through while going to and from his trial to the maple Marucci bat Bautista flipped into history, here are the back stories behind some of 2015's most memorable objects that made news in Canada.

People are usually the focus of end-of-year stories — now for something completely different

Bautista's bat, Kanye's Pan Am microphone, Ken Whiteley's lavender sweater: Here are the stories behind some of 2015's most memorable objects. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty/Matt Detrich/Reuters via USA TODAY Sports/Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

While year-end best-of lists tend to focus on people, places and events, objects often go unnoticed, despite their prominent role in the news. So why not tell their stories?

Here are the details behind five of the most memorable objects that made headlines in Canada during 2015.

The Jerry Bance mug


The federal election campaign took a lot of strange turns, but its hard to top Conservative candidate Jerry Bance's run for office.

Bance was running in the riding of Scarborough-Rouge Park until he was identified as the repair technician who was caught on camera peeing in a coffee mug in a 2012 CBC Marketplace sting. He was swiftly dropped for not being truthful during the screening process. 

The story was ridiculed on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and inspired the hashtag #peegate.

CBC producer Jennifer Fowler appeared in the episode, posing as the homeowner who welcomed Bance to the kitchen. She was in the room next door when it happened.

"[The producers] upstairs texted me that he had peed in a cup. I think I was flabbergasted and didn't really understand at first what that meant. Why would anyone pee in a cup? The bathroom was about 10 feet away from the kitchen," she said.

Fowler is not sure what happened to the mug after filming, but thinks they ran it through the dishwasher.

"Unbelievably, it happened twice while shooting the story … while testing garage door [repairmen], someone peed in a bucket in the garage. I don't get what it is with repairmen peeing in things. It can't be that hard to ask for the bathroom."

Jose Bautista's bat

In a defining moment of the Toronto Blue Jays' playoff run, Jose Bautista belted a home run, froze in place and then  flipped his bat into the air.

It all took place in the wild seventh inning of Game 5 during the American League Division Series, propelling Bautista's maple Marucci bat into legendary status. There were memes, endless GIFs and one dedicated fan who got the moment immortalized with a thigh tattoo.

Critics ripped the slugger for showboating and disrespecting the opposing Texas Rangers.

He responded with an online essay, revealing what was going through his mind.

"It's the closest I have ever felt to being a superhero. I felt like I was Batman, and the villain had the girl dangling off the edge of the building," Bautista wrote for The Players' Tribune.

"I flipped my bat. I'm human … If you think that makes me a jerk, that's fine."

The Mike Duffy shrubs

Suspened Senator Mike Duffy does his daily stroll through the shrubs to get to the temporary entrance of the Ottawa courthouse in Ottawa in June. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

While the Duffy trial was largely known for its $90,000 payment, astute viewers may have noticed the set of shrubs the suspended senator would trample through on his way in and out of the Ottawa courthouse.

During the summer, the main courthouse doors were closed for construction and the public entered using a side door. Duffy's car would drop him off and pick him up in front of this entrance. However, instead of walking around the median that separated the road and the courthouse, Duffy chose to traipse right through it, walking on top of the median's low-lying yew shrubs.

Kady O'Malley, a reporter who has covered the trial for CBC and the Ottawa Citizen, says reporters knew to wait in the shrubs for Duffy — and thus the shrubs became an "integral" part of the trial.

"He has his car parked there [on the street] and then he has a direct line of sight to the court house," she told CBC News. "[It's] basically the quickest route [in]."

When asked about the shrubs, Mary Shearman Reid, the manager of Ottawa's Green Thumb Garden Centre, said this type of foot traffic was not good for any plant.

"I'm not trying to be condescending, but a plant is not planted to be walked upon and it doesn't matter … whether it's at the courthouse or where it is, it shouldn't be trampled upon."

In August, O'Malley said she noticed how some of the shrubs were actually dented up from the traffic. But the main entrance has since reopened and the shrubs have been spared.

"The shrubs will have the chance to grow and flourish," O'Malley said. "We'll just have to trample something else."

Kanye West's Pan Am microphone

Kanye West throws his microphone while performing at the closing ceremony of the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

When it was announced that Kanye West would be closing out the Pan Am games in Toronto, thousands signed an online petition calling for him to replaced with a Canadian artist (though Canuck songstress Serena Ryder also performed at the ceremony).

But the performance went on as planned — until West threw his microphone sky-high while singing his hit Good Life and strode off stage.

The mic throw became an endless source of speculation. Some thought West was throwing a fit over technical issues. Pan Am officials said the mic issues were caused by a "technical difficulty" — CEO Saad Rafi cited West's unexpected demeanour.

"The volume that he performs at is so high, it might have been what affected the sound system, but it also might be something his team planned all along," Rafi said. "You just never know because he's such a creative guy."

But what happened to the mic? Neala Barton, who handled communications for the games, has no clue.

"My biggest regret of the Games is that I didn't track it down," she told CBC News. Barton said the director of the closing ceremonies told her that the mic was "absolutely broken."

Ken Whiteley's sweater and scarf

Folk singer Ken Whiteley has scored Canadian gold and platinum records and Juno and Grammy nods for his music production work, but in 2015, he perhaps became best known for his lavender L.L. Bean sweater and multi-coloured Himalayan scarf.

The fashion accessories stole the show during an NDP campaign stop in Toronto, where Tom Mulcair, the party leader, pledged to boost funding for the arts while surrounded by artists.

Whiteley stood on stage directly behind Mulcair, but it didn't occur to him that his fashion choices, coupled with his bushy white beard, would dominate the camera shots.

"I actually even asked the person from [Mulcair's] bus, 'Is this OK if I wear this scarf … it's a little bright' … [they were like] 'Oh no, I love the colour, it's great.'" he told CBC News. "I think actually Sarah Harmer was actually supposed to be kind of in front of me."

Soon after, Whiteley went viral online, being called everything from a "depressed hippie Santa Claus" to a purple wizard man. His son phoned him that afternoon to tell him he was the talk of the internet.

"The thing that was a little frustrating for me really was that I felt that the actual policies … got very little play. That was my frustration with my 15 minutes of fame."


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