Vassy Kapelos (’00) has loved politics for as long as she can remember.
As a child, she would spend her evenings debating policy and current events over dinner with her family. After graduating from NT, Kapelos studied political science at Western University, before receiving a masters degree from Dalhousie University. Now, she’s one of Canada’s top political journalists and the host of CBC’s marquee political program Power & Politics.
A career in political journalism was always in the back of Kapelos’s mind, but it often seemed out of the realm of reality. “I didn’t really think it was too feasible,” she said. “I was more drawn to traditional careers like being a lawyer or a professor.”
It wasn’t until her mother fell ill after she graduated from Dalhousie that she settled on journalism.
“It kind of brought home the idea of trying to capitalize on whatever life we have left to live,” Kapelos said. So she enrolled in a four-month summer journalism program at Seneca College. After graduating, she booked her first job in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Since then, her career has brought her across the Prairies, with stints in Saskatoon, Calgary, and Edmonton for Global News, before transferring to the network’s Ottawa bureau.
“My eyes were opened in such enormous ways to the great variety of discourse and opinion that exists across this country,” she said while reflecting on her time out west. “It’s been probably the best thing I could have ever done.”
One story that’s stuck with her throughout her career was about a young girl who had a rare disease, and how the government was unwilling to cover the life-saving treatment.
“It’s very difficult to look at somebody whose life could be saved and think of the possibility that it won’t be,” she said. “I’ve interviewed so many people, covered so many issues and for some reason that is, really, truly, the story and the people who have stuck with me most. It was one of those stories that very directly linked government, politicians, and the decisions they make to somebody’s life.”
When Kapelos transferred to Ottawa in 2013, she started off as a parliamentary correspondent, before being promoted to Ottawa Bureau Chief in 2016 and host of The West Block. In 2018, she joined CBC as the host of Power & Politics, and has since won two Canadian Screen Awards for her work with the network — one in 2020 for Best Live Production, Social Media and another in 2021 for Best Talk Program or Series.
She says the most rewarding part of the job is not the awards nor the opportunity to interview high-profile politicians, but working in a team environment to put on the show every weekday. “The best part of the job is trying to make them proud, working with them, and having that kind of collaborative environment every day,” she noted.
Kapelos also said that she enjoys helping to distill huge amounts of information for audiences. “I love the pressure of having to do it in a short amount of time,” she said. It probably comes as no surprise, then, that one of her favourite topics to cover is the federal budget.
One of her favourite memories from NT is playing the alto saxophone in the Marching Band with her friends. “It was freezing and miserable but also really fun,” she chuckled while reflecting back on one of the Santa Claus Parades she participated in.
But Kapelos also noted that she was a quiet teenager. “[I] was insecure, very critical of [myself], and happy to fade into the background.”
When asked about what advice she would give her younger self if she could travel back 20 years, she took a moment to answer. Her response: “Don’t be afraid to be ambitious.”
—Joshua Chong (’19)