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Doug’s Columns 1992 « Douglas Fisher



Doug’s Columns 1992

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 30, 1992
ID: 12400390
TAG: 199212300009
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


What a dour political year we have had. As it closes both the recession and Mulroney are still with us and, politically speaking, only the referendum is over with.
Perhaps the sharpest way to express 1992’s macabre features is to argue that one might well nominate Joe Clark as Canada’s man of the year, even Deborah Coyne as woman of the year.
My first gift wish a year ago was for a unified country. We still have a unity, but who knows for how long. The referendum results were salutary but not conclusive.
What we seem to have in both parts of our “deux nations” is a profound unwillingness to talk about unity and constitutions. Another consequence of this psychological and real moratorium could affect benignly the nature of the federal electioneering in 1993. Our collective impatience with politicians and their partisan blather may give us a low key, understated sort of election campaign, one without swarms of demonstrators hounding leaders or leaders being the feature of all TV news, parroting their “bites” in staged scenarios. The fact we will have more party leaders campaigning than ever before should split the focus and keep us from too much Mulroney-speak and Chretien-speak. (Well, all that may be dreaming but isn’t it a good dream?)
Where will we be in terms of Parliament a year from now? Most of us have our hunches. Mine at this point is that the next House of Commons will have a Liberal majority, based on good returns in the Maritimes, Anglo Montreal, all of Ontario, Manitoba and the lower B.C. mainland.
Even though arguments in the media today do throw back to 1988, recapitulating the vital part of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in the federal election, even though powerful arguments are being marshalled in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) it’s my hunch neither FTA nor NAFTA will be the dominant feature in ’93 campaign talk, even though both the NDP and Mel Hurtig’s new National Party will push the issue hard. Unless Chretien and the Liberals choose to come out against NAFTA, and Mulroney has this as a tilting point, we won’t have scads of electoral controversy over trade. It’s likely the Liberal campaign message will stress a readiness and a competence for governing and the potential high quality of a Chretien ministry.
What a lot of citizens, probably a majority, would like out of 1993 is the exit of Brian Mulroney from office and politics, by either resignation or defeat at the polls. If this should happen (and in my book it will – at the polls) I believe that within two years of the exit public opinion will be shifting from nastiness to substantial appreciation of Mulroney’s good points as PM.
The rub against a stroll to power by the Liberals may come in Quebec if both Mulroney and Lucien Bouchard of the BQ can get Chretien into a slugfest over the latter’s right to speak for Quebecois. If Chretien is foolish enough to spend much time in Quebec then he could find voters in the rest of Canada cooler toward him. Obviously, voters in the rest of Canada, especially the West, will have leaders galore to divide their attention. Leaving them that way would be to Chretien’s advantage so long as the durable impression through the campaign is that he is the one sure bet to get Mulroney out of office.
At this stage it’s too risky to argue that a major issue in the campaign will be the deficit-debt thing.
How much critical measuring will there be of Liberal campaign promises against what’s been developing from a decade of $30-billion-a-year deficits? Lord knows it’s not a matter that should go unsung in a campaign. The federal debt is now over $420 billion and its “interest bite” will gouge out about 34% from all federal revenue this coming year.
It would be wonderful if electors respond to the deficit-debt dilemma with scorn for pie-in-the-sky undertakings which might spend us back to prosperity. The paradox is probably this: The voters will be more aware than ever before; but to whom can they turn except Preston Manning for real assurance that debt reduction will be a priority? Mulroney will have to make much of his vigor and honesty in facing the deficit-debt problem but it’s not really a vote-gainer for him. And if the issue becomes very large it will probably hurt the New Democrats far more than the Liberals.
Having been so bold as to predict a Liberal majority in 1993 let me go right to the end of the limb with an apportionment of the 295 seats in the next House of Commons:
Liberals ………… 155
Conservatives ……. 50
Bloc Quebecois …… 35
Reform Party …….. 30
New Democrats ……. 25
National Party …… 0
Perhaps my last word on such a projection should be that such a result is not what I would wish for.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 23, 1992
ID: 12398732
TAG: 199212220104
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Two federal releases a fortnight ago could prove that highmindedness and what the liberally-minded see as right continue to do well despite the prate that our caring Canada is crumbling before an onslaught of neo-conservatism.
Earlier this year data on the attitudes of Canadians towards immigrants and refugees from the Reid pollsters and a retrospective of such attitudes over many years done by Gallup showed a gap between the idealists and citizens as a whole. Nonetheless, the idealists keep having their way.
Most Canadians are not for high immigration; they are not for the most generous refugee policy in the Western world. In particular, most are unenthusiastic about the “rainbow” immigration trend of the last two decades that brings more from Asia and Africa, fewer from Europe.
Did you see the immigration figures for this year? We have had the largest influx in the post-war decades, with most of it from Asia and Africa. Yes, we have the highest unemployment in the West, and thanks to immigration the fastest rate of population growth.
The 1991 census data now flowing helps us understand both the gap in attitudes and how another kind of “two Canadas” is emerging.
The relative percentage of immigrants is not really zooming, but hanging around 16%. Metro Toronto and Vancouver are getting most of it, with Montreal trailing. Those from Africa and Asia are concentrating in those three locales. Toronto is now 38% immigrant, Vancouver 30%, and Montreal 17%.
The developing contrast in the makeup of the people of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal may be popular there.
As the metros change composition a contrasting profile of people is developing in the Atlantic provinces and in the smaller cities and towns of Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies and all of B.C. but the lower mainland. Immigrants from the bounty decades from 1910 to 1930 have largely assimilated or died.
The big cities may have what academics call the challenges of acculturation, of communal adjustments to such surging diversity in language, religion, history and appearances.
The rest of the country, however, must adjust to most growth going to the cities and must try to appreciate reactions that make sense in Toronto and Vancouver but not where they live. Take promoting visible minorities for TV jobs or insisting on equity for visibles in all governmental jobs. More and more, Ontario people face changes demanded in a changing Toronto which haven’t and won’t come to their communities.
It is not noble to say so but either our immigration-refugee policies are too good for most of us or most of us are too conservative and fail to glory in the richness of the rainbow.
What are the views on all this among MPs and federal parties? A seething frustration and confusion among all but a holy few, below a surface along which all the leaders skate, avowing Canadian pride in multiculturalism, ethnic diversity and the gathering in of refugees.
On a rare visit to Parliament Hill John Turner, the Liberal MP for Vancouver-Quadra, told a journalist from B.C. that Canada needs new political leaders. He pointed to the surge of hope and ideas in the U.S. from Bill Clinton’s election. While he was direct enough that Brian Mulroney’s era should be over he did not directly suggest that either Jean Chretien, his leader, or Audrey McLaughlin of the NDP should depart their posts.
He did say that he and Chretien have not spoken for several years, and that he has stayed an MP to have a forum for comments on the Constitution. However, he hadn’t had any intention of attending the House regularly. His time goes mostly to his law practice and corporate directorships in Toronto and then to assigning his constituents’ problems to his parliamentary staff.
It’s droll to have this advocacy of new leaders from one who left Parliament after 13 years experience, then chose to come back after nine years on Bay Street to lead his party. At this task he quickly demonstrated he had lost whatever touch he once had had with the Canadian public. He lost two federal elections and for six years he was a remarkably ineffective leader of the opposition. On the last matter he figuratively backed away from his leading role and let the Rat Pack dictate the tone and content of the Liberals in opposition.
Again and again through the years since Turner first came to the House in 1962 I have read or heard him say how much he loves the House of Commons, how like the old Chief he has been in decribing himself as a House of Commons man. Some lover! Not even a score of hours in the two years since he lost the leadership. What a model for young leaders.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 20, 1992
ID: 12398166
TAG: 199212200166
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


There seems neither much enthusiasm nor animosity at play in Canada toward the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed last week by Messrs. Bush, Salenas de Gortari and Mulroney.
Some of the relative quiet may be the seasons of George Bush and Brian Mulroney. The president is near his exit and NAFTA’s approval will rest on a new president and Congress. Our PM is almost as lame a duck; certainly it’s improbable the deal will be ratified in the U.S. before Mulroney must defend it in an election.
My appraisal of NAFTA has been neither close nor critical because of a twinned assumption: First that it is small beer for us compared to the free trade agreement made in 1989 with the U.S.; second that unless we are ready to abrogate the FTA it is imperative we go along with the U.S. into the deal with Mexico – otherwise we blow the advantages of the FTA.
Last week I came on an excellent article on NAFTA in the Dec. Atlantic by Jonathan Schlefer, titled “What price economic growth?” The author, an expert on technology, has based his piece on the rousing free trade debate in Canada in 1988 and the consequences in jobs and trade shifts after three years under the pact.
Here’s the paradox in Schlefer’s thesis on NAFTA. He says: “Those who favor the treaty say it will boost economic growth. Opponents say it will threaten moderate income wages and erode social programs. Both predictions may be borne out.”
It was Canada, not the U. S., which proposed the FTA, and it was Mexico, not Canada or the U.S., which proposed NAFTA. At this stage there is far more opposition to NAFTA among Americans than there was to the deal with Canada, and it is far more likely to be killed in the U.S. than here.
In our history free trade with the U.S., often tagged as “reciprocity,” has always had advocates, going back to the 1850s. Federal elections in 1887, 1891 and 1911 swung on the issue. Always it lost out to a national industrial and trade policy which protected our industries and encouraged “branch-plants.”
Mackenzie King had a free trade deal with the U.S. sewn up as World War II ended – and let it slide away, fearing its effects on our sovereignty. For much of our history the Liberals posed as advocates of freer trade, with the Conservatives limned as the original authors and defenders of the “national” policy. In recent times it was Walter Gordon who put the nationalist stamp on the Liberals and Mulroney who turned the Tories toward free trade with the U.S.
Of course, the Liberals are far from all being Gordonites on NAFTA, seeming divided on it at this moment. As for the NDP, ever since it squared away with big union backing in the early ’60s it has been nationalistic and rather anti-American. This heightened as the so-called international unions have faded and “national” unions have burgeoned on those in public service jobs. After the 1988 election, in which John Turner and the Liberals “stole” the issue of opposing the FTA from the NDP, it’s been determined to kill it and any offshoots.
The anti-NAFTA arguments here and in the U.S. come most strongly from union leaders, with environmentalists not far behind. Our unionists point to the far more grievous losses of jobs and factories to the U.S. since the FTA than can be explained by the global recession. American unionists know well what’s happening here and they warn Congress that NAFTA “will free investors to roam in search of the lowest wages, weakest environmental and workplace regulations, and most minimal taxes and other public contributions.”
Schlefer agrees with proponents of NAFTA that it will boost continental trade and economic growth but he thinks opponents are right to forecast lower wages in the manufacturing and service sectors in Canada and the U.S., and probably weaker social programs, particularly in Canada whose programs run wider and costlier than those of the U.S.
The central flaw in NAFTA as Schlefer sees it is simply too much faith in benign outflows from free market forces. Individualism is put far ahead of society. NAFTA is not a far-sighted plan which has contingencies for the flight of factories or sensible environmental rules or broad health and welfare protections. In short, NAFTA means trusting the market and those who profit most from the wealth brought by expanding trade and com- petitiveness.
Schlefer’s contrast is with the European Community. There the general aim is to keep balance in the whole by giving priority to strengthening the common sovereignty of member nations.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 18, 1992
ID: 12397595
TAG: 199212180044
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It’s been noticeable since John Diefenbaker was put to a convention wall in 1967 by Dalton Camp that when a party leader keeps being rated poorly in polling and is openly scorned by the multitude, reporters come rushing with alternatives – e.g., the present ramp for Justice Minister Kim Campbell.
We should be wary of a rush to journalists’ saviors like Campbell or Clyde Wells (the media’s equivalent for the Liberals).
It’s worth recalling that before the official call went forth to choose a successor to Diefenbaker – and Lester Pearson, Bob Stanfield, Joe Clark, Pierre Trudeau and John Turner – reporters did much promoting of prospects. Not always did the prime favorite carry the convention.
Stanfield was one of several top choices; Trudeau came up from figurative nowhere to beat first favorites Paul Martin and Paul Hellyer; Clark was hardly anyone’s prior choice; and Mulroney was a favorite, not the favorite, over Clark and John Crosbie. Only Turner and then Jean Chretien seemed cinches from well before, through to their victories. Of course, the long tide of their promotion by political journalists (myself included) was an ample reason for their romps.
This scanning for leadership choices will roll along because our politics keeps turning from the choice of a leader to quick conclusions the leader is failing and cannot carry the party to power or keep it there.
It is tempting now beyond belief to think there must be a fresh alternative to Mulroney or Chretien to whom the voters would rush. Why, a readiness to conjure about leadership is even reaching the NDP, and this before the latest choice has led her party in a general election campaign.
Of course, it is likely that both Mulroney and Chretien have been scouting whether the better thing to do is quit. Neither is a fool who misses what’s happening in the great electorate; yet neither is a modest man and each has supportive groups, both in the caucus and in the party beyond, to sustain him in carrying on. My hunch is that only a genuine stroke will put Mulroney or Chretien out before next election day.
This matter of Mulroney and Chretien continuing to lead despite a goodly list of reasons for a resignation is much stronger today than many realize simply because no wonderful, obvious alternative is to hand despite the promotions in the media of candidates like Campbell, Jean Charest, Bernard Valcourt, Perrin Beatty and Barbara McDougall for the Tories and Sheila Copps, Paul Martin, Clyde Wells and Frank McKenna for the Liberals. (Of the latter quartet my bet would be on the New Brunswick premier.)
As I appraise Tory prospects Campbell is the most attractive but that’s largely because neither the Tory party nor English Canada is ripe for another Quebec-based or francophone leader such as Charest and Valcourt and neither McDougall nor Beatty has worn well in large portfolios which gave them chances they haven’t taken to be opinion-shapers.
The readiest (though far from the only) opinion of worth on the best one to replace Mulroney soon is found in the parliamentary caucus. In my canvasses the only one who leads the rest or those suggested in earlier days such as Michael Wilson and Don Mazankowski is Jean Charest, and even his many enthusiasts say this isn’t his time. There’s much respect for Campbell’s bilingual skills, intellect and tough adroitness in open debate but such really remarkable assets have seemed to isolate her rather than draw followers. She hasn’t yet shown the stuff which makes disciples or spurs the crafty to plot gathering a team for the ultimate purpose. It’s clear that many of her colleagues are wary of her and it isn’t all because she’s a woman. Quite the same attitude has existed and prevails regarding another Tory MP, Patrick Boyer, who is every bit as busy, ideas-prone, bright, articulate and combative as Campbell.
While her MP colleagues classify Campbell as conservative-minded on economic issues the same does not hold true on social issues. There she’s considered to be to the left, and left beyond other women like McDougall, Mary Collins and Shirley Martin. It’s also obvious to the caucus that Campbell per se as a woman leader of their party would not rally strong support in a campaign from the female interest groups. The latter will prefer the NDP’s Audrey McLaughlin, even Chretien, to any Tory.
By and large one has to figure that when it comes to the caucus many more are ready to go into an election behind Brian Mulroney than behind any of these alternatives, including Campbell. John Crosbie lost to Mulroney last time and he’s been more openly critical of PMO gambits than any other caucus member but he told me a week ago: “Brian is the best choice we have, bar none. He’s a very able leader.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 16, 1992
ID: 12397040
TAG: 199212160012
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Even an official as chary with social commentary as the auditor general has just pointed out that “special interest groups” are making government much more complex. Increasingly, their activities and demands are frustrating those who supposedly are the basic integers of our organized society, i.e., the MPs.
A recent seminar of academics and experts on Parliament discussed interest groups more than any other topic. The focus was on what interest group politics was doing to shift us from representative government based on choices in people and policies offered by the party system to one where groups that largely ignore both the party system and MPs do set the agenda and the arguments of our politics.
There’s not much mystery about what an interest group does. The troubles come from their numbers and diversity. It’s easy to note and discount the high-flying, in-the-news outfits like the Business Council (Tom D’Aquino), or NAC (Judy Rebick) or the CLC (Bob White). But there are literally hundreds of groups busy promoting or defending their purposes.
Try a skim through the annual public accounts of Canada, notably Vol. 2, which lists groups by the thousands that get moneys from the federal treasury. Most departments or Crown agencies have such clients or “stake-holders.” The Secretary of State department has the most but Indian and Northern Affairs, Health & Welfare, and Employment and Immigration are not far behind.
A few interest groups go back generations, say like the John Howard and the Elizabeth Fry societies (helping ex-prisoners) or the Boy Scouts of Canada or the Dominion Rifle Association. But largely the multiplying began in the late 1950s (see the Canada Council).
Groups on the federal tick advocate the interests, for example, of women, of homosexuals, professions, occupations, peace-lovers, veterans, militia, unions, seniors, children, disabled, the sciences, economics, education, publishing, poetry, music, drama, ballet, industries, Indians, Metis, Inuits, churches, broadcasting, the environment. And on and on.
After one scans the federal lists one appreciates what prodigious organizers of associations Canadians are, and how many of the groups get regular federal funding. Of course, these federal grants have their replicas in provincial and municipal governments.
Taken as a whole the legion of interest groups is a colossus. Beyond getting and extending its share from the treasuries, each group promotes its aims, usually in a single-minded way. That is, an interest group tends to tunnel vision, not to an overview of the whole. And here we reach what so many wring their hands over.
How do party politicians, in particular MPs, appraise the merit and costs of interest groups, most of which now bypass them, taking their demands for funding and policy favors to both the public and to the executives?
Do you support an interest group or belong to one? There are few among us who do not, yet most of us hardly notice when a group speaks for us.
Begin to categorize the sources of news and commentary on any aspect of public affairs and you will see both the prevalence of interest groups and how they have pre-empted what was largely parts played by those elected by the people.
Some media critics see the burgeoning influence of the interest groups coming largely from the domination of public information and discussion of TV, a medium which encourages simplification. It gives a matchless means of reaching the public but it encourages open pitches by an interest group to both the public and to government. As groups have multiplied they’ve formed their own bureaucrats and experts who cluster around their respective pressure points in governments.
Others point to the enshrinement a decade ago of the Charter of Rights as the big boost for interest groups in Canada. What was once seen largely as a protection for the individual has become more and more the cutting edge of interest groups with judges more significant than MPs. Courts are the forums and a ruling process which decides issues and even instructs legislatures. The ultimate resort is not Parliament or even the government ministry.
Some see the rise of the interest groups as a needed response to the decline of political parties as forums for the discussion and promotion of policies. If the parties won’t or can’t do the job, the interest groups will.
In the coming years you will hear much more about politics dominated by interest groups. One part of the debate ought to be on which ones should get governmental funding.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 13, 1992
ID: 12396319
TAG: 199212130167
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Almost always, hypocrisy prevails over candor in our politics. In the House of Commons; in the legislatures such as at Queen’s Park in Toronto. Before turning to the common variety of hypocrisy among plain MPs let me feature Brian Mulroney and Bob Rae.
When Mulroney came to office eight years ago he was most concerned over the recent annual deficits of the Trudeau government and the zooming federal debt load. And so getting deficits down and reducing the load were prime aims. Witness Michael Wilson’s first economic outline in late 1984. Eight years later the deficit for this year mimics the $30 billion plus of Trudeau’s closing years, and the debt has more than doubled to over $400 billion.
In question period this fall, and repeatedly over the last two years, Mulroney’s been pressed on the deficit-debt matter. The trumpetings of Wilson from 1984 until last year are parroted to him.
And what almost always is featured in the PM’s responses? The Trudeau government! There’s the villain. He’s stymied by past Liberal deficits, debt load and spending programs; that, and the worldwide recession. Nevertheless, he sloganizes that “We’re on course. We’ve got the priorities right.”
This is brutal hypocrisy when not coupled behind Tory revenue forecasts gone awry and Liberal spending programs neither cancelled nor capped. After eight years it’s hypocrisy to lay this deficit-ridden, debt-burdened, interest-shackled country on the Grits. This isn’t “getting it right,” it’s dodging responsibility.
Premier Rae’s hypocrisies are many. The one most bothersome to me runs on and on. It’s in the far remove of intransigent original sin so evident in his government’s practices from the pulpit principles of idealism and purity which he still asserts.
Most of us may be tired of opposition foes quoting back to Rae his moral dicta and ukases before power but he keeps on earning it. Surely as citizens we merit both more candor and humble pie from Rae than his curt dismissal of opposition clamors as “negative.”
Must we keep accepting that the partisan game in our parliamentary system has to be all black and white? This means perennial exaggeration in both laying blame and praising self, and dodging responsibility for stupid decisions, goofy behavior, and keeping information covert.
On Dec. 8 seven MPs spoke to an NDP motion put by Svend Robinson which urged a “non-partisan independent commission” to review the salaries, pensions and benefits of MPs and in the process hold public hearings. The motion was “talked out.” Bill Kempling, the secretary to the minister for the Treasury Board, had assured those present that his minister had proposals in hand for the group which “will undertake the review and draw up its terms of reference.”
Few Canadians would object to such review. MPs know their level of public esteem is low. People growl about the high scale of MPs’ pensions and how quickly they are attained. So all who spoke were for the review commission and hearings across Canada. Because their pay’s been frozen for two years the review must centre on their pensions.
The gist of the issue is there in Hansard; so is the curse of partisan claim and counter-claim.
Robinson is the most haloed missionary in the grossly moral NDP caucus. He paraded the priority given this matter by the NDP, and its virtue. He had tabled this motion a year ago. More impressive, last winter “in an historic debate” for “the first time in the history of this House, a national leader had entered the debate to say on behalf of Canadians it was time to review the members of parliament pension plan.” He praised “the historic role” of the NDP regarding pensions. He said, “It is time parliamentarians recognize we have got to clean up our own House.”
Yes, the reactions were predictable. Liberals had been first in the field. Conservatives were also there, early, and to effect.
Not all the debate was hypocritical but a lot of it was. And the equipoise of candor was slight.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 11, 1992
ID: 12395769
TAG: 199212110033
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


As a reader I was drawn from enjoyment of The Wordly Years, the concluding volume of the biography of Lester Pearson by John English, to the Liberal party today as polls foretell its return to power within the year.
Consider the parallel between opposing polarities of ideas about business and commerce which stand behind Jean Chretien in the persons of two former ministers Lloyd Axworthy and Roy MacLaren. It reminds me of the contrasting economic ideas of Walter Gordon and Mitchell Sharp, each a stalwart behind Pearson as he worked from opposition into the PMO in 1963 in place of John Diefenbaker.
For almost 30 years Chretien has been a protege of Sharp and they remain in touch. Gordon is dead, but his supportive organ, the Toronto Star, goes on with his and its familiar themes. So do Liberal MPs of Gordon’s nationalistic persuasion: Axworthy, Herb Gray, Warren Allmand and Charles Caccia.
Chretien today heads a group such as Pearson had with left and right bowers, although he seems more shaded to the right of centre than Pearson when he won office and before the Gordon bower lost credibility.
The new volume from English sketches the persistent, proprietorial pressures by Gordon on Pearson as prime minister. And as the Liberals lurched along through scandals Pearson got more and more uncomfortable (and deceitful) with Gordon. Late in his mandate he even encouraged Gordon to consider being his successor. Whew!
Many of us only guessed about the changing tenor of the Pearson-Gordon relationship in the years between 1960 and 1968. For example, no one outside a tight inner circle of the party could have known that Gordon never stopped making demands on Pearson about policies and cabinet make-up until he got him to resign late in 1967. Gordon felt (and Pearson seemed to admit) that he had made him leader and resurrected the party. More important, he knew his nationalistic and social democratic propositions were what Canada needed. A biography of Gordon gave him the sweet tag of “gentle patriot.” In the Pearson biography Gordon comes off as arrogant and Pearson as rather ambiguous. His charm and adroitness in groups, especially the caucus, carried him along, but in time those close to him like Guy Favreau, Maurice Lamontagne – and Gordon – fell by the wayside.
Gordon was a Toronto-based accountant, a man of family wealth with some expertise in the organization of government and some national stature as main author of a royal commission on Canada’s economic prospects. In late 1957 and early 1958 he had taken the lead in seeing that Pearson ran for and won the leadership of the Liberal party. By 1962 he was well along in refinancing and rebuilding the party after its debacle under Pearson in the 1958 election. His organizational lieutenant was Keith Davey; his ideas’ man was Tom Kent.
Gordon blew his prominence in the ministry and the caucus after his wonky budget of 1963 and the party’s failure to get a majority from the election he pushed on Pearson in 1965.
By late 1967 when Pearson announced his departure, opening the way for Pierre Trudeau, not many Canadians knew Gordon was still a major force, certainly not the man who pushed Pearson into retirement.
A retrospect reminds us how Trudeau really needed the backing and promotion of Pearson (and Gordon for that matter) to become prime minister. His margin over Bob Winters on the last ballot was slight and showed the left vs. right split of the Liberal party, which, to repeat, is still there today.
Surely the key question for electors regarding a Chretien government is where it would be on the spectrum from left to right. There is such a range in prospect, whether the problem be unemployment or inflation or deficit-debt or relations with the United States or in federal-provincial affairs.
If Axworthy vs. MacLaren are the readiest symbols of the split today, is Mitchell Sharp to Chretien anything like Gordon was to Pearson? Or where will Paul Desmarais, the financier, fit with Chretien, his relative by marriage? Eddie Goldenberg, Chretien’s longest, regular handler, is determined to be in the House and the cabinet. Would he be the largest influence on Chretien as prime minister? Where’s Eddie on the spectrum? Who does he want in the cabinet, and where?
For all the contrasts from sophisticate to roughneck between Pearson and Chretien both seem rolling stones, moving targets. Pearson’s penchant as PM was his own specialty of global affairs. He ignored as much as he could major policy matters like the Auto Pact and the Canada Pension Plan. What would be Chretien’s tack? It much depends on his Gordon, or Sharp.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 09, 1992
ID: 12394961
TAG: 199212080164
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


In fairness to the people and decency in politics should Brian Mulroney’s government have gone to the voters this year? My short answer would be yes, and not just because the House of Commons has become slack. Too many of us want to pass judgment on the Mulroney Tories.
Should the prime minister get on with the election early in 1993 and not drag on to the fall in hopes of an escape from the economic depression? Yes! Even if we get a minority House afflicted with bands of Bloc Quebecois and Reformers.
Both the Constitution and precedents allow a prime minister who continues to hold a voting majority of MPs to go into – and through – a fifth year.
Canada has had 34 elections since Confederation. Only for the ninth time (in what will be 35 times) is a House to last well past four years. It will be the sixth time this century. True, three of the latter occasions – 1911-1917, 1935-1940 and 1940-45 – had as their sky-hooks our involvement in world wars.
It has been three peacetime leaders, R.B. Bennett from 1930 into 1935, Pierre Trudeau from 1974 into 1979, and Brian Mulroney from 1988 into 1993, who have pushed their terms beyond what is taken as normal and reasonable.
Both Bennett and Trudeau lost office after these extended mandates. In their cases, as now with Mulroney, the last months were dreary and rancorous. A sense spread far and wide from the Hill that a PM was staving off defeat and denying the country the lift which comes with a fresh mandate.
Just six weeks ago we saw a defining rejuvenation from a vigorous national campaign and vote. The rejection of the constitutional referendum cleared much clutter away, at least for a year or two. A federal campaign and election will do something similar despite all the bruited stuff of dread consequences.
The first among these seems to be a fractured House with no party having a handy majority. The proceedings, from question period to legislative debate to committee hearings, would be bedevilled, for example with the inimical aspirations of MP bands based on Alberta and Quebec. Aside from such feared sundering, grim memories survive of the spending sprees which followed the 1972 election. Survival and Allan MacEachen’s wiles led the minority Trudeau government to buy backing of the NDP caucus with items from the latter’s wish list.
A second order of fearful prospects is mooted by far more than Brian Mulroney, i.e., opposition leaders who do not scintillate. Here, the reality which most politicians, journalists, and mandarins foresee is not widely acknowledged even by the Liberals. It is that there is a certain choice in Jean Chretien, even though millions will turn to him with reluctance.
Preston Manning may compare well in sensible talk and knowledge of issues with Mulroney, Chretien, Audrey McLaughlin, Lucien Bouchard or Mel Hurtig, but he has too far to come with too little campaign resources to take it all. And Manning’s bent to the right, stressing frugality and mastering the debt, has brought on Tory mimicry.
On paper the NDP seems in tune with an array of interest groups: Labor unions, particularly in the public service at all three levels of government, feminist and native groups, gays and lesbians, the disabled, and those which cluster ’round cultural funding. Add NDP governments in power in three provinces and the federal NDP seems to have more going than the Liberals. And Quebec, the NDP’s weakest region, seems certain not to bolt toward Chretien.
But in reality the provincial NDP governments augur little help to the federal party – and in Ontario may even hurt its federal chances. The party’s economic program has shaped on three themes, none a sure winner: Killing the free trade agreements; soaking the rich; and spending more on everything but defence and business. Although McLaughlin is cherished by feminists and most women journalists, she strikes electors whom I canvass as a mannequin sort of leader, parroting a rote drilled by her handlers.
All these arguments highlight perversity and bleak choices. Put them aside. Once into the real campaign, the subsequent seven weeks should fashion a shake-out. At the least, a majority choice means we shall have to give the chosen leader a grace period of a year or two. A minority government will take almost as long to try working alliances with much muting of partisanship. We might even get some basic alignment in Canada of the left and the right, or of the liberally minded and conservatively minded.
Come, 1993 . . . the sooner the better!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 06, 1992
ID: 12394328
TAG: 199212060120
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: photo by Dave Childley, Calgary Sun
FOOTBALL FANS from Winnipeg and Calgary whoop it up on Grey Cup day in Toronto, but the uniqueness of the Canadian game is at risk, if it isn’t already gone.
COLUMN: Fisher Report


A long lull of 18 years is over. Again there’s a crisis over Canadian football.
Last time the issue was splitting East and West. It rose over intentions by Canadian promoters to bring a Toronto franchise into the new American World Football League.
Pierre Trudeau’s government, moved by Western Canadian anger, threatened a legislative “no” and the crisis faded.
This time the flow would go the other way, hurrahed by Americans who own several pro franchises here. Again the protests are strongest in the West. This time Ottawa will keep out it but the issue is roughly the same as in 1974.
How can our football retain its national uniqueness, symbolized by that annual celebration, the Grey Cup, if (or after) the Canadian Football League expands into the U.S.?
The short answer is that any uniqueness is ultimately doomed. Our football is already so Americanized, less and less distinctive, and played or followed by fewer and fewer of us.
A similar question was raised by a few some years ago when the junior hockey league in the West sold franchises in the U.S. and opened the Memorial Cup to such teams.
For a period, roughly from 1935 to the early ’50s and without television to boom it, an annual knock-out competition for the Memorial Cup enlivened far more towns and cities across Canada than the Grey Cup has. But that passed away as professional entrepreneurs, tied to NHL recruitment, fixed on so-called “major junior” teams and ditched the smaller places and the long-shots.
Promoters in sport are invariably more intent on profit than national heritage. They set the course of a sport once it’s professionalized and sustained by fans and career rewards for players.
While argument this time over CFL football has spread rather slowly beyond the sporting community, out of the blue our largest university declares that deficits and revenue shortfalls require drastic cuts in athletic programs, beginning with football, the most expensive item.
Of course, the money crisis at the University of Toronto is not isolated but symptomatic of both college and high school football across Canada. It may turn public debate over expansion of the CFL into the U.S. toward the comparative worth of football among our array of games.
If so, it may be hard on football.
My tone may seem to declare the football matter is petty or frivolous. Not so. It may seem so to many, say relative to the recession, but again and again through our history sport rivalries and problems have stirred us.
As much, perhaps more than politics, sports bonds us and gives us identities, loyalties and excitement.
On the other hand, few organized activities are more vulnerable to change, to rising and falling and fading away than sport. (See snowshoeing and lacrosse!) And the pace of changes in both participation and spectatorship has been accelerating through communications’ technology and altering social values.
Vis-a-vis sport, just reflect on TV – multiple channels, sports networks, videos, etc. Pro sport is now pervasive and continental, not national. Consider the promotion and support across the board of many alternatives to contact team sports by all three levels of government. Note the surge of women into recreational sports and the many cheaper, less dangerous competitions than team games.
More and more people go for recreation and competition to individual sports and to activities like skiing, biking, sailing, canoeing, etc. The dropouts of boys from the contact games have been rising in parallel to specialization in coaching, training, and scouting. “Streaming” comes early in today’s contact sports.
Our favored team games and competitions have been hockey and football. Each is dangerous and has become costlier to equip, coach, and doctor. Those who would be truly excellent must be into them early and give up most other interests.
In the U.S. black athletes have come to dominate positions in pro football, baseball and basketball and they are indispensable now to our own pro football and baseball teams. Their equivalence in pro hockey is emerging now from European countries.
Fewer Canadians boys are playing hockey; far fewer are playing football. There’s drooping community or school interest and support for football and hockey. And football is very complex. Those appreciating it have declined as student interest in playing or following it at high schools and colleges has withered.
The march of time bears the doom of Canadian football per se and, even worse, even of our primacy in hockey.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 04, 1992
ID: 12393634
TAG: 199212030253
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


If you want a book on our politics for someone this season what’s worth considering? First let’s prolong the moratorium on the Constitution and its spate of books.
My first recommendation is Rare Ambition: The Crosbies of Newfoundland by Michael Harris, a family tale which weaves in the colorful, rollicking cast of Smallwood, Moores, Peckford, Wells, etc. Later, I’ll come back to it.
In scanning other prospects to go with Rare Ambition it’s clear this has not been a rich year for the political genre although it ends with the smooth excellence of The Worldly Years, the second volume on the life of Lester Pearson by John English from Knopf Canada.
Some of 1992’s better items are erudite or deal with periods which now stir little interest. One with both characteristics is Larry Glassford’s Reaction and Reform (University of Toronto Press). The young historian’s book is subtitled The Politics of the Conservative Party under R.B. Bennett, 1927-1938. Thorough rather than dense, it made me appreciate the huge talents and the miserable public persona of the first prime minister I can recall. Then we hadn’t opinion polling but my child’s impression was of Bennett as a bully, detested by all, maybe as much our incumbent or Pierre Trudeau in his closing years in power.
If you’re choosing for someone building a serious, political collection get Glassford. There’s also in stores a lighter read on Bennett from the same publisher. The Loner, by an able Dalhousie historian, P.B. Waite, sub-titled Three Sketches of the Personal Life and Ideas of R.B. Bennett, 1870-1947. These were the 1991 lectures in the Joanne Goodman series at UWO. They illuminate one of the oddest lifelong friendships in our history between Bennett and Max Aitken, later Lord Beaverbrook.
Three political autobiographies to hand are from two party leaders and a columnist: Audrey McLaughlin (A Woman’s Place), Preston Manning (The New Canada) and the late Marjorie Nichols (Mark My Words). None is memorable. Manning’s has the most substance with some thoughtful appraisals of our partisan past and present. McLaughlin’s book is not as bad as I feared but after a modest, clear, and candid sketch of beginnings and emergence she runs to a surfeit of feminist and NDP righteousness. The Nichols story (with Jane O’Hara as amanuensis) shook me more than it will most readers. I thought after scores of chats over two decades that I knew Marjorie. I didn’t. She seethed with demons and ambitions I missed. She leaves as a caution about intense journalistic zeal.
There are several fine book for the sophisticate hipped on recent and current partisan politics. The best-seller so far rather soured me with its arrogance on the merit and influence of the political “handlers.” Leaders and Lesser Mortals is by Tory organizer John Laschinger and columnist Geoffrey Stevens.
Reading it might prick some of several hundred MPs to rebel against a politics in which their prime role is done until next time by the end of election night.
Letting the People Decide, from McGill-Queen’s is a complex, graph-and-chart-heavy analysis by four academics (Johnston, Blais, Brady, and Crete) of the ’88 campaign. It also confirms the ultra-importance of pollsters and spin doctors. My choice from this “detail” segment of the political genre is a running commentary on parties and government by former premier Allan Blakeney and U of T Prof. Sanford Borins. The drab title is Political Management in Canada (McGraw-Hill Ryerson).
Blakeney-Borins is really a “how to” guide for a party leader or a premier or a prime minister. The counsel has a dialogue format to which Blakeney speaks from forty years as a senior bureaucrat, then party leader, exchanging with Borins who brings his scholarly reach over the literature of politics. The blend imparts a lot on party work, election planning, cabinet making, managing caucus, choosing programs, and sometimes losing them (e.g., the Meech Lake accord) all enlivened with cameos and vignettes of politicians and mandarins.
Back to Michael Harris and his Crosbies’ book. One reviewer relished the content but rued a purplish, over-written narrative. Another felt Harris packed in too much on the well-known chicanery of the politicians. I was very pleased with the book.
So far no one has seen Rare Ambition as family hagiography or a hymn to the guile and wit of John Crosbie. I marvel at the fascinating but often hurtful material which Harris gathered about the five generations of Crosbies in Newfoundland. A moral one may draw from his story is the curse of family wealth, influence, and fame.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 02, 1992
ID: 11978881
TAG: 199212010099
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Today two notes, first on MPs resurrecting the Victoria Cross by Canadianizing it, then on why all of Japanese stock were winkled away from the B.C. coast in 1942.
The moot point about a brief House debate last week on restoring the Victoria Cross as the pinnacle award for Canadian valor was not that a ministerial aide “talked out” the bill offered by Doug Fee (PC-Red Deer), it was the support for it from the veterans’ affairs critics for the three major parties. Also notable: No French Canadian MP spoke for or against, but ex-officers of Quebec’s famous Van Doos back the proposal.
The order of the Victoria Cross was begun 136 years ago when most parts of today’s Canada were colonies of the British Empire. For 116 of those years Canadian warriors were eligible for the award. Then in 1972 a completely Canadian system of awards, though in the name of the Crown in Canada, began and a Canadian could no longer win the VC. Only two of the 94 Canadians whose bravery earned them the VC are still alive.
The ditching of the Cross by the Trudeau government was not popular with either the military or veterans. Today most veterans’ groups have argued and petitioned that the VC be continued. In its official voices the Mulroney government has been chilly, noting that the VC is “a British medal awarded by the Queen” and “we must have our own awards for valor in the face of the enemy.”
The MPs who spoke argued that the heritage of valor in the Cross and the long-manifested respect for it in Canada should not be lost. To restore the award in a fully Canadian frame by act of Parliament is easy and logical.
Will this happen? The odds are very much against it, even though I’d wager that a free vote on Fee’s bill would be backed by over 200 MPs.
This issue may seem minute in relation to our context of recession and constitutional confusion, but it would take a pittance, hearten many and bother few. Why not do it? Because Mulroney’s braintrust think it dicey to push any memorial of a British past with the Quebecois in swirl over unity. Also, why push anything with a warlike connotation when “peace” and its disciples are so intrinsic in our reigning political correctness?
Now to the removal of some 22,000 people of Japanese stock from B.C.’s littoral in 1942 when huge Japanese victories which had begun with Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941) were frightening North America. How did the Japanese sweep over the Pacific affect Mackenzie King, a very crafty prime minister?
Remember that 47 years after the removal from the West Coast an act of Parliament pushed by Brian Mulroney apologized for it as “wrongful” and “unnecessary” although done legally. The Mulroney government also made financial redress which (when taken up) drew almost $400 million from the federal treasury.
The current Beaver magazine reproduces an account of a private briefing which Mackenzie King gave on Feb. 28, 1942 to the noted journalists Bruce Hutchison and Grant Dexter. King revealed he was fed up with his defence minister and his generals. They were Euro-centered, intent on being in on the killing of Germany. They were not taking the Pacific War seriously.
These quotes from Dexter’s report of the briefing show clearly why the government was clearing the West Coast of those of Japanese ethnicity.
“King said the war was going very badly . . . plucky and all as the British have been, miraculous though the Russian resistance is, the enemy is still stronger than we are at every point. If Stalin was right and the Russians could hold the Germans this spring and summer, he felt sure the war would be greatly shortened. But he had nothing reliable in this regard and he was not optimistic. He had felt right along that Japan will attack Russia in the East, Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians and Alaska and B.C. just as soon as (they) could muster the men and material. Nothing could be more certain . . . He had been acutely aware of the peril on the coast ever since Japan declared war and he was discouraged to find out that, although the U.S. had been preparing for war with Japan for 20 years, they had been substantially unready to repel such an attack last December. Today, the U.S. was incomparably stronger on the West Coast, particularly in Alaska . . . Our own danger was still very great.
“He had done nothing to quiet the row on the Pacific Coast for more defence. He hoped it would continue. He had just appointed a Pacific Coast Japanese Evacuation Council of civilians which would give these demands more direction and cohesion and thus might help overbalance the generals.”
And so it is in Canada. Imperatives of one generation may shame a later one.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 29, 1992
ID: 11978054
TAG: 199211290201
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


There are similarities in both the behavior and the bleak scenarios which await the prime minister and the premier of Ontario.
Begin with the fact the two tower over both associates and rivals. Grim as their situation is, low in the polls though their parties and their own rankings are, neither is threatened by dissident colleagues or wonderful alternatives with popular policies.
Even though disrespect for Ontario Premier Bob Rae and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney runs almost everywhere in their jurisdictions, they carry on with outward confidence – articulate and readily seen and heard.
They have an uncommon assurance and their own unique line of guff.
Both leaders have a straight man for the worst requirements. The Messrs. Grim are Don Mazankowski (federal finance minister) and Floyd Laughren (Ontario treasurer). They wear the crepe, do the doleful act, announce frugalities and warn of deficits and debts.
Useful as these pall-bearers are to Mulroney and Rae it is unfair to say the leaders have drawn back from the heat of partisanship. Neither backs off his most criticized policies although post-facto both will occasionally admit a misjudgment.
Each leader behaves as though the botches of his administration have not weakened his authority or his mandate from the voters. They are almost smug in their majority power.
Week by week neither flinches nor apologizes as the litany of bad news unfolds.
It’s hard to name an industry or a service sector or an interest group which is not in decline. Most which depend on government funding have had it capped or cut. Even health care and education are no longer motherhood issues.
Just four years ago Ontario’s boom was hurting other regions. The Maritimes may have been suffering and the Prairie economy reeling but the old milch cow was all right. Now inflation’s licked but Ontario’s depressed. We remain in the worst of the postwar recessions, and few of us think an end to it is in sight.
Canada as a whole has had nothing like this doubt or such fears over jobs and economic chances since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The plight from our loss in common expectations is truly grave. The collective Canadian psyche is worse than dour, it’s grim.
And it’s Mulroney and Rae who are seen as most at fault and of little use.
One may find parallels in the early ’30s to what Mulroney and Rae have been saying and doing in both the prime minister of the time, R.B. Bennett, and the Ontario premier, George Henry.
Unemployment was very high, government revenues tumbling. Both Bennett and Henry were fearful of high deficits and growing debt. They cut government spending, reduced or axed many grants, laid off many civil servants, and slashed salaries of most others.
And as they preached belt-tightening and boot-strapping they lost credibility. They were no longer respected or believed. Neither regained the confidence of their voters before the latter could reject them at the polls.
Bennett and Henry were also confident in mien, just like Mulroney and Rae. Fearful of borrowing, neither produced a grand strategy for revival which seized the imagination of the people.
Today’s prime minister has 11 months at most before he will earn the exit given Bennett in the 1935 election (after a Parliament of similar duration – five years plus).
Premier Rae has a longer time left in power but he’ll need an extraordinary economic rebound to save his government.
Who can revel in the predicaments of the pair? They mirror our own. But ours is a bit worse simply because they still face us, glib and assured but largely marking time, while we see the economy we have known crumbling away.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, November 27, 1992
ID: 11977378
TAG: 199211260168
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


In his fresh annual report Denis Desautels, the newish auditor general, repeats his predecessors’ themes that neither the public nor the politicians understand or are sufficiently concerned about the high scale of governmental deficits and the debt load.
We’re a people whose governments (federal, provincial and local) taxed us and raised $290 billion last year but spent $41 billion more than that, with the federal government responsible for $133 billion of the $290 billion and $30 billion of the $41 billion in deficits.
Grim figures . . . and last year the total federal debt load reached $433 billion and the debt charges on it were $42 billion.
Do not be deceived by reports the newish auditor general (AG) of Canada has come on softly, trying to be more a gentle guide than a correcting challenger to the Mulroney government. His vocabulary’s less bristling and there’s philosophizing on matters like informing the public and minding the public debt; nevertheless, this report is a harsh indictment of too much spending and it opens up the grossness and variety of federal administrative follies.
It’s almost 20 years since the late “Sunny Jim” MacDonell became AG and championed “value for money” auditing; i.e., to go beyond determining whether public moneys have been legally assigned and spent to whether the moneys were well and usefully spent.
The pity remains as the pity has been with the aftermath of almost every report since 1973. We have a slight, attenuated, almost unseen and rarely commented-upon process of following up the annual blockbuster. Neither rectification nor discipline is prominently seen to be done. After a few days ragging in the House at each annual offering the parliamentary response tails away, obscured in a lightly followed House committee which gets small attention in itself or from its reports to the House.
Does a minister over a goofing department or agency ever suffer? We don’t see such, nor do we hear of chastened mandarins. In part the dearth of fallout is because most cases put “up” by the AG are complex and played out over years; and in part it’s because television cannot handily follow along any major case readily nor present its detail lucidly.
In today’s world most of the running commentary or criticism of substance about politics and governmental administration comes from interest groups, not really from either elected politicians or the common run of journalism. The journalists largely wait for and use what the interest groups produce, and sadly, few of them focus for long on what the AG has found errant in the ways and means of spending public money. Most groups fix far more on advocating more moneys for what’s precious to them. A rare few – e.g., the Canadian Tax Foundation – publish or “seminar” detailed examinations of federal and provincial spending programs but their data and narratives are complex and difficult for the average citizen.
Three sets of criticisms in this year’s report show how hard it is to make progress. Why? Because the evidence of inadequate surveillance of spending and unsatisfactory results in these cases has been perennial. Let me close with them. Believe me, I know the AG is on target here.
(1) The very large amount of spending (almost $3 billion this year) by some 600 Indian bands of the moneys passed to them by Indian Affairs represents a “long-standing dilemma” because the department has the responsibility for such funds but little control of them or assurances on how they’re spent;
(2) Many of the Indian bands have substantial forested land but despite many attempts to develop forest management plans and programs which would provide work and revenue for such bands, very little has been accomplished and co-operation has been weak or non-existent between the bands and both the federal Crown which has title to the reservation lands and the provincial Crowns which often have title to adjacent lands which could be worked into bands’ plans;
(3) Despite many inquiries and reports over several decades of inadequacies in training and the equipment of our “reserve” military forces (what are often called “the militia”) there has been scant improvement; the imbalances in numbers and training between officers, NCOs, and ordinary soldiers, sailors and airmen remain glaring; so is Parliament’s failure to enact a policy to deal with employers of reservists.
The inadequacies make foolish the recent defence policy line that the reserves are now a key element in the so-called “total force concept” that was developed to make savings.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 25, 1992
ID: 11976721
TAG: 199211240458
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


If the correct Toronto media will not forgive the relics from the past who challenge point-of-view documentaries, those of us who do must try to help them. And so, to the petition by a thousand-odd who labor in the CBC’s many mansions.
The thousand propose a rescue of the martyred McKenna brothers from the slurs put on their name and art through the moral cowardice of the CBC’s chairman and president, and its ombudsman.
The means would be to send the “findings of the ombudsman and the response of the documentary makers to a committee of senior, respected journalists drawn from within and outside the CBC to assess the methods followed by the ombudsman’s inquiry.”
My duty today is to suggest outside candidates for the review.
They are Dave McIntosh, George Bain, Larry MacDonald, Charles Lynch, W.A. (Bill) Wilson, and Bob Hesketh.
Four were in Canadian forces during World War II – three in the RCAF, one in the army; two were war correspondents reporting from Britain and northwest Europe. Four of the six are still in productive journalism; two are recently retired. The group has more than 250 years of gainful employment as journalists. Now to thumbnail them.
Dave McIntosh has been a freelance writer of books since 1980 when he left writing and filmmaking for the NCC. From 1946 to 1972 he was the defence and foreign policy reporter in Ottawa for Canadian Press. He’s written six books including the sardonic Terror in the Starboard Seat, about his time as a navigator in RCAF Mosquito squadron 418. He and his pilot had 41 trips over enemy territory and destroyed nine German planes.
George Bain, now media columnist for Maclean’s, was a Tely stringer in 1940 when he enlisted and soon was flying Wellingtons in RCAF 424 squadron, 6 Bomber Group He had 34 missions, 16 over Europe, 18 from North Africa. Later he piloted the camera-plane for an Arthur Rank film on World War II, Signed with their Honor. After “ops” Bain taught new pilots at a training unit. Post-war he became a columnist at the Globe and Mail, had stints as a foreign correspondent, organized a journalism school, and commented regularly for CJOH-TV, Ottawa.
Charles Lynch, a once-a-week columnist with Southam was just recognized by Canada Post with a stamp as our archetypal war correspondent, a role he filled for Reuters in World War II, including the D-Day landing, through the West with Eisenhower, and concluding with the Nuremberg trials. Lynch, now in his 56th working year, has honorary doctorates, the Order of Canada, and many awards for his work for papers, radio and TV.
W.A. Wilson honed his high reputation as a journalist with the now defunct Montreal Star. He was a correspondent with the Allied Forces in Europe in World War II. Afterwards he became an authority on transportation and foreign policy, then Ottawa columnist for the Star. In recent years his columns have been going to Sifton papers. He does know the central martyr, Brian McKenna, having worked with him years ago.
Larry MacDonald has retired after some 30 years with the CBC in Ottawa, much of it as an editor-researcher for TV news. A life member of the press gallery, MacDonald is still much on the Hill. In Normandy in World War II he was aide to one of the Canadian generals dramatized in The Valor and the Horror.
Bob Hesketh, a retired icon of radio talk in Toronto (CFRB), trained pilots in World War II under the Commonwealth air training plan. In a new book about the plan (Behind the Glory, by Ted Barris) Hesketh talks about a recent turning point in his life. Because he had not flown “ops” after the war he had felt out of the swing of reunions and reminiscence. Then he went to Sunnybrook for a medical. A young doctor asked what he’d been in the war. When he said a pilot, the doctor said: “Oh. Were you one of those guys who rained death and destruction on those innocent people of Germany?”
At first angry at the doctor’s remark, Hesketh mulled it over. If he had had the chance he’d certainly have flown bombers. He had never before met anyone negative about the work of the RCAF. As the book phrases it: “But for the first time Hesketh felt proud he had trained some of the pilots who flew over Germany. It had taken 50 years but suddenly his work as an instructor meant something.”
There they are: six “senior, respected journalists,” any or all of whom could well appraise the CBC vis-a-vis the McKennas.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 22, 1992
ID: 11976129
TAG: 199211220145
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Jean Chretien has disciplined three Toronto MPs for protesting his award of the Liberal nomination in York Centre to former Toronto mayor Art Eggleton.
One may think one or both such moves politically stupid – I plump for both – but they open consideration of the worth of luminaries as candidates in elections and subsequently in Parliament, and the general proposition that the two larger caucuses of any Parliament are short of good material for real or shadow cabinets.
Press reports indicate David Smith, a former Toronto controller and a former Grit MP and federal minister (1983-84), got the chore from Chretien to find some star candidates and to use the authority given Chretien by the party to loop the usual nomination process of a riding association.
The looping is largely: a) to escape from the embarrassment of pro-life candidates; and b) to save men and women of renown from falling before better-organized unknowns.
In his Ottawa manifestation David Smith confirmed that municipal reputations of grandeur are not an augury of fine performances in the House, the caucus, the committees or the cabinet.
Smith, a busy, pushy, fast-talking fellow, was not a dud in any of these roles but he was far from luminous. The farce of a “star” halo, however, goes well beyond Smith.
Who can forget what busts the popular mayors, Phil Givens and David Crombie, were after they got to the Hill? Any observer of their time in Ottawa must underline the great gulf between their reputations on arrival and what they earned thereafter.
As for star Metro prospects favored by the leader’s wand, have Chretien and Smith forgotten their party’s experiences on parachuting the likes of Jim Coutts, a Trudeau disciple, and John Evans, polymath and university president, into Toronto contests?
Both were mooted as likely prime ministers; neither could even carry what were Liberal-leaning seats.
It seems to me that across the country and in each province the normal nomination procedures of each party have produced quite satisfactory representation in the House in terms of enough useful MPs with acumen, industry and purpose.
Would a dozen candidates across Canada like Art Eggleton be strong magnets to voters? Come on! The party leader is all-important in elections. Even top ministers who seem regional titans get lost in most campaigns.
There’s not much more than gaining grist for local chatter in wooing persons of local or regional or even national esteem. They don’t ensure victory in a riding or later gild the quality of a front bench. The run of candidates who do win seats are generally aligned with or above the averages in the electorate, not below them, in terms of commitment and ideas.
In the dozen parliaments I’ve followed not one Grit or Tory caucus has been strikingly short of talent since Lester Pearson’s tiny one (1958-62) and luckily for him he had the virtuoso trio of Jack Pickersgill, Paul Martin and Lionel Chevrier.
In one commentary last week a reporter baldly put it that Chretien was short on ministerial quality in his present fourscore of MPs.
In another story the problems of Brian Mulroney were scouted if he were to much reduce his cabinet or bring in many new ministers. On the latter prospect the argument was that he didn’t have much to chose from.
Mulroney has a score of backbenchers who could replace any score of his ministers without loss in talent.
Many able Tory MPs come to mind: Bill Attewell, Bud Bird, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Don Blenkarn, Patrick Boyer, Albert Cooper, Dorothy Dobbie, Felix Holtmann, Brian White, Benno Friesen, David MacDonald, Rene Soetens, Ross Stevenson, Garth Turner, Jim Hawkes, Larry Schneider, Garth Turner, Bobbie Sparrow, Geoff Wilson and Dave Worthy.
Chretien may have a dozen ex-ministers in his next caucus and vigorous veteran MPs like Sheila Copps, Brian Tobin, Jim Peterson, Jesse Flis and George Baker. But the 1984 election did more than double the Grit caucus. MPs like these of the ’88 crop would fit well in a cabinet: Ethel Blondin, Marlene Catterall, John Manley, Joe Comuzzi, Rex Crawford, Diane Marleau, Albina Guarnieri, Stan Keyes, David Walker, Francis LeBlanc, Fred Miflin, Paul Martin, Jr., Christine Stewart, Joe Volpe and Doug Young.
There’s much awry in our politics but not really in the quality of our MPs.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, November 20, 1992
ID: 11975386
TAG: 199211190134
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


There seems more talk within political circles than ever before in my memory about the possibilities and drawbacks of a female party leader.
Many Grits and Tories are pondering such a prospect, more because of the topical situations and the great talents of Kim Campbell, the Minister of Justice, and the switch to sweetness and light by Sheila Copps than because Audrey McLaughlin leads the NDP. Indeed, the decline of the NDP in opinion polls hardly boosts the stock of female prospects.
Most Tories believe Brian Mulroney will lead them into the next election but they have no guarantees. And so, until some time next spring when any alternative leader becomes impracticable, some will keep on vetting the prospects and, willy-nilly, this means examining Campbell, perhaps even Barbara McDougall.
The Liberals are more certain Jean Chretien will take them into the next campaign. This does not cause much pain among the Liberals I know but privately they have a shocking lack of enthusiasm for his leadership. They fret about these factors, in this order of concern:
Firstly, his health and stamina in both physical and mental aspects are taken to be fragile; secondly, his almost appalling lack of appeal to his language compatriots in Quebec disturbs those party loyalists over 50 for whom being in power is synonymous with holding the bulk of Quebec; thirdly, his inability so far to create a credible, succinct platform or program for Canada’s future, in particular with regard to economic relations with the U.S.
There really isn’t a body of opinion in the party which, after appraising Chretien’s flaws, has considered his replacement, beyond the common recognition that she must make her way in French as well or better than Chretien.
The language factor has this importance. While Paul Martin, Jr., is fluently bilingual, the two other Liberals most often mentioned as a new leader are the premiers, Clyde Wells and Frank McKenna, who are really not bilingual. And so, if the leadership should open up suddenly for health reasons most Liberals are sure Copps would be a front-rank contestant, along with Martin. So to a degree she really is a leader-in-waiting.
For example, a few New Democrats will with caution hazard the opinion that their party, in its determination to get a woman as Ed Broadbent’s replacement, went for the wrong one. It should have taken Lynn Hunter, the Gulf Islands MP. She has had a far better education than McLaughlin and is imperially bristling and quite dextrous in debate.
Of course, McLaughlin will have her election run but if it concludes with the NDP anywhere close to its current 14% share of electors, she is almost sure to resign. And if she does, don’t be surprised if a convention comes right back with another woman leader – Hunter. Remember that the most popular alternative with many New Democrats over the last year or so has been Bob White, but he has already fallen under the pall of public unpopularity which enveloped his predecessors, Shirley Carr and Dennis McDermott.
Last weekend Kim Campbell, in addressing a women-in-media gathering, and Audrey McLaughlin in her autobiography, defined with more specifics than are common what they mean by their feminist beliefs and both the differences in approach and the priorities of issues of a feminist party leader who becomes prime minister.
As I read these women, they are spelling out that they will not lead in a male way, say as Margaret Thatcher or Indira Gandhi did, or behave along the norms of the male political culture as did Judy LaMarsh or Flora MacDonald (and Copps, until her recent ladylikeness).
McLaughlin sees women leaders as good listeners who are more ready to see leadership as a responsibility to advance a cause, to help people, whereas male leaders revel in exercising power so as to get people to do what the leader wants.
Campbell was out to make it clear that the women’s movement in Canada, perhaps as symbolized by Judy Rebick and her NACers, are wrong to decide that a Progressive Conservative like herself, as minister or as prime minister, would be hobbled in implementing the feminist agenda by any alleged neo-conservatism of her party.
In effect Campbell and McLaughlin are saying, much as has Mary Clancy, a Liberal MP, that feminism as a creed is superior to stock partisan loyalties. Give us a female prime minister from any of the three main parties and the general agenda of the gender will be advanced.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 18, 1992
ID: 11974826
TAG: 199211170083
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


No one gets more respect from me than those in the craft of journalism like Pierre Berton and Peter Newman who year after year produce books which both rouse discussion and sell well. None of those who have been doing this for a long time is more interesting to me than Walter Stewart.
He has a new book from M & S, The Golden Fleece, subtitled Why the Stock Market Costs You Money. The “you” embraces us all, not just those who buy and sell stocks. His thesis is something brokers will choke on: That whatever billions are spent or made in buying stocks, the stock market is neither a sound nor fruitful way for either the raising of money for a new or a larger venture or a sensible place to put savings in order to get a good return from either dividends or price gain.
Stewart, 61, mostly writes populist books for plain people rather than for specialists or academics. He’s had a long career in newspaper and magazine work, including a time in the late ’50s and early ’60s as a business reporter with the Toronto Tely. The Sun columnist has had spells at Maclean’s, did some occupational duty as a journalism teacher, and has helped many other would-be authors by ghostwriting articles and books for them, including the two recent, best-selling “autobiographies” of politician Erik Nielsen and airline-builder Max Ward.
While Walter’s forte may be aggressive writing about business (e.g., his 1983 muckraking masterpiece Towers of Gold, Feet of Clay) he’s been severe and sound on politicians (see his Shrug about Pierre Trudeau) and excellent on history of the long ago (see his True Blue on the Loyalists).
One key bit of advice for the “little guy” in The Golden Fleece hit home to me as one who’s unfortunately found after many years the inferiority of either stocks or mutual funds as retirement investments when compared to a simple, savings account or treasury bills – even Canada Savings Bonds.
Walter is researching several more popular books in his own name, the first on Olympia & York (the Reichmanns!), the others on bankruptcies. He makes about the same amount from a ghost-written book as one in his name. He relishes the challenge of organizing someone else’s thoughts and experiences but only enters such projects through an agent and a thorough exchange which ensures mutual acceptability and trust.
Anyone who knows them realizes the great contrasts between the skeptical, suspicious Erik Nielsen and the effervescent, naive Max Ward. Stewart got along well with both, so much so that each breached the provision that his work would be unknown. This made him proud. “I’d say all but one of my clients has been grateful after the fact,” Stewart said. The exception may have been a political writer who never even bothered to send a signed copy of the book as a memento.
There’s much rich fuel for a crusading politician in The Golden Fleece, particularly in the advocacy of a refundable tax on all share transfers, this in order to turn markets to what is supposed to be their prime purpose of raising funds for new or extended ventures, not as a complex, diverse casino of speculation which is dominated by insiders enveloped in a myth of risk and enterprise.
I asked Walter why he hadn’t made this book a primer for crusaders, a pulpit for reforming exchanges and the imperative of getting a national securities & exchange commission. He said he’d long ago left the role of a radical out to reform a whole society. This doesn’t mean he’s a detached neutral or without his own place on the political spectrum.
Walter says writing for politicians isn’t his priority, nor has he any dreams of scandalized demands from an aroused mass of readers. No, he wants to give an interesting account of people with agencies and functions that are mysterious or phony. People who too often are self-important and promoters of their own righteousness.
In short, the “shrug” symbolizing the Trudeau in his book fits Stewart himself, saying: This is the way this is; it isn’t pretty, often it’s sleazy, so be warned.
In my politically active days in the ’50s and early ’60s I knew, admired and liked Walter’s parents. Peg Stewart was capable and straightforward as the Ontario secretary for the CCF; and Walter’s father, Miller, an author and broadcaster, was very much an ideas man for the non-communist left in Canada.
Without forsaking his filial affections and respect for the views his parents held, Walter takes a more indirect, less avowed way in his work toward the utopia they once sought for Canada. He strikes a strong echo from me, probably because I think we need less preaching on what social and economic planning will do for us and far more analysis on where and how and why we deceive ourselves.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 15, 1992
ID: 11974235
TAG: 199211150221
SECTION: Comment


Two new books, one about Canadians blacklisted for ties or alleged ties to communism, the other a new history of the CNR, remind me that two long-time staples of parliamentary attention have largely faded.
Since 1957 my clips from papers about the RCMP security service and the government-owned railroad have built two of the deepest files in some 25 cabinets. Today when I checked them I realized how scarce were clips on either topic over the last three years. Of course, the Russian menace has almost gone and the security and intelligence service is out of the RCMP. As for the CN it’s left the limelight cast by passenger service and the famous or infamous Crow freight rate is dead.
The new CNR history – The People’s Railway: A History of Canadian National – by Donald McKay is thorough, serious and scholarly, and focuses most on the post-war period. Although the blacklisting story is done more lightly it makes you ponder why no one has taken up the cause. After all Canada’s become obsessive on redressing past injustices and revising old political myths. Yet no one has sought apologies or financial recompense for thousands who lost jobs or were deprived of chances at work and travel abroad.
The Un-Canadians, a paperback from Lester Publishing, has been put together by Len Scher, a former CBC producer, from some 70 interviews with people who were either blacklisted or their close relatives or who were critical of the blacklisting at the time.
The diversity of experience and of opinion is fascinating: From personal and sad case histories to canvasses of the blacklistings as they related to the CBC, the NFB, the trade union movement, the universities, and to the blocking of travel to the U.S. (as a result of the RCMP sharing files with the FBI).
Several acquaintances of mine figure in the book, including the late Harry Crowe with whom I once shared a column, Larry Zolf who has had a host of trouble-causing, radical relatives, and Steve Endicott, a former college classmate, who had a cruel time finding and keeping work because of his family’s commitment to the cause of peace and in favor of recognizing Red China.
The RCMP cast a very wide net. Until I became an MP (in 1957) I was hardly aware of it. It was soon apparent to me how much time the constables in my riding spent covering gatherings of ethnic and union groups, and in vetting people’s activities through their neighbors, often in relation to citizenship or passport applications. Those on mailing lists of certain papers and magazines seemed to merit checks.
I found that some earnest patriots in my electorate, including a few doctors and lawyers, were zealous volunteer informers for the Mounties. Literally several thousand constituents earned notice from the security service merely as subscribers to a weekly paper in Finn that took a social democratic editorial line. An estimate by one interviewee in the book puts the total number of RCMP security files on persons at 800,000. It fits. As an MP I estimated they had files on three or four thousand of my hundred thousand constituents.
When I would raise Cain about such ranging but covert activities in the House the responses from ministers of Justice were guarded. Some party colleagues would warn me to tread easy, notably David Lewis. He had led the fight to cleanse trade unions of Reds and “fellow travellers.” Such work brought the villain Hal Banks to Canada as the “Commie” Canadian Seamen’s Union was replaced by the Seafarers International.
It is rather sad but it is unlikely most of the many thousands who feared the Red menace in Canada and approved the watching and the blacklisting will read The Un-Canadians. Its stories confirm that for little reason much hurt was done.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, November 13, 1992
ID: 11973437
TAG: 199211120175
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


This season is an unusually shaky time for those who work in the media and in journalism. Toronto may seem the epicentre of the quaking, but the ripples go far beyond.
What do I mean?
First, consider Southam. Conrad Black, tycoon and Thatcherite, may be gaining control of Southam, Canada’s biggest newspaper chain, and one known in the trade for both paying well and providing space for those who practise politically correct advocacy journalism of the progressive sort – i.e., correct on issues of gender, sexuality, racism, refugees, immigration, the police, etc. Any progressive who stacks what the Southam papers generally offer in editorial themes against the articulate opinions of Conrad Black sees neo-conservatism burgeoning here at the moment it’s retreating to the south.
Second, consider the Toronto Star. It has the largest circulation in Canada and several reputations, including that of being the most nationalistic and social democratic outfit in big-time political journalism in the country, and for both paying best and being the readiest to spend generously on travel and talent. A bad balance sheet and, perhaps, an agonizing strike last summer, has led the Honderichs to close bureaus abroad and plan a major staff cut, notably of editorial employees.
Third, consider the Sun newspapers, in particular the flagship Toronto Sun. Well before his expected retirement as chief executive officer, Douglas Creighton was removed by a board of directors’ ukase. Aside from much grieving at this summary dispatch of a lovable genius, in a narrow sense some see the severance as having implications similar to Black’s takeover of Southam. The question rolls around among many Sun workers: Is the major shareholder, Maclean Hunter, to batten its style of management and corporate culture on the Suns?
Fourth, consider the CBC, in particular its English TV side. This government-owned and funded outfit is by far the largest news-gathering and commentary organization in Canada. It engages by far the most freelance talents of journalists, academics and film producers.
The CBC had just plunged into what is already apparent as a dicey, drastic alteration in content, pace, and time for its flagship news show, when a decision by its ombudsman, Bill Morgan, loosed many other dogs of controversy.
Figuratively, Morgan has put the Crown agency’s leadership (of Pat Watson and Gerard Veilleux) and the board of directors into a war on two fronts – one might say under attack from the left and the right.
The decision related to a three-part series on certain Canadian operations in World War II (The Valor and the Horror) which ran early this year and was repeated on Newsworld. Essentially, the makers are a pair long favored in providing documentary items for the CBC. The series was fairly expensive with “above the line” moneys of $2.8 million and the support of two other federal Crown corporations, Telefilm and the National Film Board. In short, this was a major series, long in preparation and execution, under the aegis of two radically minded (some would say “fearless”) producers and script-writers, the brothers Terence and Brian McKenna.
Morgan’s decision may have pleased thousands, particularly war veterans, who have objected to the untruths and forced dogma in the series, but the latter still have questions which go beyond Morgan’s ruling that “the series as it stands is flawed and fails to measure up to CBC’s demanding policies and standards.” Questions like: How could something so haywire, biased, and unfair get right through production and on air? (Twice!) Wasn’t there any vetting by senior personnel? Shouldn’t somebody be held responsible and be demoted or fired?
Such questions are sensible in light of the NFB’s previous problems with the Senate and with the family of Billy Bishop, over its film which made the World War I fighter pilot out to be both a coward and a liar. Then there was a previous incursion by the McKennas – an appraisal of trench warfare on the Western Front in their film The Killing Ground. Few World War I veterans were living to protest, a factor the McKennas forgot when they remade World War II.
On the “correct” side, say of people like Rick Salutin, there will be an unforgiving attack for months, even years, against the office and powers of the CBC ombudsman. With the truth-seeking McKennas as martyrs, the righteous will mock the “cowardice” of the CBC executive and board. The progressives in the media and of social and cultural groups will stress the imperative of creativity and freedom from censorship for those who write or produce. If the CBC decision stands, a generation of investigative journalists will be inhibited.
Well . . . it makes a change from party politics.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 11, 1992
ID: 11972866
TAG: 199211100116
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Once again reducing the federal cabinet has been engaging the prime minister. He’s considered it before as an electrifying model of frugality and determined restraint rather than for greater efficiency or simplicity.
Don’t wager he’ll do this. It is a sounder bet there will be a fairish shuffle of ministers within five or six weeks, not drastic excisions. A shuffle, perhaps as many as six departures, and three to five elevations.
In taking office in ’84 Brian Mulroney considered a smaller cabinet but he had a huge caucus and over threescore MPs who had been in several parliaments. Excited and optimistic, he chose to be generous in cabinet-making.
In 1989 cabinet cuts were discussed again, mostly internally. Michael Wilson saw them as the best symbol of restraint. Again Mulroney let the proposition slide away.
It has risen again, not all because Preston Manning’s been popularizing a smaller cabinet. Mulroney has in hand a Treasury Board report advocating massive reorganization of cabinet responsibilities and functions and a parallel offering of advice from a former clerk of the privy council (G. Osbaldeston).
To be frank about post-war federal Ottawa, the six or so major reorganizations of departments, agencies and responsibilities have been credited far beyond their eventual consequence in either efficiencies or lower spending. None of the reorgs brought a smaller cabinet.
In 1957 John Diefenbaker opened with 21 ministers. He began a creep upward to today’s 39. Lester Pearson also edged up the size but the great expansionist was Pierre Trudeau, notably in the early 1980s. He had forsaken the long-used ministers “without portfolio” in the early 1970s in favor of “ministers of state for,” vaulting the number of ministers out of the 20s and into the higher 30s.
The “state” ministries did not have a “line” department but usually were seen as representing an obvious public interest group such as ethnics (multiculturalism) or sport or seniors or science.
At one time Trudeau had 10 different ministers with the state label. Today Mulroney’s cabinet list embraces some 14 ministers of state. Some of the holders, however, are doubled-barrelled (as examples, Pierre Cadieux for Sport and for Youth, and Monique Vezina for Employment and Seniors). And sometimes the tag is an extra for a departmental minister (e.g., Pierre Blais of Consumer and Corporate Affairs is also minister of state for Agriculture).
Advocates of downsizing often blame the lack of success on politicians’ greed for higher pay and perks. In my opinion such greed is less a factor than bureaucratic opportunism or the fear a PM has of fracturing a loyal, secure caucus through dismissals and their consequence in by-elections or lost candidates.
Most mandarins who are not yet deputy ministers love more opportunities, not less. And long-waiting backbenchers who want the honor and recognition of being an Honorable may relish dismissals from the ministry, and dislike the idea of fewer chances of promotion.
While this is a brief canvass of why expectations for a smaller Mulroney cabinet are slight it doesn’t touch the core issue of ministerial size.
Does the cause of good government in Canada need almost 40 federal ministers? Of course not. There is less utility, not more, in a mob of 39 being seen as sharing in cabinet discussion and decision-making. The reality is it doesn’t so share.
The large cast is far more for: (a) seeming to give geographic representation across a broad country; (b) having someone to answer in Parliament or its committees for each department or major field or interest group; (c) providing a prime minister with an entourage which gives him a loyal claque in caucus and the House and a continent-wide image of backing.
As our prime ministers have become so publicly supreme, more presidential and less the first among peers, and as television has simplified and personalized politics, a lot of the ministers in our cabinets have become redundant, either for developing new policies or having the power to affect administration for the better or the cheaper in their respective bailiwicks.
Of course, this is my opinion, one with which some current and recent ministers will quarrel. In response I ask a populist’s question. How many of Mulroney’s 38 ministers are known beyond the Hill as public persons of importance, either in themselves or in their functions?
The country and Parliament in particular would be helped, not hurt, by a cabinet of a dozen ministers.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 08, 1992
ID: 11972241
TAG: 199211080107
SECTION: Comment
UNUSUAL LIMELIGHT for Supply and Services Minister Paul Dick came earlier this year when he helped unveil the first new coin marking 125 years of Confederation.
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Paul Dick has been the minister of Supply & Services (S & S) for almost four years and an MP for 20 years. He’s blunt, often abrasive, and not a limelight-chaser.
My interest in him came first when he was in opposition and my MP. Politicians of the capital region usually talk positively about the federal public service and respectfully about the unions of the service. You know the guff – “the best civil servants in the world.” Not Paul Dick. Not in 1972 as a new MP, not in 1992 as a minister of a department with over 8,000 employees. (It’s the one which does much of the buying, contracting and cheque-writing for the federal government).
When I’ve asked, Dick has been consistent in arguing that partisan political patronage in Ottawa such as “toll-gating” is dead and contract favoritism directed by ministers is rare, particularly compared with civil servants’ patronage. And he was proud on his 20th anniversary to talk about what he’s done at Supply & Services to reduce the scope for mutual deals and back-scratching among officials.
As one who’s consorted for years with politicians I’ve found Paul Dick a rare, wry bird. He’s in tiny minority among elected politicians who rarely try to be ingratiating or smooth and oh so happy to serve constituents and country. On the other hand he’s far from a fence-jumping controversialist like colleagues Harvie Andre and Don Blenkarn.
Most of the occasional attention Paul Dick gets in the media is local and unflattering, and he doesn’t much give a damn. The darts and jabs come mostly in the capital, in part because S&S rarely makes exciting policy or program news of national import. The people of his riding mostly live on the western, prosperous border of Ottawa and he’s the only Tory minister in the National Capital region since the ’88 election swept Liberals back in all but two ridings.
To repeat, Dick is critical of the attitudes and demands of the public sector unions. He believes that whoever governs Canada, the union leaders and their rank and file must soon adjust to a grim reality. Citizens as taxpayers and bearers of the federal debt-load must have more relief, in part by higher productivity in federal departments, even more from reining in the high remuneration and manifold perquisites of federal employees.
In conversation Dick doesn’t hammer at it but I gather he feels the Mulroney government has not been tough enough in budget restraint and cutbacks.
He notes that in the settlement of the massive PSAC strike last year, the government agreed there would not be large layoffs of federal employees. His own department’s rolls have dropped almost 2,000 since he became minister, largely due to extended use of abler, faster computer systems and electronic communications. It should drop another 1,000 by 1994.
He thinks keeping redundant workers is unfair to everyone, from taxpayer to those who continue to those who wind up doing `make-work.’
In Dick’s top rank among nine particular initiatives taken since 1988 at S & S is a new acquisitions policy. In effect, long developed lists by products and resources of favored or recognized contractors are gone. Bidding for contracts worth over $25,000 for goods and many services the government requires has been hauled into the open through an electronic catalogue, accessible by any company in Canada, large or small or far away. The catalogue lists call dates, requirements, specifications, etc. Over a year it covers almost $5 billion worth of buying, and it has worked well.
Dick says the 1,600 odd procurement officials like it and they are an immensely alert, informed and technically competent group. Business and industrial associations like the system. More firms are getting contracts, particularly ones beyond the Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal regions. A quick, satisfying review process is emerging that deals with complaints over bids accepted or lost.
He gave me the impression of having satisfied many of his original aims as an MP. Would he run in the next election? Would he be pleased, as the rumors have had it, to be made head of National Defence?
He thinks the latter chance will not fall to him. If Brian Mulroney leads the party he will run again. If not . . . it’s doubtful. He cherishes his boss.

Addendum: God bless Doug Creighton whatever he does, wherever he goes. Over the Sun’s 21 years no one has been kinder and more generous to me.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, November 06, 1992
ID: 11971639
TAG: 199211050127
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


A prediction. By next spring there’ll be serious concern inside and outside the CBC over the move of its flagship news, etc. to 9 p.m. This’ll not be over any adverse reaction to Pamela Wallin or her less magnetic co-presenter, Peter Mansbridge. It’ll be “wrong time.”
The slide in viewing figures will be shocking – i.e., from what The National and The Journal drew between 10 and 11. There are many older children watching between 9 and 10, and there are many other interesting choices.
The masterminds of Prime Time ignored the long, slow trend to more Canadians catching their day’s news from early newscasts from 5:30 to 7 and recently through their own Newsworld. It might have been shrewder to put the grand resources for Prime Time into a fast-paced half-hour of network news at 6 which stations could have flanked with a half-hour of local news, and left a half-hour at 10.30 or 11 for a muscly but cheap sprig from The Journal, strong in one-on-ones and contrary opinion-makers (say in the McNeil-Lehrer style) and chaired by a heavyweight like Bill Cameron.

Another prediction. If in the next quarter the PM finds a comfortable cabin-in-the-sky beyond politics the interim successor will be Don Mazankowski. However, it would be Michael Wilson to lead the Tories in the next election, not Kim Campbell.

Once again a flutter of pleasure in Ottawa has collapsed. The elating news was that Marcel Masse was about to depart from the National Defence ministry and the cabinet. Not for another few months. Apparently Masse himself had “telegraphed” the word. It went from senior military people and beyond, including an official post for Masse in Paris. Masse has the new naval training centre under way in Quebec and he’s not excited by defence policy or programs, including peace-keeping.
The PM has a problem at External Affairs which compounds the negatives of Masse. Tory MPs are weather gauges on ministerial merit. A few years ago when Barbara McDougall held economic portfolios they admired her, notably for stout defensive work in the House. Now they’re down because she seems unsure yet rather cavalier about international issues.

There was an immediate, popular overplay in reading the results of the American election, just as there was an overplay in Canada regarding the referendum results. For a brief, honeymoon period Bill Clinton will have broad backing but he has no landslide and is far from the people’s choice. This he may turn to advantage but it won’t be easy. He’s no more safe for long than was Jimmy Carter.
If the American economy isn’t booming as the mid-term congressional campaigns shape up in mid-1994 Clinton will be lower in the popular esteem than Bush has been the past year .
The Canadian overplay has come from rather fanciful ruminations on the significance of the high No vote, particularly in English Canada. Beyond Quebec not much has been made on how surprisingly close the Yes numbers were to the Nos in that province. The numbers are heartening, not devastating, to Premier Bourassa, and not nearly as discouraging for Mulroney as the scale of rejection westward from Sudbury. Imagine the Mulroney calculus at play: Figuring where and how Quebec’s Yes vote might be persuaded to go in a federal election.

While they seem like minor moves the Liberals under Chretien have made two recent decisions likely to hurt them with Canadian veterans of World War II, some half-million strong, and several metropolitan ethnic groups, notably Italo-Liberals.
Misreading the breadth, fury and staying power in the adverse reaction of veterans to the CBC-TV’s epic presentation, The Valour and the Horror, the Liberals chose not to be present for Senate hearings on the film. And a lot of veterans are concluding the Liberal party doesn’t care if the history of their generation has been twisted and perverted to suit a patronizing ideology from the radical fringe of a later generation.

Already the cadre of Grit MPs and staff are shaking their heads over Chretien’s appointment of two Metro luminaries of less than universally recognized distinction as the official candidates for the ’93 election. It’s an affront to the democratic pro- cess as a whole, not merely to the Liberals who have been or may be active in the particular Toronto ridings. Can you imagine what the likes of Sheila Copps would have said if Mulroney had done such parachuting?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 04, 1992
ID: 11971042
TAG: 199211030109
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Politically speaking, we will have to respond rather soon to what Bill Clinton undertakes to do come January.
This is so even if though he hasn’t registered much here. Certainly, we’ve not taken Clinton to our bosoms at the word “go” as we did with at least four modern presidents -FDR, Harry Truman, Ike and JFK.
We will respond to Clinton, first because we’re desperate for change and a fresh conventional wisdom. Beyond different cliches Clinton and his boomers mean changes in economic direction, likely including trade – and we’re the big traders.
Ever since FDR in 1932, a change in the presidency has had galvanizing consequences here. Perhaps Gerald Ford (1974-76) is the exception, although his unexpected elevation primed our already superior moral virtue. The change in office has often affected our economic outlook. We scratch to interpret what we ought to do about the economy in relation to what the president does. And yes, we almost always mimic.
Of course, not all of us will want to mimic. Neither the New Democrats nor such a bold fashioner of opinion as the Toronto Star wants any mimicry of Ronald Reagan (1980-88) and his approach, either to international affairs or the economy.
In my time, those intent on federal politics have been fascinated by the presidential side of American politics. Years after it happened I realized we had passed a watershed in our priorities in the early 1930s. Entering that decade our Britishness was paramount. We had always taken more interest in who was prime minister of Britain than the president of the U.S., but not after the advent of FDR to the highest American office.
Most of us knew FDR’s significance, even as we were alone with Britain against the Axis before Pearl Harbor, and even though the rise to the helm in Britain of Churchill had brought immediate, avid worship of him in Canada. We knew which office and political personality beyond us had become most relevant to our national well-being or its reverse.
My interest as an adolescent in the world beyond school and town was gripped far more by FDR’s radio chats that explained and defied the Great Depression than by anything said or proposed by R.B. Bennett, then our prime minister, or then and later by Mackenzie King, his cautious alternative.
Clement Attlee replaced Churchill as PM from 1945 to 1951 and his Labor regime brought in sweeping changes in education, welfare and industrial policy, all with an emphasis in the magic phrase of the time on “social and economic planning.”
While the Labor government’s program excited the CCF here, then the Canadian equivalent of Labor, it never really was a model or even a moot talking point in our federal politics. In fact, the socialist model extolled in Canada became the Swedish, not the British sort, and we were into the ’60s before Sweden became fashionable for our reformers.
We were saved from the British example because the Liberals under both King and St. Laurent managed the transition well from a wartime to a peace economy, keeping at bay the unemployment spectre.
While passing from the ’40s to the ’50s we fixed as never before on our international role through the UN and then through NATO and NORAD.
And as the Commonwealth faded in relevance Ottawa was dovetailing our economy and our resources primarily with the North American economy using both American investment and corporate push. Such policies created a home-grown response to a perceived threat from American economic and political power.
An old movement was reborn to save us from takeover and absorption by the Yanks. Remember Walter Gordon and Beland Honderich. Their legatees are with us in Mel Hurtig, Maude Barlow, Steven Langdon and Lloyd Axworthy. They are Canadians unafraid of government ownership and intervention in the private economy and who dislike foreign ownership in Canada. They sense as we all do that the end is at hand of the Reagan-Bush-Mulroney era and leaving it to the market.
Will Clinton really mean a difference? Will he influence Congress to be more open about trade or reinforce its protectionism? The Mulroney regime has only a half year or so to run. It will adjust, catch as catch can, to the early moves by Clinton on economic issues.
But what line will the Liberals and New Democrats take? Many of them are economic nationalists. Clinton may be tougher for us than Bush has been. His ways to get Americans back to work may mean putting Canadians out of work, yet his readiness to spend and to intervene in the economy will appeal to the opposition parties. We’ll soon know how they’ll respond.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 01, 1992
ID: 12797581
TAG: 199211010220
SECTION: Comment


Some wishful folk look for a Dalton Camp or a Stephen Lewis to “bell the cat,” i.e. to go after their party leader (Brian Mulroney or Jean Chretien, even Audrey McLaughlin) and insist for the good of the whole that he (or she) depart, even warn that a voluntary exit has prideful advantages over a riven party or a forced departure.
The situations today in the three federal parties do not quite dovetail with those in the 1960s where Camp and Lewis rose to the occasion of an allegedly failed party leader (respectively, John Diefenbaker and Tommy Douglas) with a deliberate move to replace him.
Stephen Lewis undertook his self-chosen mission directly, telling Douglas that for the good of the cause it was time to go; a better choice was at hand. This was done privately but was soon known openly throughout the party. It caused much anger and a durable bitterness in many members, especially in the NDP’s western heartland. In retrospect, the message was ill-judged and badly timed. For older New Democrats who remember, it deters even moves below the surface although disaster for the party looms in the coming election.
McLaughlin must have her shot, even though she cannot take advantage of Tories saddled with Mulroney and Grits stuck with Chretien.
The Chretien scenario is rich in doubt and frustration, notably for the MPs with several years of experience with how their leader leads. In the referendum campaign they’ve found what they could have gained from rececnt opinion polling: Chretien’s popular magic, so wonderful five years ago, has vanished across Canada beyond Quebec. Within Quebec he’s minus, minus, minus.
Even worse, Chretien by temperament is an intuitive, quick politician, not a rational one, and never pensive. He has to behave as a dominant leader. (Example? Take the dubious ukase of parachuting two candidates into Toronto ridings that are far from inactive in Liberal partisan terms.)
Chretien is clearly not a leader who sees the worth of a strong team, of promoting a prospective ministry of many talents. He’s a leader sustained by close advisers. Now there’s little strange for Grits in having a dominant leader, although St. Laurent and Pearson did operate rather collegially, but a team type would be much easier to follow into a campaign and probably into power than a leader already seen as almost as unappetizing as the man he would replace.
There’s more irony but less complexity in the leadership situation of the two opposition parties than the Tories face. It’s so late in the governing party’s parliamentary mandate and the recession is not easing.
How could an immediate “interim” replacement for Mulroney (say Joe Clark or Mike Wilson) function sensibly through the inevitable discursiveness over both economic and constitutional policy through a leadership campaign and convention?
Dalton Camp set out to have a leader in Opposition removed, not a prime minister. Memories of the cleavages which his initiatives created are still vivid in the party. The Chief had loyalists who would never forgive the ousters, and so would Brian Mulroney. So unless most of his MPs from Quebec choose in the next six months to cross over to the Liberals or the BQ the prime minister should not have problems, either in caucus or beyond it in the party membership, by continuing and fighting through a third general election.
The likelihood that he resigns, say just before or after Christmas, is slight. It would probably hinge on very personal factors – family pressure or an attractive high post beyond politics.
The gist of this piece is that the odds are much better than even that the federal election of 1993 will have Mulroney vs. Chretien vs. McLaughlin vs. Manning vs. Bouchard. The man most in question will be removed by the voters, not by his colleagues or by his own choice.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 30, 1992
ID: 12797221
TAG: 199210290116
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Surely there are many explanations for the pervasive No vote outside Quebec. We should not plunge toward the interpretation that a profusion of ill-educated, anti-French bigots, particularly in the boondocks, surged to the polls and overwhelmed our well-educated and thoughtful elites.
Yes, I may be suspect in presenting some other motivations among No voters because I was both for the No side and had made clear in this space that the so-called concessions to Quebec were not my reasons. These rested on: a) the sharp departure from parliamentary institutions and traditions; b) the canonizing of a hierarchy of groups and of social values; and c) the establishment of a mysterious “third order of government” which would give permanent recognition to four different aboriginal groups, each of whose memberships would be sanctioned by inherited bloodlines.
What follows is an elaboration of why so many may have voted No. It owes much to a paper written by John T. Pepall of Toronto, titled 60 Reasons and More to Vote No for Canada’s Sake. In particular, his points on “the Canada clause” are that it would be responsible for the self-destruction of our elected politicians. Why?
Because “the vague general language . . . will invite the courts to try to manage each of the broad political issues it raises, issues that should be left to the democratically elected Parliament and legislatures in Ottawa and the provinces.”
Further, “ . . . the commitment to `respect for individual and collective human rights and freedoms of all people’ is a dangerous attempt to satisfy two conflicting theories of rights and freedoms. Individual and collective rights must conflict.”
From my mail this conflict was bothersome to many. While given varied expression, the exasperation was really over the huge writs of influence and attention that organized interest groups have attained, with the attendant eclipse of the individual and the conception of a citizenship based on equality of people, not the superiority or priority of any interest.
On the “social union” proposals, Pepall believes they may be what most Canadians now support in order to protect themselves . . . but:
“If Canadians in the future have other priorities, the Constitution should not and cannot attempt to force them to follow our priorities. There is no statement of where the money to pay for all those good things is to be found and without a statement of the price and how it is to be paid these provisions are deceitful. . . . the only thing it can do is to invite the courts to interfere with democratic government under the pretext of furthering that objective.”
Some who wrote to me were moved to nay-saying by what one called “the triumph of socialism” in entrenching a social charter but not including the economic proposal to make interprovincial trade barriers unconstitutional.
What a paradox: To enshrine social programs but not the concept of a single economic base across Canada which must sustain them. Instead, as Pepall puts it, a dispute relations agency “would allow provincial governments to control interprovincial trade barriers and retain them.”
Pepall states (and I agree) that “an elective Senate would only be an obstructive Senate” gravely weakening the federal government and ending responsible parliamentary government i.e., a government whose maintenance of its right to spend and to legislate depends on Parliament.
The elected Senate, “by thwarting the government from time to time, would make the government irresponsible by preventing it from applying a coherent program.” No senator could be of the governing ministry. Crazily, the agreement allowed various ways of electing senators, determined literally by each province. Some would even be chosen by gender and race.
The provision to peg the seats in the House of Commons from Quebec at one-quarter of the whole in perpetuity was a gross inequity to many, not just British Columbians, or to those unaware of so many demographic shifts Canada has had.
“Immigration is necessarily a national responsibility,” says Pepall, “ . . . anyone admitted to any province has the right to live and work anywhere in Canada.” Therefore, the provision is wrong-headed which would apportion more priority in immigration to a province and less responsibility for the programs (but not the paying for them) to Ottawa. Several of such provincial aggrandizements (forestry, mining, housing, etc.) at the expense of a diminished Ottawa pushed many to vote No.
Arguably, an ill-considered, incomplete deal in many ways earned a rejection from many, beyond either bigotry or hate for Brian Mulroney.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 28, 1992
ID: 12796946
TAG: 199210270158
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


As a nay-sayer to the referendum, the victory became harder to savor as the counting swung westward from Quebec across Western Canada to the Pacific.
Why the dissatisfaction? Easy! The way the losers dodged the meanings in their defeat.
Surely the decent thing for the Yes mob’s leaders would have been less mouthing of respect for democracy and their determination to address the economy. Surely their defeat called for candor and real humility. Instead, they reiterated the marvel of Charlottetown with its agreement among 17 partisan leaders from across Canada. Gee whiz, once again.
As the night wore on, the response to rejection from the Raes, Romanows, Clarks and Mulroneys was banal and empty. Most regretted their unanimity had failed. Some were exasperated the reasons for voting No were so diverse and inchoate, with nothing like the vision they had put forward. Nevertheless, they would now in earnest turn to ending the recession.
To be vulgar, such intentions are crap.
Most of them, certainly almost all the federal politicians, are already obsessed with partisan, political survival!
Why didn’t any of them, perhaps excepting Bourassa, show candor about why they had been rebuffed so massively?
Pollsters have been on hire; focus groups have been assembled for weeks. For at least a fortnight all but the utter fools among the 17 knew what was coming. In recent days Brian Mulroney and others had bluffed with nonsense about his information about the many undecided. And what confidence he had in the common sense of the people. Really, does the PM believe in the tooth fairy?
Though forewarned, our leaders were unready as the obvious unfolded to explain themselves, say, for example, by appraising the significance for Canada’s future of those aspects of the accord which brought such a pervasive rejection, especially beyond Quebec.
Among the many leaders who spoke on Monday night I heard few who were blunt about the reasons, and only one of them was among the 17 – Ovide Mercredi!
It’s true that a CTV reporter, Craig Oliver, cried out that the prime reason for voting No in Canada beyond Quebec was Quebec. And most MPs could verify this from their encounters at home. There is this stubborn unwillingness to accept a unique position in the Constitution for Quebec, vis-a-vis other provinces. And we should stop fudging about it.
You must have seen a bitter, sulky Ovide Mercredi stating what subsequent sympathizers on the CBC’s oh, so politically correct panel fell over themselves denying: That the aboriginal people had been rejected. Mercredi was more aware than the pious that in the non-Arctic and non-metropolitan Canada, i.e., in the vast hinterlands where most natives live, the vote was very much against Joe Clark’s fuzzy idea of a “third order of government” for aboriginal people.
What was unforgivable, on the native issues, was the Yes politicians’ failure to suggest the obvious route in this regard. (Except for Bob Rae, who said his government could do much despite the Constitution.)
Much can be done with present procedures for land claims, treaty rights, and already munificent federal funding to give most bands greater control of their affairs.
Not one politician dared suggest that aboriginal politics of the particular, i.e., by band, region and province, rather than the politics of grandeur, ought to be the order of the next few years.
No one said that if the chiefs insist their Grail is the third order of government, then they must spell out what it means and how it would work. The image of a people-in-unity which so many felt Mercredi symbolized was shattered in the campaign yet neither the prime minister nor the premiers dared or cared to be frank about the consequences.
No one spoke about what you may readily hear from those who live and work in context with Indians and Metis. Such Canadians are against distinctive rights in perpetuity being embodied in bloodlines. To do so affronts the equality of citizens implicit in the Charter of Rights.
A CBC presenter kept marvelling at the big No vote in Northern Ontario, given its plenitude of natives and Franco-Ontarians. Well, this plenty voted Yes but they are far from a majority, most of whom were voting against native claims and official bilingualism of both federal and provincial kind.
It will probably be years before those who gave us the Charlottetown hodge-podge do what they should have done in plain honesty Monday night: Acknowledge it was a horror that deserves oblivion.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 25, 1992
ID: 12796549
TAG: 199210250113
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Some broad opinions have made the rounds as the referendum campaign closes. It’s been said that we are collectively rather stupid and unwilling to learn; we have neither been given nor seized the issues thoroughly; and as a society we are sick with suspicions and doubt.
Much of this stuff comes from those who welcomed the Charlottetown agreement as a masterpiece in salvation for our nation.
The first opinion posits that however plain the actual referendum question is, the agreement is too varied and complex for common understanding.
A corollary to this opinion is obvious. Counsel from the wise and the informed is imperative. Ordinary voters may not be able to grasp the agreement’s web of necessity and compromise but their representatives can and have. Ordinary voters should accept and respond to the astounding fact that almost all those who negotiated have been chosen by electors or represent the four groupings of native Canadians. They came together, agreed, and now stand together.
The second opinion is a well-used one. It puts responsibility, even blame, for the lack of appreciation for the agreement’s content and merits on the media, in particular on TV news and commentary and on the daily newspapers.
The third opinion is dour, accusatory and pessimistic, all over the failure of so many to appreciate what Canada stands for – a model for the the rest of the world: Harmony in diversity; caring and sharing; a truly kind community, seized with and practising both official bilingualism in the name of “two founding peoples” and official multiculturalism.
Beyond multiculturalism but inspired by its ideal that people of any ethnicity with their heritages in language, religion, and mores have acceptance and a niche for continuing in Canada, we have taken up sensible, humanitarian sanctions in our Constitution for collectives. However important the rights of any individual citizen, these on occasion may not be paramount to collective rights and entitlements – for example, rights of women, aboriginal people, the disabled and those who are visibly not white.
This month every MP I’ve contacted about public opinion in his or her riding has told me the core feeling which is moving their constituents who plan to vote No is antagonism toward Quebec and the Quebecois. And suspicion over the aboriginal part was growing even before so many of the natives rejected their messiah.
These MPs, all from The Rest of Canada, seem shocked at both their own and their leaders’ rejection. They’re worried by the scale and heat of the animosity roused by the deal. They know now the gulf between the ideal of Canadians united in kindliness and generosity and what the referendum has been exposing.
And so a common reaction to what the MPs have been encountering has been crystallized by Robert Stanfield, one of our most decent elders, in the phrase “a sick society.”
Here are my own reactions to the three opinions.
First, I cannot recall any major political issue from the 1942 referendum on conscription through all the big legislative initiatives of the ’60s and ’70s to the NEP to the constitutional deal of 1981 to the free trade agreement to the GST, in which so many Canadians have tried to become informed and have discussed and argued over its worth and particulars.
Second, as a journalist and ex-politician, in my times never have listeners and readers had at hand more grist on an issue in the form of digests, interpretations, forums and explanations. Some presentations, notably in the daily papers, have been remarkably fine, unbiased, and clear popularizations.
More significant in a democratic sense has been the range of faces seen and voices heard and ideas advanced about the Constitution. Sometimes I feel like shouting “Wow!” at the liveliness and depth of feeling.
Finally, the campaign is not revealing a sick society but a society engaged in its politics. It’s a contentious, seeking, demanding society.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 23, 1992
ID: 12796193
TAG: 199210220161
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Has any one elected politician beyond Quebec stood out in the swarm supporting the Charlottetown agreement? Or raised his or her stature nationally?
Any answer has to be based on what one sees on television or reads in the papers. Among the federal Tories the only ones noted performing well in debates or interviews are often seen as successors to Mulroney – Kim Campbell, minister of justice, and Jean Charest, minister of the environment. Neither has been seen or heard a great deal but aside from Joe Clark, neither has any of their better known colleagues like Don Mazankowski, Mike Wilson and Perrin Beatty.
The only federal Liberal who has won much exposure beyond Jean Chretien has been Sheila Copps. Although she’s not been superb in argument like Kim Campbell she has had her penchant for nastiness well-curbed, coming over as constructive rather than the perennial Grit partisan. Audrey McLaughlin has never been as die-cast as Copps nor as snide. The rap has been her repetitious purveying of now-banal social democratic commonplaces. She’s been more sprightly this campaign than we’ve come to expect, her vivacity more genuine, her responses in tune with where she is and what’s unfolding.
The long-running theme of lament at the dominance in attention given to leaders by the media has hardly been shaken by the coverage, at least on the establishment’s side and particularly focusing on Brian Mulroney and Bob Rae. They’re rarely out of the spotlight.
At first there seemed an overwhelming credibility in the host of honored people standing forth for the accord – hallowed ex-politicians like Robert Stanfield, Peter Lougheed and Bill Davis; esteemed academics; big time publishers; mayors in profusion; and business tycoons of national or regional import. None has caught on big, at least as I’m sensing it.
Despite kaleidoscopic variety among the nay-sayers, seen best in the captivating variety of faces and arguments in the “free” commercials, the national media chose early and have stayed late to give us so much on really very few of them – Preston Manning, Judy Rebick, Deborah Coyne, Sharon Carstairs, and belatedly, Elijah Harper.
Of course, Manning most of all, and to a lesser extent Gordon Wilson, the provincial Liberal leader in B.C., have become much better known and (I believe) respected through such exposure, even by many who detest their stances. Surely, if the negatives outnumber the affirmatives beyond Quebec, Manning will gain most among the open politicians. The tone and import of his counsel after Oct. 26 to the public and the horde of rebuffed politicians of the Tory, Liberal, and New Democrat parties will be significant, at least until we are through the next federal election campaign.
Clyde Wells is the one premier beyond Bob Rae who has had a lot of exposure throughout the campaign. After canvassing I find myself alone in rating Rae’s performance as firm and rational, ever since he swallowed the Senate-reform bullet at Charlottetown. Most others I encounter rank him far down, some in the same sump as Mulroney. If anything was plain in early September it was that Ontario was sure to go Yes. At that time I could find no one among the English-language wise ones in the media of the Hill who thought it could be close in Ontario. Well, for many weeks Rae, in contrast to Harcourt in B.C. and Filmon in Manitoba, has been fully into the campaign . . . bootlessly! Surely he will be pounded when the voters get to him, probably as much as Mulroney will.
As one not a Wells fan, it seems to me the Newfoundland premier has been having a triumph of sorts. While he walks and talks on one side of the referendum street he makes us feel his basic principles would have him on the other side . . . but. Only the coercion of desperation among his fellow leaders keeps him away. Surely in the 1993-2000 period as Quebec determines when and how it shall relate to the rest of Canada it will likely be between Clyde Wells and Preston Manning who inspires and marshals the rest of Canada, not Jean Chretien or Audrey McLaughlin.
To appreciate the biggest bubbles burst by the campaign just go back to the front pages and the lead TV bites in July through to late September. Good old Joe! Self-redeemed and justified. The selfless hero of the negotiations to an agreement who shared the lead with the man he so promoted as spokesman for the Nations, the charismatic Ovide Mercredi. Joe Clark’s been a political Lazarus too often to be declared politically dead but his survival is most doubtful. Mercredi is finished.
There’s not much humor in the above exercise but there should be lots of it of the wry sort on plebiscite night in who claims the victory and who blames who for the defeat.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 21, 1992
ID: 12795914
TAG: 199210200192
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


“It’s rough, very rough out there,” a talented young Liberal MP told me. He swung an arm to indicate a wide circle of troubles as he responded to my query on what was happening about the Constitution among his voters.
“They’ve stunned me. I was smug and fat after four years as an opposition MP in a community where the Tories wore out their welcome long ago and Mulroney’s a common curse word. I was sure this accord was a fair, hard-won compromise. It could satisfy Quebecers and, backed by the federal parties and the premiers, would be handily approved elsewhere. I never conceived it would be in trouble at the federal centre. I’ve been shaken.”
Had he found in his work for the Yes campaign that he was personally unpopular?
“No. But many are not ready to listen to me. They want to sound off, to let me know they dislike this deal. Even a lot who’ll vote for it really aren’t keen about it; with them there’s a fear of consequences. My influence is minimal. Frankly, so is my leader’s – and the other leaders’. What I’m hearing isn’t sweet or constructive.”
What did he think should be done by the governments and Parliament, given the near certainty that the affirmative will not prevail?
He didn’t know. No ready course had come to him, except the prayer that constitutional issues might be cooled for a long time. In particular, he was impatient to get off the Constitution and back to his caucus assignment on the economic front.
A federal election is less than 10 months away. In a few weeks Parliament will be sitting again. His Liberals seem the most likely to win the election, perhaps handily. Wouldn’t his party have to produce a strategy and a plan very quickly on both the Constitution and Quebec?
He nodded but went on, pondering aloud and and frankly about the difficulties in getting priorities right for the year ahead. How could a federal party stand back and let the rivalries over what Quebec should do be played out largely by the provincial parties and politicians there? The Liberals would have to field candidates in Quebec’s 75 federal ridings. They would have to have a strong federalist line. They couldn’t just concentrate on programs for economic recovery. There would be Bloc Quebecois candidates against them.
Of course, in Parliament the Liberals would not be alone in post-referendum conundrums. Will Mulroney stay on? If he does, what does he do on the constitutional front, given that he comes from Quebec and so do a lot of his MPs?
There was no solace, thought the MP, that advice from most of the significant Canadian elite is being rejected: All the politicians in power and most of those in opposition, along with their staffs and party organizations; the corporate leaders, especially the financial leaders; union leaders; even the editorialists!
However the totals of the plebiscite may split, the rejection is massive. The lack of trust of millions in their establishment is so widespread none of its members with a sense of responsibility can duck the question – not how it came about, but what’s to be done after such a vote of non-confidence in representative government?
He finds those crying No exasperating in their diversity. How do you shape a sensible response to the rejection when those people and groups most vociferous on the No side differ so much in motives and reasoning? Post-vote, each one will claim credit and say, “The Canadian people want what we want.”
The contrasting themes are so different, say, from those of Preston Manning and the Reformers to those of Judy Rebick and the organized feminists and to those of Pierre Trudeau and his disciples. The MP doesn’t see what guidance there is for the politicians and the parties from their particular assertions against the the Charlottetown agreement: Reform, for a long, constitutional moratorium; NAC, for a substantial redefinition of the agreement; and the Trudeauites for sticking with the constitutional status quo.
Had he come to see the stunner that’s emerging as largely the sum of many different reasons for rejecting the agreement?
Or was it fuelled mostly by hate for the prime minister and scant respect for his own leader and the leader of the NDP? In short, what’s at the core of rejection, as he’s encountering it?
The MP said he fears the meanness he finds running strong and deep beneath the surface talk on the referendum. When he would name it and challenge it, few were openly ready to acknowledge it.
What is it?
“It’s plainly anti-Quebec, and at heart, anti-French and anti-bilingualism.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 18, 1992
ID: 12795570
TAG: 199210180191
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Backgrounder


What will happen if the majority answer in any province is No to the proposals for constitutional change?
In particular, how will it affect our leaders and their parties?
First, the sky won’t fall. The dollar won’t drop far. Life for almost everybody outside active politics will be much the same, at least for several years.
The political communities of the country will vault off to economic issues, to intense, partisan argument on how to get jobs and recovery. In politics there will be perhaps a fortnight of chilled numbness. A furnace of recriminations is unlikely. A rather smug satisfaction will soon crystallize among plain citizens, well before it gets to ministries and the legislatures.
Myriads will decide we have all been saved from a haywire deal, one which would have made a Constitution already far from simple into a monstrous bureaucrats’ delight and an encyclopedic straitjacket for the ages.
If the votes should show a phenomenal rejection in most of the provinces beyond Quebec – where most elected politicians were sure the deal would romp – all politicians will be chary for a few years about reviving major constitutional change. Any exception to this almost certainly will have to do with some step-by-step means to keep movement going on the issue of native self-government.
In short, by broad agreement in the so-called Rest of Canada there will come to pass something like the moratorium on constitutional activity that Preston Manning has called for.
The onus for the next stage of constitutional ideas shifts from those who know they are Canadians first to those who know they are Quebecers first. They will have to thresh out their aims, to some degree by whom they elect to the next House of Commons, and even more by whether they put the PQ into office in their next provincial election.
Remember this about the open arrays on each side in the referendum: Few backers were enthusiastic across the crowded board of proposals; and to a comedic extent there has been contradictory diversity among those saying No. I find ridicule in companions in nay-saying such as Pierre Trudeau, Judy Rebick, Marjorie Bowker and the Mohawk Warriors. Their reasons are many and most varied.
Mine is not among theirs. I believe the ruination of the parliamentary system lies in the proposals, and this without taking up the alternative, presidential system.
Let me stake out a firm opinion. In the short run, defeat for “Mulroney’s referendum” won’t mean his withdrawal from politics will be announced in the next few months.
One may well say that in all decency Mulroney ought to go quickly, above all to give the Tories a quick, clean transition to a new leader who would not be from Quebec or detested in most of the country. But exciting alternatives to Mulroney are not at hand.
No, surely not Joe Clark or Kim Campbell or Perrin Beatty. Also, Mulroney has been masterful at holding loyalties in the caucus and the party as a whole.
We must also remember that the throngs voting No in province after province underline that Mulroney has had with him all but a handful of the party leaders from coast to coast. The No result will also have been in part a rejection of persuasions from Jean Chretien and Audrey McLaughlin, and from Mike Harcourt, Don Getty, Gary Filmon, Bob Rae, etc.
So many factors indicate a good wager – about even money – that within the next 10 months Canadians will get the electoral chance to retire Mulroney from office, probably from politics, rather than voting on his successor as Tory leader.
What is also a likely consequence is a period in office at Ottawa for the federal Liberals, and this will not begin with any ecstatic acclaim for either their leader or his party. And when you ponder it a bit, is it so bad that we are into a period in federal politics without extravagant hopes or hates in leaders?
It may seem beyond post-referendum considerations in Canada but the victory for Bill Clinton and the Democrats that is developing in the U.S. will very much affect the intentions of party politicians here for several years. Watch for it!
To explain, think about the seemingly oddball alignment on the Yes side of Tom D’Aquino of the Business Council and Bob White of the CLC. Each man stands for contrary values on almost all other political issues.
Chretien and the Liberals may well figure that all they have to do is mark time and power will come to them, given the massive hatred for Mulroney. And they may be further encouraged by the desperately low ratings across Canada of Audrey McLaughlin and the New Democrats, the party of Bob White. Nonetheless, a wave of influences will overflow for a year or more from the enthusiasm and programs of a fresh, activist government in the U.S. This is certain to put more ideology into our next federal election than was in the cards if George Bush were to gain a renewed mandate.
And so although Chretien and much of his present caucus have been much closer on political ideas to D’Aquino than to White, they may have to foresake the centre line where most of them, notably Chretien, are so comfortable.
In short, while we will get a lot of emphasis in Ottawa on being pragmatic, out of both the massive No and the Clinton romp to power, our Ottawa world is likely to tilt to the left, further than it has for two decades.
Another forecast: Out of the detritus of the next election’s avalanche the torch for social and economic conservatism will be raised by Manning and the Reform Party, not by Mulroney or his successor.
It’s easier to forecast a leftward shift in our federal politics as America leads that way than to divine what the short-run future of the persistent, anti-American theme in Canadian politics will be. Surely Chretien will not campaign , undertaking to revoke the free trade agreement with the U.S. But the NDP and the Bob Whites will, and the Toronto Star may be with them, perhaps even some Liberals like Lloyd Axworthy.
Anti-Americanism here with Bill Clinton in the White House has a rather different problem than with Bush. Clinton’s programs may be inspiring models but he and the Congress will be far tougher with Canadian interests in matters of trade.
All this has been my reading of the likelihoods in our politics, roughly into 1994. They are not my opinion on what should be done by our political leaders, or at least by one federal leader and party. This is it: Prepare to face the obvious. Canadians and their governments in Ottawa and the Rest of Canada must face Quebec some day.
Neither our present federalism will do, nor would that which was embodied in either Meech or Charlottetown. We must bring forth and weigh the choices openly during the next two years.
Either we choose an asymmetrical which keeps Quebec in Canada through a set of powers and arrangements which are unique, or we choose to deal with Quebec on the basis of as amicable a separation as mutual goodwill may achieve.
The latter choice seems more sensible to me, difficult though it will be. Why? Because it would force forward candor, an end to pious hopes and such pretences as going on as though anti-Quebec sentiment is of little significance in the rest of Canada.
On the practical level, facing the implications of separation does predicate an agreement from federal Ottawa to nine provincial capitals on the “how” and the “who” of dealing with Quebec. This, I think, might only be possible through a mandate, sought and given in a federal election.
Regrettably, such a bold move means a seeming abandonment of many in Quebec who are Canadians more than they are Quebecers. On the other hand, is there any other course which will put both the rest of us and the Quebecois up against the tortuousness and the costs and losses of a parting?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 16, 1992
ID: 12795162
TAG: 199210150177
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Any believer in the parliamentary system should shiver at the prospects for the House of Commons if the Charlottetown propositions get into the Constitution.
This believer is frustrated that so little in the welter of Yes and No of the referendum talk touches on Parliament or the consequences of a new Senate, an expanded House, and a complex categorizing of all legislative work.
During the brief House debate over the referendum proposition MPs didn’t say much about their present and future roles, indicating how spooked they are by the constitutional epic and their own rampant unpopularity.
Such a lacuna was more surprising than that the gang of first leaders and their mandarins devised a new Parliament which reflects little thought and less care for the House (where the members and their continuing confidence determines and maintains the government of Canada).
More and more, so-called “executive federalism” has shifted away from Parliament. It’s attuned far more to what’s on in the various ministries and upper mandarinates. Also, the aims and influences of big interest groups concern executive federalism far more than MPs, their caucuses, and the party memberships beyond them. The Business Council or the NAC or the CLC now have more representative significance to political leaders than non-ministerial MPs.
This apotheosis of both the interest group and the peak cadres of the provinces makes for much of the irony in the proposals. These would pitch 42 more MPs into a system where many of the present 290-odd spend so much time in nurturing constituents. And most in the larger crowd of MPs would have even less of substance to do or a public stature when doing it.
Senators will be prime, not MPs. Take Ontario. It would have 117 elected MPs and just six elected senators. No wonder Peter Lougheed thinks most MPs will wish to be senators.
Neither Brian Mulroney nor Joe Clark, whatever the avowals, has ever been much a man of the House or for the House. Nor has Jean Chretien. As for the NDP, Stanley Knowles, Mr. Parliament, the long-time advocate of abolishing the Senate, sits still at the Clerk’s Table but the NDP has abandoned abolition and its pride as conscience of the House.
To my knowledge, not one party leader, not one MP beyond independent Tory Pat Nowlan, has even quibbled over the new Senate and the inflation of the House. No one has said: First, let’s reform the bedrock institution of our system before we import a piece from a different system.
The design for the proposed Senate will make it more difficult for any federal government to get through major legislation. In theory if not in practice the present Senate has had the power to block a government’s main intentions. Rarely did it do so because it lacked the cachet of election by the people.
Even with a docile Senate it has rarely been easy for a federal ministry to get a big, contentious bill into law, and that includes such horrors (to many) as Trudeau’s National Energy Program or Mulroney’s free trade agreement or the GST.
In these last examples, the debates over the bills in the House were long and bitter and they did rouse the country. Then, in what’s intrinsic to the parliamentary system, the government got its way. Why? Because it had the confidence of more MPs representing more constituencies. Those who opposed in the House were persistent. Many of them made it clear that if and when they formed the government out would go the NEP and free trade and the GST.
That’s how the parliamentary system can and should work. But this is not good enough for those in some of the provinces who distrust almost as a reflex anything proposed by Ottawa. They’ve ignored how the organized lobbies have been making the Commons less important, and, influenced by the U.S. where powers are divided among executive, legislative and judicial branches, they’ve gone for one aspect of the U.S. system. Their goal is a Senate able to delay, sometimes to block the federal executive, and always to advance or defend provincial causes or some particular interest or rights (see language, culture and native rights).
On the Hill there would be even tougher discipline than we have had from the prime minister on his caucus in the House. In electoral affairs, it will make winning any Senate seat more vital to a party leader than capturing four or five House seats. Also, half these senators will come from the six provinces with the least people – the four Atlantic ones and Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.
The intense focus of leaders, organizers, and money on the relatively few who choose these 36 senators will not be pretty, nor will the results when assembled for the blockades.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 14, 1992
ID: 12794868
TAG: 199210130063
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


You may have felt in watching the Bourassa-Parizeau debate (as translated on CBC Newsworld) that the premier had a clear edge in both argument and aggressiveness, and that he has a better grasp of what’s in the Charlottetown Accord. Even granting the alleged federalist such an advantage, as I do, what seemed more remarkable was what neither debater gave time to over the 90 minutes.
There was nothing, at least nothing explicit, nothing kindly, about Canadians, about Canada, about the 125 years of mutual and interwoven history through which Quebec has been an integral part of the federation.
Quebec has grown and prospered while taking part politically in Canadian affairs, often with adroitness, often through superb politicians in the House of Commons. Even now the prime minister of Canada is of Quebec, yet Monday night it was as though the likes of Cartier, Laurier, St. Laurent, and Trudeau never were. There was one slight reference by Parizeau to the likelihood of a negative vote elsewhere and a snort from Bourassa which suggested that was unlikely and irrelevant.
The basic assumption of both men is that the nature of the issue and its resolution are for Quebecers, more specifically for Quebecois, to define and resolve. And there seems a corollary to this: That somehow Quebecers, whether federalists or sovereignists, can shape the attitudes of the rest of Canada by defining how things will go in Quebec. In short, at this time what the rest of Canada may be thinking or shaping towards on referendum day doesn’t matter much to Bourassa and Parizeau.
Another aspect which an outsider might see as part of reality in Quebec was ignored. And this was strange, given the minutes of joint attention given to Quebec’s native people, some 65,000 strong. Such concern magnified the absence of direct references to the other non-francophone denizens of Quebec, about a million in number (more than the population of either Nova Scotia or New Brunswick).
It’s true that an imaginative viewer might have sensed this non-French group and its threat in the reiterations by each debater on the importance and worth of the law which forbids English signage in Quebec.
Not until the premier at the closing came on with his utilitarianism regarding the need for the Quebec “state” to continue relating to Canada as an economic entity could a stranger from abroad have appreciated that the state of Canada may have been or is a considerable, positive factor for Quebec. But before Bourassa got to this, his sketch of Quebec’s distinctiveness and the powers he had gained or clarified and the federal intrusions he had snaffled had made it clear he was with Parizeau in being without warmth and affection or even much interest beyond wariness for the rest of Canada.
What makes such an attitude even more dispiriting to those Canadians who are enthusiastic about Quebec within Canada is the quality of the premier and the leader of Quebec’s official opposition. These are decent and courteous men, not rabble-rousers or demagogues, but not really Canadian.
As Quebec has come on since World War II many of us beyond it have shrunk our vision of the Canadian state which had the federal government as the chief and most significant government administering and uniting us from sea to sea, from America to the Pole.
Some of us have thought the way ahead could be toward “asymmetry” for Quebec: Accept that the government of Quebec has a unique role among provinces, acknowledge such distinctiveness but not much diminishing the national roles we wanted Ottawa to fill for the rest of Canada.
Some of us, particularly west of Saskatchewan, have compensated somewhat for an Ottawa seen as too responsive to the demands of Quebec by switching focus and hope to provincial government, even to talking up a decentralized country.
Then there are the vehement among us, some of whom simply won’t forget or keep rediscovering the victory on the Plains of Abraham. They are not the norm but very numerous. Some of the shock to our establishment at finding their Yes campaign in trouble is due to a prolonged discount of bitter reaction beyond Quebec to its aspirations.
Anti-Quebecois views are not rare or unvoiced in the present campaign, especially in the West. Those who hold them will constitute a goodly share of the No vote there. What bemuses me is how our political leadership of the federal kind, both in Quebec and beyond, deals with an acceleration of this vehemence if the referendum is lost in more than Quebec.
It isn’t pretty, is it? Anger brooding beyond Quebec at Quebec and the cowards of federal Ottawa . . . and Quebec leaders demonstrating Canada is outside most of their reckoning.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 11, 1992
ID: 12794638
TAG: 199210110190
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The smashing debut of the Ottawa Senators last week was wonderful for the pride of the locals of the capital who had hoped for it but feared the worst. As a fan of the mauled Canadiens, my heroes’ eclipse set me speculating politically on the decision of the promoters to resurrect the name Senators, a name given the original Ottawa hockey team some 90 years ago.
The original tag was not plucked from classic times or from the U.S. model but from Parliament Hill. Senators there were then durable symbols of high rank. Alas, that rating has dissipated with a Senate the depository for the politically failed or the party bagmen. Further, the Senate we have has been under a death threat since the crusade for the Triple-E got rolling. If the majority of voters in each province vote Yes on Oct. 26 the present senators get cut. As for the new ones, their future is rather vague, their roles unclear.
Despite the low esteem of our senators both within politics and across the land this cannot be said of American senators. Their power and influence is renowned (as George Bush keeps complaining).
What was clear, symbolically speaking, was that Thursday night’s celebratory return of NHL play to Ottawa has a funny side. The theme was overwhelmingly classical – ancient Rome, the Forum, gladiators, men of the Legions, each crowned by the helmet with the high centre-ridge. Shades of Cicero and Caesar, not Hartland Molson or Al Gore.
(Senator Molson, 85, appointed in 1955, is the most senior of our senators and the former war hero-fighter pilot who once owned the Canadiens. That he was not the inspired choice to drop the first puck may reflect a determination of the Ottawa owners to avoid images tied to the real senators of Ottawa. Or maybe Molson was passed by through fears of double-decker sponsor trouble.)
In a decade or so, if the “if” of the referendum a fortnight away is met positively the real senators may have an aura of power and influence which could enhance the hockey ones, at least in Canada. One must hang on to the “if” because there’s so much uncertain or unknown regarding who will be in the Senate, how they will get there, and what responsibilities they will have.
At least six of the some 64 senators will come easily to the role, merely being anointed to it by the premier of Quebec. And in Ontario, Nova Scotia, and B.C., premiers have ordained that their split of six each may be elected but it will be through a process which guarantees at least three females win.
In short, most real senators in the new institution would no longer be at the golden trough through favor of a prime minister, but they will be a varied gang, some to be blamed or credited to voters of various bailiwicks, some to a redressing of a long male dominance in politics, and six to one premier’s choices.
None of these senators in prospect may serve in a federal cabinet; colloquially, they’re can’t make the big team. This is in line with belief in the West that such an association corrupts, that it will bring dominance of the reigning prime minister from the House into the chamber which must challenge and check his intentions. There will surely be candidates for the Senate nominated by the parties, but somehow, after they take their seats, they won’t be reined by party and caucus discipline but act always to advance and protect the interests of their regions (or their sex!)
Yes, the new Senate as roughly limned in the accord which we shall soon affirm or deny, seems improbable and impracticable to me. But . . . at this moment of the Ottawa Senators’ blazing start I recall that I disbelieved the Ottawa promoters would get and pay for the franchise, raise the money for operations and a new rink, and find recruits able to make the team competitive.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 09, 1992
ID: 12794255
TAG: 199210080084
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Of the horde of known, constitutional experts none has shown more clarity and range than Peter Russell, a political scientist at the University of Toronto. He popularizes intricacies. He writes for all, not just his peers in erudition. And so those who want to know how we’ve come to a crucial referendum will find his latest paperback entertaining.
Constitutional Odyssey, just out from U of T Press, has a subtitle which asks a question: Can Canadians Be a Sovereign People? That is, a people ready to accept that the Constitution really belongs to them.
A reader gets a measure but no overload on the philosophy and history of constitutions. Explanatory contrasts are drawn between British constitutional form and traditions in constitutions and the American example which has been influencing us more and more in what we think a constitution should be.
Most of the Odyssey’s narrative describes the five rounds or stages into which Russell divides the tries at constitutional change since the early 1960s. We’re in the fifth round now, and Russell intimates a fracturing consequence if it does not close with substantial, popular approval for changes both in Quebec and outside it.
The failure of the Meech accord had ended the fourth round, one that began fairly low-key in the mid-’80s.
The previous, third round had seemed to close with a “peace for our time” attitude in the country in 1981 after patriation had brought the basic BNA Act home from Britain and a Charter of Rights had been incorporated.
The second round had shaped after 1976 into much debate and canvassing by the elites, prompted by the election of Rene Levesque as premier with Quebec “sovereignty” his purpose.
The first round of constitutional change had begun late in the Diefenbaker years and was carried on by the Pearson government, featuring legalistic negotiation with provincial governments. Declarations of a pending crisis in the mid-’60s from the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism had spurred talk about a serious dilemma in French Canadians’ dissatisfaction over language rights.
The first round had had its sad climax under Pierre Trudeau as PM in 1971 with the short-lived deal of the Victoria Charter, aborted by Premier Robert Bourassa after he got home.
The conclusion of Constitutional Odyssey notes the differing conceptions which Canadians faced in 1927 after Britain agreed we should be autonomous and completely self-governing. There was hesitation. Nothing definitive was decided on the kind of political community we should be.
As Russell puts it: “Should it be a compact of sovereign provinces? A covenant between two founding peoples? Or simply a community of equal citizens governed by majority will?”
That neatly poses the three main visions still before us as Oct. 26 nears. Most Yes proponents seem to believe in either the “compact” vision with the “covenant” of peoples in some sort of parallel that it’s well not to define too much.
On the other hand, so many thinking No believe in the third vision: Of Canadians as equal citizens, whomever they are, wherever they are.
For years, some as an MP, I was in the third grouping, coming to Ottawa in 1957 thinking the federal government ought to be the over-riding one, with Canadian citizenship a simple, binding, common denominator.
Such simplicity was largely ignored through most of the first four rounds which Russell describes. Only in the present round were gestures made for public participation in concert with the process of accommodations in private of first ministers and their mandarins.
The prime assumption of first ministers has been that Canada is “a compact of sovereign provinces.” This view hasn’t been challenged significantly in public since Trudeau abided by the advice of the Supreme Court in 1981 that his government had the right to act unilaterally in patriating the Constitution but the unwritten rules of “constitutional convention required a substantial degree of provincial consent.”
Since 1960 most first ministers would have blended the vision of Canada as a compact between sovereign provinces with the myth dear to Quebec federalists that it was also “a covenant between two founding peoples.”
Peter Russell believes the five rounds have provided an extraordinary period of discussion. We care now about the Constitution and we face a referendum on it. Either we fuse the three visions of what Canada should be or “demonstrate that we do not share enough to continue together.”
Russell thinks we accept deep diversity with different senses of identity, allegiance and political values or Canada goes.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 07, 1992
ID: 12793991
TAG: 199210060125
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Not long ago a letter to the Globe and Mail challenged the absence in a national newspaper of an obituary for Fred Tilston. Tilston had died the week before at 86, leaving just two Canadian winners of the Victoria Cross alive.
It’s a question for more than the Globe. I asked it of myself. Why not a tribute to a quiet Canadian – who was the most determined man I’d ever met?
Fred was 39, a commander of an infantry company in the Essex Scottish, a Windsor-based battalion, when his fighting war ended. For 47 subsequent years Fred heaved around with canes or crutches, eschewing a wheelchair. Most of one leg, and quite a bit of another, was gone and one arm was badly crippled and scarred. Several small chunks of metal had lacerated his head. Doctors made an improbable patch-up of a body torn by shrapnel and bullets, some time after a sorrowing padre, sure Fred was finished, had drawn a blanket over his face.
Fred was wounded (not for the first time!) on Mar. 1, 1945 in an attack on the Siegfried Line. It was a raw, wet day and the enemy’s positions in rolling, forested country were studded with anti-tank ditches and machinegun pits.
Maj. Tilston led his men, about 100, to the goal for the day and held it despite his own wounds, repeated counter-attacks, and the reduction of those fit to a dozen or so. Many of his soldiers were green (because political hesitancy at home left us short of infantry). Mud and obstacles kept our tanks from helping. Fred and his men stuck to their objective. Late in the day another mortar bomb tore him up and knocked him out.
Of course, during World War II hundreds of Canadian servicemen had improbable recoveries from severe wounds. Fred Tilston didn’t think he was unique. Only when hard-pressed would he talk about the fight which brought him the V.C., and then he always veered away to his comrades.
Fred couldn’t conceive he had been, or was, out of the ordinary. Perhaps symbolic or fortuitously archetypal but not extraordinary. He was a pharmacist before volunteering in 1940. After ’45 he took up this work again, eventually to head a large corporation and take a leading role in the drug industry. He became well-to-do. But he never did forgot the “comrades.” He never stopped the work of “In Memoriam” for those who served Canada and didn’t come back.
So, at 84 Fred Tilston was a celebrant with some 2,500 other veterans over from Canada as the Dutch, led by their Queen, honored the 45th anniversary of their deliverance by Canadians. At Groesbeek, a large Canadian burial ground in Holland, I watched Fred, besieged by dozens of veterans or cheered as he lurched along, nodding, smiling, speaking names.
But right after the formal ceremonies, Fred was out of sorts – angry, fuming, disturbed. He called to a cluster of us: “Come along these rows.”
We passed along three long rows of headstones. “Just note the names,” he said. “Figure the proportion that is French.”
The cause of his grief had been quite audible booing that had arisen during the formal ceremonies from the ranks of Canadian veterans, first when the Canadian ambassador, a Quebecer, and then a padre, had spoken in French. It was as if a murmur of suppressed anger had rippled over the throng.
The several thousand men buried at Groesbeek came from scores of units. The rough proportion of our scan showed one French name in four. Some of these were of Quebec units but a lot had served in outfits from the rest of Canada. Fred’s grief came from his awareness there had been many French Canadians with us – and that many of them had died.
A few months later he wrote me about “the conduct of those who objected to a few words of French during the service at Groesbeek.
“I have visited more than 100 Canadian war grave cemeteries in France, Belgium, Flanders, Germany, Holland, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Burma. If an epitaph is desired, it may be included in the headstone of the grave. It is optional and chosen by the next of kin. Sometimes it’s a line from the Bible, or a quotation from the classics or Shakespeare. Frequently it’s a simple family message of pride, love and sorrow.
“But the finest of these epitaphs I have seen should be shown to those hooligans of Groesbeek. It is on the headstone of Pte. C.E. Belzile of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal. It reads: `Pour Dieu et mon Canada.’ Notez bien! Il dit `mon Canada.’ ”
Tilston went on: “The grave of Pte. Belzile is at Bergen-op-Zoom and lies between two graves of men from English Montreal units of the same brigade. Each time I have visited Bergen-op-Zoom’s Canadian cemetery there has been a special prayer and thoughts for Pte Belzile. Oh, that Canada had more men of his ilk . . . ”
Now we have one less.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 04, 1992
ID: 12865671
TAG: 199210040171
SECTION: Comment


CBC-TV’s two-hour reprise of the Canada-USSR hockey series of 1972 sharpened memories for some three million viewers. It wasn’t perfect; I longed for more film of actual play and a more analytical script by a less nondescript voice.
But ignore those quibbles. It was a good show. As one who was at each game in ’72 (as acting chairman of Hockey Canada) the program reminded me of how and why a few of us worked so hard to get the federal government into sport in the early ’70s. And it’s ironic that our highest purpose then has such odd echoes now. (Radio-Canada, which gets roughly 40% of the CBC’s annual budget, chose to interpret the reprise of ’72 as too much a paen to national unity for Quebecers during the neutral zone of the referendum campaign.)
Let me vault back to the genesis of the ’72 series. After the ’68 federal win by Pierre Trudeau those of us lobbying for sport got behind PET’s health minister, John Munro. We had roughly this equation in our pitch.
Hockey = culture = politics = government backing.
The equation had not been immediately popular with politicians in the early ’60s as we began to advance it. To John Diefenbaker support for sport was somehow frivolous. As I recall, the prime mover in politics had been John Taylor, a Tory MP from B.C. and son of a hockey immortal, Cyclone Taylor. I knew him well. He had two motives which were to become the mandate of Hockey Canada at its start in 1969.
First, improve the quality of coaching and the speed and finesse in the game as learned by Canadian kids, in part by offering an alternative to the NHL style of play and in part breaking through the NHL’s parochialism.
Second, set out to regain our international pre-eminence in hockey which had been lost to the USSR.
To summarize these twin motives, there were thousands, symbolized by Al Eagleson, head of the NHL players, who above all ached to beat the Russians, to prove Canadians were the best at hockey. And there were a lot fewer (and I was one) who thought hockey in Canada would never be what it ought to be until it became global, infused by strategies, tactics, and training techniques from Europe. And I’d accepted the opinions of both Father Dave Bauer and the coaching genius, Lloyd Percival, that a fair match-up of the Russians and the NHL’s best would shake the pro hierarchy to its foundation.
In political and bureaucratic circles in the ’60s it was a very small band of enthusiasts who believed that: a) hockey was the main basis for the massive, common denominator interest in sport across Canada; b) this was as much a unifying and inspiring element of for most Canadians as our political system and its competitions. But we knew sport, led by hockey, fascinated far more Canadians than those intent on music, drama, and literature which had won federal endowment through the Massey Commission of the 1950s and the creation of the Canada Council.
I was recalling a busy era of lobbying when last week’s reprise came to the famous bolt of Al Eagleson onto the ice during the crucial third period of the last game in Moscow. Few know my grab at his neck had failed by a fraction from hauling him back to his seat beside me. (A chore of mine in Hockey Canada was to help channel the irrepressible Al, not suppress him.)
When the series began in Montreal I expected it would be a close, and for my purposes I hoped the Russians would do very well. By the time we reached Moscow the clear Russian margin was devastating Canadians. I prayed Team Canada would do better.
By the moment of Eagleson’s romp and before the heroics of Henderson, Esposito, and Cournoyer sent Canadians into paroxysms of unity and joy I knew North American hockey could never again be inbred.
Al Eagleson didn’t intend it back then, and Don Cherry still reviles it, but the origins of those now on NHL rosters reflect the consequences from ’72. And those of us who fear or regret a single sort of national unity is gone in Canada may hope that hockey interest will assuage both Quebec’s parochialism and the rage over it in the rest of Canada.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 02, 1992
ID: 12865231
TAG: 199210010045
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It’s unfair that Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark deny merit to the plaints of those who want to see the text of the constitutional proposals before they vote on them.
The prime minister insists that “the agreement” or the consensus of the 17 participants is crystal clear and unmysterious and really hasn’t anything of significance which may be affected by the translation into a “legal text.”
Even granting that some of such plaints about the lack of a legal text are the easiest ploy of those who would never vote Yes (say, like Lucien Bouchard) the PM and Clark have lost ground with their scorn. After many readings of the agreement I know the PM and Clark should spend less time fear-mongering about a negative consequence and more time addressing the incoherences of what we have had before us in print. A truly final text is indispensable.
Believe me, the consensus report is a confusing mess. None of the seven segments is clear and readily understandable. Worse, what overwhelms one is how much under most headings is indefinite and augurs titanic, never-ending chores for our courts and judges.
And even worse in terms of the aggravated constitutional impatience across the land, the agreement postulates much more negotiation and elaboration.
Let me bounce through the seven parts of the agreement.
First, the “Canada clause” sets out “commitments” to what have been taken to be Canada’s fundamental values.
Second, there is a description of Canada’s social and economic union – i.e., the so-called social charter, plus the policy objectives of the Canadian economy. The latter include continuing federal responsibility for equalization payments to the economically weaker provinces, the promotion of regional development, and eventually a Canadian common market.
Third, there are the proposed changes to the House of Commons, the Senate and the Supreme Court of Canada.
Fourth, there’s a welter on the roles and responsibilities of the federal and provincial governments, including some restriction on federal spending power and what seems to be an on-going offer to transfer jurisdiction the federal government has practised in labor market training, forestry, mining, tourism, housing, recreation, and municipal and urban affairs.
Fifth is a completely new section providing for a third level of government for the aboriginal people in Canada.
Sixth come changes in the formula for amending the Constitution.
Seventh is an itemizing in two parts of all the other constitutional issues which were discussed but not resolved. The first part names 12 “issues” which the leaders had agreed should not be pursued, beginning with personal bankruptcy and closing with implementing international treaties. The second part gives five complex issues which were pursued without results and must be pursued again – e.g., how aborigines are to participate in intergovernmental agreements respecting the division of powers.
Awarding a prize for the most confusing, least defined segment is a toss-up between that on the new Parliament and that on “the First Peoples.”
To a long-time aficionado of Parliament Hill, the part on the working of the reformed Parliament is very sketchy, notably on relations among the new Senate, the expanded House and the cabinet. And as one long fixed on Indian affairs I found little which describes “the third order” and nothing on where the divisions will be made among the Inuit, the Metis, the First Nations’ “status” aborigines, and the Native Council’s “non-status” aborigines.
You can’t find answers in the agreement to these questions on the aborigines. Who are they? Where are they? How many are there? Who defines them? Are tribes of any significance? Or are language groups? There seems to be an apparent right by blood from time immemorial and forever but who and what determines the right? Can the blood right be lost or given up? Can it be regained? Does the right stack on top of the ordinary Canadian’s right to vote, federally and provincially? Is aboriginal government land-based or an abstraction which blankets all Canada? Is it to have its own legal system – laws, judges, police?
It’s clear that little thought, enormous guilt, and much good will have gone into the First Peoples segment. And reading it one realizes our political leaders are unaware of the chronic divisiveness among the aborigines. They think – and they’ll soon learn otherwise – that Ovide Mercredi has the backing of 500,000 status Indians. He no more speaks for most natives than Judy Rebick does for most women.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 30, 1992
ID: 12865043
TAG: 199209290052
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Ten weeks has been my longest break without a column since 1962. The time to ponder did not bring me to believe in the Charlottetown proposals that are to be affirmed or rejected in the plebiscite now four weeks away.
My leaning to No is quite individual, not an agreement with any group like NAC or CUPW or the Reform Party or the Trudeau-Coyne gang that is openly and organizationally negative for various reasons. And it’s not from any belief Quebec would get too much from this deal.
My pondering has had to go far back and survey my personal experience regarding Quebec and its part in our country.
My first, sharp awareness of Quebec came with the last federal plebiscite in 1942. Then, in great earnestness, I voted Yes. Yes, the federal government should be released from a commitment not to conscript men for war service overseas.
The global war against Germany, Italy, and Japan was going very badly in 1942. Ultimate victory was uncertain. Canada had assumed huge obligations: A six-division army; the naval defence of the Western Atlantic; a huge training program at Canadian bases for British and Commonwealth air forces; the readying of scores of Canadian fighter and bomber squadrons; and large commitments of foodstuffs, vehicles and ammunition to the Allied cause.
One took seriously, particularly as a volunteer soldier, Churchill’s prophetic promise of “Blood, toil, tears and sweat.” Our all must go into the cause (or so I and well over two million other Canadians thought).
In the plebiscite the affirmative won very handily. It was overwhelming . . . but not in Quebec. There the negative won almost as easily. And this result stopped conscription for service abroad and this led to cruel consequences.
Despite the large affirmative majority the Mackenzie King government put it off. In retrospect some say this was wise. It kept Canada together and Quebec was not destructive to the massive war effort which Canada worked up.
The war was almost over in 1945 before the government had to act on the affirmative from 1942. A desperate shortage of infantry developed in the army in Europe.
English Canadians were raging and the federal cabinet was fragmenting. Unfortunately, by the time some of the thousands of drafted and trained men who would not volunteer reached “the sharp end” hundreds of soldiers were dead or wounded because their companies and platoons were so short in numbers and experience. Unity at home had high costs.
In short, after the so-called “conscription” referendum a federal ministry dodged an undertaking for almost three years in the name of national unity and ensuring a passive French-speaking Quebec.
In one sense it worked; in another it didn’t. I argue that the betrayal of the majority in the 1940s contributed much to the current legacy of suspicion and doubt outside Quebec about Quebecers’ loyalty to Canada and the readiness of our politicians to cave before opinion in Quebec.
Fifty years later the provincial premiers and the prime minister and the opposition federal parties in Parliament are once again out to pacify Quebec and this time, to get a deal, they’re really skewing our political and economic framework.
In total votes it’s obvious the affirmative will win (though by nothing like the margin in 1942).
But I forecast the negative will either carry outright in Quebec or gain the majority support of French-Canadians in the province.
So after looking back and looking ahead I foresee that those Quebecers who dominate the province’s politics and demographics will not be turned from their own nationalistic bent however loudly the rest of Canada says Yes to the present proposals. Quebec will not approve them firmly.
There won’t be constitutional peace in our time. The great game will go on.
Why not have it out . . . this year . . . or over the rest of the decade?
That’s my first line – what one might call my personal line -for thinking No.
My next column gives my second line. It’s less about the past and contending nationalism and regionalism and more on the proposals. Too many of the proposals are pious and hazy or incomplete or undefined. As examples, a silly senate and a pie-in-the-sky “third order of government” for those with native bloodlines. More muddle for an over-governed country, more elected politicians, more government bureaucrats.
Better the devil we have.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 22, 1992
ID: 12952739
TAG: 199207220008
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


A chance check in my file on native self-government turned up some talk in 1985 by Peter Lougheed, then a premier. In hindsight he seems prophetic on native demands.
Lougheed spoke on CTV’s Question Period soon after Brian Mulroney had failed to carry his plans at a first ministers Conference on aboriginal rights and self-government.
Lougheed put his position: “We all want progress. We all want to improve the standard of living of the native people . . . but we’re so hung up that it’s only going to be resolved by a constitutional amendment. I don’t share that view.”
He noted Alberta had a particular Metis problem and also “the very significant differences in views and situations between the various native groups – i.e., the Inuit; the natives with treaties; those without treaties; and the Metis.”
He was challenged as the premier “most opposed to entrenchment of aboriginal rights.”
Lougheed replied: “In a federal system there is the federal government and there is the provinces. Under the provinces, of course, we have the municipalities. I don’t accept that we should be having a third level of sovereign government in Canada.”
But, said the questioner: “The native leaders kept insisting that that wasn’t what they were after.”
Lougheed replied: “I question that. There are some groups that do and some groups that don’t.”
Would his view change if such rights were defined in a constitutional amendment?
He replied: “I’m not sure Alberta would be difficult, if we knew what the consequences were. But with a province such as ours it has to be fair to the people. For example, we have our Metis people living in urban communities, in isolated communities; we have them living where there it is half Metis and half non-Metis. We want to know how that will work out. I’ve been around this constitutional business. I know what happens when you sign one of these documents. The courts then start interpreting them in about three out of four cases. I want to make sure that when I’ve signed I know what it’s going to mean to the province I represent.”
Seven years later all the premiers but Bourassa seem ready to sign something whose meaningful consequences they do not know. Lougheed’s view makes as much sense in 1992 as 1985.

Now for some bleak tidings from National Network News, the magazine of the Defence Associations of Canada. In the July issue John Thompson, director of the Mackenzie Institute (set up in 1986 to study and comment on matters of peace and war) considers the prospect of a repeat of the Oka violence.
He says the confrontation between the military and armed Mohawks at Oka has not been a lesson to our politicians.
“Since 1990, the Warriors have been training younger Mohawks in martial arts and individual military skills. The bulk of the Warrior Society’s arms and ammunition are still available, as are most of their heavy weapons, and it would appear that they are still stock-piling weapons. The pro-gambling, pro-Warrior Band Council on Akwesasne’s American side has acquired military surplus all-terrain vehicles and trucks, 100,000 man-days of military rations, earth-moving equipmemt, two landing craft and a lighter. The militants have calculated that the Canadian Army would be thinly stretched if simultaneously confronted with two Okas.”
Thompson alleges another Iroquois group “the Oneidas and some other bands in Southwestern Ontario may have “an arsenal of some 300 assault rifles, body armor, and over 20 light anti-tank rockets have been acquired . . . paid for by the sale of contraband”
Thompson believes that “the high profile accorded to the many well-justified native grievances has made our aboriginal compatriots politically correct. This has effectively made the investigation and surveillance of militant factions politically incorrect. The absence of an effective and aggressive legal authority throughout troubled reserves is letting the militants grow unchecked once more.”
The use of the army at Oka was as an “aid to the civil power,” the last instrument available to preserve the authority of a government.
As Thompson sums it up: “A premier called for the army and a prime minister confirmed the need for it. Both then disappeared for the rest of the crisis. Since the end of the crisis, the most vital reason for maintaining an effective army has been largely forgotten in the name of fiscal expediency. At the same time a blind eye has been turned to the next crisis.”
You wonder if the security and intelligence service knows about this arms build-up.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 19, 1992
ID: 12952343
TAG: 199207190163
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Backgrounder


We know we have made a considerable nation – a lot of us cannot understand how a Constitution in a country that worked has become so damnably complex or vital
We are flummoxed again on the Constitution. This time the box is a vise. Cheerfulness from Joe Clark and platitudes from Brian Mulroney won’t free us. They haven’t an acceptable, federalist solution. There may never be one.
Here is my rough account of how we got into the box and why an escape from it with a whole Canada is unlikely. To make it I go back some 30 years. Of course, the uniqueness, the communal confidence, and sense of destiny of the Quebecois began to shape centuries before the 1960s.
My apprehension on an inexorable course for Quebec began when I was an NDP MP in the early ’60s.
In 1963 a new prime minister, Lester Pearson, chose to launch a Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. It was widely welcomed. At the time Pearson dismissed the idea that federal forces would ever be used to contradict the will to self-determination of French-Canadians in Quebec. So Canada was potentially divisible, not “indivisible” as President Lincoln had insisted the American federation was a century before. The stress in federal politics began to be that Quebec must stay.
Did the other federal parties or any province contradict the idea that a right to separate existed? Not at all! The game began of answering the prime question: “What does Quebec want?”
All the parties took the question seriously. For example, the New Democratic Party at its formal founding in 1961 recognized Quebec was not a province like the others.
While a concept of a self-determined Quebec was not new it had never had such stimulation as it got in the 1960s. This energizing was not just from the new provincial regime under Jean Lesage, a former federal cabinet minister. His Liberals, including a new, engaging politician, Rene Levesque, had ousted the quite autonomist but very cautious Union Nationale in 1960. Lesage began to orchestrate the “masters in our own House” theme.
Remember that the federal election of 1962 and the follow-up one of 1963 which pushed Diefenbaker from office, had put and kept a feisty crew of Creditistes under Real Caouette in Parliament. The Liberals needed the Creditiste MPs to sustain their control of the House. Most of the Creditistes were very plain Quebecers, some of them unilingual, most from the smaller towns and rural parts of Quebec.
Their bursting from the figurative nowhere had much shocked Ottawa, changing familiar partisan balances and routines.
While the Caouette crew was avowedly, even rabidly, federalist, its sense of grievance, put in demands for services and rights in French, was so vehement it forced forward concessions from the Liberals, from bilingual menus to the mighty enterprise of “the Bi and Bi.”
Canada got a new, unique flag that wasn’t widely popular in English Canada. There was a huge working up to the grand celebration of Canada’s Centennial. The epicentre of this massive, enthusiastic celebration was Montreal.
The question of what Quebec wanted required more and more consideration by the other provinces in the federation. It moved from an Ottawa-Quebec matter to one between all of English-speaking Canada and Quebec.
Thus began “First Ministers’ ” politics and Trudeau’s first, failed constitutional enterprise of 1971.
The Quebec question prompted many emotional responses and idealistic programs, especially linguistic ones, and its implications seemed to have been resolved by the Trudeau years in office. Remember that his mandates were capped by two great initiatives. The first was a patriated Constitution with a Charter of Rights. Although Quebec’s National Assembly did not approve the changed Constitution it seemed acceptable in the province, given the rejection there of the Levesque government’s referendum on sovereignty. The Quebecois didn’t forget and accept the Trudeau Constitution.
The second Trudeau initiative was of less lasting importance but its consequences in discord are very much with us. It was the national energy program (NEP). This subserved the oil and gas resources in the West and the monies from their exploitation to national imperatives
The NEP was taken in the West, particularly in Alberta, as an expression of domination and greed by central Canada, using its control of the House of Commons.
The bitter memories of the NEP, despite its destruction by the Mulroney government, are at the roots of the “equal” Senate on which Bourassa and the Quebecers are now choking.
We need to remember that the Pearson Liberals, cheered on, not criticized by rivals, made great efforts to articulate what Quebecers wanted and to respond to the wants. It was then that the historical myth of “two founding nations” was fully enshrined as the interpretation of our past. It was seen as intrinsic in our Constitution (which was the British North America Act of 1867, some decisions of the British privy council, and elements of parliamentary practice.)
Under Trudeau’s leadership the Liberals bridged the obvious problem in this “two nations” myth with their emphasis on French power in Ottawa and roles for French-speaking Canadians (and so Quebecers!) in all of Canada.
At last Quebec MPs held central posts in finance and economics. Symbols of the British past like “Dominion” and “the Royal Mail” were dropped. Almost everything officially federal was renamed to stress CANADA, CANADA, CANADA – from hockey to petroleum.
It’s not surprising that many of us outside Quebec took much of this as accommodations to what Quebecers wanted and needed. And this view pushes our frustrations and impatience at Quebec.
Antics like Quebec’s sign law or Bourassa’s refusal to come to conferences enrage us.
We know we have made a considerable nation. A lot of us cannot understand how and why a Constitution in a country that has worked has become so damnably complex or vital. We are fed up with tiptoeing federalists like Premier Bourassa and Mulroney’s lieutenants, Benoit Bouchard and Marcel Masse.
In tavern talk one can hear this challenge: “If Bourassa’s such a damned good federalist why the hell doesn’t he put the choice of staying or leaving to the Quebec people and fight for staying?”
Well, the premier may have to do it, perhaps keep it that simple. If he does he’s “gone.” And it seems about a 100-to-1 shot that he would put to Quebecers the agreement that Joe Clark has worked up with the other premiers, the territorial leaders, and the heads of four aboriginal associations.
The timing is atrocious, so is the federal partisan context. None of the federal leaders is in favor, putting it mildly.
Nor is there a Robarts or a Lougheed in sight among premiers. No federal party is really flourishing. And much of the constitutional clamor and confusion comes from vociferous interest groups which keep to the fore their demands on what must be in the Constitution, eclipsing Parliament and the legislatures in public notice.
The Mulroney government is sliding into a last year, a rather unusual, fifth year. It must go to the people within the next 10 months. Its unpopularity and misachievements, including the constitutional box it has bumbled into, is not a goad to put the box aside for a federal election.
Mulroney knows the divisive dangers in a general election this September or October with the constitutional situation as is. Being generous, I think him too responsible to call an election soon and so disrupt the tender but real partisan accord between his party and the Liberals to get through the constitutional dilemma.
Of course, Mulroney might call a referendum on Clark’s deal. He has readied a process for such a move. But however one fiddles with possible referendum questions it’s hard to find fair, sensible ones which won’t isolate Quebec the way the conscription referendum did in 1942. One also doubts Mulroney would risk a referendum before Bourassa gets his government through or clear of the referendum undertaking with an October deadline which it legislated a year ago.
You may wonder why this piece hasn’t turned to the readiest resolution of the crisis – Bourassa accepting Clark’s deal with some minor adjustments. Wouldn’t it be lovely?
Bourassa cannot dare to do it. Not because he’s so cautious. He knows he cannot get it through the National Assembly. Ever!
There’s more than the equal Senate that too many Quebecers reject in the Clark deal. Try raking through all the recent proposals for “quid pro quos” for Quebec. Seek for changes which will make them swallow the equal Senate and genuine, aboriginal self-government.
If an elected Senate has token powers only Alberta blows up. Guarantee no territorial enclaves under native government in Quebec and there’ll be uproar. Once you canvass such moves you realize the solidarity of Quebec. Either Quebec gets unique arrangements or it goes.
It seems this brutal. Either Mulroney, backed by most of the premiers, declares a moratorium on constitutional change for several years or all of us in English Canada get ready for a drastically changed federation in which Quebec is either very asymmetrical or gone. Put another way, Meech was the last chance.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, July 17, 1992
ID: 12952080
TAG: 199207170071
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The rally on the Hill Wednesday was limp, probably signifying little. It was no smash hit for the Chief of all First Nations, Ovide Mercredi, despite his Hollywood feathers, drumbeats, and shuffle-dancers, and his token, white luminary, Bob White, the union chief.
Yes, my opener is snide. It’s hard for a longtime bystander at the federal scene not to be snide about Mercredi, the reigning constitutional wise man. He’s become the most self-certain baron in public life since Hal Banks was lord of the ships.
Anyway, the rally which drew fewer than 150, was mainly to get clips on network TV news (which it did) that had Mercredi demanding the constitutional deal go through, that its aboriginal aspects, however undetailed, are already sacrosanct.
Meantime another aborigine, Sharon McIvor of the Native Woman’s Association of Canada, was also on the Hill, also chasing a TV clip. She didn’t match the Grand Chief in clips but Judy Rebick, her equivalent to Bob White, did with a holus-bolus rant against the deal. Rebick is president of NAC and the ubiquitous voice of “all women.”
The pair’s purpose on Wednesday was to insist the deal be killed because it shows a “total disregard for women’s rights.” McIvor insisted native women “cannot support and will oppose to the bitter end the constitutional deal worked out by Joe Clark, the provincial ministers and the aboriginal leaders.”
McIvor was droll on Mercredi, saying: “We are disappointed but not surprised that the National Chief, Ovide Mercredi, decided to do nothing about gender equality in this round. He has not supported women from the beginning even though he has his Indian rights because of the native women’s struggle over these past 20 years.”
The sharp reference is to Mercredi’s quite recent acquisition of official Indian status, won through openings forced by native women (who did not have much backing from the male chiefs). There’s also a nudge there for those who know Mercredi’s romantic ties have usually been with non-native women.
McIvor was vehement at the chiefs for creating difficulties for the native women and their children who won status after Bill C-31 (1985). By its changes to the Indian Act, thousands of women and their offspring got or regained a place on Indian band lists. Most do not live on reserves, and McIvor points out a fundamental issue the constitutional drafters have ignored.
She asks: “How are these aboriginal governments going to guarantee the integrity of their societies except by choosing to exclude Indians now living in the urban centres and the Bill C-31 Indians?
“Today the urban Indian population, including the Bill C-31 Indians number over 200,000 (out of 500,000). This deal does nothing for them. It is the reserve Indians who will determine the form of the aboriginal governments. They will decide on the new membership rules. What we are saying is that it is mainly women and their children who are living in the urban centres. It is not by choice.
“The inherent right to self-government will be a licence to discriminate against Indian women. They are doing it today in cases across the nation. We have women in courts all over this land trying to protect themselves from male-dominated Indian governments.”
“There is nothing here for women,” said McIvor, echoed by Judy Rebick.
They note the deal doesn’t even guarantee native women the protection of the Charter of Rights. It puts “collective rights” first, i.e., of the bands, most of which are dominated by those actually living on the reserve and are run by male oligarchs.
Is McIvor truthful and exact? In my opinion she exaggerates somewhat, a pattern developed by all natives in battening on the guilt syndrome of whites. Her group’s depiction of the conditions of women in the family and community life of the 600-odd bands across Canada is arguable.
Despite the variety in bands and their numbers, land base, and traditions, by and large Indian women have it hard. They are far more likely than other women to suffer from incest, rape, beatings and alcoholism. They lack influence in the affairs of most bands. And so some native women, probably a sizable minority, don’t trust the chiefs and Mercredi.
This message from the women contradicts the stereotype of native society so dear to those so ready to guarantee native self-government. You know, the admiration even to envy of the native stress on the collective over the individual and the wonderful, intrinsic rapport with the sun, the earth, the winds and the rivers.
Joe Clark may not cotton to Sharon McIvor’s line. His wife might.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 15, 1992
ID: 12951767
TAG: 199207150052
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The latest annual issue from Elections Canada on the financial returns of the federal parties adds another surprise to two ones that emerged within a few years of 1974.
That year, changes in the Elections Act gave (a) tax credits to individuals and corporations for contributing to a party; (b) recompensed from federal funds a big portion of what both individual candidates and the national party spent in federal elections during the formal campaign.
The running surprises are the relative weakness of the Liberals in using the act’s provisions to raise money and the rise in such capacity by the New Democrats. The new surprise is the quick success of the Reform Party in fund-raising.
To illustrate consider these data on the past four years for the Tories, Grits, NDP and Reform of total dollars raised and totals of individual and corporate contributors.
Party 1991 1990 1989 1988
TORIES ($) 12,036,509 11,040,654 13,801,368 24,542,036
(Contributors) 34,790 34,687 49,635 67,926
GRITS ($) 6,776,360 12,038,486 6,324,012 13,211,364
(Contributors) 30,256 42,935 23,859 37,911
NDP ($) 19,511,171 15,181,421 13,864,694 18,754,770
(Contributors) 96,782 118,321 90,771 120,703
REFORM ($) 5,949,729 2,693,622 1,350,918 —
(Contributors) 45,462 23,736 7,606 —
Why do the Liberals lag well behind the other old party? The Tories edged ahead of them in 1980 and have had a good margin since 1983. While no party has revelled in big surpluses, the Liberals have been in debt deeper and longer than either Tories or New Democrats.
The past explanation for the dour Liberal fortunes was a slowness in using direct mail pleas. This no longer stands up. They’ve had a numerous, youngish caucus since 1988 and a new leader, plus their big rival is very low in opinion polls. Clearly, there is a declining Liberal zealousness, maybe because of straddling too far from left to right, in part through little joy in the party’s leadership.
It’s not that the corporate community has deserted the Liberals. They still raise about half their money from business; so do the Tories. The NDP gets from 15% to 25% of its funds from unions; about 40% from individuals, and the rest from various fund-raising activities, especially at constituency level.
It’s obvious the NDP, not the Tories, have become the most capable at fund-raising. They draw from more individuals and non-corporate organizations than the others.
A side-note to the NDP’s relative affluence! In 1988, an election year, the NDP raised $18.7 million, the Grits $13.2 million, the Tories $24.5 million. So the anti-free trade parties had $7.5 million more to spend than the free trade Tories. The nationalist accusation has been how big corporate money bought the Mulroney victory but this doesn’t make sense, given that NDP-Grit total.
The danger of the Reform Party to the other parties is evident. By 1993 it may have more individual backers than the NDP and far more than the Liberals or Tories. As of the 1991 data Reform was just getting on to raising much in the corporate sector. One imagines it will do well there.
From the rough figures for the parties a year or less before the next election that campaign will be rich and diverse with four party leaders, each with enough money to crisis-cross Canada with self-advertisement and in splendor.

A footnote to Brian Mulroney’s splurge of 29 honorific privy council appointments.
Last week I met a privy councillor, “an Honorable” who was a member of a long-departed Tory cabinet. He ranted at the affront to parliamentary traditions in Mulroney’s honors list.
“A debasement of the coinage of cabinet membership!” he cried.
I tried to lighten him by saying: “But most of these appointees won’t realize they’re joining the likes of Yvon Dupuis, Sinc Stevens, John Buchanan and Michel Cote.”
This just aggravated him.
He said that at the first chance after these appointments he tried to resign, to give up his suffix of “PC” and prefix of “Honorable.”
“Well, did you?”
“I can’t resign. There’s no provision or routine for it.”
I suggested that given his rage, he’d keep trying. Would he like a columnist’s support?
“No, no! They’d mock me as a pompous ass. Don’t mention my name. But this is a cheap gimmick by Mulroney.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 12, 1992
ID: 12951425
TAG: 199207120141
SECTION: Comment
ERSTWHILE RIVALS: After she retired, Pauline Jewett was consulted by the PM on constitutional matters.


Let me reminisce a bit about Pauline Jewett who died last week. She was a a political scientist who was first a Liberal MP (1963-65) then much later an NDP MP (1979-88). In between she served as a faculty leader at Carleton and then as head of Simon Fraser University.
There were a surprising number of obituaries and laudations on TV for her – surprising because in these times most politicians (who’ve mostly been male) get short-shrift in death notices.
While my links with Jewett were most particular when we both were MPs in the ’60s, we met first at Queen’s a decade before when she was clearing away her PhD work.
She had a wonderful smile. She was tall, athletic, almost always pleasant and invariably courteous.
At the time she was being courted by a famous Canadian executive, a widower whom she told me years later was too old and bossy for her.
While not self-effacing she was modest. Though charming in a formal sense she was never gushy or loud and demanding of notice. In the short-run such a personality was not to her advantage in politics.
Jewett detested to a fault the oratorical form of partisan scoring and recriminations. It’s why her best work as a parliamentarian came as a critic in the usually less partisan field of foreign policy during her NDP years.
And no one in my memory changed parties with more grace and less bitterness than she did (to run in Ottawa West in and trail both Tory Peter Reilly and Grit Lloyd Francis).
In 1963 Judy LaMarsh was a caucus colleague of Jewett with three years more House experience. At that stage Judy was a bellicose but adroit partisan warrior. She was much treasured for this by her fellows whereas they typecast Pauline as an egghead, an Adlai Stevenson sort with lofty talk and no practicality. While an unfair rap Pauline never did get untracked as a Liberal MP on the Hill nor identified with any particular causes or issue. She’d been a university colleague and great admirer of John Porter, author of the seminal book, The Vertical Mosaic, but neither then nor later as a New Democrat did she politicize his themes effectively for a political program.
Remember the mid-’60s was before the real advent in Canada of Women’s Lib. It was to take off within politics with the report of the royal commission on the status of women late in 1970. (The House at that time had just one woman MP.) As a Liberal MP Pauline did not talk up women’s issues and it wasn’t until the early ’70s as a university administrator, fed up at the paucity of places for women teachers that she became an aggressive advocate for the gender cause cited so much in appraisals at her passing.
In 1963 Pauline undertook for Prime Minister Pearson to lead in working up a backbenchers’ package for reform of the House itself but before it was ready she was bypassed by a a concessionary deal the PM made with Stanley Knowles of the NDP. And she had entirely missed what had been under way for days.
Each of the extensive obituaries for Pauline mention that Pearson had picked a single woman, Judy LaMarsh, for his first cabinet in ’63 and didn’t respond to Jewett’s suggestion she be a second woman minister. This makes an ironic hindsight but even the strong bonds of Grit MPs to Pearson would have been strained if he’d put Jewett in his first cabinet. There were so many ambitious, more experienced backbenchers ahead of her like Joe Greene, Maurice Sauve, Bryce Mackasey, Jack Davis, John Turner, John Munro, Edgar Benson, and Jean Luc Pepin. And Pauline was neither a disciple of any powerhouse minister like Walter Gordon, Mitchell Sharp or Jack Pickersgill nor close to insiders like Tom Kent who sustained the PMO.
If Pauline had survived the ’65 election she might have come into her own as parliamentarian, even as minister, but she was erased by a carpetbagging George Hees, coming back from his self-exile in 1963. The frustration of this loss, a narrow one, was heightened because she had had to work so very hard to win the small-town, rural riding of Northumberland-Durham and had cozened it indefatigably once she got it. Despite the panache of George Hees, Pauline might have held the seat but for her bind on the flag issue. She stood four-square for Pearson’s new Maple Leaf flag but the Red Ensign was beloved in her riding. One can still drive through the region and spot lots of Red Ensigns flying.
It seems to me Jewett’s prime years were really those out of the House between 1965 and 1979. Then she led academic change and became a symbol of female achievement. Born 20 years later she might have made the NDP an outstanding leader. She’s not high on my list of the best postwar MPs, even of women MPs, but that’s because of the discontinuity. She could have been.
Whatever she was and achieved, she was a fine woman and an excellent citizen.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, July 10, 1992
ID: 12951177
TAG: 199207100036
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


How to separate two questions about the constitutional package tossed to Robert Bourassa and company?
The first question: Will it keep Quebec in Canada? The answer is doubtful; certainly not without more negotiating.
If the answer becomes yes, the second question is: Will such a reformed Canada work or just mire us in deeper in a worse constitutional swamp?
In my view the package is a wrong-headed mess, most notably in its wrenching of parliamentary government and party politics. We’d be better served by asking Premier Robert Bourassa and the National Assembly to give their alternatives, even to sovereignty or beyond to separation. My hope is the mess will cause such dissidence the wisdom of a long moratorium on constitutional endeavors will commend itself to Mulroney and the premiers.
Beyond the incomplete script, the package is confusing even for politicians and journalists who have dillied with the Constitution for a generation.
Distinct society. Divisions of power. Economic union. Absolute veto. Amending formulas. Social aims. A new order (and form) of government. A drastically changed Parliament. Ah, this is a welter.
We have a complex system. Relative to population we have more elected politicians and bureaucrats than any other democratic country. This package would make our governments more complicated and numerous, not just in governing but in electioneering and in demands put on partisan organization.
Beyond adding a unique third order of government which seemingly will function nationally out of organizations and particular voters enfranchised by blood-right, the reforms mean profound changes in the inter-relations of governments, electoral procedures and parliamentary traditions.
To appreciate the magnitude of the Constitution now projected consider tiny Prince Edward Island. At a general election its some 90,000 eligible voters will choose eight senators (and four MPs). Ontario’s seven million voters will also choose eight senators (and some hundred MPs).
The highest sum of MPs by party on election night will determine which party gains office. So the so-called clout of Ontario (or Quebec) will be as heavy as ever in determining who shall govern. But PEI’s clout will be just as heavy as Ontario’s in determining if Ottawa may have its legislative way.
Once in office the governors face the need to get bills and spending estimates through a now-elected Senate. It is most unlikely to dominate it through loyal partisans because senators will be chosen by proportional representation, a method new to federal politics and almost a guarantee that the Senate will never be a replica in partisanship of the House, given three or more federal parties in the forseeable future.
The upper chamber’s capacity to hold up or deny the program of the government will be real and tied to formulas based on various percentages needed to pass or defeat government measures, depending on their nature. The government will still be determined by the confidence won and retained in the House but its continuance will always be at the mercy of the senators. Can you imagine the circus when the electors choose a minority House? (There’ve been six such in the last 12 federal elections).
Senators are not to be in the cabinet and will be unable to initiate bills whose provisions cost money. Thus their chief focus will be scrutinizing the programs and appointments of the government.
Many senators from the less populous provinces will not have much in the way of constituents to serve, compared to the MPs of their respective provinces. On the other hand, senators from the three most populous provinces will have constituents by the hundreds of thousands.
Aside from the relative freedom to politick and frustrate for the senators from the six provinces and the two territories with small populations, there is the institutionalizing of nay-saying as a priority role within Parliament and against the government. Negative criticism, even to delaying obstruction, has been a responsibility taken seriously by the official opposition and third-party caucuses in the House.
Aside from so many senators having narrower and less onerous work than MPs, they will have a public cachet beyond all MPs but those who are ministers. Certainly they will be more pursued than MPs by interest groups and lobbyists. They are unlikely to be as joked about as our present senators.
The irony of all this (I believe) is that most of us, including Quebecers, would be comfortable without any Senate at all.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 08, 1992
ID: 12950907
TAG: 199207080041
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


As prime minister, Brian Mulroney has had an urge like the one that moved Lester Pearson to create a Canadian system of honors and awards. It’s a use of high office to make some people feel good.
Pearson’s great splurge came in 1967. Ottawa forsook both most of the relics of British traditions in awards and a grudgingness about honors for our rich and worthy which undoubtedly had stemmed from a distaste Mackenzie King had for class and rank.
Mulroney’s splurge came on Canada Day, 1992, when he created seven “right honorables” and 22 “honorables,” fashioning what may become the prime minister’s own honors list, above and beyond the Order of Canada.
In our centennial year Pearson’s government set up an exclusively Canadian system of honors: the Order of Canada. He moved boldly, almost out of the blue, in contrast to John Diefenbaker who dallied with but put off the idea of high Canadian awards. Shortly the Order of Canada became a three-layered structure. At its summit are those few who are immensely distinguished – the Companions! Then come the more numerous “Officers,” approved for earned, national achievement. The even more numerous “Members” are people who’ve been meritous in locales or in advancing a specific cause.
The OC awards are decided by an august advisory council and announced twice a year. Anyone can nominate anyone. There’s an abundance of nominations and much discreet lobbying for an appointment to the Order or elevation within it.
Last winter I had chats a week apart with two Companions of the Order of Canada, Mitchell Sharp and Jack Pickersgill. Their remarks enlightened me on honors and reminded me of something I sometimes forget: Internally in government a prime minister has his way.
Jack Pickersgill, 87, an “Honorable’ through cabinet service was one of the seven made a “Right Honorable” by Mulroney. The worthy Sharp, 81, was not. Why not? Almost certainly because he is the long-time senior sage of Jean Chretien, leader of the official opposition. (Somehow Mulroney also missed another ex-colleague of Pickersgill, Walter Harris, 92).
I was driving Sharp to an appointment when he asked what I thought of the latest list of Order of Canada appointees. I began to chortle. I knew why he asked. A sometime protege of his had been made a “Member,” i.e., made third-rank OC. He knew I much admired the man and his public work.
I explained my laughing. First, it came from irony at the reason for his question. Two men with rather similar roles to his nominee had been given the higher rank of “officer.” While I knew they were less-deserving they are also far better at self-promotion. Second, I recalled that in the ’60s I’d campaigned against a Canadian honors system as another aristocratic remnant, out of place in a real democracy. I was apologetic as I spoke. Sharp’s OC lapel button was in my sight and I said, “I don’t want you to think I’m laughing at your honor.”
“I understand that,” said Sharp. “I was also against the Order of Canada. In cabinet I spoke against it when Mike brought it forward. But after it was instituted I gave it my support and I want the awards to be done fairly.”
I asked him if he was the only minister who had protested and he said at least two others had objected.
Next week while chatting with Jack Pickersgill I raised the matter, saying Mitchell had told me he’d been against the idea of an honors system.
Jack Pickersgill is still quick. At once he said: “And so was I!” He then recalled the cabinet meeting and what he says “was probably the best speech I ever made in cabinet.”
When Pearson introduced the subject three ministers lambasted it as an invidious, undemocratic move, a pattern Canadians didn’t need or want. Pickersgill said that as he and Mitchell and Walter Gordon in turn attacked the proposal, “Mike got red and angry.” What was his reply? “Oh, he didn’t respond,” said Pickersgill. “He moved to the next order of business.”
I was puzzled. How could something rebuffed as wrong and un-Canadian by the three most influential ministers go through? Pickersgill gave me a long look, then asked, “How long have you been on the Hill?” I muttered, “Thirty-five years.”
“Thirty-five years! And you don’t know the cardinal fact of cabinet government. The prime minister is in charge. Cabinet is not a voting chamber. The prime minister has the agenda. He listens but he takes no votes. He decides what issues in orders and bills. Mike wanted an honors system. He got it.”
And it seems Brian wanted his own honors list.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 28, 1992
ID: 12670283
TAG: 199206280017
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Patriotism as a deep feeling for Canada has been getting harder for me. Once its surge was strong – taken for granted.
Some time in the late 1970s my certainty began to slip. Now each June, as official Ottawa decks Parliament Hill for celebrating what once was Dominion Day, my doubts of what is Canadianism are many.
Since the riot on St. Jean Baptiste Day in Montreal in 1968 shook the country, helping Pierre Trudeau to a huge election win for his defiance of the rioters, I’ve watched and envied the vigorous enjoyment our compatriot Quebecois take in their national day. The rest of us seem without such relish for our comparable July 1.
Such an eclipse of sentiment may be mostly mine, jaded from too close ties to the federal, political charades. Perhaps it’s generational.
My generation became adults as the Great Depression gave way to the world war against Hitler.
The unison and emotion of the drums to which almost all of us then marched are largely forgotten if they ever were heard by the following generations.
The federal government is sponsoring TV snips of items to make us feel proud. One irritated me. It made much of the capture of Vimy Ridge in 1917 by four Canadian divisions. This from a government which since World War II has downplayed the considerable military successes and elan of Canadian servicemen.
Nonetheless a long dormant pride was roused by the snip.
Not long ago the federal government issued a handsome book of tribute: Canada and the Battle of Vimy Ridge, 9-12 April, 1917. was put together by historians Brereton Greenhous and Stephen Harris. The narrative sets out the extraordinary, peculiarly Canadian victory it was. Two of our greatest historians are quoted in the book, Charles Stacey and Frank Underhill.
Stacey’s is a remembrance of reaching the Canadian memorial on Vimy Ridge in 1944 in the wake of another victorious Canadian army. As he said: “Men who fought that day recalled 50 years later that it had been a moment of great national pride, that as they looked out across the Douai Plain from the conquered ridge they felt that their country had come of age. If a single milestone is needed to mark progress on the road to national maturity, one might do much worse than nominate that famous Easter Monday.”
History’s not a command subject any more in school. The fame of Vimy has much faded. Belated TV plugs of it designed to boost a lame government straddling a divisive people are pitiful. And this brings me to the other quotation. After you read this 1964 quote from Underhill, remember he was a tough, skeptical Canadian.
“A nation is a body of people who have done great things together in the past and who expect to do great things together in the future.”
And there’s the rub for me. To Underhill “the great things” were settling the West, building the CPR, creating a national esprit in the Great War, galvanizing every resource in the nation in World War II, then joining in an immense reconstruction that put the Depression behind us and built a national health and welfare system.
In the past decade the prospects for “doing great things together” have almost disappeared. Or so I believe.
Diefenbaker’s dream of an unhyphenated Canadianism is blown, replaced by Canada, not as the sum of individuals but as an array of collectivities.
We almost rid Canada of the worst in religious sectarianism only to move to a more particularized, secular sectarianism.
And we’re forsaking parliamentary traditions and parties and the cardinal role of individual citizens for the courts and interest group politics. Respect and influence have been shifting to those who advance provincial, gender, sexual, ethnic, aboriginal, and linguistic demands.
The great landscape remains. But we revile the narrowness of Canadians of the past and neglect their legacy. And so the clamor I hear on our so-called Canada Day is of demands and wrongs, not a celebration for a lovable and loved country.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, June 26, 1992
ID: 12670107
TAG: 199206260027
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Sometimes it is wise for us to wait, even to retreat.
Most of us want to believe that those to whom we have given power to govern know what they are doing and where they are taking us. On the Constitution we should be past such believing. It is plain now that Brian Mulroney is without a coherent plan. The drama now into its final act is beyond his direction. It is a contradiction, a tragic farce.
The drama has too complex a plot and too many actors for a satisfying resolution this year. A national, desperate determination to save the federation is missing.
The sensible course has been apparent for several months. The PM should end the build-up to crisis and failure. How? By simply declaring a moratorium on constitutional reform. Say for three years, even say that it must be a responsibility for the next Parliament and federal government.
The case for postponement goes far beyond constitutional confusions. There is the urgency of a genuine economic recovery. Unemployment is devastating. All our governments are struggling with huge debts and both their revenues and spending prospects are most dour. And there is the obvious, massive public fatigue with the subject. The frustration and ennui are shared in all of the country, including Quebec.
In side-stepping the whole of Canada away from the Constitution for a time the prime minister would have to be blunt. He would have to acknowledge there are too many disagreements over too many constitutional items.
The examples are obvious in the diverse views over what’s an effective, second federal chamber of parliament, or over federal and provincial jurisdictions, or over clearing provincial barriers to a genuine economic union, or on the powers of a “third order of government” for Indians, Metis and Inuit.
Why doesn’t the Mulroney government take this sensible route of a constitutional moratorium, and go to the public with the proposition immediately after telling the leaders of the federal opposition parties and the premiers of its decision?
It could even use the new referendum legislation to ask the electorate in every province: Do you agree that the constitutional reform process be put to one side until 1995?
The prime reason Mulroney does not make the sensible choice of a moratorium is one he balks at admitting. His huge pride meshes with his continuing hope that getting constitutional resolution will guarantee him his third federal election win.
He cannot admit he has been unable to complete in this electoral mandate a process he chose to open up four years ago. He argued then, as he has argued since the Meech failure two years ago, that the strong belief among Quebec politicians and people that they were left outside the constitutional changes during Pierre Trudeau’s federal regime must be wiped away.
And yet the current constitutional cacophony tells us Robert Bourassa and the national assembly are most unlikely to be satisfied with what will be offered either by the Mulroney government alone or in concert with the other premiers.
The partisan viewpoint in our politics is rarely noble and generous vis-a-vis rival parties. A lot of partisans, for example, Mulroney’s Quebec MPs, would see a moratorium as a disaster, an advent to their disappearance at the next election.
On the other hand, continuing wrangles over a package of proposals which cannot possibly please many of the interest groups outside Quebec augur badly for Tory incumbents in the rest of Canada.
Of course the rival federal parties, in particular the Liberals under Jean Chretien, would have the opportunity to run with the Tories’ failure to complete what they charged into with such confidence.
But the Liberals would have immediate, second thoughts because they would have to offer the electorate more than declarations that the moratorium is evidence of Mulroney’s failure. They would have to put forward their own program for a reformed Constitution to meet both Quebec’s desires and constitutional discontents in the rest of Canada.
If a deal which has an excellent chance of not wearing well in both Quebec and the rest of Canada is out of sight this year, why not put it off?
If both governments and the private lives of most of us can go on under the present Constitution without economic collapse or social chaos, why not compromise? Why not be pragmatic? Postpone the constitutional venture for years.
By staying too long in Moscow Napoleon lost army and empire. By staying too long with Constitution reform Mulroney and the premiers are losing us our country. I would prefer losing any or all of them by elections or retirements than losing Canada as it has been.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 24, 1992
ID: 12669823
TAG: 199206240059
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Praise Canadian luck. A national rescue is coming from the West. It will save us whites from the consequences of our deep sense of communal guilt. The rescuers are Indian chiefs, mostly from prairie bands.
You ask: Save us from what? From the third order of government which Joe Clark, hassled by Ovide Mercredi and abetted by Bob Rae, has concocted in creating a constitutional package for offer to Quebec.
It was doubtful, of course, that Quebec would have opted for this third order in its territories; and some politicians of other provinces were catching on to the chaos and indeterminate costs ahead in entrenching an aboriginal right to self-government without any definition of a third kind of government. There is also the rumor the PM has become dubious about it.
But if whites savage the prospective third order it will add more to the natives’ catalogue of their wrongdoings. And so the wonder and glory for those of us who think the proposals are crazy is that the natives themselves are deflating Mercredi.
The recognition for the aborigines so extolled by Joe Clark and other bargainers at the constitutional tables identifies four components within the third order – that is, official Indians (the First Nations group); unofficial Indians (the Native Council); the Metis; and the Inuit.
The plans Clark has revealed don’t indicate whether this new order means a quadrilateral federation of natives or four distinct governments within the third order. And there has been nothing of substance about the particular territorial basis, if any, for these components of the third order.
Nothing has been made clear about the qualifications for the respective memberships of individuals and groups under this third order. Would entitlement be by some form of individual citizenship or by bands and tribes? Would those governed by the third order keep the right to participate in elections and federal and provincial politics? And there has been nothing beyond generalities on the revenue basis for the third order, including rights and reach in taxation.
The umbrella undertaking over the promised entrenchment of the inherent right of aborigines to self-government is that all such details shall be negotiated in just three years among the federal government, provincial governments and the native leaderships.
What isn’t completed in the period would then be determined by the courts (yes, madness!).
The chiefs who are protesting speak for bands of treaty groups Six, Seven and Eight. These treaties were reached with the Crown in 1876, 1877 and 1899. Most of the bands are in Alberta, Saskatchewan and eastern B.C.
The chiefs insist their bands do not belong to the Assembly of First Nations. They’re angry at being “unable to obtain public acknowledgment from Ovide Mercredi, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, that he does not speak on behalf of the aforementioned Treaty First Nations.”
These chiefs do not accept any discussions “which imply changes to this treaty relationship.” On this constitutional issue of such fundamental importance they want “a process separate and apart from the current multilateral, melting pot approach.”
They say: “Joe Clark cannot designate Ovide Mercredi as the prime minister of the Treaty First Nations . . . The multilateral process is a violation of our sacred treaty relationship and as such is unacceptable.”
These chiefs insist the federal government is “under a continuing legal obligation to deal directly with the chiefs and councils of these treaty nations, including all matters in relation to Indian self-government.”
These leaders now attacking what Mercredi and Clark have hailed as a breakthrough have been analyzing the constitutional proceedings, not just saying “Nay!” They’ve concluded from the documentation that any third order of government would transfer power from them, that is the chiefs and councils of Six, Seven and Eight “to urban-based special interest groups and provincial and territorial governments.”
They say, “Our inherent right to self-government is granted to us by our Creator and arises from our land as recognized and affirmed by our treaty . . . federal authority to legislate regarding Indians and land reserved for Indians cannot be altered . . . The focus must continue to be the protection of Indian lands in conformity with treaty obligations.”
Although Mercredi, and perhaps Clark, may try to bluff past these protests, it is now inconceivable there will be an entrenchment of the third order of government in this constitutional round.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 21, 1992
ID: 12669393
TAG: 199206210165
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


A disappointing new book is Scaring Myself, subtitled “Far-flung Adventures of a TV Journalist.” It’s by Allen Abel and published by HarperCollins.
I’ve thought of the author as sportswriter (Globe and Mail) and reporter with CBC’s The Journal as the top talent in our journalism -witty, ironic, descriptive, and rather neatly “loose as a goose.” Abel came to Canada from the U.S. in the ’70s and quickly entertained us without fuss or pretension. It was sad that he left print for TV six years ago. TV isn’t kind to his face and voice, although his scripts when detached from the voice are generally a delight.
Scaring Myself is impressionistic, jerky, discontinuous, self-indulgent, and judgmentally vapid. There’s a scatter of good lines but nothing memorable, either on what TV crews do or face abroad or on the merits of what they produce. A jacket blurb says the book is “Abel’s throat-catching account of a CBC television crew’s frantic journeying abroad.” Maybe members of Journal crews and their friends and relations will enjoy it.
Let’s turn to another new book that is excellent by Heather Robertson, a very good writer. It somewhat surprised me because she’s usually contentious and radical whereas her On the Hill (M&S) is restrained, concise, straight and only occasionally droll. The general topic has been my prime field for 35 years so few are more familiar with its detail and arcane distinctions. I learned much and found nothing to contradict in any of the items. What more can I say in this well-illustrated paperback’s favor?
Robertson’s subtitle is exact: “An A to Z Guide to Canada’s Parliament.” The cross-referenced, dictionary arrangement of brief topics from “Act” to “Zzzzz” (for sleeping in the House) makes this good and easy browsing on holiday. On the other hand it’s a quick reference source for the Ottawa world in which MPs and senators work.
Robertson’s research has been thorough and its effect on her own views heartening when so many scorn “the Hill.” Now she appreciates Parliament more as a useful, working community. She thinks it deserves more interest and respect than it gets from most citizens.
Patrick Boyer, a PC MP (Etobicoke-Lakeshore) since 1984 is by long odds the author of books among parliamentarians. A former reporter and a lawyer, he’s studied and become the top authority in Canada (including the academe) on: a) electoral law; b) referendums and plebiscites; c) conflicts of interest in politics and government. His latest book, a paperback from Dundurn Press, is The People’s Mandate, subtitled “Referendums and a More Democratic Canada.”
This book is topical for those of us confused by all the blather about referendums. See Chapter 3 on “The pros and cons of direct democracy” and Chapter 7 on “Ratifying constitutional change by referendum.” But the chapter I prize most is the last: “Reflections upon the trust of the people.” It’s Boyer’s sketch of his 27 years of preparation for political life after he decided at 12 to become an MP.
“I have written this book,” he says, “because I am a democrat, and . . . an elected representative who, like many other MPs, is exceedingly frustrated by our system.” He argues convincingly there’s much in the phrase “MPs just don’t count.” He welcomes the current frustrations climaxing in constitutional crisis because he thinks a new politics is waiting to be born. His imperative about referendums comes from this belief: “The illusion has been that the strength of a country is in its leaders. The reality is that it resides in its people.”
Parliamentary Government is a quarterly concerned with Parliament in all its aspects. The latest issue, No. 40, must be read by anyone advocating reform of the House of Commons. Peter Dobell, head of the private institute, the Parliamentary Centre, and John Reid, a former Trudeau minister, use the whole issue to canvass “a larger role for the House.” It’s sane, candid, and more thorough and cogently argued than anything produced recently by academics or parliamentary committees.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 17, 1992
ID: 12668746
TAG: 199206170095
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Surely the leaders of the Writers Union of Canada and the Canadian section of International PEN couldn’t have looked carefully at the six-hour CBC-NFB film series The Valour and the Horror before they protested a Senate sub-committee’s plan to examine the series’ accuracy and fairness.
A PEN executive argued that no element of Parliament has any legal role or right as “arbiters of authenticity in public debate.” Surely what the committee, chaired by Jack Marshall, an infantryman in the Normandy campaign, offers is a handy, cheap forum for discussion of the series. The debate is not a phony. It rises because hundreds who survived WW II have been disturbed (as I was) by the allegations in the series.
The resolution from the Writers’ Union has a twist which even angry ex-servicemen will find wry: “Canadians died fighting for freedom of expression. The Senate should not be sullying the memory of their sacrifice by holding such hearings.” What a ploy! It matches the gambit used by the McKenna brothers, the creative minds of the series. The film lauds the bravery and the sacrifices of the ordinary Canadian soldier and airman, and contrasts this with the often immoral, usually stupid and vainglorious leadership of politicians and generals. The Union argument suggests “the fallen” suffered so that the McKennas could advance their peace-loving, anti-war, anti-British views.
Surely, in the name of “freedom of expression” those who served and who remember those who did not return, are entitled to go past their rage at a travesty of events in which they took part and have explanations from those who proclaim that after deep, new research they are able to tell the truth at last about the capture of Canadians at Hong Kong, the RAF bombing of Europe and the mauling of Canadians in Normandy.
Anyone who has heard the bombastic response of the McKennas to criticism or read the various letters from CBC executives which justify the series (emphasis on the high viewership) will appreciate that neither the CBC nor TV’s regulatory agency, the CRTC, could provide a neutral forum for consideration of the sweeping interpretations in The Valor, etc. The Senate has clear rules of procedure, much experience at inquiries, and many members who were active in the period.
For 40 years I’ve hoped later generations would get critically interested in the part Canadians played in WW II, in particular, to come at the achievements and the errors and shortcomings, not just to offer remembrance once a year. Of course, participation did not give those of us who were in the war any proprietorial rights. But we still number over 400,000, and many of us remember what went well or badly.
Most of those I knew at the time of the war thought it well worth fighting. Hitler and Hirohito had to be stopped. And so our country of only 12 million people assumed huge commitments. Since 1945 the Canadian role in the war has seemed a grand field for historians and, despite the McKennas’ claim the historians have failed us, there’ve been diverse accounts by academics and by participants who’ve told the story of their units. There’ve been scores of books on squadrons and regiments, a dozen or more on battles and campaigns. We’ve had much less from novelists, playwrights and film-makers.
The McKennas’ travesties on men and events were especially frustrating for me, given the great grist which Canada in WW II provides honest film-makers.
Why should we have popular reprises of the war?
So we might learn what to avoid or what to expect in crises. To understand a fundamental issue in our English-French relations. To appreciate the key roles governments have come to play in our economy.
Did Canada undertake too much? There was a dreadful manpower crisis of 1944. There were disasters in the Western Atlantic in 1942-43. By late ’44 there was a surfeit of aircrew.
Why have we resurrected and redressed injustices done Japanese internees but held to a long silence about the cruel pressures to make Zombies (conscriptees!) “go active” in 1944-45? What was wrong (if anything) in Canadian generalship? Take the slow closing of the Falaise pocket. Or the dawdle up the coast while the Germans recouped to block Antwerp port?
Much material but at best the McKennas gave us crude, anti-war propaganda. Ah, well . . . there may be consolation in this: The definitive CBC epic on one of their postwar leaders, Pierre Trudeau, has been assigned Brian McKenna.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 14, 1992
ID: 12668324
TAG: 199206140164
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The phrases “most powerful” and “power centre” were key Thursday night in the CBC’s stories on Bob White’s election to the presidency of the Canadian Labor Congress.
Such phrases are inexact. Arguably, White as head of the Canadian Auto Workers was one of “the most powerful” union leaders we have.
His power came from his bonds with the CAW’s members created over years and many contracts won together.
There are really no contract negotiations for the CLC president. In taking this post White is not taking power but giving it up – probably, but not certainly, to gain general influence as the symbol and voice of unionism for what we generally call politics.
The CLC is not a power centre. Rather it is an information centre.
The presidency is primarily a public relations post, its offices a clearing house and interlocutor for a sprawling federation, not a government of the federation. And this federation is only the largest of three labor federations.
White seems to be the most personable leader whom the CLC has had since it was organized in 1956 and got rolling in 1958 under Claude Jodoin.
He has wit, resilience and courage. He can be articulate with candor, a precious combination.
White seems so much more a leader than his predecessors: Jodoin, then the dour Cape Bretoner Donald Macdonald (’65-74); able but taciturn Joe Morris, ’74’-78; the glitzy bamboozler Dennis McDermott, ’78-86; and angry, strident Shirley Carr.
Just to remember Jodoin, a jolly giant struck down by a stroke in the early ’60s, is to conjure one obvious hole in the CLC, even projected as an information centre.
Jodoin’s ace attraction as the first CLC president was his ethnicity and bilingualism. He was very much a “front.” The powerful of unionism in his time were Frank Hall (railways), Larry Sefton (steelworkers) and George Burt (auto workers).
Despite Jodoin’s recognition factor in Quebec, the CLC under him and since has never really spoken for or to French language unionists in Quebec.
So there is too much grandeur in this stuff of White as the head of organized labor in all of Canada, although for a time it may seem that way simply because the reporters and editors in “the rest of Canada” see him as such.
Forecasters of high national status for White as CLC head should remember the last time the chiefs of the CLC wanted and got a colorful guy with a gift of gab and a high profile in Ontario, i.e., Dennis McDermott.
The argument was that stolid Joe Morris registered on TV like a clammed-up Mafia type.
They wanted flair and bounce and so we unionists got bare-chested, gold-chained, talk-first-think-later McDermott. He strutted at first as though he did have real power. He was a figurative Kingmaker. putting Ed Broadbent and the NDP into the PMO.
Early in the ’80s the chiefs and a lot of the rank and file were ready for the end of McDermott. In ’86 they welcomed his cheeky replacement in Carr (although they winced as Mulroney made McDermott an ambassador).
She was soon seen as worse than McDermott as a credible national personage. What little she had to say she snarled.
To fix on Carr is to realize that her elevation symbolized the grand change in the relative composition of union membership after the mid-’60s through the unionizing of government employees – federal, provincial and municipal. This Canadianized and feminized the union movement.
The so-called “international” unions lost clout and membership through the decline in transportation’s workforce, slow to no-growth in manufacturing, and the rapid growth of service industries whose workers are hard to organize.
White as CLC chief is going to take on “corporate Canada” and Mulroney.
Odd! Surely White ducked corporate Canada in leaving the CAW and our troubled, largest industry for a CLC whose biggest components are in governments and their educational and health adjuncts.
His real chore is to popularize bigger governmental budgets and the NDP more than to kill free trade with the U.S. or to unionize McDonald’s and Eaton’s.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 10, 1992
ID: 12667675
TAG: 199206100011
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


This is the 35th anniversary of the election that ended 22 years of Liberal rule, and made Tory John Diefenbaker our prime minister, replacing Louis St. Laurent.
It was a minority government for “The Chief”, which he turned 10 months later into a huge majority at the expense, chiefly, of Lester Pearson, the new Liberal leader.
It’s hard to be objective about the particular significance in the ’57 event for today’s populace if one was a participant.
As someone who elected to the House of Commons as a CCF MP in that vote, I begin by acknowledging that it no longer seems so monumental, even as an upset, as it seemed then to most people. Perhaps the most fateful portent in it was the emergence of television as the main way to reach voters.
In brief, the ’57 election ousted a tired, worn-out leader, an unpopular cabinet, and a government caucus rich in arrogance and short of elan. Both who they were and their replacements as leader, cabinet, and government caucus have been almost forgotten. In some ways, deservedly so! Once past the great lift for the people of turfing the Grits and getting an instant Messiah, there were neither great changes in goals nor much in the way of new programs after the election.
While John Diefenbaker electrified talk of leadership in the campaign there were few policy issues, either nationally or in my bailiwick of Port Arthur. Not much beyond the meagre raise given senior citizens; the Liberals’ reliance on government by orders-in-council; and their contempt for Parliament. This was symbolized by C.D. Howe’s demands that got the natural gas pipeline bill through the House by using closure.
The CCF stressed the need for “social and economic planning” by the federal government, but the electorate wasn’t listening and that particular theme only emerged when the revived Liberals came back to power in 1963.
The Chief did not enter the PMO with a long slate of what he wanted to do. And even when he was returned in ’58 with the wildest electoral enthusiasm for a leader in modern times, he remained more intent on being PM than shaping Canada. That may seem a mean verdict but, I think, a fair one.
Dief’s main legacies were not in policies but in extolling “ordinary Canadians,” a line now platitudinous, and in the stress on leadership politics and the imperative (which still prevails) that a leader must have flair and be likeable.
He did all this, as Trudeau did a decade later, and Mulroney 16 years after that. For each man the early acclaim, even unto worship, was great but it eventually tailed into unpopularity, even into hate, in much of the electorate.
With hindsight I can see that 1957 was not a landmark change. It just opened a bumpy transition period of six years. Three elections later in 1963 the Liberals led by Pearson came back. Spurred by minority status for four years, they worked from a nationalistic agenda fashioned by Walter Gordon and Tom Kent. Figuratively, they saw the federal government as the central government of Canada.
The personalities of the ’57 campaign have almost all gone from public life. Charles Lynch, for long the Southam columnist, is the only journalist then based on the Hill who is still here covering federal politics. The current dean of the House is Herb Gray and he arrived from Windsor in the 1962 election. There are still six victors profiting from the ’57 election in the Senate: Liberals Allan MacEachen, Stan Haidasz, and Bud Olson; Tories Orville Phillips, Heath MacQuarrie, and Bob Muir.
In 1957 all MPs and senators were housed in the centre block (i.e. under the Peace Tower). Today their offices are dispersed in six buildings. Then the total Hill population of politicians, staff, the guards, the cleaners, the clerks, the librarians, etc. was about 1700. Today, it’s three times that.
In ’57 the annual spending of Parliament ran about $8 million, today it’s over $220 million. Comparatively, the media population has burgeoned more than the politicians and those who service them. The press membership was about 80 then, it’s now 350. Aside from the aforesaid senators and Charles Lynch, I only encounter regularly one other person from the community of 1957, a security guard in the Senate.
Such data show how relatively simple Parliament was when MPs’ gross income was $10,000 a year and their only perks a railway pass and free mailing. They conjure up the enormous turnover in the personnel of, and around, politics. They suggest the wider diversity and faster pace of today’s politics. And, as I recall the hustings and the House of 1957, no one was fretting over the Constitution.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 07, 1992
ID: 12667246
TAG: 199206070101
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Backgrounder


“This argument against native self-government dovetails with the essay, Indian Self-Government: Canada Chooses Apartheid. Its author, Patrick Lewtas, sent it to the current Royal Commission on Native People. He worked as a lawyer from 1987 to 1991 on treaty rights for the Wendigo Tribal Council at my home town of Sioux Lookout (`The Ojibway Capital’).”

Whatever Canada’s inadequacies any Jeremiah cursing our constitutional crisis must admit we haven’t done badly as a country with the federal and parliamentary system established in 1867. All the more reason to challenge the two major proposals which the Mulroney government has accepted and is pushing. These are (1) an elected Senate to gratify western fears of central Canadian domination; (2) a third order of government to operate in perpetuity in each province and the territories for some 800,000 to perhaps a million (of our present 27 million) who have or believe they have the blood-lines of native people.
The elected Senate proposition is dangerous in its portent of frustrating the capacity of a federal government chosen by its strength in members of the House of Commons. It’s likely, however, that when our Parliament is in gridlock in a few years our politicians will be pragmatic. They’ll curb the blocking powers of the second chamber.
But once under way with native self-government and the imperative it have judicial interpretation, Canadians will be stuck forever with constitutionally-endowed apartheid. It’s rather a reversion to early medieval feudalism. Then “blood by birth” through generations determined to which group one belonged to within the state and its society.
Both figuratively and literally this notion of a third order of government for native people is stupid. What a witness it is to where a highly orchestrated communal guilt leads – the guilt from our forebears who cheated and sequestered the native people across the Canadian land mass.
This guilt has overwhelmed the common sense of our politicians through incessant repetition, sustained and magnified by hundreds of millions in grants for demonstrations, lawyers, conferences, etc..
In Europe today’s generations of Germans are no longer willing to bear the collective responsibility for the guilt of the Nazis. Some day we will abjure our responsibility for the history of native-white relations in Canada.
It seems criminal to me that our leaders caved in to native demands for self-government without even defining its ramifications. Lord knows the chiefs don’t define; they simply claim.
To make amends, to cleanse ourselves, our leaders are agreeing to go back to an arcane “never was” reminiscent of Rousseau’s 18th-century vision of the noble savage in a state of nature. We shall constitutionally sustain those with native bloodlines with their own distinctive governments and, seemingly, their own overall government.
These are to be governments just for those of the blood, somehow alongside, within, around, and through the two present orders of government (i.e., federal and provincial-municipal). So the most governed, bureaucratic nation of the western world goes for more. We through our present PM and premiers are for two distinct citizenships within the bosom of the state. Put another way, they are for a unique, dual citizenship that is neither earned nor to be aspired to but comes by birth and gives participation in exclusive, civil and property rights of groups.
What makes such idealism fed by guilt even nuttier is the refusal of our politicians to examine the practicalities of any third order of government before enshrining it. No thought to the far flung scatter of four rather separate sorts of native people in from six hundred to a thousand locales, coast to coast and north into the Arctic.
Why won’t the politicians look at the apartheid intrinsic in native self-government? Surely this new order of government rises from a distinctive and excluding purity of race.
Why do they skip past the historical record and the abundant evidence of division and quarrelsomeness within the bands and tribes and villages of native people wherever they are?
Take the Indians of eastern Canada who are arguably the most sophisticated – the Mohawks and their reservations and communities in Quebec, Ontario, and New York. For generations unto today, as was evident in the Oka crisis, there have been at least three and usually four schisms within the Mohawks; i.e., groups within the group with differing spiritual views and interpretations of heritage and relationships with white governments and societies.
Joe Clark keeps telling us how responsible and constructive are native leaders like Grand Chief Ovide Mercredi of the First Nations while Mercredi repeatedly has threatened the PM and Clark since he won office by a vote of several hundred chiefs (many of whom were not democratically chosen). His threat, always woven with reiterations on cruel conditions, is to replay the Elijah Harper antic. Block any the settlement that doesn’t meet demands.
Whence comes the clout that Mercredi and the other native leaders flaunt? From the backing in the hearts and minds of the Canadian people. The guilt factor!
No one dares question the capabilities or the representativeness of the Assembly of First Nations and its leader. Annually the Assembly has millions from Ottawa to advance its work and causes. Few know that neither Mercredi nor his predecessor, George Erasmus, has produced an annual report which gives a statement of financial expenditures approved by an independent auditor. Not one elected politician in the Commons or the provincial legislatures to my knowledge has noted this or, more important, described the prospective financing and the economic base for this third order of government. One need not be clairvoyant to know that the order will have slight ties to the market economy or the labor market in which most Canadians must find their work and incomes.
The basic argument of Patrick Lewtas against native self-government is that its recognition of particular group rights is contradictory to the respect for the individual that is the foundation of our law and democratic system.
Lewtas shocked me with his frankness about “guilt” even though I have never felt much of it in a lifetime of association with natives.
While redemption from our guilt may make us feel good about ourselves it misses what might accomplish something useful for the native people:
“We hold ourselves blameworthy,” he writes, “because our ancestors acted wrongly, and in debt to today’s Indians because our ancestors mistreated theirs. . . . Even if we grant self-government as restitution it may nonetheless be a bad policy; it may compensate for the past, while ensuring today’s problems endure.
“The most important fact in understanding Indian issues,” says Lewtas, “is that our guilt is unjustified. They possess all the rights and opportunities common to other Canadians. In addition to the privileges and rights conferred by treaties and the Indian Act, the government generously funds all their public and most of their private activities. It even finances their campaign to convince the world how badly Canada treats them.
“The Indian movement itself furnishes the best proof Indians are not oppressed. Unlike South Africa’s blacks, the Indians are not fighting for the repeal of discriminatory laws. There are none. They are struggling to preserve and enhance their special privileges, then to obtain more laws which selectively favor them. They complain that Canada’s Indian regime oppresses them and yet they fought tooth and nail to preserve it when Trudeau wanted to replace it with equality. They decry the injustices of the reserve system, yet each band with reserve status has played every card to bring itself within the system.
“. . . The Indian elite have a direct, personal stake in keeping the current system alive. Because they are conduits between the government and the people they have no genuine interest in eliminating their people’s dependence on government.
“None of this,” says Lewtas, “is to deny that conditions on most reserves are appalling. But our remedies will miss the mark if we diagnose the wrong causes. Reserves are not ugly places because of political oppression but because of social problems which arise from within: Human wreckage resulting from social collapse. And it is in this regard we Canadians have failed the Indians. Our laws and policies have produced a system which stands in the way of effective solutions . . . What should be a transition has become a status quo.”
The extravagant welfare entitlements of Indians are supported more directly and extensively than any other Canadians. “These have created one-industry towns which perpetuate stale economic forms, stifle initiative, subsidize despair and nurture the militant apathy and the demanding irresponsibility so characteristic of long-term recipients . . . There can be no prospects for healthy community life where there is not even hope for an economy.” Lewtas argues that “self-government involves a return to pre-modern outlooks and institutions that is incompatible with our ideas of state, democracy, pluralism and human equality. It is government by race – of a kind of apartheid.
“Self-government will harm Indians. They have no choice but to enter the modern world with modern culture. Self-government will not solve any of the core problems which afflict Indian communities. It might even give rise to an Indian totalitarianism . . . self-government will only benefit the Indian elite.”
Surely somewhere there are some premiers, some ministers, some MPs, to question this third order of government for those with native blood.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, June 05, 1992
ID: 12667030
TAG: 199206050015
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Although it’s easy to get individual MPs to talk about the Senate reform proposals, one cannot divine a movement among them, either in general or in the government and the opposition caucuses, to do anything in concert about what such a reformed Senate would do to them.
MPs do realize the Senate projected in the “Canada Round” would diminish the role and status of those elected to the Commons. An MP from Northern Ontario gave me his appraisal:
“At best our large region has a dozen MPs. In the new Senate we’d have one. He or she would be elected as the dozen are – but for the whole territory, and with the extra cachet from the electoral process of proportional representation.”
“I’d be a lame-brain,” said the MP, “not to know who’ll be the big federal wheel in our territory. It’s also sure that the senator will count far more than I will as an MP in the party caucus on the Hill. The senators will be the caucus barons, we’ll carry on as the serfs. Whatever caucus the senator joins, he will count for more than a backbench MP. Party nominations for Senate races will be much prized. What an aura a winner will have who goes to the government caucus, given the capacity of the elected senators to block government aims.”
The MP went on: “Each pro-government senator will be worth so much more than an MP to a prime minister. And each anti-government senator is more to be feared than an opposition MP. As I foresee it, even in a caucus like the NDP’s, a senator will have a higher status than any MP except party leader.”
I asked the MP why there’s been so little discussion anywhere of what another elected chamber does to the House and the balances in the parties. He emphasized the fear in each party of alienating the West and arresting what is already a dicey and difficult process.
An MP’s prime function in the parliamentary system is fulfilled on election night. The totals of MPs by party affiliation after the general election determine which party leader becomes prime minister. In the next stage the MP who’s behind the PM, if not in the cabinet, becomes largely a vote in the working majority in the House and somewhat of a reporter to on high of what’s up in his riding. The senator? He or she becomes the tribune from a cluster of ridings who can make or break what the government achieves.
Last week several NDP backbenchers in the Ontario Legislature began a campaign with familiar echoes. They’re after a review of the roles and powers of MPPs. Already they find a slightness in their parts in governance and legislating. They want to be more significant.
Yes! As an MP I was on to this theme in the early ’60s. Several score of MPs have gone after more work of significance for MPs in the subsequent Parliaments I’ve observed. Some are bleating now because of the current rage of belittling MPs and their allegedly mindless activities.
I get this litany from MPs of each caucus.
MPs ought to be more meaningful, more than a mere integer in the vote count behind a leader. Few people pay attention to what most MPs say in the House or do in committees. MPs count for nought whereas leaders and cabinet ministers mean too much. The mandarins are too important and both unknown and untouchable. The views and aims of big interest groups get far more attention than those of MPs. There should be more freedom from the party line on House votes. Committee recommendations should have more force. Being a parliamentarian must be more than trooping to the chamber for the partisan charades of question period.
While one shouldn’t inflate the merit in such complaints from in and around the House of Commons on the degradation of the MP, they do have some substance. A lot of what MPs engage in is peripheral and far from the development of policies, the preparation of legislation or any real scrutiny of spending plans. Generous allowances for staff and services have largely gone by default into constituency-mongering. So many problems which citizens and groups have with government have been put beyond MPs to a bag of commissioners and councils – e.g., for language, human rights, immigration, privacy, the arts.
On major matters MPs are under-used and less and less important in the parliamentary system. The “debates” in the open forum of the House are mostly ignored. The slender quorum of 20 MPs is almost always in jeopardy. Neither party leaders nor ministers give more than token time to the House after question period.
What for most MPs has become not much will be even less with an elected, “equitable” Senate with blocking and delaying powers. It’s amazing the proposal goes ahead with little discussion of what it will do to an already shaky House.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 03, 1992
ID: 12271839
TAG: 199206030037
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Comment on three items: A lone MP’s honesty; Pierre Trudeau’s disrespect for law and truth; and Ed Broadbent as a realist.
An independent MP who’s not a nut gets little notice, even if he’s witty. In 1965 Pat Nowlan won his dad’s riding in Nova Scotia. He jumped the Tory caucus after 25 years because he rejected the Meech accord and Brian Mulroney’s determination to keep Quebec within Canada at almost any price.
On Sunday Nowlan wrote a wry, witty letter to Joe Clark. It got less notice than it deserved. It began with praise of Clark for his “civility, calm and patience” in the “cancerous consultations” on the Constitution. But . . . “It is time to draw a line in the land for Canada. To have that palace of patronage, the Senate, as a deal breaker is just about as absurd and laughable as putting into the Constitution (not merely an agreement, accord or law) but an undefined, all-encompassing, inherent, aboriginal right of self-government.”
Nowlan advises Clark to “tune out the political elite and turn to the basic sense of the people and find out, in a referendum whether they even want a Senate, let alone a formal, third level of government. Who knows, away from the isolation of the conference room, we may even be able to define a basic question which all Canadians could decide, namely: DO YOU WANT QUEBEC TO STAT IN CANADA? YES OR NO.”
Nowlan suggests to Clark – for Brian Mulroney’s benefit – that a massive “yes” to the question should be coupled to the PM’s declaration that Canada’s unity is far more important than any leader of a political party.

So, “Mulroney’s announced resignation upon the positive resolution of the referendum would remove any suggestion of partisan political advantage in such a national referendum.”
Tongue in cheek? Yes. Wrong-headed? No.
So far Quebec’s French language media, led by Montreal’s La Presse, has made more than the English media of recently released documents on discussion in the Trudeau cabinet before, during and after the October crisis of 1970 (which was precipitated by FLQ kidnappings).
It’s now clear the subsequent Macdonald inquiry into wrong-doing by the RCMP security and intelligence service in the early ’70s either whitewashed Trudeau, or high mandarins connived with Trudeau to keep the truth from the commissioners.
The 1970 documents show that the key cabinet committee on security knew the RCMP would have to break laws in infiltrating and disrupting the separatists, including Rene Levesque’s PQ, to get the information Trudeau wanted. John Turner, then minister of justice, made this point, with little backing from others. He was against such illegal actions. Trudeau was not. As shown in cabinet notes, Trudeau’s views were in line with his famous public admonitions at the time to two reporters.
“Who’s going to stop us?” And “Just watch me!”
The RCMP went ahead and broke laws, believing it had been approved by the PM and cabinet. Trudeau has never admitted this, and the Macdonald commission didn’t ferret it out. Turner refuses to comment, but a few years ago told me that when his papers are opened in the next century the truth of why the government acted as it did in the crisis will be clear.
Recent revelations show the traditional imperative of secrecy of cabinet discussion has been looped by access to information laws and rulings. In this case what cabinet debated is now open. It belies what Trudeau told the public about his ignorance of “the wrongdoing.”
At this stage does the truth matter? Perhaps it does. Opinion polls, so hard on “Lyin’ Brian,” show Trudeau as the No. 1 choice of the people as prime minister.

Most political reporters knew Ed Broadbent was not your archetypal NDP peace-lover in his 14 years as party leader. Now you wonder how he got away, even unobtrusively, with dodging his party’s line.
Every NDP convention resolves that Canada should get out of NATO and NORAD, the members stout against domination of our foreign and defence policy by the White House.
Broadbent, now our top official on human rights in their international context, wants armed forces to topple the military dictatorship in Haiti. He says to be a social democrat is not “to be naive.” As party leader he defended NATO, largely within the caucus and to the NDP federal council. He kept withdrawal from being an NDP theme in the House or in campaigns.
Was this honest of Broadbent? Maybe not, but it was both sensible and fitted with most Canadians’ views.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 31, 1992
ID: 12271175
TAG: 199205310159
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Central to Brian Mulroney’s vision of Canada is a close relationship with the U.S., particularly through the president. As end of term politics unfold in both countries, a Canadian wonders what effect American happenings will have for Mulroney and his electoral fortunes.
Aside from some opposition skittishness over the developing free trade agreement with Mexico and the U.S. and the downgrading of the Brazil summit on the environment by the U.S., American matters other than border shopping have not been high in our political awareness.
Yet what’s up in American politics, notably in an election year, has attracted us since well before TV. Of course, through it we are at least skimming the U.S. campaign. The alert, however, is not out here yet that Bush seems in trouble or that a blockbuster in November may well embarrass George Bush’s friend, Brian.
Our disinterest may simply be from constitutional preoccupations. Part may be puzzlement at how a wild card candidate like Ross Perot could affect Bush’s re-election. Of course, there are the parallels of popular disillusionment and recession.
If, as the polls tell us, we’re fed up with our politicians and the political parties, the Americans are overmatching us with contempt for the president, Congress, and both the Republican and Democratic parties.
Usually Americans are more optimistic and rambunctious than we are about politics. This always seemed to me to flow from real belief in the mythic purposes expressed by “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and Lincoln’s grand “government, of the people, by the people, for the people.”
The American have more pundits than we do. A reader-listener notices how the assurance of these Americans that Bush cannot lose is getting shaky. Something cataclysmic could happen in November.
The liberally minded pundits stress how many Americans are bitter, that nostalgia for Reaganism has evaporated. So has joy at the triumph of capitalism and democracy over the Red menace.
The two analysts of American trends who’ve stimulated me most and longest are J.K. Galbraith, economist, prolific author and activist democrat, and Lewis Lapham, long-time editor of Harper’s.
Galbraith’s latest book, The Culture of Contentment, is shocking in its pessimism. He posits that so many Americans have come to do so well from the economy and America’s reigning values that they care little about the condition of the underdogs, at home or away.
Galbraith foresees no end to the society whose culture is based on self-satisfaction. Too many are doing well. Their values and money dominate the political apparatus and the economic system. America has become crass, ignoble and selfish.
Lapham is discouraged but much angrier over the “recent generation of thieves – both Democrat and Republican, in the White House as well as Congress.” He scorns “so pallid a creature of the oligarchy as President Bush.”
Lapham’s June editorial opened with Thomas Jefferson’s memorable line: “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.” He hopes that “maybe this year!”
“Without the grim shield of the Cold War, the ruling and possessing classes might be forced to confront the democratic spirit of objection and dissent on terms more nearly equal. The hysteria of the statesmen-columnists testifies not only to their nervousness but also their complicity in what they know to be a lie.”
The obvious inference for us in what’s occurring next door is that our PM and his party can hardly be helped. And if the Americans “rebel,” we will too. If we stay together.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, May 29, 1992
ID: 12270634
TAG: 199205290016
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


If we get a resolution of our unity issue this year or next the most positive, personal factor and leader in the drama has to be Premier Bob Rae of Ontario. And if a resolution fails the reason is more likely to be Grand Chief Ovide Mercredi than premiers Clyde Wells and Don Getty.
As for Brian Mulroney, may he continue to keep Joe Clark forward and himself in understated modesty. Let those premiers take the lead who put a resolution ahead of their own provincial priorities – i.e., Rae, Mike Harcourt, Frank McKenna, Joe Ghiz, Don Cameron and perhaps Roy Romanow.
Rae was 19 when I first met him. Within minutes he was appraising politics with the unabashed, direct talk you hear today on TV. He began then by stating he was a socialist . . . but not a Marxist.
Twenty-four years later anyone who follows Rae’s talk in the Ontario Legislature finds he’s still trying to be a socialist.
But it’s not those ideals which count most now. It’s Rae’s determination to keep Canada whole by keeping talk going, by exposing each constitutional stance to discussion and the prospect of compromise. He’s pumping up a feeling of progress.
As viewers, we see Rae operating openly more as a general commentator and public interlocutor than as Ontario’s leader.
Unlike most of the others who press to the cameras, Rae tries to bring all of us up to the mark, not just his home folks. We see this in his quick interpretations when entering and exiting the cloistered talks.
He’s droll and easy, but not a patsy. He replies directly to questions, often with mock modesty about the inquirer and his answers. He humanizes matters most of us find boring.
He only roosts on one constitutional rock: Canada shall go on without sundering or turning the federation and the powers of its government into a bizarre hodgepodge.
The other premiers and the Ottawa men also want Canada to go on but none is so apt at doing something about it as Rae.
While he’s not a good messiah, say on the glorious worth of a social charter, he’s engaging and convincing when he’s winging on what’s up, who’s where and what’s next. He’s neat on the buzz stuff, from inherent rights to justiciability to capping to sharing powers to what “effective,” “equal” and “equitable” mean in Senate reform.
Rae doesn’t bring to negotiations much that’s different on meeting Quebec’s demands than his predecessors, from Leslie Frost through John Robarts, Bill Davis and David Peterson. None of them swaggered or openly played No. 1 at federal-provincial games during their mandates, and each tried to keep bridging to Quebec premiers.
But after more years preoccupied with constitutional issues, we have a dicier dilemma than Frost or Robarts or even Peterson faced. The graver danger now is the opposite of the Quebec separatists – that is, the many in the rest of Canada whose bitterness is put in commonplace phrases like “Good riddance. Let them go!”
A nasty matter which Rae, even more than Mulroney or Clark, must face in the next few months is symbolized by Ovide Mercredi. Rae and his immediate predecessor, David Peterson, have done more than any other premiers to support Indian demands for lands, services, control of their affairs and recognition in the Constitution. Rae has been the most pro-native premier. No one has gained more stature from this than Grand Chief Mercredi.
Mercredi, like George Erasmus and Dave Ahenikew before him, has found bloody-mindedness works. Proclaim the guilt of all but natives. Accuse and threaten, and the white politicians cave in.
Witness Mercredi’s ukase this mid-week. He told the solicitous networks that native people still had nothing. They never, ever, have been given anything. So it continues. Therefore it shall be Meech again. We shall block any settlement. Canadians back what natives demand. Either natives get that now or there won’t be a deal.
This is outrageous. It was bluff, bluff, bluff. But it worked. Again! And Mercredi is sure to use it again when the climax comes with Quebec at the table.
Someone at that table must openly put the natives “in proportion” (to use a Mulroney’s casuistry). Neither Mulroney nor Clark has the courage for it, and Bourassa cannot try it.
It’s Rae who must tell the chiefs and Canadians why some 4% of the population, scattered from coast to coast and north toward the Pole, can neither dictate their own future in perpetuity now, nor frustrate the other 96%.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 27, 1992
ID: 12270055
TAG: 199205270031
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Seasonally the wondrous grace of Mario Lemieux is on us. And so is the constitutional competition now near a confused zenith.
We revel in the fluid mastery of Mario’s dekes and passes. They light up the game that best defines us. We don’t, however, wonder where Mario or hockey or sport as a whole fits, constitutionally speaking.
Which of our present three levels of government does Mario Lemieux best symbolize? Is he federal or provincial or municipal? The answer is all three.
You may take such questions and answers as spoofing, sure that what is either topical or eternal in hockey is far from matters that engage first ministers. You would be wrong.
Sport is politics, not least hockey. Take hockey in Ottawa itself as it gears up for an NHL operation. Or consider hockey as an obsession of young Indians. Or reflect on hockey as the prime cause of what are now widespread bureaucracies.
A fortnight ago with little fanfare Ottawa released “The Report of the Minister’s Task Force on Federal Sport Policy,” titled Sport: The Way Ahead. It has six parts, 25 chapters and 311 pages. For all but full-time bureaucrats it’s just daunting mandarin prose. One doubts 100 citizens outside sports officialdom will ever read it.
Sport is a massive and diverse endeavor, engaging millions more than does either partisan politics or religion. Largely since 1969 our sports have been much bureaucratized – federally, provincially and municipally. The boom began with first federal task force on sport (1969). As one of its ghost-writers I know its real raison d’etre was hockey: The mounting disgrace of defeats by the USSR.
For national pride Ottawa had to act. So we got the task force and almost a crash involvement of our governments in sport. Few in either politics or sport bothered with respective responsibilities of governments or First Nations. Get winning!
Since then Canadian sport has become a shared jurisdiction, with much overlap with the private sector. And that has not been a great issue, even in Quebec (from whence Mario came). Along with governments, sport has huge participation by volunteers, strong professionalism and much money-making in a few endeavors for both athletes and promoters.
Each order of government is engaged in sport. Each staffs and spends on its own sports bureaucracy. Each puts up grants, tax easements, facilities and services for myriad sports from the corner lots to SkyDomes and the Big Owe.
How did Vancouver get into the NHL? Well, Mike Pearson as prime minister helped fund a suitable arena.
Why are the Jets still in Manitoba? Look at concessions by the city of Winnipeg and the provincial government.
Why do Canadian cities own and operate more civic arenas and Olympic-size swimming pools than American cities? Because of federal, provincial and municipal programs, most sky-hooked on needs of the Games cycle – Olympic, Pan-American, Commonwealth and Canada.
If you plough through The Way Ahead you find sport a metaphor for political and constitutional Canada. Except for this: Sports people conspire to fudge powers and jurisdictional lines. As bureaucrats and players, they’re in a constitutional muddle.
Consider chapter 17, titled “Equity and access.” It has much on nurturing “rights” in sport now taken as beyond argument -rights “of women, the indigenous community, athletes with a disability, and ethnic and visible minority groups.”
Isn’t that familiar from constitutional gatherings? It’s the very stuff we get from the NAC, from Ovide Mercredi and his chiefs, from the multicult elite.
The world’s literature of bureaucracy is repetitious: The No. 1 aim of a bureaucracy once under way is to maintain itself and grow! So with the sport bureaucracies.
Despite its ponderousness, The Way Ahead never roots around the respective roles of our governments. So it doesn’t threaten the No. 1 aim of the respective sport bureaucracies. Would that this were the model for the whole country: Working with shared and muddled responsibilities.
The last segment explains “Why the federal government should contribute funding and support for the development of sport.” The whys are “youth development, education and training; cultural identity and national unity; the face of the Canadian character; a reference point for our values and ethics; and a contribution to social challenges.”
It seems to me the Marios and Waynes fit each of these good purposes. And sport in Canada shows rights and powers can be shared . . . if you don’t fret over them.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 24, 1992
ID: 12269260
TAG: 199205240082
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


In London on May 31 Queen Elizabeth will unveil a statue of the late Arthur “Bomber” Harris, hard by St. Clement Danes, “the RAF church.” The occasion, sponsored by the Bomber Command Association, many of whom are Canadians, also honors the 55,000 air crew of the command who died in raids over Europe.
The ceremony and those it honors have their challengers, including Canadians.
Note an article by Gil Kezwer in the May-June issue of Peace Magazine, published in Ottawa and backed by a band of Canadian peace groups. Kezwer’s title is “Dresden protests statue of `Bomber’ Harris.”
In early ’45 Bomber Command hit Dresden hard, creating a fire-storm that some think killed as many as 60,000 civilians. American bombers followed after, compounding the damage and loss of life.
Kezwer stresses, “The popular revulsion, particularly after the war, centred on Harris, who had masterminded the carpet bombing of Hitler’s Third Reich” and sketches how protests against the Harris have been rising in Germany, with some support in Britain.
Recent issues of the Manchester Guardian Weekly have a number of items on the Harris statue and protests against it from both Germans and Britons.
A letter in the Guardian from a Brit living in Germany argued that offence is being taken in Germany to the honoring of Harris.
The Spectator, a weekly U.K. newsmagazine, has been ironic and hard-headed about the Harris issue. Witness an article (Apr. 25) titled “Let’s not be beastly to the Bomber” in which the author, Andrew Roberts, finds “the Teutonic attempts at moral equivalence unpleasant.” His argument?
“A precondition for wiping out a sense of guilt is establishing moral equivalency, and that is what the Spectator’s German correspondents are trying to do. By lies and exaggeration they are trying to make the Allies seem as evil as the Nazis. In combating this historical whitewashing, `Bomber’ Harris may posthumously be fighting his most important battle yet.”
From evidence in some letters to the magazine Roberts finds that some of those attacking the monument to Harris also argue in defence of Nazi Germany that there never was a Holocaust. He noted about the letters that “Canadians comprise a high proportion of the writers – perhaps they believe that as the magazine’s proprietor (Conrad Black) is Canadian, their letters have a better chance of being printed. If so, with a little more homework they might have discovered that the editor, who is Jewish, might think it ill-behooves Germans to make allegations about `Allied genocide’ whilst simultaneously decrying the `the so-called Holocaust with all its improbable details.’ ”
A Canadian aspect of the Harris controversy will roil our politics for several years. There’s a rising vehemence in protests against the CBC-NFB TV series, The Valour and the Horror, that ran last winter in three weekly segments.
One segment has infuriated RCAF veterans with a sustained depiction of Arthur Harris as callous – a ruthless mass murderer who sent often brave men of Bomber Command out to slaughter civilians by the thousands and ruin cities by the score. Using a mix of latter day “docudrama” with war-time film and chats with war veterans, the series is a peacenik’s dream.
The series was masterminded by the brothers McKenna, Brian and Terence, a liberally-minded, politically correct pair of idealists. They are ardent anti-Brits and advocates of peace above all. They insist they’ve just revealed the real history our historians ignored or missed. They see as fools those duped into fighting and dying in the war. So far the protests against their work have left the McKennas unrepentant. It’s less certain the powers at the CBC will be so brave.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, May 22, 1992
ID: 12268848
TAG: 199205220079
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Many months of marking time to ensure constitutional talk is long and wide enough to stop accusations of secret deals have their price in petty debate in the House.
Witness this week’s guff from MPs after the Mulroney government brought in a bill to create “the referendum act.”
An obvious factor in more speechifying than the measure merits is the fear of Liberals and New Democrats that the Tories could ride the crest of a successful federalist question in a plebiscite into a general election and a third term.
On the face of it, only the handful of MPs from the Bloc Quebecois are against the proposal there be a framework for a plebiscite regarding constitutional affairs. The BQ thinks a federal plebiscite interferes with the right of Quebecers to self-determination.
The federal Liberals have long been avid for such a process, recalling what they consider their great victory in the Quebec referendum of 1980. While the NDP has been hesitant, fearing a divisive result, it’s not antagonistic.
Last year the Tories, reflecting the opinion of their Quebec MPs, were chary of any federal referendum on the Constitution. They’ve changed, in part because a denial of a federal right was too suitable to the PQ and the BQ, in part because chances for carrying a federalist opinion in Quebec are better.
The act will create a fail-safe mechanism for registering public opinion, either nationally or in one or more provinces, if a constitutional agreement fails to emerge from the first ministers’ table. The wording in any plebiscite would be determined by Parliament, if it becomes imperative to have a plain yes or no from voters about the constitutional propositions.
The government opened by expressing a readiness to take amendments to improve the bill, and after two days of debate, agreed it would include limits on campaign funding, advertising and broadcasting to make sure one side is not swamped by the other side with more resources.
The debate reminded us again how aware the politicians are that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and judges are supreme over what was Parliament’s prerogative as the ultimate arbiter. Legal counsel had told the ministry limits on spending within the plebiscite would infringe on Charter rights as these would be interpreted by the Supreme Court.
The opposition wanted the opinions tabled in the House. The NDP argued the whole bill should be sent immediately to the court for a quick ruling, ensuring the bill wouldn’t be struck down when or after it was used.
It’s hard to prefigure how our constitutional dilemma would reach a point where a plebiscite would be useful, even crucial. Several opposition MPs insisted a federalist option might well be set back in such a vote because so many voters, especially in Ontario and the West, choke on Brian Mulroney and his government. They fear something he sponsors could go down.
This is the reverse of the argument Mulroney might piggyback to power again on a successful plebiscite. One hopes voters would be balanced enough to distinguish the goals for Canada from the man whom they detest.
My mind kept haring off from the details of creating a referendum process to the welter of gatherings and negotiations which Joe Clark is chairing. Who can’t see the magnitude of the reform proposals certain to emerge for a long, last round of the first ministers with Robert Bourassa present and approving?
In one grand surge we must accept and make work:
a) A whole new balancing of functions, powers and influence in Parliament and in cabinet government as a result of an elected Senate;
b) Much altered federal-provincial relationships through realignment of powers and jurisdictions, largely though not wholly, to meet Quebec demands;
c) The creation of the “third order” of government in Canada, distinct from the federal order and the provincial order of governments, which will serve those of aboriginal blood in 10 provinces and the territories, through many sub-governments which will be based on native languages, cultures and the lands which they have or are settled on them;
d) The enshrinement within the Constitution of social rights which will underpin both individual and group rights to work, pensions, welfare and equity.
The contrasts are enormous: From the referendum bill, the possibility of taking an opinion of the moment on what will have to be a very general proposition; from the Canada Round, a wresting paroxysm of change far greater than anything since 1867.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 20, 1992
ID: 12268250
TAG: 199205190065
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Thirty years ago it was inconceivable that the social event of the Ottawa political year might dribble away, cancelled two days beforehand when the prime minister made a late decision not to come. This happened last week to the annual press gallery dinner.
My first such dinner was in 1959. It was a vivid experience for a relative stranger to politics. This confluence in a private party of politicians and journalists had been happening since the 19th century. Its climax with a “show” had begun in the 1930s.
I found the dinner a bibulous stag affair. A few hundred black-tied men talked and careened round the big Parliament Building for a night. In the early evening a reception with bars began in the huge Railway Committee Room; then came a banquet in the 6th floor dining room at which the Governor General and the party leaders spoke. At their plates diners had much wine, a hokey newspaper in the form of a big daily and a songsheet whose verses mocked both MPs and reporters.
After the meal and the speeches the merry crowd floated back to the committee room to watch the year’s show of lewdish songs and crude sketches on current scandals. These antics were backed or separated by music from a pick-up orchestra. Most taking part were of the press gallery, then some 90 in number, almost all of whom worked for newspapers.
Before the reception, outfits then big in federal politics like the CPR, the CNR, Air Canada, the CBC and the major publishers had their own openers of buffets and social hours.
After the show in the big room, groups drifted off to various offices for more drinks, food, and singing. When I left at 3 a.m. a large gang of MPs and reporters was still singing in a ministerial suite.
There was a relaxed hilarity, a male jamboree of noise and rough humor. The mix was of editors, publishers, reporters, MPs, mandarins and lobbyists. Most seemed to know many others. The speeches were well prepared; so were the sketches.
The pattern of the happening was repeated over the 20 years or so I attended. As one who stopped going, I can hardly lament the end of a great tradition. My distaste for the dinner grew as it got larger and more bibulous. Fewer politicians were invited while more apparatchiks of the media and politics were.
In the ’70s I thought the dinner would change, largely because Pierre Trudeau found it juvenile and a bore. Why should he or any politician put up with the increasing savagery of the evening and its diminishing privacy and friendliness?
The main reason for the dinner’s eclipse seems plain: A steady decline in mutual interests of journalists and reporters on the one hand and politicians and their mandarins on the other.
Today the gallery is almost five times the size it was in 1959, the political cadre only fractionally larger. Continuity and acquaintance suffer from the high turnover in gallery personnel – even greater than in the House. TV stresses party leaders so much there’s far less interest and time for the second and third level players.
More and more the gallery has become a mere granter of access to a huge, changing cast. Generally, the more recent arrivals (and departures) are products of high-minded and judgmental faculties of journalism. They seem sure in their own rectitude. A cool detachment from politicians is an imperative it wasn’t several decades ago.
At a lively meeting of the gallery association this year not a single voice protested when one member who seems a hero to most of the younger reporters repeated the dogma that every politician lies, that all politicians are dishonest so any friendly contact is a dereliction of journalistic duty.
Aside from abjuring taint by close links, today’s reporters seem less ready to write satire or jettison their own dignity by playing the fool on stage. Certainly, the withering of the stag factor has vitiated a lot of the night’s camaraderie. With women more and more components in press and politics, the boisterous and the profane seem archaic.
Add to all this the collapse of the privacy umbrella over what was said and done. This was not forced by young puritans but by top columnists Don McGillivray and Allan Fotheringham who insisted any event featuring a prime minister must be reported.
One consequence of the break in the “off the record” nature of the dinner was the refusal of Audrey McLaughlin, the NDP leader, to attend this year. Why should she take part in an event at which she was mocked and made the fool, both there and in subsequent accounts? She got help from Brian Mulroney. I doubt the dinner as it was will be resurrected.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 17, 1992
ID: 12267682
TAG: 199205170141
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Have you scanned the regional breakdowns of the latest Gallup poll on party preferences?
They suggest to me a Liberal majority is inevitable – unless Jean Chretien blows up and Brian Mulroney is seen as engineering both a smashing economic recovery and a constitutional resolution in the next 12 months.
Despite a recent small blip upwards in the opinion polls, veteran Tory politicians are discouraged about staying in office and the experienced Grits are ever more confident that power for them is inevitable.
The New Democrats are figuratively whistling through a graveyard of hopes, knowing their post-’88 rise into the upper 30s, far above their basic 20 points, has withered away.
Their noble decision to go with an very inexperienced woman leader, riding a floodtide of Canadian feminism and women’s issues, was wrong. This past month there’ve been projections of a “new” NDP electoral strategy which seems an excuse in advance for the dullness of Audrey McLaughlin’s jerky simplicities as a performer before a crowd or in a crowd.
One appreciates how quietly desperate the NDP strategists are when they talk of MP Nelson Riis as the big No. 2 punch who will do the rough partisan stuff while McLaughlin walks a quieter, caring electoral path. Underneath a nice physical presence Riis has as much content and wit in argument as Don Getty or Sheila Copps.
Willy-nilly, the federal NDP have the wrong leader for the competition. It recalls their leadership goofs in Ontario with Michael Cassidy and in B.C. with Robert Skelly.
The Reform Party has organized well west of Ottawa but it’s no longer coming on strongly, perhaps because its inherent toughness toward Quebec’s constitutional aspirations fits poorly with a slowly-risen readiness in the rest of Canada to accommodate Quebec’s federalists.
The Reformers may well surge substantially after an election campaign begins but until then Preston Manning talks and talks around the rim of political activity. He’s realist enough to know that at best the ’93 election will give him a caucus of 20-40 MPs and a platform for power in the next federal election.
Where Reform is doing well in Alberta and in rural and small town Manitoba, B.C. and Ontario, the sufferers have been more the Tories and New Democrats than the Liberals.
The stunning figures of Liberal support are in the Atlantic and Ontario regions, indicating a backing from at least half the voters, making a prospect of at least 110 Liberal seats from these two regions alone.
Mulroney’s shortfall of 30 points in Ontario is plainly insurmountable without a miracle – or maybe two. Given that those Ontario figures stay fairly steady, Chretien would only need another 40 MPs from Quebec and the west to be into the Prime Minister’s Office for four or five years.
While the polling shows a closer balance in four-way splits in Quebec, the Prairies, and B.C. than in Ontario and the Atlantic region, the Liberals lead the Tories by 15 points in Quebec and B.C., and by 17 points on the Prairies. Those are neat margins. Of course, their relative slightness, taken with the inordinate strength of Reform in the West and the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec, means Chretien and company will not sweep either Quebec or the west.
Nevertheless, it seems impossible he could come out of a campaign with less than 25 seats in Quebec (mostly from Montreal), with less than eight seats from Manitoba, and at least 10 from the three most westerly provinces.
So the Tories who are in power and the New Democrats who speculated on power after their movement’s astounding rise to office in Ontario must conjure a miracle or two before we all vote. Such seems beyond the New Democrats except through an unusually favorable “breakage” of votes. Surely such breakages will only come if Mulroney gets his miracles in the year ahead.
What might the miracles be? Simple. Two are hardly mysterious, just very doubtful.
First, the aforesaid, surging recovery of the economy. It’s getting late for it, and the auguries are few.
Second, a clear, clean, constitutional denouement this year, one which lets most Canadians relax, sure Quebecers are “in” the country for our times.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, May 15, 1992
ID: 12267049
TAG: 199205150016
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Senator Heath Macquarrie has issued another book, this time a memoir, not a fuller edition of his earlier history of the Progressive Conservative Party. The title is apt: Red Tory Blues: a Political Memoir (U of T Press).
Is the book necessary reading for a good understanding of our party politics? No, but it wouldn’t be lost time.
There’s gentle humor (mostly ironic) and critical sketches of our major politicians, notably a critique of Brian Mulroney in the last chapter. A bonus for anyone not from the Atlantic provinces comes from seeing why the Senate is so cherished there, an appointment to it the finest gift in a great nation.
Macquarrie is a decent, relatively modest politician who without any parade of crass or erratic behavior earned a low-key reputation on the Hill as an old-fashioned orator. His ornate phrasings would have been maddening if they had not been lightened by items from an arsenal of anecdote and quotation, stored up in years of academic work on the life and government of Sir Robert Borden and in being active in federal elections from 1935 onward.
In describing what he savors, Macquarrie rather undercuts his credentials as a bona fide political scientist and historian with recurring references to four of his penchants – gourmet meals, lots of rum, travelling far and dressing Scottish.
Before Joe Clark elevated him in 1979 Macquarrie had won eight elections for an Island seat in the House. He held it for 22 years, an MP who was neither front rank nor an absentee, who spoke fairly often, took committee work seriously and was well-liked though often spoofed for high-falutin’ rhetoric.
If the current Senate is not abolished or replaced by an elected one, Macquarrie has two years before mandatory retirement at 75. He thinks an elected Senate is a bad proposition because it will make any ministry vulnerable to two groups of politicians with separate mandates from the people.
Partly through inclination, partly because he was too junior a P.E.I. MP for a ministry in the Diefenbaker years, Macquarrie as a younger MP became an External Affairs buff for his caucus, an authority on the UN, and gradually an open proponent of a better deal for the Palestinians. The latter was brave, given the power of the Israel lobby in Canada.
Macquarrie doesn’t duck categorizing himself as a Robert Stanfield-Dalton Camp-Joe Clark Tory rather than a Diefenbaker or Mulroney one. In truth, he quite liked John Diefenbaker’s stances on Canadian nationalism vis-a-vis the U.S. and for a substantial social and economic role for the federal government.
The problem for him was the meanness, suspicion and arrogance of the Chief’s behavior toward colleagues and backers through and beyond his time as prime minister and as party leader – in particular regarding French-Canadians.
As a partisan and a Maritimer, the enemy for Macquarrie is never the New Democratic Party. It’s the Liberals, symbolized in his Senate years by Allan MacEachen and the blockades and filibusters thrown up against the Mulroney government’s bills for free trade with the U.S. and instituting the GST.
Macquarrie was not enamored of either measure, but he was loyal in backing them. Clearly his doubts about Mulroney stem from his fawning around White House power and on his insincerity.
“It seems to me,” he writes, “that the present government has forgotten that an essential part of Canadian nationalism has been founded on a belief that mere imitation of the American way of life was an insufficient and erroneous way of expressing our national identity . . . I have an uneasy feeling that our present leader, Brian Mulroney, has no pulse beat for this kind of classic Canadianism.”
Macquarrie regrets his government’s antagonism towards the CBC and services like rail passenger and the post office, and its niggardliness with the less fortunate. He recalls that when Pierre Trudeau as PM was obviously unpopular he still kept “a large following of die-hard devotees.” He doesn’t “see such a group supporting Mulroney.
“On occasion his maladroit utterances are hard to understand, still harder to defend.
“I wish, too, that our spin doctors would refer less to a five-year term. Bennett, elected in July, 1930, deferred the election until October, 1935. Not surprisingly, Canadians tended to see the prolongation as the act of a man already written off. Today’s Canadian voters are not like to be assured by the thought that their view will have no consequence until 1993. It’s a long time to be dissatisfied!”
Sensible? Right!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 13, 1992
ID: 12266448
TAG: 199205130014
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Have you gathered from the current commentary by politicians and journalists that Canada is almost saved?
Somehow the feeling we’re going to survive is loose in our politics after a winter of doomsaying. It’s now being taken that sincerity, flexibility and persistence, symbolized by Joe Clark and graced by an accommodating Robert Bourassa, have brought a resolution on the Constitution within reach.
One would be very dim not to see what’s on this train of good news.
The Mulroney government has decided peace for our time requires a trade-off with Quebec that also allays the forces which wrecked the Meech accord – i.e., the natives, the small province advocates of a strong federal government and Senate reformers. Its emerging deal has three rough parts.
Firstly, by an elected Senate, eventually almost sure to be based on regional balances of representation which enable the West and the East to match the big central provinces. The premiers most devoted to the senate as a remedial masterpiece – Don Getty, Gary Filmon and Clyde Wells – will be satisfied.
Secondly, a “third order of Canadian government,” as Clark phrases it, will be created for aboriginal nations. Whether “treaty” or not, registered or not, Indians shall have a constitutional perpetuity for their own governments and lands. So will the Inuit and the Metis.
Idealists of whom we have millions see this “third order” resolution as as a most positive response to the demands of the great chiefs. It should gain approval for the whole deal from the many who grant their guilt and that of their forebears for the truly awful consequences wrought by those who followed Cartier and Champlain.
Thirdly, ah, well, yes, thirdly comes the quid pro quo – what Quebec wants! More specifically, what Premier Bourassa must have to get the constitutional package approved by the National Assembly and by a referendum put to Quebecers.
In specifics, an undemanding, Bourassa sweet-talked across the West last week with words like understanding, flexibility and compromise. He didn’t deny an elected Senate. He didn’t venture far on aboriginal self-government or any “inherent” rights to such government. And so he wasn’t taken as antagonistic to either Senate reform or the “third order.” Fair enough. He was amiable and conciliatory. Also, there was remarkably little talk that the public heard from the premiers about Quebec as a distinct society. Somehow that terrible phrase of the Meech crisis has been almost ignored. It seems almost meaningless. At this moment!
But did Bourassa spell out those powers Quebec must have, the trade-offs for the major shift toward a Senate with clout and the nigh revolutionary proposals for aboriginal governments? He did not.
Bourassa was his usual careful self, referring several times during his trip to what seem, figuratively, the book-ends of his constitutional shelf, i.e., the recommendations regarding powers of two grand inquiries, the first sponsored by the National Assembly, the second by the Allaire committee of the Quebec Liberal party. He would check the package which is to be offered, obviously by the federal government and the other provinces, with what these Quebec inquiries had recommended, particularly those by the Allaire committee that wanted 22 powers transferred outright to Quebec.
The Quebec premier refused to say he would return to the table of first ministers for negotiations. Surely this underlines the package must be clear and generous on the distribution of powers to the provinces.
It’s unbelievable (to me) that Bourassa, his party and the National Assembly could swallow the Senate reforms and the third order of government without the transfer of most of the powers which Quebec premiers, Liberal or PQ or UN, have sought over the past quarter century.
Be optimistic. Be positive. Support Joe Clark. Acclaim the statesmanship of Grand Chief Ovide Mercredi. Believe everybody’s sick of constitutional stuff, including Quebecers. Even believe a third coming of Brian Mulroney is in prospect. But don’t get carried away.
It may be obvious that the Quebec that Bourassa symbolizes is not ready to depart. The PQ and the Quebec intelligentsia may be shaken by Claude Morin’s treachery. But don’t count on a successful deal until you see an offer from Ottawa to Quebec which details a substantial transfer of powers to Quebec, and perhaps to the other provinces (with which the latter have agreed).
My wager remains 2 to 1 against a deal; 4 to 1 no deal before we have to have a federal election.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 10, 1992
ID: 12265711
TAG: 199205100139
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The media have been prompted by current talk of referenda to review the federal plebiscite of April, 1942, and its disharmony for a nation at war.
The ballot asked whether the Mackenzie King government should be released from any obligation to previous commitments not to send overseas men who had been drafted for military service.
There were almost twice as many positive votes but overwhelmingly Quebecers (and French Canadians elsewhere) voted no. Most citizens in eight of the nine provinces approved the draft for overseas war.
The replays of the plebiscite have emphasized King’s wiliness, his discomfiture at the gap it showed between the proverbial “two nations,” and the dangers of such a direct device for settling a divisive national issue.
The moral from the ’42 plebiscite? Simple enough! A national referendum to approve or reject a new Constitution could be destructive.
Few of the recent stories on the ’42 vote laid out the context of affairs in early 1942.
The context is missing largely because the Allied forces won the war over the Axis powers in smashing fashion three years later. Hindsight sees the triumphs as inevitable, given the mismatch in resources.
It seemed a mismatch in early ’42 – only the other way. A fear of defeat seized many Canadians. The roll call of disasters had truly begun with the fall of France in June, 1940, but it became a chorus of doom after the smashing Japanese carrier force raid on Pearl Harbor. In three months, Hong Kong and Singapore were gone, Burma was being lost. The Philippines, Java and Sumatra were going. Australia’s north coast seemed open. So did our West Coast. Neither the Royal Navy nor the U.S. Navy seemed certain to halt “the Yellow Peril.”
The U-boat menace in the Atlantic was worsening. Our navy was desperately trying to do its share of convoy escort in the Western Atlantic with too few ships and inadequate equipment. Hitler controlled almost all of mainland Europe and most of Western Russia, and he was almost master of the whole Mediterranean basin.
While it was a relief to us that Japanese treachery had brought the Americans into the war, it was plain fact that everywhere in early 1942 the news was grim. Already the U.S. had conscription for overseas service. It was galvanizing for all-out war with an enormous appetite for revenge, especially against the Japanese. Canadians shared this, even the French Canadians. An argument in Quebec by those fighting for “no” votes was that they were ready to defend Canada, and Canada now needed defending.
American zeal prompted us. A society of just 12 million, we were stretching into a war effort with huge productive expansions in foodstuffs, vehicles, aircraft, guns, munitions, merchant ships and corvettes. We envisaged an army of six divisions, a navy capable of running the Western Atlantic, the hosting and staffing of a massive Commonwealth training plan for aircrew, and scores of Canadian bomber and fighter squadrons.
That was the context for the 1942 vote.
The result shocked me. There our regiment was, manning obsolete rifles on B.C.’s shores. Total victory seemed far away, perhaps impossible. Surely voters couldn’t deny King a mandate for all-out commitment. Well, they did not. But the clear “no” of most French Canadians meant King had to put off overseas dispatch of conscripts for three years.
The ’42 vote made me distressingly aware there were two peoples here. Canada was not a unified community then, and today’s Canada remains two peoples.
A national referendum on the Constitution seems sure to confirm the old distinctions. It’s why a reformed Constitution negotiated and confirmed by elected politicians is safer.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 03, 1992
ID: 12725588
TAG: 199205030179
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Often we forget we are both federal and provincial creatures.
A dilemma this literal duplicity creates was shown in the House last Wedneday. It was the day MPs got A Lot to Learn, a 60-page mix of data and exhortation from the Economic Council of Canada (ECC).
Sheila Copps, the Grits’ deputy leader, was first off the mark in a parade of opposition MPs demanding answers from the government regarding the parlous state of Canadian education and literacy as exposed in the ECC’s pious hand-wringing.
After her usual, accusatory woe, Copps asked: “Does the prime minister realize we are sitting on an education time bomb? What has he done to defuse it?”
Brian Mulroney did not respond with the immediate point that there was remarkably little leadership a federal government could give in a field where both constitutional practices and clauses have given absolute primacy and responsibility for primary, secondary and university education to the provinces. Instead the PM boasted with figures that Canada spent more per capita on education than any other country.
One might take from Mulroney’s pride that federal governments have had a major role in Canadian education. Nonsense!
Almost all the ECC report deals with what is overwhelmingly provincial jurisdiction. Its many suggestions are not directed to the federal government. Even in job training and retraining, a phase of what might be called education where Ottawa still has a role, it is largely through funding programs on a co-operative basis with the provinces or major employers. Further, part of the federal reform package on the Constitution is tailored to meet Quebec’s demands that such training and programs be wholly provincial, whether for the jobless or for new immigrants.
This point regarding Quebec must be stressed. Anyone familiar with the history of education in Canada at any or all levels from kindergarten to post-graduate faculties knows that respect by federal cabinets for Quebec and its voters has nobbled many noble visions of truly national standards in education, always projected by English-speaking dreamers who forget the French Canadian determination to survive.
A landmark example of this, long forgotten, came after a major federal inquiry on technical and vocational education launched when an industrial manpower crisis emerged in the 1914-18 war. The commission made a host of recommendations, many of which were repeated in this week’s ECC report.
And in the 1920s some provinces, Ontario in particular, did move on vocational eduction and aimed to keep more children longer in school by building and manning a rash of technical-commercial high schools. But largely because of Quebec’s antagonism Ottawa didn’t take up the burden of educational leadership.
Similar rebuffs from Quebec came when the Diefenbaker government passed an act to finance the building of technical and vocational schools. The consequent billions of spending led to a regional high school system and community colleges in Ontario and CGEPS in Quebec. But Quebec made it clear it was just taking its share of federal money, not accepting federal ledership or standards in education.
The last great abdication in education by Ottawa came shortly after the 1965 election. The Lester Pearson government, influenced by the fresh trio of Pierre Trudeau, Jean Marchand and Gerard Pelletier declared an end to any nexus between the federal government and universities regarding standards or any ties or monitoring of fedral funding dollars or “tax points” for post-secondary education.
The ECC’s staff analyzed and compared standards in the provincial systems and contrasted their combined performances as “the Canadian educational system” with the achievements of other countries, notably those getting far more bang for their educational bucks.
The motif of the ECC’s report is all economic, not cultural. It has Canada sliding inexorably to lower living standards and mass unemployment and illiteracy. Probably true. But the remedies lie not in Ottawa. Asymmetrical federalism could change this but it seems far, far away.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, May 01, 1992
ID: 12725242
TAG: 199205010048
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Off-the-record words of Tory MPs indicate several score will not run again, including about 10 ministers. Despite this there are few rumors on Parliament Hill of cabinet shuffles. The scarcity of backbenchers anticipating ministerial rank is uncanny.
Most Tories assume the PM will lead their party into the next election if there is a positive resolution of Quebec’s constitutional grievances by early 1993. At this point Brian Mulroney’s optimism, clear in more aggressive posturing at separatists, has led many of his MPs to believe in a fighting chance for a third term. Such optimism is higher among the MPs east of Manitoba where the surge of the Reform Party is not so evident.
The obvious questions are why are so many PC MPs thinking retirement and why is almost a quarter of the cabinet ready to give up its splendid emoluments?
First, there are major problems nationally and in each region and Ottawa has a desperate shortage of money to spend on them, with poor prospects for getting more in the next decade except through even greater borrowing and debt-making than we’ve had since the last surplus almost 20 years ago.
Second, a third of the government caucus predates the Mulroney years, including 13 ministers. Not only are they all nicely pensionable, most are in their late 50s or older.
Third, these are especially unlovely months for any politicians in power at any level but federal MPs get the worst of the barracking criticism because they are most exposed through network and cable TV.
Fourth, the batteries of high-powered interest groups pound the government and its backers – and often each other – on almost every program and policy front, meaning the hard choices never end, and there is never much recognition of work done.
Most brutal of all factors, whatever the MPs wishfully believe about a Mulroney renaissance, most are very knowing about their constituents’ opinions. Because of national polling results they’ve been reading their own bailiwicks for the almost three years, divining their hopes for survival. They know the election campaign will be long and nasty and many of them doubt their own survival.
On the last point, you may ask: Do they speak directly about this? Do they say their own hopes are slim? Only a few. But experience with MPs of eight parliaments tells me that when you cannot find any MP who assumes he has a safe seat or who in discussion cannot suggest colleagues who have such strongholds, the prospects are vile. Except for some Quebec Tories there is little hollow bravado about victories ahead among Mulroney’s followers.
For that matter, aside from Ontario Liberals, there isn’t much bravado in the other caucuses. The NDP group seems almost as grim as the Tories, perhaps chastened by the rugged gauntlet which Bob Rae is running and certainly fretted by the lack of public enthusiasm for Audrey McLaughlin.
There are checks other than Mulroney’s preoccupation with Quebec and a hugely reformed federal system that explain why speculation on the cabinet is slight.
If Mulroney bounced half a dozen or more ministers now, or even by early September (when many think he will), he creates dilemmas on what may happen for those ousted. If they resign their seats, there will be demands from many directions for byelections. Nowhere in Canada does Mulroney want a byelection.
If the resignees merely go to the backbenches, their partisan careers flickering out, they would weaken an already limp caucus esprit within a Parliament that is already very dreary.
Further, Mulroney has unusually little leeway in Senate vacancies to cushion ex-ministers or even plain MPs who want out of the House. And with an elected Senate in prospect, such elevations would be shameful. A rash of major appointments to judgeships and commissions, as Pierre Trudeau did, later abetted by John Turner, made in 1984 would be even more damaging to Mulroney’s already battered integrity.
There’s an almost pitiable contradiction in today’s partisan currents between what is stock stuff in pre-election politics and the imperative of federalist unity.
The thrust for unity is felt keenly by the Liberals and even appreciated by the NDP MPs who are usually less responsible in their parliamentary criticisms. Of course they know the parts which premiers Bob Rae, Roy Romanow and Mike Harcourt must play in a constitutional resolution.
Bitter partisanship with trenchant criticism of Mulroney, Joe Clark, etc. makes little sense with a public soured by political cant and rant, nor is it practical until the constitutional crisis is over. A solution to the crisis would boost Mulroney’s electoral stock but will it be enough?
Opposition MPs read the intention of many Tory MPs as I have, and they think not.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 29, 1992
ID: 12724916
TAG: 199204280114
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


We keep discovering our past, and some of our most articulate find it wanting.
Consider this week’s moralizing on past discrimination against homosexuals.
Summaries which Canadian Press put out of old security files showed an intense scrutiny of homosexuals in the federal ranks in the ’50s and ’60s by the RCMP’s security and intelligence service (SIS). Scores lost their jobs and a roster of thousands was worked up of alleged homosexuals, many who weren’t federal employees.
Monday in Parliament Svend Robinson, the only self-declared homosexual MP, sought from the prime minister an inquiry, new laws and justice for the victims of the homosexual hunt. He got a promise of review and agreement there’d been “abuse of fundamental human rights.”
Press accounts didn’t underline that in the era of such SIS activity, the Criminal Code had severe penalties for homosexual acts like buggery and fellatio. There was no absolution then if such acts were by consenting adults. And there was notice but little emphasis in the stories about Cold War fears.
Fears of subversion and espionage in Canada skyrocketed after Igor Gouzenko’s revelations and the bolting to Moscow of high British intelligence officers. Homosexual officials were seen as targets for entrapment and blackmail. It became high cabinet policy to weed homosexuals from the mandarinate. The SIS was instructed to ensure this.
Whatever the secrecy screen over the SIS work, or the parti- culars of dismissals, there wasn’t any secrecy about the policy when I came to Parliament in 1957. It was known, even if was not publicly discussed. Several NDP colleagues of mine like the late Colin Cameron and David Orlikow often criticized the excessive zeal of the SIS in the House, especially its obsessive fear of left-wingers.
In the Diefenbaker-Pearson period there weren’t open remonstrances against the policy on homosexuals. Before Pierre Trudeau was made minister of justice (1967) no politician talked as he soon did about getting the state out of the nation’s bedrooms. Before him, nothing much was bubbling under politics’ surface on decriminalizing homosexuality, let alone legitimizing homosexuals for high posts.
Our PM and cabinet should openly discuss the repulsion most Canadians feel toward homosexual practices instead of whisking past it, condemning bigotry and censuring past regimes and policies.
Not long ago I noted no other MP had joined Svend Robinson in the open. Some parents called, asking if I wanted my children taught by gays and lesbians. An Ottawa caller read me a list of members in the Liberal, Tory and NDP caucuses. Each one named, he insisted, is a closet homosexual. He named ex-ministers in Ottawa and at Queen’s Park whom he says “the Mounties know all about.” All those he named were or are commonly known among their colleagues as homosexuals. Yet Robinson still stands alone.
At the last Tory caucus before Easter, Kim Campbell, the justice minister, was to discuss amending bills that would lift discrimination against homosexuals. Such measures and an end to barriers against homosexuals in the military have been forcefully put by Max Yalden, the human rights commissioner. The PM was to miss the caucus so Campbell chose to wait. Without him to cajole the caucus majority, the proposals would get the same rejection as Marcel Masse’s move to free homosexuality in the military.
It’s not hard to know what’s confounding those who assert the injustice of bias against homosexuals and insist a nation guided by the Charter must stamp out discrimination against them.
Aside from centuries-old beliefs in western societies against homosexuals for religious and moral reasons, the liberalizing themes are being suborned by the most frightening tales in the decade since we received the Charter of Rights. Tales of AIDS, spread overwhelmingly through homosexual practices and drug users. What a dreadful pairing – for most people!
Not only have the years since ’81 resounded with AIDS, Canadians have had many heart-rending revelations of sexual abuse of children – e.g., the Mount Cashel and Bosco cases. Our three largest denominations are harrowed with debates over legitimizing homosexuality and ordained practitioners.
The tragedies of dying and the cruel usage of kids have sustained a contradiction to the liberal-minded readiness to see homosexuality as a worthwhile way in life. A continuing mind-set prevails among most Canadians that will not hurrah Brian Mulroney’s judgmental condemnation of the old policy.
The Cold War reasons for the old policy are gone; the majority scunner remains against closet homosexuals in public posts of counsel, teaching or security. Otherwise, wouldn’t Svend Robinson have company?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 26, 1992
ID: 12724513
TAG: 199204260019
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Will we have a buyout of senators or just a layoff?
The legislated end to the current Senate is likely within the next three years. If the present Senate of appointees isn’t replaced with an elected Senate in the current “Canada” round on the Constitution it may be abolished without a replacement.
There’s been little public debate on what to do with the relics from the dead institution.
Running for the new Senate would be an alternative for all those who lose their seats and indemnities.
My forecast when abolition comes is that a deal, pre-arranged in private, will suddenly emerge. It will give a generous severance package to each senator. This would be a mistake.
This fiscal year the Senate will cost just about $40 million, of which $7 million goes for senators’ indemnities and allowances, $2 million for travel, and $1 million for office expenses. Each senator gets about $100,000 a year in wages and expense money.
At this moment there are 103 senators. There are nine vacancies.
If, as seems probable, the present Senate disappears by or in 1995, the total will have dropped from 103 to 96 senators through the attrition of the age limit (75 years). And my skim through obituary pages suggests another three to four current senators will be claimed by death before the Senate dies.
So roughly 90 persons would lose their emoluments and roles as senators. About a third of them would have reached the retirement age by the 21st century, so are not very far from pension.
On the other hand, about a quarter of the current senators, e.g., Michael Kirby, Ann Cools, Colin Kenny and Janis Johnson, would have a run to 2115 AD or beyond. Should a Kirby or a Johnson get more in terms of settlement than older codgers, say like Keith Davey whose writ ends in 2001 AD (after 35 years) or a Phillip Gigantes whose time ends in 1998? The Kirbys and Johnsons have more time for alternative careers. On the other hand, Davey and Gigantes have entitlement to higher senatorial pensions than Kirby and Johnson, and also to old age security and the Canada Plan pension.
Two other factors should mentioned – pensions at hand, and wealth.
First, about a quarter of the present senators are already receiving pensions or are entitled to them from service as MPs and as cabinet ministers. Allan MacEachen, Bud Olson, Pierre DeBane, Stan Haidasz, Len Marchand, Romeo LeBlanc, Pat Carney and Jim Kelleher are senators. So are two men with provincial pensions as ex-premiers, Louis Robichaud and John Buchanan. (Duff Roblin retires in two months!)
Second, about a quarter of the present senators are wealthy men and women, and some, if not wealthy, have very remunerative careers outside the senate, e.g. heart surgeon Wilbert Keon, lawyer Michael Meighen, financier Jack Austin, consultant Michael Kirby, Teamster Ed Lawson, sociologist Lorna Marsden.
Would wealthy senators like Leo Kolber, Michael Pitfield, Doug Everett and William Kelly be interested in a cash buyout? Of course not.
My prescription is simple, and likely more generous than most Canadians would vote for. No lump-sum handshakes! Instead, sever the lost ones through the senatorial pension plan, bringing all those under 65 with at least 10 years left, up to a minimum pension level, say of $20,000 a year for life. And let them all keep the title “senator” as an honorarium for life.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, April 24, 1992
ID: 12724314
TAG: 199204240015
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


On the constitutional front there is now some unfeigned hope for a package acceptable to Quebec’s premier and his party. And the optimists agree a tradeoff for the West from Quebec must be an elected Senate.
Such a body’s members would be elected by the voters who chose MPs, maybe in the same election. The split of Senate seats by provinces would ensure that senators from central Canada would not dominate the institution by sheer numbers.
The Canada West Foundation has done more substantial promotion of Senate reform than any other organization. A section from its “blueprint” for the new Senate is imaginative.
“Senate reform . . . would have effects that ripple out through the Canadian political system. The existing Senate is like the cymbal player in an orchestra, seldom given much to do but attracting considerable attention on those rare occasions. A Triple-E Senate would become a regular player, and the music would have to be rewritten to accommodate its parts.
“The powers of the prime minister and the style of contemporary cabinet government would have to undergo changes – not because the Senate would play a deadlocking role, but because its effective potential for delay would encourage negotiation and compromise.
“Provincial premiers would no longer play so large a role as regional spokemen on national issues, as this function would be performed by the Senate.
“Finally, with the Senate providing an example of an effective political career that is not focused upon cabinet rank, and an electoral system that may well be less punitive to party rebels, the stultifying stress on discipline within the parties in the Commons might be reduced.”
Sweet prospect, eh?
In the push toward a reformed Senate past a lukewarm Ontario and a chilly Quebec, the core issue of how equal representation by province must be has diverted everyone from a key belief of the CWF, expressed in the phrase about “the stultifying stress on party discipline.”
The reformers expect to shatter the tyranny of party and the overriding power of a prime minister, enforced through party caucus and whips.
They believe the regional role of an elected senator will have priority over party allegiance and discipline. They expect that regional brokering in the Senate will check and ameliorate the party line set out by a prime minister and cabinet.
Such assumptions extend to all senators, including those of parties in opposition in the House of Commons. A group of NDP senators from B.C. would give their arguments and votes for the regional interests of B.C. before any differing ones advanced by the NDP leader in the House.
The Westerners foresee a gathering of people with a direct mandate from the voters of their respective provinces which shall put provincial and regional interests ahead of those perceived by a prime minister. As the CWF says, this priority, when added to “the effective potential for delay would encourage negotiation and compromise.”
A lovely dream! So is the CWF’s assumption that provincial premiers “would no longer play so important a role . . . on national issues.” They would subside to a status on the national scene like that of governors of states in the U.S. In America a state’s two senators in Washington are far more significant in national affairs than its governor.
This eclipse of premiers has attractions when we reflect on some of the dandies we’ve suffered through. But is it possible? Probable? Think about our elaborate interlock of programs and mandarinates in federal-provincial relations.
If each province is to have at least eight, probably 10 senators, not two as in the U.S., the power and influence of a senator will be diffuse.
It seems a never-never land that even the 10 senators from Alberta could pull together very often unless they were all of one party.
Would Alberta senators have more regional unity when handling government legislation than their partisan differences might indicate? Not likely.
The Senate reformers do not seek constitutional rules that would ban partisan identities for those seeking a Senate seat or that would forbid senators from partaking in the parliamentary caucuses with the MPs of the House of Commons.
The Western proposals agree that a prime minister must attain the confidence of the House, not the Senate, and that senators should not be member of the cabinet.
The reformers think such provisions will insulate the Senate from gross partisanship. One has to ask these questions.
Could many senators be elected without a party’s label, financing and organization? Surely not.
Will each leader and party fix on nominating and electing loyal senators? Yes. As much as on MPs? Yes.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 22, 1992
ID: 12724026
TAG: 199204220017
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


We may recall this parliamentary recess as the marker which heralded the greatest of Brian Mulroney’s come-backs. Whether one foresees this as tragic or for the best it is amusing to watch so much that is dreaded being fashioned from so little.
On the down side, note these points: The recession continues unabated. The constitutional crisis is not yet dissolving before us. The public polling we’re getting shows both the PM and his party at all time lows. We have an aged and stale Parliament in which many inmates sorrow openly at their low esteem with the public and curse unfair criticism from the media.
On the up side, however, consider some emerging perceptions. A fresh major domo for the Mulroney team, Hugh Segal, has brought action and a cachet for cleverness to the pre-election year. Think-piecers portray him as the super-doctor of spin. He’s stepped up showings of the Mulroneys in fair weather settings and (preserve us) those present have seemed to like them. The pair have neither been barracked nor stalked by the usual posse of leather-lunged unionists.
A new book praiseful of Mila is out.
Even the PM’s critical biographer, John Sawatsky, suggests Mulroney could be re-elected as he points out the weakness of his rivals.
The post-Meech hopelessness is lifting a bit, in part because it’s lasted so long. For sure, Premier Bourassa is contemplating a federal deal and Mulroney is talking up a national referendum on a fresh offer to Quebec.
Also, Tory insiders hint their party polling shows Quebecers are backing off sovereignty.
Of course, we know the Tories have clutched for hope on the weak alternatives provided by Chretien and McLaughlin, on their demonstrated loyalty to Mulroney and on his hold on the sine qua non of federal power – a strong following in Quebec. Now a few of them are saying, “It’s turning.” When the House resumes next week the stuff for chewing will be whether Mulroney’s rebounding from rock bottom.
We won’t know whether this has an excellent chance of happening for several months. I suspect my own reasons for thinking there may be something in the resurrection tale. Already, barely a fortnight into it (if it’s there) rage and exasperation are mounting.
Speaking politically, the hordes who detest Mulroney have been living for his defeat and departure from office and party leadership. Even the smallest chance he might be prime minister into the late 1990’s is an abomination to them.
Those of us whose experience and cynicism goes back to another insufferable prime minister, find the prospect of a Mackenzie King II wry entertainment.

Question: Why do so many of us seek dull jobs in government? Answer: Because they’re recession-proof. This gross explanation may be drawn from data Statistics Canada released a few days ago on “public sector employment and remuneration” for the last quarter of 1991.
The recession is not forcing either reductions in employees or payrolls in the public sector.
Total employment (for government and government business enterprises) rose to 1,530,000 in the last quarter of 1991, a rise of 0.8% from the year before; and remuneration increased 4.4% to total $13.9 billion.
Roughly one in seven Canadians at work in 1991 were in the haven of governments or their enterprises.

Consider the big lead in Alberta which the pollsters give the Reform Party. It’s why Joe Clark’s admission he is tired and may not run again is significant to hopes Tories have of retaining office. Since the election of 1965 Alberta’s been their best bastion.
Tories now hold 22 of Alberta’s 26 federal seats, including those represented by three senior ministers, Joe Clark, Don Mazankowski, and Harve Andre, and by three MPs, Steve Paproski, Jim Hawkes, and Albert Cooper. The latter trio play vital roles in Parliament itself as, respectively, deputy speaker, chief whip, and deputy House leader.
Clark and Andre have been MPs for 22 years, Mazankowski for 26 (as has Paproski.) Long, long careers!
Three other Albertans have said they won’t run again: Arnold Malone, Jack Shields, and Blaine Thacker. Gossip says the same about Wilson Littlechild, the Indian who holds Wetaskawin. And few of her colleagues think Bobbie Sparrow can keep Preston Manning from her Calgary seat.
The party will be weaker electorally in Alberta if Joe Clark does quit. It would be devastated if Mazankowksi and Andre joins him on the sidelines. Mazankowski kept the caucus going as internal broker and fence-mender. Andre has wrested domination of the House agenda from the opposition. Clark as minister, first at External, recently as constitutional fixer, has been a precious counter-weight against those poisonous about Mulroney. The prime minister needs all three ministers for any hopes of keeping even half Alberta’s seats.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 19, 1992
ID: 12723709
TAG: 199204190160
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Mordecai Richler is easier and more assured under attack as an unfair critic of the Quebecois than as a hero for the thousands in Quebec and beyond who love his book Oh Canada! Oh Quebec!
For years no one with his imagination and wit has criticized Quebec’s insularity and its callousness with the rest of us except Pierre Trudeau, and he wrote and spoke as a French Canadian.
Last week I was an onlooker as Richler bumped into people in Ottawa, not a town given to bussing a stranger on the street.
Richler was awkward with the homage. He’s had nothing like it before. Suddenly, walking in “his” Montreal has become a gauntlet of approval.
I watched a poised woman, an Asiatic by her face, recognize him in the passing crowd. She bolted over to seize his arm. She was excited and tearful in her thanks.
“You are right. You tell the truth. At last someone tells them the truth.”
And similar vignettes occurred through Richler’s Ottawa day.
Why has it taken a novelist and not a politician or a historian or a political scientist to make the case that thousands have recognized immediately as their own?
My answer is that the case on Quebec tribalism and its attendant bigotry has been obvious for years but it was considered unwise to make it. Few in our politics who were not French Canadian dared to do it. If they did, they never sustained it because of the backlash from fellow Canadians. Redneck! Bigot! Dinosaur!
Thirty years ago as an NDP MP I argued openly there must be more candor, more give and take about our own national feelings and aspirations. We shouldn’t mute them. Stifling our patriotic sense was deceiving Quebec.
My colleagues and party seniors insisted I give up taking part in public debates with emerging advocates of separatism like Marcel Chaput, Rene Levesque and Pierre Bourgault. Confrontation was not the route.
The NDP was launched under the guidance of luminous Montrealers like Frank Scott, Michael Oliver, Charles Taylor and David Lewis. They advocated accommodation, the “two nations” and “co-operative federalism.”
Of course, the federal Liberals had fashioned years in power with policy and argument aimed at their solid Quebec base. This reign culminated in so-called “French power” under Pierre Trudeau during which official bilingualism became sacred in all federal parties.
The Tories captured Quebec and federal power under Mulroney by appealing to Quebec nationalists affronted by Trudeau’s Constitution. For years the Tories had suffered, portrayed as anti-Quebec. John Diefenbaker, it was said, was insensitive. His successors, Bob Stanfield, then Joe Clark, each emphasized the distinctiveness of Quebec and accepted the historical bunkum of two founding nations.
Publishers, journalists and academics did their part. It became the fair, decent thing to play down or ignore concerns about Quebec among those outside Quebec, especially if antagonistic to official bilingualism or assertive of a single Canadian nationality.
As for non-French Quebecers, they were out of luck for vigorous protagonists. Since the early ’80s more and more of those who could got out. Those still there have not had a tough counter-attacker until Richler came along.
It’s ironic the case comes from a Jewish Montrealer. It’s not that Jews as a creative people are short of either satirists or courage. But a tradition was ingrained. Few who were non-French Canadians should send up Quebec nationalists.
As witness to such caution one may trace (as Richler has) public stances over the years of the Canadian Jewish Congress or the fabled Bronfmans. The Jews have been generally tolerant about the Quebec majority’s obsessions with language and culture, and not open dissenters or ridiculers.
Richler has a special effect beyond being a knowing Montrealer and not a “bonne ententer” from Toronto. He’s won an international cachet, especially in the U.S. He chortles over his American factor. He knows Quebecers care far more about what Americans think of them and their aspirations than about opinion in the rest of Canada. He says that if the French remnants in Canada had fallen to the Yanks after the revolution they’d be as distinctively American in language and culture today as their blood cousins in New England or the Cajuns of Louisiana.
Richler wants no part of leading a movement, I think because he is not pessimistic and talks of getting back to fiction.
“They won’t go,” he told me. “They’re too practical. They know they’ve a good thing.”
I wish I were so sure.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 15, 1992
ID: 12723231
TAG: 199204150008
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Three recent publications show the Canadian left is still strong. Each work is grist for advocates of governmental intervention in the economy and our culture. Our left is far from down and out, whatever is happening in Britain and the U.S.
My materials are a parliamentary report, a racy book on excesses of free enterprise and an academic tome which states our rise in unemployment has a deliberate cause.
After many hearings that focused on the imperative of national unity, the Commons committee on communication and culture has issued a lengthy, unanimous report titled: Culture and Communications: The Ties that Bind.
Five of the committee’s eight members were Conservatives, including chairman Bud Bird. Such unanimity makes this a touchstone document for those who believe in sustained federal funding for arts and letters.
The report’s thrust is straightforward. Culture and communications are what bind us together. These are endeavors too significant for Canadian identities and unity to be left to mere market forces. A new national cultural policy is imperative, one which recognizes that two of the main instruments created by Parliament – the CBC and the Canada Council – must have more backing and longer-range certainty of funding.
The federal government is admonished not to devolve its cultural responsibilities to the provinces. A Canada Cultural Accord is proposed as a framework for co-ordinating federal and provincial programs, with Quebec in particular in mind.
The report seeks a five-year financial plan that would increase the share of the federal budget for cultural spending by more than the inflation rate – $700 million more over the period. Such projections are not wildly extravagant; nonetheless, this is neither frugality for hard times nor reactionary politics.
To appreciate the last point, the Reform Party is the only one that advocates both the disposition of the CBC to private interests and reductions in federal spending on culture.
The “fun” reading of the three works is The New Bureaucracy by Herschel Hardin, a West Coast writer (published by McClelland & Stewart).
Back in 1974 Hardin wrote A Nation Unaware, a powerful testament on what we could achieve together through governments determined on an economy and a culture not dominated by private corporations and American values and content.
While rambunctious, A Nation Unaware was not a bitter diatribe. Gradually, without much publicity, it sold and sold, becoming a stock source-book for nationalists and socialists. It has had a long life on university reading lists and, depending on your viewpoint, it will still excite or exasperate.
Hardin is as pungent and forceful as ever. And a squirrel in storing bits of chicanery and foolishness. His latest work, though not as appealing to an idealist as the first, is an arsenal for Canadian social democrats. It has scores of derisive anecdotes and memorable explanations of corporate boondoggling, executive greed and dishonest manipulations of shareholders, courts and politicians. You will chortle or choke on the perfidy of raiding and takeovers. It’s a catalogue of dishonest bankers, stock manipulators, deceitful marketers, sleazy advertisers and spendthrift exploiters of culture and sports.
Hardin’s case that public sector bureaucracies are paragons of efficiency, honesty and openness, a contrast in decency to private sector waste and folly, will amuse many and inspire some. The New Bureaucracy will be much quoted.
The third work is a professorial effort out in paperback from U of T Press. Stephen McBride, a Lakehead political scientist, is the author of Not Working: State, Unemployment and Neo-conservatism in Canada. His working base is the data on unemployment in Canada since the war. Let me reduce the complex analysis almost to absurdity.
McBride’s conclusions come from the rise in the unemployment rate from 3.4% in 1966 to 10% and beyond in the ’80s (and today!).
The retrogression reveals how federal governments abandoned a commitment accepted in the 1960s that Ottawa was responsible for full employment.
Why did this happen? McBride states: “The logical response is that it has been induced to do so by the power of capital.”
He believes the neo-conservatives of both the Trudeau and Mulroney governments accepted a “broad solution” to economic problems from the advocates for business and finance. It was “to enhance the power of the market, and hence of capital as the dominant actor within the market.” So fighting inflation superseded making jobs.
There will be exposition from the likes of Bob Rae and Steven Langdon on this blunt conclusion from McBride: “We have had high unemployment because the Canadian state has chosen to have it.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 12, 1992
ID: 12722919
TAG: 199204120157
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Parallels with British politics are shaky at best but two differing sets of Canadian Tories will draw them from the re-election of the Conservatives in Britain for the fourth straight time.
One set, the smaller set, will be seeing a possible, promising parallel in the survival of a party and government after the replacement of a leader by one with a milder personality and style. Their problem, aside from a dearth of aspiring alternatives, is the meaning being drawn by most of their colleagues.
That is, the other set which takes in most of the parliamentary caucus, including himself, Brian Mulroney, will be buoyed by evidence that even a severe, prolonged recession couldn’t switch enough British voters to an alternative headed by a worn and not very heartwarming leader.
We have some public evidence and reports from inside the Mulroney enclave that the PM is always placing his poll-proven unpopularity into context with “the other guys.” And this line of his is the stock stuff we get from most of his backbenchers. That is, “When it comes to the election day choice among Mulroney, Chretien, McLaughlin and Manning, we’ll be all right.”
Although anyone around the Hill for a long time knows that in most parties solidarity jells and loyalty to the leader firms up as a Parliament reaches its last year, today’s situation has peculiarities.
Although Jean Chretien and Audrey McLaughlin are heading for their first election as leaders neither has inspired the genuine enthusiasm of their followers, either in Parliament or out in the party membership across Canada.
To use an artificial word, regulars are discombobulated by evidence they cannot miss that their leader must be “handled” almost every political day.
Neither McLaughlin nor Chretien can function alone for long; each needs guidance on almost every situation and issue. This is more parlous yet more manageable with McLaughlin than with Chretien. She’s a more pliable marionette. She accepts that she doesn’t know, that she must take briefing, that she should never wing it. That’s harder for Chretien.
From his advent as an MP in 1963 Chretien has shown an instinctive capacity to do the partisan act with zest, briskness and either noisy humor or lowbrow platitudes. He has had a rough candor which appeals (or used to appeal) to plain folks.
What’s been happening to him is obvious. First, he needs to know a lot more than he ever did before, and show precision and consistency in expressing it all in decisions and policies. And much of this, Liberals are realizing, has to be done for him. And so the handlers become all-important.
As for Chretien himself, he’s shrewd enough to realize his dilemma but it’s my impression he thinks it will disappear once he is in the PMO and has the familiar backing of both cabinet and mandarinate.
Don’t take from anything in the previous four paragraphs that there’s the slightest movement or even much wistful wishing in either the Liberal party or the NDP to ditch the party leader, but each party’s wiser ones know that if they win or make great gains it will be more from the electorate’s desire to turf out Mulroney than to have Chretien or McLaughlin as prime minister.
In passing, one often finds in conversations with MPs a readiness to dream aloud about the currently unattainable person who would be the best possible leader. Now among the Tories, Peter Lougheed is the ideal; among Grits it is Pierre Trudeau; and with New Democrats, Bob Rae.
A closing note on leadership. There was much amusement and some mild surprise last week among the Tories that columnist Geoffrey Stevens (in the Star) wrote after talking with highly placed Tories that there was good reason to expect Mulroney’s resignation late this year, and the convention to replace him in early 1993 would be a contest between Perrin Beatty and Barbara McDougall.
“Such a prospect could only come from Toronto,” said a colleague of the pair. “Why not Pauline Browes or John McDermid or even David Crombie?”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, April 10, 1992
ID: 12722632
TAG: 199204100024
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Oh Canada, what a complex, costly social laboratory!
The latest report of the federal Human Rights Commission, set up 15 years ago, got a modicum of news coverage at its issue a few weeks ago. Max Yalden, the chief commissioner, neatly and rather severely summed up the shortfalls of both governments and Canadians in meeting legal and moral obligations to those who suffer discrimination.
The commission has two full-time and six part-time commissioners and a staff of 220. Last year it cost $17.7 million to run and got some 52,000 enquiries and 984 formal complaints. Most of the latter had to do with sex and disability issues.
Last year the commission dismissed about a quarter of complaints, sent 38 major or complex ones to a tribunal and put 169 into a conciliation process for a pragmatic resolution.
A theme is reiterated through the report’s 90 pages: we must do better! This, and a corollary insistence: Most of us really do want to do better for life’s underdogs.
The report’s mix of statistics, beseeching and demands recall church sermons of my youth and their eloquent witness to my guilt and potential damnation and yours. They would climax in appeals that we live and act in accord with our best qualities as individuals and as a community. For the flavor of a secular sermon, consider these sentences from Yalden’s preface.
“It is the paradox behind our acceptance of equality rights that we endorse diversity but remain suspicious of change and difference. In many ways this is one of the weakest elements in the Canadian social framework. We see ourselves as an outward-looking, compassionate society – or so we describe ourselves with tedious frequency – but at the same time we persistently display a grumpy unwillingness to accept the consequences. Diversity is fine, in other words, but not in my backyard.
“Yet it is precisely the necessity to adapt to what is novel that keeps us most alive and healthy as human beings. We need to accept this as a criterion of maturity . . . We must see it no less as a fundamental moral obligation towards our fellows if we believe that `all human beings are born equal in their rights.’ ”
Yalden poses a grand question: “Acceptance of change and individual diversity; the search for stability and commonality of purpose: Are these too many circles to square?”
One knows the answer. “I do not believe so. Indeed, it strikes me that this is much of what Canada is all about. And I am quite convinced it is not starry-eyed to suppose, beyond the internecine quarrels and grand solutions which preoccupy us over much and crowd out an appreciation of the goods we already share, that we will continue to move in that direction.”
To assure this – responsibly, dutifully – Yalden states: “Certainly our commission and, for what it is worth, I personally, will not cease to work vigorously in that sense.”
Such Grade A, high-minded prose is very much in line with the general cast of speeches on human rights in Parliament. Wrongs must be put right, by law, by courts, by public spending. We are perfectable.
On the point of spending, the report offers little on priorities or the capacity of governments and taxpayers to cover the costs of ending the wrongs which the commission reports on each year. Few rightings of wrongs and inequities come cheaply.
The report covers “the issues in human rights” under seven major headings. Just listing them conjures Canada as a continuing social laboratory.
Although remedies require public spending, the first and the seventh issue are the biggest items in dollars by the billion.
Aboriginal peoples: The eternity and scope of this rights issue is set in a sentence following a description of the grim lives of the rising horde of natives in our cities: “The first step should be a clear federal commitment to deal with the needs of all the aboriginal people wherever they choose to live.”
Disability: A push for fair representation in employment, and the obligation that all public facilities, including commercial ones, be accessible to the disabled.
Race, origin and religion: Fair representation of “visibles” and sects in employment; equitable treatment of immigrants and refugees.
Sex: Emphasis on dealing with the sexual harassment and abuse of women and children; the imperative for new laws against anti-homosexual acts.
Age: The shifting views on mandatory retirement; our curse of child poverty.
Employment equity: Weeding out job discrimination against disadvantaged groups – women, handicapped, natives and “visibles.”
Pay equity: Employers must hew to laws that women get equal pay to men for work of equal value.
Any reader of the report realizes how far we still are from fairness and equity.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 08, 1992
ID: 12722358
TAG: 199204080052
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Our unloved prime minister still believes in himself. He does. Take it from a long-time watcher and a scavenger of caucus notes.
Brian Mulroney still believes he is one to save Quebec for Canada, and vice-versa.
He thinks he can do this through a national referendum in which the rest of Canada will assure Quebecers they are wanted and in which Quebec will give federalism an edge over sovereignty.
This referendum may be needful if the 15 or 16 parties framing an offer for Quebec fail at compromise and run out of time.
Beyond the referendum Brian Mulroney is sure he will lead his party to a third election victory next spring.
Yes, it all seems dubious and risky – a blindness to public mood and opinion.
You wonder how he can be so assured, yet he was in his vigorous, hurrahed address on Monday to the PC national election committee. Or as he’s been Wednesday after Wednesday with his caucus.
Yesterday an MP whose terms go back through leadership by Joe Clark and Bob Stanfield reaffirmed what he’s told me before: no speeches in his political years have been more effective than those Mulroney gives to his MPs.
What follows is my recall of the MP’s words:
“If only the country could see and hear him setting out the issues and the problems and the ways to solve them.”
So I asked why the PM couldn’t make public speeches identical to those that work so superlatively with his caucus, say, by using television.
The MP said with a candor I accepted that he supposed the performances were effective with the MPs because they are a special audience. They know the complexity of issues in Canada and all their regional and partisan nuances.
“The PM is absolutely candid with us,” said the MP. “He lays it all before us. Often he’s brutal about the prospects. He’s blunt about the other parties and their people.
“He makes us feel the forces in play and the time we have, and the real priorities. Of course, we know he brought us to power after many failures.
“He reminds us how we came roaring back in ’88. He counts on us, and most of us won’t let him down.”
But why does neither the genuineness of Mulroney’s concern nor his grasp of issues get through to the public?
The MP agreed that in his own riding, despite his hard work, few citizens see the PM as he does.
Then he rambled into what must be the gist of the story line which the PM gives his caucus.
These are the features in it:
The worldwide depression and the global confusion from the collapse of the USSR;
The unusual depth and persistence of the economic recession in the U.S., but the inevitability of recovery for 1993;
The instability of the U.S. executive arm in a presidential election year;
The bravery and the unpopularity of the economic restraint and domestic frugality which has been dictated by the grim legacy of debt charges from the Trudeau era and by the imperative of wrestling down inflation;
The courageous actions to get all governments to reduce costly bureaucracies; the demonstrated antagonism of people in all Western democracies to prime ministers and presidents and elected members of legislatures;
The evidence from polls that neither Jean Chretien nor Audrey McLaughlin has caught the national fancy, in particular, in Quebec;
Early but clear witness from socialist regimes in Ontario, B.C. and Saskatchewan that the left has little in policies which satisfy current concerns;
The gap in the Grits between their Axworthy’s and McLarens;
And above all, who else has the responsibility and the best chance to keep Quebec in Canada?
This line of argument in a weekly bravura of well-modulated voice and knowing analysis of politics is what sustains the steady phenomenon of caucus loyalty.
Not one Tory MP has stood in caucus to suggest it may be time for the leader to quit, even though he’s more widely damned by the public than predecessors.
The continuing favor of Mulroney with his caucus remains a miracle (at least to me). Snoop as we journalists may, we find nothing on ditching Mulroney nor even a readying by any would-be leader with a few disciples. It’s not as it was with Joe Clark or Robert Stanfield or John Diefenbaker when the party was way down in the monthly Gallups.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 05, 1992
ID: 12722040
TAG: 199204050175
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


In March, 1988, NDP MP Svend Robinson announced he was a homosexual, and seven months later, after retaining his seat, he declared the result “a historic victory for gay men and lesbians across Canada.”
Some recent happenings remind us Robinson is still alone, the only avowed homosexual of our Parliament.
This week a Tory MP from Quebec, Denis Pronovost, was charged with six offences involving young males. These allegations were a surprise to the Hill community. My attunement to Hill gossip is far from thorough but recent conjectures on homosexual relationships among MPs were not about those in the Tory caucus.
In various House debates of this Parliament several MPs other than Robinson have decried harassment of homosexuals and argued for more explicit legal protection of homosexual rights. The standard estimate that more than a tenth of males are homosexual has become a commonplace of parliamentary argument.
Also, some women prominent in feminist organizations like the National Action Committee on the Status of Women make no secret of their lesbian relationships.
REAL Women, the women’s group that the NAC feminists most scorn, has argued that a lot of the anti-male emphasis in NAC and LEAF demands arises from this. (LEAF, for Legal Education and Action Fund, seems to be the most focused of all active feminist groups led by lesbians.)
Recently there have been several televised discussions on CBC Newsworld and on TVO dealing openly with the issue of homosexuality and the unfair price in harassment and public stigma that homosexuals pay.
After the Oscars our “national” newspaper’s front page story from Los Angeles was almost exclusively on the protests of “Queer Nation” over the nomination of several movies that featured dangerous and beastly homosexuals. And three days later the Globe followed with an op-ed feature by two Toronto law professors titled “Why are Hollywood heroes never gay?” which was persuasively supportive of homosexual rights.
The stories and the bent of the TV panels seem to symbolize the now conventional wisdom of the liberal-minded which demands a kinder, understanding appreciation of the worth of homosexuality.
The University of Toronto Press has just published a book edited by James Miller, a University of Western Ontario professor. Its title is Fluid Exchanges: Artists and Critics in the AIDS Crisis, and a score of men and women have contributed essays to it.
I recommend the book to anyone who has not been acquainted with either homosexuals or AIDS, in part because so much of its context and cameos is Canadian. The most obvious point this heterosexual drew from the essays, some preciously and literary, others heavy with sociological and psychological discourse, is a defiant anger against the “straight” world.
With the anger is scorn for any righteousness that damns the sexual practices of homosexuals. The callous nature of organized Canada is made clear in its hesitations and unwillingness to give full entitlement and priority to those with AIDS or its antecedent virus in urgent research or thorough treatment by the medical and hospital services of the country.
A few weeks ago a columnist on “social policy,” Leonard Shifrin, joined many who speak for Canada’s underdogs in attacking the Tories’ decision to close the Court Challenges program that has made $2 million a year available for legal aid to those initiating actions under the Charter of Rights.
The Star titled Shifrin’s piece “Why did the Tories kill law funds?” but the question was not answered. Instead, Shifrin marshalled an impressive array against the decision, including some Tory MPs.
The best response to the decision that I could get from within the Tory caucus was not to be attributed. Some Alberta Tory MPs were roused and angry after the identification and description by two Calgary professors of a “Court Party.” This so-called party has been spearheaded by LEAF, which, with federal money, uses the courts and the Charter for political goals and social change. “The fund,” I was told, “had become a lesbian ramp.”
The answer to why Svend Robinson is still alone seems to be that too many still fear or hate homosexuality and the politicians know it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, April 03, 1992
ID: 12861726
TAG: 199204030087
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


When is a strike a good one?
With the strike of the NHL players, opinions by the millions will rage around this question.
The strike vote showed astounding solidarity. What a tribute to the newish director, Bob Goodenow, and the union reps on each team.
I see it as a good strike. Overdue! It should be salutary for all, including the fans, and make for a more stable game.
Anyone who gets around knows Canadians have no more common denominator than hockey. It’s been a long preoccupation, even outpacing politics. In a cross-country sense it surpassed baseball, football and lacrosse three generations ago. This appraisal of hockey’s domestic status is not flip but made after 30 years of rummaging after the game in a century of newspaper files.
It was in the 1950s that hockey completed its progression from a tiny amateur base in Montreal (in the 1870s) to being an annual national competition, and became an international game beyond our proprietorship even though we still provided most of the abler pros.
By the time the NHL expanded in the late-1960s, the collective owners of its franchises had completed the subservience of so-called amateur hockey through drafts and farm systems. This was clear from the fading of nationwide interest in Allan Cup and Memorial Cup games, eclipsed by the NHL on TV.
One saw it in the mounting Canadian frustrations over hockey excellence in the USSR and (though less bothersome) in Czechoslovakia and Sweden. Hockey was now well beyond Canada in organization, techniques, tactics and training – and as a livelihood for players and promoters.
Hockey as we would recognize it was born at the new Montreal Victoria rink in 1875 and took roughly 30 years to push well past lacrosse and baseball in all the settled parts of Canada except the Pacific Rim.
Right from 1875, hockey’s had Jeremiahs and belittlers. Moralists have condemned its grossness. How dangerous – violent, mean, brutish! Excesses of misconduct on the ice and in the stands brought sermons and, in later days, governmental inquiries. Hockey, the outside critics argued, could never reflect pure skill and true sportsmanship. It wasn’t possible to officiate it competently.
Recently, the death-knellers have said the game as dominated from the top by greedy entrepreneurs focuses too soon on the ablest neophytes and has been pricing itself beyond most parents in equipment and ice-time costs for their kids.
With the strike has come a threefold chorus of laments. There’s much idiocy about lost fans – “the guys who pay the freight.” A collapse of many franchises, particularly in Canada, is predicted. So is a decline and fall for hockey from the roster of widely played entertainment sports.
Some 20 years ago interest and chance got me involved in hockey at a high level, dealing with officials, managers and franchise holders, including the NHL, its players’ association, and with the leaders of so-called amateur hockey throughout the world.
What a cast there was (and still is!) of egocentric, one-track, tunnel-vision characters. So much cunning and bamboozling; so little care for the longer run.
The players’ disinterest in the livelihood aspect of their trade was the norm. Managerial outlooks were conservative unto reaction. Both the traditions and the argot were crude, symbolized by thuggish or stupid NHL owners like Harold Ballard and Bruce Norris. At the upper echelons of both pro and international hockey there was a disregard for players as people. They were dummies – pliable, dispensable, replaceable; valuable just as depreciating chattels.
There was minimal awareness among players of their potential power if they stood together, along with a general disinterest in the legal and financial frameworks for their brief careers.
This is a good strike because the past, present and future players of the game at a skilled level need it – not for money but for the intangibles of pride, status and choice.
The strike is a last stage on a long course. With it the players nail down their self-respect as a group and their right to share fully in their game from advent to pensioner status.
The long course began well before 1967 when the players’ association was fashioned by Alan Eagleson. Its beginning was in the intrinsic nature of the sport – intense and demanding courage, skill and commitment.
The strike is the coming-of-age for all those who play the game. They take responsibility for what they do and who they are. They test the limits of their reach and the value of inter- dependence.
From thousands of rinks to a few score great stadiums hockey is an integrated, international business of great scale. At last those most basic to it shoulder its future. It was time.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 01, 1992
ID: 12861462
TAG: 199204010051
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


DATELINE: Who are they
Who are they – those with a downer on former merchant sailors of Canada?
Since 1945 the federal bureaucracy has resisted treating Canadian merchant seamen of World War II who sailed in dangerous waters as veterans.
Ten days ago the resistance seemed to crumble with a highly publicized press conference in Halifax by Gerald Merrithew, minister for Veterans Affairs.
At last it seemed the 3,000-odd former seamen still living were to get full recognition as veterans of the war and the whole array of DVA services and benefits.
Merrithew’s words won positive stories in the media across Canada. It seemed niggling that two NDP MPs, Les Benjamin and John Brewin, were cautious afterwards. They reserved ecstasies until they saw the legislation. Now that I’ve read the minister’s words and talked with a few who led the long fight, a guarded response by the NDP MPs seems sensible.
As an advocate of full recognition of seamen as veterans, I could never pinpoint the resistance to it. The early denials I understood. Postwar, for a decade, there were grandiose plans for a national, merchant marine. If seamen had rights to college schooling or lands and loans they’d leave the trade. By the mid-1950s the grand plans had failed but the refusal to treat seamen as veterans continued.
I’d be tipped from within the bureaucracy that the Legion was against it because seamen had been civilians, not in uniform, not subject to military discipline, and most had never been in much danger. Hard evidence of formal Legion antagonism was scant. What I scented was a bias that reached DVA by private channels. As the war receded the Legion came to back full DVA benefits for service personnel who had never left Canada, including “Zombies,” i.e., those drafted who wouldn’t volunteer for action.
My views were shaped by time at war’s “sharp end.”
The majority of the half million “qualified” veterans still alive were never at the sharp end – where torpedoes ran, bombs fell, shells exploded and snipers sniped. For me, a Canadian sailing dangerous waters from 1941 to 1944 was surely at the sharp end, and has my recognition as a war veteran, uniformed or not. Well, it isn’t to be. Not yet!
Merrithew still hasn’t clearly and simply said about our merchant seamen of World War II that these were and are war veterans or that their killed shall have a Book of Remembrance in the Peace Tower. Why not? I don’t know.

In 1981 a plan for CBC’s The Journal said: “The program will have two hosts. One will be the principal interviewer; the second will be the person who links the continuity of the program, does the introductions and set-up and will also act in the absence of the host. We want a man/woman team.”
Instead there was Barbara Frum/Mary Lou Finlay. Finlay soon disappeared. Now everyone’s guessing who’ll succeed the late host. A male? A female? A rotisserie?
Here’s my short list of possibles, with brief notes.
Females (already CBC): Adrienne Clarkson, prestige galore and a salonist like Frum, but also a known, left-leaning nationalist; Hana Gartner, experienced, smooth, knowledgeable, perhaps too plebeian; Gillian Findlay, a look-alike to Jane Gilbert, a fine young reporter but short on interview time; Susan Harada, “visible,” likeable and neutral; Wendy Mesley, much grit, gall and beauty but uneven and still awkward at interviews; Valerie Pringle, quick, impulsive, lovable, but Rosedale-ish; Susan Reisler, correct politically and a Mark Starowicz clone; Denise Rudnicki, handsome, knows domestic politics but reticent; Alison Smith, nice, bland, “our” girl type like Finlay; Nancy Wilson, informed, experienced, pretty but somehow not confident on air.
Females (non-CBC): Thalia Assuras, recent hop to CTV is a sleeper, smooth host, textured presence; Lysiane Gagnon, good interviewer in both languages, a tough columnist who knows politics; Pamela Wallin, an inveterate rip-and-read news junkie, but maladroit in getting into interviews.
Males (already CBC): Bill Cameron, solid in every way; Peter Gzowski, the perfect Canuck, past TV disaster and maybe too long in the tooth; Ian Hanamaansingh, easy looks and pleasant mien; Terry McKenna, brisk, righteous ideologue; Peter Mansbridge, nice host, doesn’t listen as interviewer; Brian Stewart, super but so august; Joe Schlesinger, why waste a great reporter?
Males (non-CBC): Richard Gwyn, so very knowing; Arthur Kent, too idiosyncratic; Peter Kent, been everywhere, a Peter Jennings sort; Eric Malling, most distinct personality on network TV; Keith Morrison, velvet voice, maybe too sophisticated; Jeffrey Simpson, ablest chattering-class anglo extant on TV.
Your picks?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 29, 1992
ID: 12861082
TAG: 199203290146
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Early last week on the CBC Peter Mansbridge read a brief item about an old tale flowering again in Quebec.
The story alleged that in the aftermath of the October crisis of 1970 Pierre Trudeau and his ministers ordered the security and intelligence service (SIS) of the RCMP to get them information on the membership and activities of the Parti Quebecois, a recognized political party in the province. The SIS acted on this instruction using “dirty tricks,” and when some of such criminal acts leaked out later a long federal inquiry into RCMP wrongdoing (by the McDonald Commission) muffled this cabinet order.
The revelation was based on material two Quebec reporters got from recent access to information requests. It brought immediate demands in the National Assembly for an inquiry. In Ottawa angry federal Liberals said the allegations aided the sovereignists by defaming federalists, in particular Jean Chretien, a minister at the time. The story caught up to Pierre Trudeau in South Africa. He brushed by queries, noting there is a record of cabinet actions.
Last week Mansbridge sketched the gist of the reborn story, then undercut any import with the assertion that the story had been covered by CBC TV news 15 years ago. True enough, but what an understatement!
This is a cavalier dismissal of a running story which ran hotly through the politics of 1977 and got more attention from CBC TV news than anything since the October crisis of 1970 over the FLQ. And the climactic episodes of the tale were caught by the first ever televising of the House.
Few of us then on the Hill will forget how adroitly the Trudeau government, featuring Francis Fox as solicitor general, skated through almost a year of alleged, then admitted, skulduggery.
Someone, probably Fox, slipped bits of dicey deeds to CBC reporters (notably Brian Stewart and Mike Duffy). So day by day a querulous opposition and the country was readied for a governmental volte-face. It came on July 6 in the House.
After many denials of RCMP wrongdoing or his knowledge of them, Fox shifted to grudging admissions over several weeks in June of some puzzling activities in Quebec.
This was groundwork for his stunner on July 6 when Fox told the House that “the RCMP in the discharge of their responsibility to protect national security could well have used methods or could have been involved in actions which were neither authorized nor provided for by law.”
Therefore the government was launching a royal commission of inquiry. This both cooled the issues for several years and pre-empted a prior judicial inquiry into the dirty tricks which the PQ government of Rene Levesque had under way.
Of course, Fox and Trudeau insisted the cabinet had neither instructed the RCMP to break the law nor knew about it. And years later the McDonald commission after prolonged study, much of it done in secret, detailed the wrongdoing but seemed to absolve Trudeau and company of either ordering such unlawful acts or concealing them — not easy conclusions for a skeptic to swallow.
Now, 15 years after the revelations and 20 years after the RCMP zeroed in on Quebec sovereignists, both their actions and their federal masters rouse the PQ again — and even some of Bourassa’s Liberals. However, CBC TV news isn’t biting. It won’t respond to such posturing because they had the story 15 years ago. And they did — gradually, and most of it.

In the grieving over Barbara Frum there’s been much on her superb journalism and its grand impact on English-speaking Canadians through her decade as anchor and main interviewer for the CBC’s Journal.
My addendum to such recognition is not meant as any detraction. I never met her face to face but I heard or viewed her several thousand times over her 20 years with As It Happens and The Journal. I believe she was an abler, more interesting journalist per se on radio than on TV – a broader, looser, wittier personality, a keener reporter, a more daring interviewer, a shaper of opinions. She seemed to enjoy the tempo and conviviality of radio more. It was much less portentous and gave her the foil and bounce-back of announcer Alan Maitland.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, March 27, 1992
ID: 12860834
TAG: 199203270167
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Unintentionally, the high school teachers of Ottawa are demonstrating our unreadiness to accept huge governmental debt and the growing burden we bear to carry it. Yet the Mulroney government’s been stressing this for over three years.
One sample of this was a lid put on CBC funding. It brought a nationwide protest and immense coverage. The uproar had minor effects and in time the CBC came to terms with a trimmed cloth.
Another example generated furor and obsessive news coverage last summer. The main focus was on Ottawa. The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) struck over the cabinet’s refusal to give even moderate raises to its employees.
The government held firm. The union’s victory was meagre – the satisfaction of union leaders that the strike built morale and unity in a huge membership and revealed Mulroney’s callousness to all. It was hard to gauge public reaction in the capital but given the local animus toward the PM, the PSAC strikers didn’t win the hearts of Ottawans.
Recent gatherings of first ministers have maundered about the depressed economy and the recession.
Such round tables get a higher profile in the Ottawa media than elsewhere. The linage or clips feature a stubborn federal government, still warring with inflation, still drumming the theme that governments of each order should restrain spending and borrowing against the future; in short, that a pivotal factor in our recession and our slide in global competition is the deficit-debt predicament.
Don Mazankowski reiterated the brutal data on the dilemma in his first budget last month. The federal debt for 1992 will be almost 60% of the year’s Gross Domestic Product. It will eat up $41.5 billion of $155.5 billion in total federal spending.
The severities imposed by the $41.5 billion debt charge are seen in lesser budget figures for the year: e.g., the $37 billion ticketed for old age pensions and unemployment insurance; another $37 billion in cash and tax transfers to provincial and territorial governments.
The debt charges will take thrice the sums for defence and eight times what goes on the aborigines.
After a month, the post-budget protests are still rolling. Most protesters have insisted on the merits of their particular cause, now curbed by a mean or reckless or stupid ministry.
It’s hard to find any group that approves of the budget cuts holus-bolus. Not for a day since the budget has federal restraint or effects of hard times been off the agenda of newscasts and papers in a capital obsessed with politics.
Perhaps the profusion of protests has dulled the sensitivity of the Ottawa teachers to the economics of the country and the capital.
Or maybe their strike against a school board which last year offered them a small raise, then withdrew it, is their protest at second hand to the mean restraint on Ottawa by the Mulroney government. Certainly they’ve had a host of strident models in the name of abused women, single mothers, children in poverty, a reeling medical and hospital system, overused food banks, strapped colleges and universities, grain farmers sinking in the gulf between their costs and prices, the buffeted people of the cod fisheries, the score of towns in pain over closing pulp and paper mills, even those who cherish the Charter and would use it for the public weal if they were fairly funded.
Not a parliamentary day passes without opposition MPs railing about the myriad jobless caused by the U.S. trade agreement or about businesses ruined by the GST. MPs read petitions by the score from citizens alarmed at federal unwillingness to do the right thing in spending.
Even premiers of “richer” provinces fret openly and bitterly about Ottawa’s “capping” and hiving its responsibilities to them, forcing them to run higher deficits and balloon their own debt charges.
Builders and construction outfits and their unions advance the obvious priorities to Ottawa of decaying infrastructures – highways, bridges, airports, canals and public buildings. And Ottawa points to deficits and debt and won’t spend more.
A thousand unionized high school teachers of inner Ottawa have struck. They want a 10% wage jump over two years. Another thousand in outer Ottawa with much the same demands are about to strike. Both employing boards are recalcitrant. Hard up, they plan to cut the number of teachers. Board members say the civic approval of their firmness is so overwhelming they dare not crack before the teachers’ demands.
Yes, high schools and their staffs and students are “provincial” but this ill-conceived, doomed strike in the proverbial Fat City does symbolize the Tory failure at convincing even the well-educated close to the federal centre that we’re in crisis because of deficits and debts.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 25, 1992
ID: 12860529
TAG: 199203250009
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It takes nerve and more detachment than usual to speak on behalf of writer Mordecai Richler, however amused we may be by the rage of the Quebecois over his recent New Yorker article and his new book on their tribal racism and elitism. Why so?
Richler is very hard to cherish. To see this just compare him to others who’ve found acclaim and sales in the U.S. and the U.K. He does have in common with Pierre Berton, Farley Mowat and Margaret Atwood or even Peter Newman (who’s not yet a novelist) a prodigious energy and output, diverse interests, the verve to be a public character and a relentless critic of Canada as it is. Otherwise, he’s a poor fit.
One cannot identify in Richler’s work either political partisanship or any set position in the spectrum of politics from left to right. He derides; he almost never respects. For example, he’d gag on such contrasts as Albertans Preston Manning and Mel Hurtig.
I began to read everything Richler published after I found The Incredible Atuk (1963) a satirical romp over our developing, over-compensating guilt for mistreating the natives.
Aside from a few phrases of admiration for Pierre Trudeau, mainly for bluntness or his leadership style, Richler is a skeptical neutral, not at all utopian and left of centre like Atwood, Mowat and Berton. And yet he is on the right of centre only as a persistent iconoclast, not for any policy themes.
These other successful writers have clusters of fans or a cult of disciples. Each is a consistent advocate of left-wing policies (if you will, of the NDP). Each has been long lionized in Toronto, the cultural metropolis of anglophone nationalists.
Richler is more detached, lonesome and ruthless as a critic. And he was savagely satirizing his linguistic fellows in Westmount and Mount Royal before he turned on the other, more numerous Montrealers. He doesn’t seem to care whom he may wound in what he writes.
In both his fiction and commentary Richler’s been as rough or rougher on Canadian Jewry and the Bronfmans or on Edmonton or on racism in Ontario or on fatuous federal politicians than he is now as he fixes on the petty self-deceptions of the Quebecois elite as they cluck their flock out of federalism.
What’s most infuriating to this elite is that Richler is clearly a very cocksure Montrealer, reminiscent of predecessors like Irving Layton and the late David Lewis; that, and his cachet in American media circles. Ironically, and in line with the late Rene Levesque, the Quebecois fret more over what Americans may think of them than how Canadians see them.
Richler both hurts and enrages those whom he derides but it’s not because he lies or twists the truth (though for effect, he will exaggerate) but because what he sets out is true in isolation.
The last caveat is needed because a reader of O Canada, O Quebec finds little analysis of what a century and a half of economic and commercial domination by Anglos of Quebec’s “white negroes” did to prepare sovereignty.
The premises from which Richler writes echo of the old preacher in the Book of Ecclesiastes – Yea verily. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

Peter Newman’s Merchant Princes has sold well in Canada. Now it’s getting good reviews in the U.K. Martin Jacomb, a Britisher and a former director of the Hudson’s Bay Company, reviews this third and final volume of the company’s history in The Spectator (Feb. 29) without either patronizing the author or tilting with the accuracy of the story.
Here’s a sample: “Newman is compulsive reading and his respect for money and aristocracy do not intrude too much. He remains objective, aware of the romance of the company’s traditions, but unaffected by it.”

It’s probable that the zip of Robert MacNeil’s novel, Burden of Desire, to the top of our best-seller list for fiction owed more to his high recognition factor here through his lead role on PBS TV news than the host of reviews.
These stressed the sexual fantasies of the novel’s heroine and the effect of their revelation on her two main, male admirers.
This element in the story didn’t set my teeth on edge, largely because the woman’s life and character and the context for the fantasies seemed to fit my imagination’s ideas of the upper middle-class in 1917.
What I carried away from MacNeil’s novel was a fascinating, believable portrayal of English Canada, still supremely British and colonial. Even more memorable is the account of how the enormous explosion in the harbor wrecked so much of Halifax and killed so many.
If you recall this disaster from books which dealt with it by Thomas Raddall and Hugh MacLellan, try MacNeil and what might have been titled Desire in Disaster.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 22, 1992
ID: 12860219
TAG: 199203220185
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Twice last week Robert Bourassa made remarks that showed judgment and responsibility, the first in an interview on the Mercredi circus, the second in a speech made to the National Assembly which reaffirmed his federalist intentions.
Bourassa has become ambiguous, if not mysterious, to many in English Canada, including most federal politicians. Why?
There’s been his refusal to join formal discussions with the premiers, his sponsorship of the law which has set up a vote on sovereignty for June or October, and his refusal to ameliorate the law that banned English signs, his invocation of “notwithstanding clause” to circumvent court decisions against the sign law based on the Charter.
Even more discouraging has been Bourassa’s failure, both before and since the collapse of the Meech Lake Accord, to say anything caring or sentimental about Canada as an entirety. Instead, he always has made the case for “profitable federalism” or the high penalties and dislocations of separation.
Not long ago I put both my frustrations over Bourassa’s ambiguity and my hunch that Quebec was “going” to Jack Pickersgill, now 87. He ranks third in seniority among more than 200 federal privy councillors. He entered a Louis St. Laurent cabinet in 1953 and later was five years a minister under Mike Pearson. Before overt politics he was the top civil servant, the chief counsellor to Mackenzie King in his late years as prime minister and to his successor St. Laurent. Only Paul Martin, Sr. has more active experience with federalism.
Pickersgill jeered at my pessimism about Canada’s survival and laughed at my doubts about Bourassa. Of him he said:
“Don’t take this as an old man’s bragging but Mr. Bourassa and I are close. We talk. I’ve a high opinion of him. He is as shrewd a leader as I’ve known. Above all he reminds me of Mackenzie King in his caution and patience, in waiting for the perfect moment to act. He knows Canada is in the balance and I know he is a federalist. I trust him absolutely and I do not wear rose-colored glasses.”
To any reader who thinks Pickersgill must be in a Pollyanna’s dotage, in the same chat this capital L Liberal was blunt about Clyde Wells, Liberal premier of the province he had helped manouevre into Canada. He thinks Wells is “very dangerous with his pride and intellectual arrogance.” He thinks Pierre Trudeau’s refusal to trust French Canadians’ commitment to federalism was unfortunate and the model for Wells and his intransigence.
Pickersgill’s words, “I see Mackenzie King again in Bourassa,” came back to me with Bourassa’s stance this week as a federalist, a dollars and cents federalist, waiting, still hopeful, and ready to negotiate with compromises toward what others outside Quebec want. His words on the schmozzle with the natives, which muddy thinking and bungling by Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark have caused, made much belated common sense.
Bourassa made a prime point. Mulroney should have been working months ago, even through a parallel constitutional process, rather than a draggy royal commission of inquiry. The PM and Clark forgot what Elijah Harper and his guides, Ovide Mercredi and Phil Fontaine, did to Meech. They forgot the cruel dilemmas for them and for Bourassa caused by lawless Mohawks. Now the Metis, the Inuit and the chiefs (status and non-status) are in for the constitutional resolution.
Mulonrey ought to have been explicit on some reasonable limits for aboriginal self-government. Does it include a nation-wide government? What powers would aboriginal governments share with Ottawa, and with the provinces? Are Ottawa and the provinces to maintain such governments financially? Wholly? In perpetuity? Such questions, and the likely scale of future land settlements must concern most premiers, not least Bourassa.
Bourassa said it had proved very hard to get 10 people at a table to agree. It was boggling to have 16, with four of the added six aware that intransigence, extravagant claims and harsh denunciations brought them there.
If the premier is the replica of Mackenzie, what he said last week suggests his time is ripe but it is tight. He is exposed at home and must have positive responses quickly from those who represent the rest of us.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, March 20, 1992
ID: 12859888
TAG: 199203200083
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


A week out of the capital made me appreciate that opinions across English Canada are neither very different from those on Parliament Hill nor misunderstood there, although few politicians flaunt them.
The opinions are strong, harsh and mostly mean. The contrast between the beyond and Ottawa is mostly in the determination on the Hill to whistle through the graveyard of hopes and history.
Those covering federal politics are often scorned by colleagues at a distance for working in a cocoon of self-regard, as separate from the real Canada as the cabinet and its mandarinate. There is contempt, even loathing, for the federal centre of English Canada. Of course such attitudes were stock stuff long before Brian Mulroney. They fixed on each prime minister since R.B. Bennett.
To meet this critique of an incestuous Ottawa some of us will phone people across the country whom we know will give opinions. Or occasionally we forsake the Ottawa hive to check out people in distant communities. Of course we follow opinion polls and read dailies from “out there.” And if we have cable or a dish, we check newscasts and commentary from stations as far away as Edmonton and Halifax.
My main source of knowledge of what’s beyond the Hill has been chatting with a swatch of backbench MPs whom I think will be candid about their constituents. Over the past year the impressions I got as the recession deepened and the grand constitutional exercise got under way again were identical with what I’ve just found a thousand miles and more from Ottawa. They are neither pretty nor encouraging.
Perhaps the best to be said for the widespread anger is its profusion of causes. The lightning rods are many. After Mulroney there’s the GST and free trade and unemployment (for which he’s usually blamed).
It’s a convention now that Mulroney is the most unpopular, the most detested prime minister in modern times, despite the historical competition. And in several score conversations I found just two men with even a chary good word for him. One is an appointee of his to a post; the other an elderly historian with a very long view. Both said Mulroney has at least had the guts to do unpopular things. All other commentary was derogatory and frustrated he hasn’t quit and can’t be turfed right now.
But in tandem with Mulroney as anathema I got almost as scornful downers on Jean Chretien and Audrey McLaughlin. Not one enthusiast for Chretien! Not much hate but scant respect. And but for two feminists who hold NDP cards, not a good word for McLaughlin beyond a few remarks that at least she isn’t noisy.
Nor did the names of successors within the Tories, Liberals or New Democrats come up. Not even Joe Clark or Mike Wilson; not Paul Martin, Jr. or Sheila Copps or Lloyd Axworthy; not Nelson Riis or Svend Robinson. And New Democrats with whom I spoke did not see Bob Rae as a coming national messiah. For Preston Manning there is some interest but it’s more cautious curiosity than hopeful enthusiasm. This was put quizzically by a teacher, “Could he be worse than the others?”
Nothing in the above paragraphs is astonishing. It matches what one gets off the record from anglophone backbenchers about the voters’ ratings of the party leaders and a lack of alternatives in the wings of politics.
One also gets from the MPs a pessimism over the gap between what most of their constituents are ready to concede about Quebec’s aspirations, say, as symbolized and confused by Premier Bourassa, and what they themselves in their caucuses could compromise towards.
If anything I found the MPs had understated the antipathy of most of their constituents to constitutional concessions for Quebec. It’s more discouraging than the leadership downer, at least if you believe there will have to be concessions if Quebecers are not to reject the federalism we have.
Only a few of the citizens I contacted thought Quebecers were bluffing or that when it came to a referendum vote they would opt to stay with the funding and pensions and jobs which Ottawa has provided them. Rather, my notes were heavy with opinions like these.
“They’re on their way.”
“I hate to see them split but it’s better than a crisis every ten years or so.”
“They’ll find out going alone will be rough.”
“We’ll pull together better without them.”
“Let them go; they’ll soon beg to come back.”
“The terms of separation must be tough on territory and debts. It shouldn’t be nice and easy.”
“Somehow we’ll get through this but God knows how with Mulroney and Clark or Chretien there.”
There you have plain people in “the rest of Canada” as I find them just five months before Quebec votes.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 18, 1992
ID: 12859593
TAG: 199203180061
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It is unlikely you know that politicians in power from nine provinces, two territories and the federal government made common cause by signing an “accord” on forestry a few weeks ago under the approving eyes of Speaker John Fraser of the House of Commons.
A Quebec minister didn’t sign the accord, largely for reasons of constitutional diplomacy, not because the Bourassa government disagrees with the aims in the accord. The gist of the accord has been accepted by diverse and contending groups which battled at “round table” to achieve it.
The accord is a statement of “A Canadian commitment to sustainable forests for the future.” Its sponsor, the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, was chaired by Frank Oberle, federal minister of forestry. It was presented, debated and approved at a National Forest Congress in Ottawa.
Political approval came after cantankerous charges and counter-charges over years on the use and care of our forests. This confrontation posed loggers, lumber companies, pulp and paper companies and forestry unions against environment activists, including major organizations as the Canadian Nature Federation and the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
Through most of the ’70s and well into the ’80s, industry leaders tended to brush past the criticisms of the “tree-huggers.”
It’s worth noting that despite the grim effects of recession and international competition, the industry remains our largest contributor to export trade. Beyond the metropolitan centres it sustains more workers and towns than any other economic endeavor. Mainly, the industry is organized in huge conglomerates, particularly beyond the woods in processing and sales. For years the executives of the industry did not realize the “greens” were convincing Canadians, especially in the big cities, that callous industry and pliant governments were looting our public forests and profaning our woods, waters and skies.
The executives and their foresters would point to their regulation by provincial governments that owned the Crown lands they leased and required them to plan and operate on the basis of “sustained yield.”
This term implies a planned pattern of use in which new growth is always replacing as much or more than the loggers cut. On the surface it sounds right and sensible. In application it has had holes. For example, far more softwood than hardwood is cut, so the inventory of potential cords may be adequate, even expanding, but in less desirable species like poplar and birch. Further, there was disagreement on the accuracy of governmental data on inventory, especially on regeneration, and confusion in many provinces on who should plant cutovers and burns.
But overriding such particulars on logging and regeneration there was the growing insistence forests must be for all, for “multiple-use” – by campers, canoeists, hikers, skiers, bird-watchers, artists, photographers, fishermen, hunters and, not least, by aboriginal people winning back their lands and lives attuned to nature.
Once this panorama of forest values and people’s needs was set in the popular mind, the comfortable isolation from close criticism of the forest industry collapsed. Unfortunately, the sheer significance of the forest industry to our economic well-being has been downgraded.
The title of the accord, Sustainable Forests: A Canadian Commitment, implies far more than the sustainable yield credo on which industrial and governmental foresters justified their harvesting and silvicultural programs. Here is the updated credo worked out in concert with a lot of environmental zealots. It’s gobbledygook, it’s pious, it’s a “suitcase.”
“Our goal is to maintain and enhance the long-term health of our forest ecosystems for the benefit of all living things both nationally and globally, while providing environmental, economic, social and cultural opportunities for the benefit of present and future generations.”
The accord lays out, for the next five years, 10 strategic directions in detail. These include: Better forest management practices, expanding public participation, adjusting to other economic uses, co-ordinating forestry research, training a more able workforce, using the unique perspective of the Indians; focusing on privately held lands, especially in the Maritimes, and accepting that our forests have global significance which must lead us to worldwide co-ordination in mastering pollution and waste.
Progress or lack of it will be appraised annually by the forest ministers in concert, but also by an independent third party, agreed to by the organized elements in forestry and environmentalism. It will review what’s been achieved halfway through and at the end of the five years.
Cynics will say this is pie-in-the-sky. Maybe, but the mind-set of the industry and its unions has shifted.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 15, 1992
ID: 12859171
TAG: 199203150169
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Wager that Marcel Masse, minister of national defence, will not be in the Brian Mulroney cabinet a month after the Quebec crisis is resolved.
If it isn’t resolved, Masse will be gone to the Bloc Quebecois or the Parti Quebecois.
At this stage he’s of little use to the PM but bouncing him would shake already edgy Quebec MPs, most of whom also know that Beaudoin-Dobbie is “not good enough.”

With few dissenters, Parliament is ready to revise Canadian history and make redress to please successor or remnant groups in Canada.
Witness last week’s rehabilitation of Louis Riel, hanged over a century ago for leading two Prairie rebellions.
Witness the recent $400 million redress provided some 22,000 Japanese and Japanese Canadians.
Witness House motions to apologize to Ukrainians, Italians, and Chinese and pay redress. There’s even been a motion to apologize to the unemployed of the Dirty Thirties who tried to march on Ottawa.
And ghosts of the Plains of Abraham still brood over “the two founding peoples,” itself a revision of what occurred.
One wonders why the caring revisionists pass by the cause of over 100,000 Canadian boys, drafted out of their families in World War II, forced into uniforms far from home, pressed relentlessly to volunteer for overseas service while maligned as “zombies” or living dead.
For me the least offensive script change is the acceptance of Riel as a builder of Confederation, with a Parliamentary certificate as a Metis hero. Certainly his two rebellions got Ottawa into and through the West with the CPR before American pioneers could people its grasslands.
I’ve felt Riel should not have been killed on the grounds he was of unsound mind.
Long ago I attended lectures by an elderly Manitoba historian who had spent years studying the Riel case. He had actually measured and weighed the chains available in 1870 at Fort Garry which Riel could have used to secure Thomas Scott, a high-tempered Orangeman from Ontario.
The professor argued the executiom of Scott was foolish and unnecessary. It was the unforgiving force and the votes of Scott’s avengers in Ontario that made Sir John A. Macdonald refuse to commute Riel’s death sentence in 1885.

Last Thursday you may have seen Judith Anderson, a leader of REAL Women, one of the most politically incorrect outfits in Canada, on the TVO program Between the Lines debating women’s issues with two representatives of LEAF, the feminist lawyers who push “Charter” cases regarding women’s and homosexuals’ rights.
It was a rare occasion for REAL Women. Ever since it was organized with a basic belief in the worth of wives and mothers as homemakers it has challenged major feminist themes of publicly funded groups such as the National Action Committee (NAC) and found itself distanced by our Tory politicians and vociferously attacked as reactionary by the feminists, including many Liberal and NDP MPs.
What I think most wrong about the treatment given REAL Women is not criticism of its ideas but an insistence by so many feminists that it is so bad, so backward, it hasn’t the right to be heard by the government or seen on TV.
Have you ever seen anyone from REAL Women on the CBC’s news and public affairs? I have . . . once.
The Mulroney government has been cowardly on REAL Women. My sources assure me most Tory MPs and more than a dozen ministers have backed the proposition in caucus that REAL Women merits the same consideration for grants and consultation as any other women’ group.

Of all the guff in recent news no item struck me as more vapid than the one proclaiming unions are gaining strength and more influence on political decision-making. One might call this acclaiming Bob White before he takes over Shirley Carr’s Canadian Labor Congress crown.
The arguments for a political surge seem to be the high media profiles of leaders like White and Nancy Riche and Leo Gerard, the appeal of anti-American nationalism pushed by labor, the fact that union membership hasn’t slumped as it has in the U.S., the key role unions will pay in beating the recession, and (naturally) four union-backed NDP governments in Ontario, B.C., Saskatchewan and the Yukon.
None of them add up to much in hard times and declines of unionized resource-based industries like steel and pulp and paper. Unions outside the teaching and health fields are not striking much and settlements have been very tight.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, March 13, 1992
ID: 12858857
TAG: 199203130032
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Since the Meech fiasco, conventional wisdom says Canadians demand open political discussion.
Nothing in our politics is more open to the public than the proceedings of the House of Commons. Right? Right! But those outside Parliament who cherish it are few, going by the total of paid subscriptions to Hansard, the daily printed record of what MPs say.
We have a huge country: 27 million people; a tripartite array of governments, officials and politicians; loyalty and continuity in organized parties; a far-reaching news system with heavy political emphasis; and voting percentages higher than in most democracies. All this indicates a substantial need to know what has gone on in Parliament, but only 87 Canadians have bought Hansard subscriptions.
Of course, Hansard is bulky. Last year’s product ran to some 6,500 double-columned pages at roughly 1,600 words per page. A subscriber would have had more than 10 million words to pore over, the equivalent in words of 60 popular novels.
Such figures remind us that Hansard is a source for scanning, perhaps to follow your own MP or other regional MPs, or to vet a topic dear to you like grain trade or women’s rights. If one is partisan, one may trace what the leader is saying, what the rival people are up to, and scout the newer political talent.
It’s true that Hansard copies go to a host of libraries across the country and each MP is entitled on request to have a limited number of Hansards mailed to a few constituents. Someone could argue that for the politically keen the House on TV is handier and cheaper than Hansard. Yes, over half the households in the country can see the daily proceedings on the parliamentary cable channel. Anyone who scans viewer surveys knows, however, that the figures for the channel are minuscule.
It’s hard for someone who regularly peruses Hansard to appreciate that my interest is shared by so few. It also deepens my bafflement there should be such a pressing urge in the West for a reformed Senate with a mandate and make-up more like the House.
The shock at the paid Hansard subscriptions has cut my confidence in the worth of any running critiques of the House of Commons. If what goes on there concerns so few, why bother about who asks what questions or makes what arguments?
With such gloom, I spent a day running over the Hansard index for 1991, noting subjects and performers. Here are some impressions, none of which is surprising or exciting.
Almost all the 295 MPs had something to say over the year; my estimate is that over 285 spoke.
Most entries for remarks or questions were on these subjects, roughly ranged by time consumed: The economy; the GST; the public service; parliamentary procedure; parliamentary privilege; constitutional reform; agriculture, notably in the West; postal service; aboriginal affairs; women’s issues, notably on harassment and pay equity; national unity; unemployment, including unemployment insurance; fisheries; banking, including interest rates; and the trade agreements, Canada-U.S. and Canada-U.S.-Mexico.
Despite the Gulf war and confusion in eastern Europe, relatively few questions or speeches dealt with international issues.
While index items for party leaders ran very long, for Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien they piled up mostly from question period. Chretien made few speeches, Mulroney even fewer. Audrey McLaughlin was a more regular performer. Lucien Bouchard, the BQ leader, seldom spoke; Jean Lapierre was the only busy BQ MP in the House.
Don Mazankowski and Michael Wilson were the ministers most on their feet, followed by Harvie Andre, the Tories’ House leader.
The MPs with the most index entries were the Speaker, his deputy and the chairman of committees, followed by the opposition House leaders and the caucus whips. These data, taken with the profusion of items under procedure and privilege, reflect the complexities of running a talking place and the hours of droning on matters that would seem petty or arcane to most citizens.
By and large the 39 women MPs (20 Tories, 13 Grits; five NDPers and one Reform) did more talking than their male colleagues.
The MPs outside caucuses, i.e., ex-Tories Pat Nowlan and Alex Kindy, and Deborah Grey, the Reform Party MP, got a modest amount of speaking time.
Although NDP MPs had far fewer oral questions than the Liberals they gave more speeches per capita.
Yes, nothing surprising nor exciting in our Commons talk shop, the open place of 295 MPs which cost us $160 million last year and registered over 10 million words. The situation reminds me of the old puzzle: Is there any noise in a forest if a tree falls but nobody’s there to listen?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 11, 1992
ID: 12858519
TAG: 199203110006
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Two themes which columnist Marjorie Nichols pushed in her last few years won’t be features of memorial services on Parliament Hill.
The more obvious theme exercised a lot of her colleagues. She sometimes wrote favorably about Brian Mulroney.
The other Nichols theme which many thought bizarre was the CBC. Again and again she criticized its expanding role.
Four years ago Nichols was critical when the CRTC preferred the CBC’s bid for a 24-hour cable news service in English (now Newsworld) to that by a private, Alberta-based company. During the Oka crisis two summers ago she noted: “It is CBC-TV, the Crown-owned radio and television network that is in charge of Indian blockades and peace settlements. Don’t feel sorry for the Tories. Democratic governments aren’t supposed to own news agencies.”
In a column sparked by the CBC’s contribution to the collapse of the Meech Lake Accord she argued it was impossible for federal politicians, in particular those in power, to criticize the CBC without being damned for managing mews and blocking free speech. She wrote: “The CBC is accountable . . . to no one and that is not acceptable. Politicians are accountable to the voters. Public corporations are accountable to their shareholders. Private corporations are accountable to consumers. Privately owned media are accountable to their readers, viewers and owners . . . the simple truth is that a free press cannot be government owned.”
In her original criticism of a cable channel licence for the CBC she anticipated the award would mean expansion and a twinned sustenance for “the Mother Corp” from cable subscriber fees and commercials. She was sure Newsworld’s need for more from subscribers would grow; so would justifications to the CRTC about keeping up standards. Well, the CRTC will shortly approve CBC’s bid for such increases.
Nicols foresaw the apparent separation of CBC-TV news from Newsworld was illusory. If alive and working she would have been in Vancouver in February for the last of the five constitutional assemblages. She would have commented on the overwhelming weight there of CBC-TV news and Newsworld. The CBC had roughly a hundred personnel working the show, many drawn from Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. CTV, Global, TVA and the local TV stations had fewer than 20.
Even before considering a CBC-TV collective mind-set any fair person must must see Nichols’ point that the Crown agency now is far and away the dominant news and commentary organization in Canada.
I am one of few who share Nichols’ cautions about a CBC monster in news gathering and interpretation. We also agreed there was a CBC mind-set in the news and particularly in public affairs productions. Last year I handed Nichols an article from the Spectator by Paul Johnson, a critic of the Crown corporation, the BBC.
He sketched the emergence in the U.K. of “the public service culture” and how “the power its privileged financial position bestows” has given it “a predominant influence on the way our culture is heading.”
Johnson believed “the public service culture has controlled the broadcasting element completely.” Its immense influence has made the public dialectic over ideas and values one-sided.
Nichols chortled at this part of the piece: “Surely he’s been here.”
“We have . . . a cultural community of liberal-radicals which is self-contained, self-perpetuating, endogenous, self-monitoring and, I would add, remarkably self-congratulatory. It retains a belief in the perfectibility of Man and the possibility of Utopian solutions for all its ills. This broad philosophical framework, I hasten to add, is encrusted with all the familiar barnacles of Left-liberal prejudices on such matters as sex, race, violence, politics, war and peace, art and religion. But the important fact is that it represents only one side of the argument about the nature, purpose and destiny of Man.”
Nichols also saw that the CBC’s domination in national news and affairs stemmed from public funds that politicians are afraid to turn off, not from massive public demand for CBC offerings. Newscasts of private stations, notably at the supper hour, get far more viewers than competing CBC newscasts even in the media metropolis of Toronto where so much of the rhapsodizing issues on the high quality of the CBC originates. Blessed CBC! Our dike against the American flood.
Such elevation of the CBC has become stock, a wisdom sensible people ought to accept. Marjorie Nichols disagreed. She should be remembered for insisting that federal money and technological change had converted the CBC into a colossus that both shaped and tilted our national politics.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 08, 1992
ID: 12858160
TAG: 199203080112
SECTION: Comment
Cheery and upbeat
Falling out of favor
Overworked Grit MP

COLUMN: Fisher Report


Impressions about the constitutional crisis taken from MPs of the three main parties are of sinking optimism. Fewer now dismiss the prospect Quebec will go.
The creeping doubts are most marked among Western Tories and Ontario Grits. The former are edgy about their caucus colleagues from Quebec; the latter stew over Jean Chretien’s low rating in Quebec and his grief over it.
One positive thinker on the topic seems to be the prime minister. Two of his old familiars tell me they haven’t found him this cheery and upbeat since his tale of “rolling the dice” got out. He’s sure of a Quebec deal, and he’s told them the polls have him too low.
Some chaps in a TV crew who spent hours last week at 24 Sussex were surprised at finding the six Mulroneys in a relaxed, jolly, even spoofing mood together.
On the other hand, two days after Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa’s hedged response to the report of the Dobbie-Beaudoin committee, I checked with five print reporters who followed the hearings and most of the five constitutional weekends.
Had the report improved the chances of sustaining the federation? Not one thought so with any certainty. Not one of them is now sure federalism will prevail. Three of the five think failure more probable than success. All think the greater impediments now are mindsets in the rest of Canada, not in Quebec.
One wonders what critical huffs or puffs will follow from the TV program on the Mulroneys. It runs Wednesday in the CBC’s 5th Estate slot with Hannah Gartner as interlocutor. Anyone I know who has spent time with the Mulroneys as a family has found them close-knit and Mila in charge and both frank and spunky. That this remains so is only remarkable because one tends to assume the long, deep antagonism across Canada toward the father would make for a woebegone family circle. No!

You may discount the following as more of my demonstrated animus to Sheila Copps, the Liberals’ deputy leader. An opinion is working up in the Grit caucus that the obvious No. 2 to Chretien is neither Copps nor Paul Martin, Jr., another recent contestant for the leadership, but Lloyd Axworthy. Why so? Because the Winnipeg slugger is the most progressive, reform-minded member of the caucus and he’s admired as more durable, energetic and collegial than either Copps or Martin.
Over on the Tory side in any game of “Suppose the PM has a heart attack,” the name still coming up the most as eventual successor is Jean Charest, the environment minister. Maz would hold the fort till a convention, then Charest would edge Mike Wilson (if he ran) and clobber Kim Campbell, the minister of justice.

Among Liberal MPs none has more affection from the rest than Ethel Blondin, the MP for the western territories and a Slavey Indian. She hit the House in 1988, confident, busy and smiling. When she was booked into hospital with exhaustion in the last trying fortnight of the Dobbie-Beaudoin exercise, her colleagues’ concern was very high. Ethel is physically strong and outgoing. They say they must both slow her down and help her more in carrying the native cause.

Several Tory MPs have announced they will not run again, including Albertan Jack Shields, the most consistent needler on the government side of the chamber.
While the eventual number of non-running Tories will hinge a lot on how the Constitution goes I estimate some 40 of the 150 some Tories, about a dozen of the 85 Liberals and seven or eight of 40 odd New Democrats will not be candidates. A few Liberal incumbents will fail to win re-nominations. Les Benjamin from Regina is the only New Democrat who has announced his departure but several of the more experienced B.C. MPs will be going for roles opened up by the Harcourt government.

The funniest TV occasion last week was provided by The Journal. It was in the affronted shock on the face of the Grand Chief, Ovide Mercredi. How could Barbara Frum treat him so? She began crisply and critically without the stock obeisances to native nobility and white guilt. She never let up on her exasperation that he always wanted more, in this case more than offered in the Dobbie-Beaudoin report. How politically incorrect!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, March 06, 1992
ID: 12857879
TAG: 199203060010
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


In Canada it is hard to kill anything bureaucratic.
It seems beyond our opposition politicians to realize their time in power is coming; then they may resurrect the worthy victims of the present government’s stupidity and cheapness.
Don Mazankowski said 46 government entities “will be eliminated, deferred or merged with other operations or privatized.” His explanations were that costs must be cut, efficiencies found, duplication ended and redundancies erased.
Here are the entities among the 46 whose demises have raised the most fuss by opposition critics and lament from editorialists and interest groups: The Economic Council, the Science Council, the Law Reform Commission, the Institute for International Peace and Security, the Pay Research Bureau and the Petroleum Monitoring Agency.
Further, other decisions in the budget or revealed two days later in the annual spending estimates are being decried by the Liberals and New Democrats and by an array of interests.
The first three listed below signify hundreds of millions that will not be spent. This list is also roughly in order of the vehemence each item is arousing.
1. The government’s decision to end universal family allowances in favor of a complex tax benefit scheme in favor of low-income parents;
2. The abandonment by the Tories of their electoral undertaking to legislate and fund in part a national day-care program – in lieu of which there will be larger tax deductions for parents;
3. The government’s decision to cap the reparations it has already paid and to put limits on what it will spend on the pay equity reparations to females who have worked or who work within federal jurisdiction;
4. The elimination of funding for a Federal Court Challenges program by means of which actions to bring forward so-called Charter cases had become the legal cutting edge for leaders of various feminist, homosexual and other so-called disadvantaged groups;
5. A transfer of the Social Science Research Council to the Canada Council where it was before 1978;
6. The moving to the Department of Employment and Immigration of over 300 employees of External Affairs, most of whom worked in its “social affairs” stream.
Let me insist this analysis is not from one who approves all these decisions to kill or cut or transfer or privatize (in particular the axing of the two councils – economic and scientific).
But I argue that a governing party in power after an election has the right to do such things in the name of efficiency, even in the name of party ideology, if it maintains itself with the backing of the majority in the legislature. Of course, the governing party is aware that such actions win or lose the votes of electors next time out.
In the two foreign nations which are respectively our roots and so often our exemplar, the U.K. and the U.S., politicians take for granted there will be another day. A Labor government might nationalize; a Conservative government might privatize. A Democratic president would advocate a program and get it through Congress, say low-cost housing; a Republican successor would axe or pare it, Congress willing.
In short, there’s a thorough awareness in these democracies of the rights of power and a realistic acceptance of its responsibilities and debits. Those out of power will go to the people saying “Put us in and we’ll do it differently, restoring what this outfit took away.” Here it’s the ingrained practice to object to any governmental action whatsoever, but in particular any that cuts spending and public service employment or privatizes services.
Another long-developing Canadian penchant that is not nearly so practised in the U.K. or the U.S. rises from the reluctance of a governing party or of parliament itself to accept responsibilities for anything contentious or complex. Instead we have been creating a welter of agencies, commissions, etc., funded by but at arm’s length from governments. The list of 46 Mazankowski fingered is just a minor fraction of the total. This is the first time in memory there’s been a substantial move to cut out or to bring back within the government itself.
What has been characterized as the opposition mentality of our parliamentary system has become the prime characteristic of a host of national interest groups, many of them funded by governments. Governments fund extra-parliamentary critics, indeed they’ve been institutionalizing them.
If a significant element in our dour economic condition is too much government debt and spending and too elaborate public bureaucracies, why cry havoc at kills, cuts, etc.? Why don’t the Grits and New Democrats say which Humpty Dumpties they will put back on the wall?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 04, 1992
ID: 11880105
TAG: 199203030121
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


The chances Canada will survive as is were not improved by the report from the Dobbie-Beaudoin committee or by Premier Robert Bourassa’s befuddling reaction to it.
The report, a not quite unanimous product of the three main caucuses, postulates too many major changes. It addresses too many interests. It is neither specific nor generous enough on what Bourassa as a federalist needs. A reader of the report might think Quebec was not at the roots of our constitutional crisis. As Bourassa put it, it seems “a reflex of the federal spirit towards domination.”
It’s too late to put constitutional reform on hold for a few years. Far too much has gone into the process.
It’s gotten away from the politicians in office. Millions of plain citizens have become opinionated. The Constitution is now everybody’s business, not just arcane stuff for the intelligentsia and the major interests and associations. The involvement runs strongly from coast to coast, even in those who cry “Enough, enough!”
There was a fleeting, shocking snapshot of the Constitution as everybody’s business in some Gallup numbers last week. Over 90% in the rest of Canada were against conceding Quebec any more powers.
To be blunt, public opinion in the rest of Canada seems to be right where it was in those still angry weeks after the heroics of Clyde Wells and Elijah Harper had killed the Meech Lake Accord.
On the other hand, political Quebec cannot back off and wait a few years before again demanding constitutional change. Whether sovereignists or federalists, most Quebecers have felt wronged and seem agreed on, or ready to abide by, a deadline in the form of a referendum (this October).
Either the federal government with the other provincial governments by its side responds to Quebec’s wants with an offer well before the deadline set by the National Assembly or Quebecers will vote on a self-determined sovereignty, a vote which will point to either getting out or staying in Canada.
Dobbie-Beaudoin is creating a hubbub, mostly of dissent in the rest of Canada. Add this dissent to the many specific qualifiers in it to reactions of Quebecers which range from prudent dissatisfaction to total rejection and this bag becomes too big for sensible disposition in a reasonable time by a widely derided political system.
To repeat. It’s too late to put the process on hold for a few years. Both the process and the demands within it are beyond the capacity of our federalism and its politicians.
Ah, yes, thousands of us from the prominent to the unknown have declared we want Quebec: Quebec must stay; Canada won’t be Canada without Quebec. But when it comes to Quebec’s particulars, most of us are negative. We would deny the powers Quebec wants and insist on our particular wants.
On the one hand so many want a strong, national government. On the other hand many (often including the same many) insist their provincial government must have any powers or rights accorded Quebec.
It’s relevant only for realizing how complex the constitutional game has become to recall that it got under way in 1963 with a new Liberal government led by Lester Pearson. He came in resolutely with a proposition called “co-operative federalism” to meet rising Quebec demands. It emphasized “interdependence, consultation and co-ordination in the fields of common jurisdiction or in those calling for joint government action.”
Co-operative federalism had a short noontime. Its main deeds were the Canada Pension Plan, official bilingualism and filling in the health care part of the social net. Within five years a new PM, Pierre Trudeau, rejected co-operative federalism. It was leading to an uneven federalism. For Trudeau Quebec was merely a province like the others. Its aspirations could be met with Quebecers in high places in Ottawa and the French language having a writ across Canada.
Last Sunday as the latest epic was unveiled, two of its leading sponsors, the NDP’s Lorne Nystrom and Tory Ross Reid, joined in exclaiming: “This is co-operative federalism at its best.”
Nystrom beamed that we were back to the federalism of Pearson, Bob Stanfield and Tommy Douglas. Unfortunately, this seems largely applicable to the confusing recommendations which would allow one-on-one federal-provincial deals to share or vacate trade powers. And so Bourassa again demands movement on the division of powers.
My post-Meech hunch remains pessimistic. There is now too much more on the table – a much altered Parliament, a social charter, a swatch of native nations – each of which has demerits in Quebec.
So it’s still 2-1 odds on separation of some sort. An ever-worsening depression might do more to keep us together than the Dobbie-Beaudoin report will.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 01, 1992
ID: 11879503
TAG: 199203010175
SECTION: Comment-Lifestyle
COLUMN: Backgrounder


We have been very rough on prime ministers. We are almost as cruel to leaders of the Official Opposition, as Bob Stanfield and now Jean Chretien have discovered. Are the present party leaders as bad and incompetent as most of us seem to think?
My short answer is negative even though that’s bootless in the face of so much denigration.
All of us as political animals have so many wants and dislikes. We may be as much or more of the problem than the leaders of the four parties.
We’ve been giving more time and concern to politics. Politics provide the dominant talking points of our lives beyond the family. Calculated by opinion polls, electoral turnouts and viewers’ ratings, we may not be the most politically mature country in the world but show me one with as much interest or involvement in politics day to day. In this we seem to wear out leaders, or their welcome frays away because they’re too much with us.
Today, because of the quantity and immediacy of TV coverage of politics, our leaders are more familiar than ever. (And you know what familiarity breeds.)
Secondary persons in each party matter less in shaping our opinions about the leader and his or her party. We’re leader-obsessed, not team-obsessed.
We will find out from the shopping of voters at the next election if the massive discounting of Brian Mulroney and Chretien as leaders extends to Audrey McLaughlin of the NDP and Preston Manning of the Reform Party. My hunch is it will.
It’s hard to recall a time when the political media were as scornful of the leaders of the two “old” parties, and this scorn mirrors citizens’ views across Canada. Opinion polls repetitiously show Mulroney and Chretien far down in personal popularity.
I was challenged recently by a know-nothing when denigrating Mulroney and Chretien. Were they worse than earlier leaders – and, if so, in what ways? So I’ve been reappraising the present odium of our party leaders and looking for precedents.
One seems obvious: The political period from 1960 to 1968 when three elections (1962, 1963 and 1965) revealed there was much antagonism toward both John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson. And that scenario, reflected in three minority governments, showed minor readiness to swing from either man to the considerable and quite different alternatives, Tommy Douglas of the NDP and Bob Thompson of Social Credit.
Parallels with today cannot be pushed too far. For example, through most of the ’60s, both Diefenbaker and Pearson had strong, almost worshipful followings among different groups of Canadians. For the Chief it was in older generations in English Canada, notably in smaller places and across the Prairies; for Mike it was among the well-educated and the fast-growing bureaucratic mandarinates.
Neither Mulroney nor Chretien seems to have anything like this left, although the PM had it briefly in his first two years of office and the Liberal leader had it in absentia when his book Straight from the Heart was selling wildly a few years ago.
In power Pearson did hold the loyalty of his caucus very well. So has Mulroney. Diefenbaker always had caucus doubters and Chretien has had and may continue to have even if he becomes prime minister.
As for Tommy Douglas vis-a-vis Audrey McLaughlin or Bob Thompson vis-a-vis Preston Manning, the personal contrasts are large. Douglas was a platform wizard and was liked well beyond the electoral support he could draw. McLaughlin is colorless though nice and predictable, but she heads a party that has a stronger core vote, more money and womanpower, and more supportive interest groups than in the ’60s.
While Manning has similarities to Thompson in the simplicity of his pitch and a like touch of religiosity, he is far more steeped in history and more dextrous in argument and dealing with the media.
Pollsters and political scientists have quantified slippage in the core vote, especially from the two old parties, and the attendant expansion in swing voters. Which is the first cause of such volatility? Weak or unsatisfying leaders? Or too much focus on leaders and too many expectations?
I think the last, particularly after weighing Mulroney-Chretien-McLaughlin-Manning against combinations of previous choices like Trudeau-Stanfield-Broadbent-Caouette or St. Laurent-Drew-Coldwell-Low.
If we put aside our disgust or exasperation or boredom with our present quartet of leaders and look at each one clinically, they are far from the disgraces so many seem to see. This is true even about the almost universally detested prime minister. But let’s just look at the experience and apparent qualities of Chretien, McLaughlin and Manning.
In clear credits obviously earned, not since Mackenzie King between 1935 and 1939 have we had a leader of the official opposition with either as much political experience as Chretien as a minister in many departments (including Finance, Justice and External Affairs) or such open evidence of two attributes vital for a leader – high energy and stamina.
At 58, Chretien has been in federal politics for 29 years, 16 of them in cabinet. This week I saw him flitting along Hill corridors and skirmishing in scrums. He was moving as fast or faster in body and speech, and he was as knowingly unpretentious while aware of where he was and who was around him as he was when I first met him in 1963.
He seems even more remarkable when I recall all such ambitious colleagues of his from the electoral lists of ’62, ’63 and ’65 like Bryce Mackasey, Joe Greene, John Turner, Donald Macdonald, Jack Davis, Maurice Sauve, John Munro, Mark McGuigan, Pierre Trudeau, Jean Marchand and Gerard Pelletier.
Anyone who has followed Chretien’s political career recognizes both his consistency and his ability to keep going despite vicious and hurtful criticism. Well before Trudeau came to Ottawa, Chretien staked out his federalism in his first House speech (1963).
He hasn’t wavered from it although from then until today it has earned him the jeers and contempt of Quebec intellectuals and journalists that still goes on. Just last week Lise Bissonnette of Le Devoir ripped and mocked Chretien’s populist “magic” and his manipulation of party unity at the recent Liberal convention. Just reading it made me cringe for Chretien.
Of course, such anathema in Quebec is so widespread that it has cast a long shadow of doubt over his chances if he becomes PM to make accommodations with the Quebec government and the National Assembly.
Without canonizing Chretien as a marvellous leader, surely he’s an exceptional politician because of his experience and durability – even for being an unpretentious man.
In terms of leadership choices, just as Chretien has credible qualities so have McLaughlin and Manning.
It’s more important with McLaughlin than with the other choices to look at her team in caucus and staff and to recognize the far stronger set within the NDP on a clear range of well-developed demands and programs.
As leader she’s had remarkable backing from the MPs and the NDP cadre even though she has not had the time to conjure the respect earned by “solid” Ed Broadbent or the aura of oratorical genius wrapped around David Lewis. McLaughlin becomes almost as astonishing as Chretien when I review how neatly she’s responded to the leader role despite scant experience in active politics.
The third alternative to Brian Mulroney is also rather more than he seems to be taken, at least by journalists. The paradox in Preston Manning is the contrast between his gauchely open manner and the subtleties it screens. This man has a huge range of knowledge in hand. He’s put in years at studying politics, beginning in a high-level political household. No party leader in my lifetime, not even Trudeau or King or Lewis, has had as many apprentice hours at our history and politics as Manning. Oddly, his interests go far beyond political ideas and their continuity and contest in Canada to the basics of simplifying them and organizing and maintaining a party, in his case from scratch.
Our political dilemmas have never seemed worse; Nevertheless we have had worse choices of who to lead us through them.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, February 28, 1992
ID: 11878939
TAG: 199202280013
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The sum is spare and simple when left alone. Once broken into components for analysis it gets harder to understand and explain. This is a pity because the Ottawa season on budget estimates is brief.
This year it may last a little longer but it’s a fair bet that by Easter we’ll be back on the stock politics of leaders, the jobless, Quebec and our normal, righteous partisanship.
Let me generalize about the federal budget and estimates, and what they engender in the political milieu.
Firstly, it is very hard for the federal government to keep to a decision to reduce or kill any item of spending, far harder than it was to get the item on the list of approved expenditures.
Somewhere, somehow, someone is always at hand, usually in high dudgeon, to object to the reduction or death of any spending item.
Even in rare cases where general public opinion seems ready for a cut – e.g., those this week in the pay of cabinet ministers or ending use of first-class air tickets – cynics are plentiful, jeering at any clutch of them as essentially a gloss over a never-ending political squanderlust.
Those relatively few citizens who do look more closely at federal spending tend to fix on the billion dollar chunks like the interest charges on the federal debt ($40.2 billion this year) or social programs ($69.7 billion) or transfers to the provinces ($17.6 billion) or defence ($12.3 billion) or natives ($4.3 billion).
The magnitude of those sums also diverts parliamentarians and journalists from speaking or writing with a comprehensive familiarity on the wide range of much smaller expenditures whose total is formidable but separately as listed under departments and agencies seem petty.
These items are lost to most scrutiny, buried in the estimates’ books and public accounts that literally fill a bookshelf each year.
This season, at long last, a federal government has chosen to kill or merge or sell a small fraction of the many special agencies it sustains.
The rising fury over these decisions may surpass anything the country has known. Since 1939 Canadians have had a long upward roll of more spending, taxation, debt and more people paid in whole or in part from government funds.
Despite some public discourse prompted by Americans talking of “sunset” laws, we are unready for deliberate reduction or even freezing of public sector spending and narrower federal responsibilities.
One cannot be sure the Tories won’t back off or delay some of their cuts and kills like the Economic Council, the Science Council and the Social Science Research Council. Will they cleave to the decision that the feminist organizations will not forgive or forget, i.e., capping any further equity paybacks to women workers?
Some very plausible cases are already being made for continuing federal funding, and the most vociferous, gender and labor associations, are not even yet in protesting stride.
On the other hand, the Mulroney government is so unpopular with most of the country’s vocal interest groups, it has nothing left to lose on the centre and left of the public spectrum in hewing to kills and cuts, and something to gain on the right of the spectrum where tens of thousands are convinced Ottawa taxes, spends and wastes extravagantly.
Some woeful particulars in yesterday’s voluminous estimates will take longer to get out and become protests than the more summary items of grief dispensed in the budget.
My first skim through the big overview book of estimates indicates an abnormal number of freezes in amounts of spending allowed, plus a host of reductions and some cancellations of grants and subsidies to organizations which run across a gamut of endeavors at arm’s length from government in social, cultural, educational, recreational, sporting, ethnic, health and charitable fields.
It’s rare that any interest group whose federal sustenance has been curbed or ended quietly accepts it. MPs of every caucus, but particularly of opposition caucuses, will take up the causes with questions and speeches in House and its committees, and in lobbying ministers and mandarins.
There was a classic example of such intervention in the House Thursday.
To supporting cries of “shameful,” Margaret Mitchell, a B.C. New Democrat castigated the government for delaying the funding of some $12 million for a foundation that will commemorate the redress this Parliament has approved for the Japanese and Japanese Canadians removed from the coast in 1942 – even though times are hard and this government has already given nearly $400 million in cash payments of $21,000 each to those so removed.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 26, 1992
ID: 11878431
TAG: 199202260037
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Many gleams of light among dark pits of gloom-that’s the first Mazankowski budget, after the seven straight, “on a sound track” budgets from Mike Wilson.
I am wary after thirty-one budget “lock-ups” over twenty-seven years, first, because few of those budgets were memorable after a fortnight. And whenever I’d leap to a strong characterization of a budget or make glowing forecasts for its reception I would be wrong. I recall emerging from the only Crosbie lockup (1979) and tagging the budget as “moderate, responsible, and far-sighted.” Yeah. And in a fortnight we were into an election over the budget, and two months later the Clark government was gone.
Despite such cautions to you and to myself let me offer this short paragraph as a thumbnail on the Mazankowski budget.
Although this budget is a remarably diverse, highly-diverting exercise which will engender widespread, long-running debate because literally scores of interest groups are affected by its decisions and the slices in ‘estimate’ spending which will come from them, it hews to the old Wilsonian themes on the evils of deficits, debt, interest charges on debt, and governmental interventions.
My hunch is this budget may rouse a rage of objections like that from the notorious MacEachen budget of a decade ago. Remember it schmozzled tax reform, and its eventual deficit ran $10 billion dollars above the projected one. The uproar this time won’t be the shrilling of those gored by tax changes but from the interests and professions hit by the mighty program of “streamlining government” program. Almost fifty agencies are being killed or elided or sold. At last we’re getting what has been heralded for seven years by conservatively-minded Tories.
This budget is bereft of mighty mega projects, not even the PEI causeway, or a rejuvenation of the Trans-Canada highway. Yet few of the major spending programs are drastically cut, not even defence. Instead, we get more paring all round, even (at long last) in the squanderlust of Indian and Northern Affairs.
The paper blitz this time was light: first, the text of the minister’s rather long speech; second, the budget papers in one succinct volume of 170 pages; third, a 12 page “white paper” pamphlet on the “enriched” child tax benefit changes that are to go before Parliament.
In the fourth year of a government you always ask: Is this an election budget? No, but if the economy has rallied well by next February and Quebec is still here, this budget sets up a sweet follow-on of both more tax cuts and even more abolition of federal agencies.
What I check for in a budget speech and budget papers are the favorite current and recent political topics, i.e., the reigning wisdoms. This one is remarkably light on them. For example, the recent speech from the throne was plastered with “prosperity inbitiative” stuff, sponsored by Wilson (in his new dispensation) and Bernie Valcourt (Employment & Immigration). There’s little on the prosperity ploy. Nor are many words devoted to such favorites as national unity, federal-provincial relations, free trade (with the U.S. or with Mexico), the value of our dollar vis-a-vis the American dollar, or to the running into routine operation of the GST, the most controversial of all post-war tax changes.
There’s not even much crowing over “breaking the back of inflation” although it’s obvious from the charts and graphs that the reason why the past year’s budget deficit did not run much over $31 billion and next year’s is projected at under $28 billion is the drop of the inflation factor below 4%.
Despite such omissions or mere, cryptic references regarding the big topics of our politics this is a budget which will touch-often lightly, but touch-each of us. For example, tax changes will benefit me, admittedly not greatly but a bit, first, as someone working, then as a senior with a so-called RIF, as someone who holds equity shares, and as one sharing a household. Every individual taxpayer gets a little break.
The most threadbare stuff in the minister’s speech (although it is relatively less noticeable in the budget papers) is on the deficit-debt combination. The PM, Wilson, and now Mazankowski, have tried so hard to excuse Tory deficits and debt-load by fastening their causes on the Trudeau Grits. The papers even state that before the 1970s federal governments were most responsible on curbing deficits and avoiding debt-burden. They also have several charts which show how wonderfully well this government has reduced the trend of increased federal spending, to such effect that the costs of the federal government for everything but carrying the debt are now below the inflow of revenues. None of this will be very convincing until the actual total of the federal debt begins to drop. That’s still four or five years away, even if the Tories keep power and stay spooked by deficits. Neither “if” is very likely.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 23, 1992
ID: 11877747
TAG: 199202230154
SECTION: Comment-Lifestyle
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Politics today may have few belly-laughs but for bystanders there is a parade of wry humor or irony. Here are three samples.
A crisp move, led by leader Jean Chretien, was swept through by the delegates at the Grit convention in the capital, which will empower the leadership to prevent the process for nomination of candidates in constituency associations from being dominated by “single interest” groups that buy instant Liberal memberships at the constituency level. The targeted villains of this are pro-lifers (i.e., anti-abortionists) and organized ethnicities (mostly Italian- or Greek-Canadian).
An explanation offered openly by the leader’s cadre is bad press from some circus nominations in Toronto. The tacit reason is the now politically incorrect aura that strenuousness on the abortion and multicultural fronts gives the party in vying for feminist and unionist votes.
Where’s the irony and the history in this?
Once upon a time the visceral strength of the federal Liberal party was the votes of Roman Catholics and first- and second-generation voters from southern Europe. The Catholic quotient came from more than the long Liberal hold on French Canadians that shaped up after Louis Riel was hanged and reinforced in the conscription crisis of World War I. The Liberal bent ran among Catholics across Canada, noticeably in Ontario among those of Irish stock who saw and reacted to the long mutual identity of the Orange order and the Tories.
I recall as a newish MP in 1958 that Paul Martin, Sr., then an urbane House veteran of 23 years, kindly advised me on topics to leave alone if I wished to hold my seat. He knew my riding was what today we’d call very ethnic. Leading the list were these items: abortion, birth control, religion and language. Avoid saying anything that runs counter to well-established attitudes of the Roman Catholic-French Canadian-immigrant communities.
What Chretien has just done does not mean these communities may no longer provide the core Liberal vote. It does show the Liberals no longer need to pussyfoot in fear of their long-time core. Canada is now overwhelmingly secular and the Roman Catholic Church’s influence on the voting of the faithful is in eclipse. There is the same irony in the steadfastness of the Vatican against legal abortion or even promotion of birth control when set beside the natal data from Quebec, the most Catholic province. It has the lowest birth rate.
I find another irony in this contrast. Despite mounting evidence of the public’s low regard for MPs and the way the mainline media ignore what goes on in the House, a weekly, the Hill Times, which defines itself as “Ottawa’s parliamentary newspaper,” gets fatter with advertising – classified, display and courtesy advertising.
The “classified” reflects the Hill community’s growth in staff with steady income and younger people’s wants. Most of the display stuff plugs computers, quality printing and mobile phones. And some of the “courtesy” ads are heart-rending but assertive pleas from lobbying Indian groups like the Lubicons and the Crees of Quebec.
My third irony is the rejection last week by members of the parliamentary press gallery association of motions that would have narrowed the “free” services provided the media by Parliament and put the burden on to the members and/or their employers. The small scattering of freelancers in a membership of near 400 will retain access to personal desks, long-distance phone lines, fax and copying services in the Centre Block of Parliament.
Irony! The most aggressive defender of the services as they have been is not only one of the wealthiest of all press gallery members as a result of co-authoring a recent book on espionage which has had a phenomenal sale in the U.S., he presently covers and writes regularly about municipal affairs in Ottawa. Them that has, keeps!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, February 21, 1992
ID: 11877255
TAG: 199202210015
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Politicians should have some fun with this.
At the annual meeting of the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery a firm majority of the 80 or so present voted against doing away with or limiting or assuming the costs of a number of services provided the gallery at Parliament’s expense. (The costs have been estimated at $700,000 last year by House managers, a total gallery leaders say is far too high.)
Notably, the gallery members affirmed a principle that such services “are a necessity in a democratic country,” and defeated motions instructing their executive to take over responsibility and costs for general access phone lines, photocopying and fax services.
Motions were also defeated that would have: restricted spending of membership fees to services and ended their use for social functions; ended the off-the-record tradition of the annual press gallery dinner; and made any journalist member who did any work for an MP, a ministry, any federal agency, a party or a lobby firm list the details each year at membership renewal on a register kept by the gallery executive.
The gallery has a membership of some 380. The right to be a member is determined by the executive, a right accorded generations ago by Speakers of the House and the Senate. The executive also directs the several clerks and messengers provided by the House gallery services and in effect rations those services and ensures their fair distribution.
About half the members of the gallery are not working reporters or columnists who write or talk regularly about Parliament for readers, listeners or viewers. Rather, they are “chiefs” and administrators, directors and researchers, or camera, sound and light technicians, notably for the big outfits like the CBC (which has over 90 members).
In truth, very few of the reporters now cover Parliament as such, a point columnist Charles Lynch made at the meeting. Most, put loosely, cover the federal government and federal politics or do chores for those who do.
Parliament has had a long, slow eclipse as the main political focus of the media. Thus the original sky-hook or “first cause” for the gallery association hardly exists. Just a minor fraction of the membership really does report on Parliament or actually uses the gallery rooms in the centre block. Most are below the Hill in offices or studios during working hours. A few years ago after the House stopped night sittings except for special debates the security staff began locking the gallery rooms in the centre block at night and over weekends.
Since Trudeau’s advent as PM in ’68 the numbers of MPs, senators and those who serve them or their respective bodies have roughly tripled. The buildings of Parliament have grown from two (the Centre and West Blocks) to six.
The membership of the gallery itself has boomed from some 140. Despite such burgeoning the so-called Hill is less busy and far more impersonal than it used to be. This is particularly so in the evenings and when the House is not sitting.
The forces within the gallery membership that defeated the motions about services remind one of those social democrats who are determined to enshrine a social charter in the Constitution. What we’ve had, we must hold! Of course, in the name of fairness for the little guys of the media.
Some who agree with the decisions of Wednesday’s meeting would say the gallery stood up nobly for the tenth of members – the freelancers and representatives for small stations and papers – who need the free services to function and survive.
As for the narrowly failed bid to open up the gallery dinner from a private social occasion to a public event, those who saved the day were sentimentalists defending a hallowed celebration of a tie between politics and press that goes back past Confederation.
In a year or so the advocates of an open dinner will likely win. Then the questions will be whether enough eminences – the Speakers, the Governor General, and the party leaders – will accept invitations and make speeches and sit while being “skitted.” If the dinner survives it may be as a massive, perhaps national celebrity roast for a good cause. The cause might be down-and-out reporters or a libel chill fund or aid to reporters jailed by dictatorial regimes.
As for the decisions on keeping the services and refusing a total gulf between journalists and government, surely MPs like John Nunziata will expand demands that the media must pay their way and that journalists declare their conflicts. Neither demand will bother most of the gallery corps. Conflicts are a matter for them and their bosses, not the gallery.
And they know any transfer in the costs of services would be covered by their employers. Most work for firms with billions in cash flow like the newspaper chains or mighty Torstar or the CBC and The Canadian Press.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 19, 1992
ID: 11876645
TAG: 199202180123
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Politics has much pathos, and the House of Commons has rarely offered more than in the past fortnight.
It has really gone unnoticed but a listener feels pity about the recent “special debate.” It has run in the evenings and began through an all-party agreement so MPs could speak to “the results of the discussions they have had with their constituents on the constitutional issue.”
Scores of MPs have spoken, and none has been frivolous. In some fashion each MP referred to at least some of the proposed reforms to the Constitution. Few were at all partisan, and the remarks reeked of sincerity and goodwill. Many were bright sketches of mood and wishes in ridings.
Nevertheless, aside from just one speech none of the remarks was reported in any substantial way on network TV news or in the big dailies.
Yes, there has been a glut of news and commentary on the Constitution in this fortnight, in particular from or about the last two weekend conferences (Toronto and Vancouver). And Ovide Mercredi and the blessed aborigines have been high on the constitutional news scale.
But the most pathos comes from the contrast between the total inattention given those elected to Parliament to the immense attention given interest-group leaders. The newscasts and papers have given us so much from the latter, most of whom accept or insinuate in their contributions to the public debate on the Constitution that they bring a national interest to it from women or the disabled or the ethnics or the unions or business.
In short, as MPs have been expounding only to a scant fellow group the constitutional wants and needs in their ridings, TV and the papers have focused on the arguments of more important Canadians like Judy Rebick, Peter White, Tom D’Aquino, Nancy Riche, Leo Gerard, and on and on.
In a curious way the effective parliament of the people is no longer Parliament but a national forum provided by the major media. This forum is loaded, day after day, week by week, with the views and exchanges of spokespersons with some accepted cachet, or mandate or writ – call it what you will – that has been taken as far more significant than mere MPs’ talk.
The public esteem for the House and MPs has been waning since the constitutional debates of the early ’80s and the enshrinement of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
What seemed a turn to individualism has gone more and more the other way – toward group aspirations of one sort or another, enunciated by a national organization, many funded by government.
Each of these associations, in particular those that speak for natives, women, ethnics, organized labor, farmers, and business, identify their interests as the national interest.
A lot of us, at least outside Quebec, have swallowed this emergent representativeness. Federalism has been complicated enough for Parliament and legislatures and people’s understanding of politics. Consider this operating array of national actors. Elected MPs, MPPs and even premiers and prime ministers must turn to such associations for the opinions and ideas that merit priority.
An MP, or MPs by party, or even a swarm of MPs from all parties are now largely irrelevant while performing in what has been taken to be the basic institution in our national politics. How else does one explain a debate with scores of speeches that no one reported and hardly anyone heard?
It’s true that some 20 MPs or one-fourteenth of the lot have been at constitutional work. These MPs and a smaller clutch of senators will continue for another fortnight through the Beaudoin-Dobbie “renewal” committee as it drafts its report. This is an important task. It may provide the basics for what Mulroney takes to the premiers, and it will give the interest groups something to which they will react.
It’s not surprising that the only “special debate” speech to draw reporters’ attention – that by Svend Robinson – came because he chose to speak as an open homosexual, representing Canadian lesbians, gays and bisexuals. In short, he was the spokesman for a national group rather than an electoral constituency.
Robinson thinks he speaks for some 10% of Canadians and his group want “sexual orientation” included as prohibited ground for discrimination in the Charter of Rights.
Robinson challenged as hateful lies the arguments in a letter sent to all MPs by Tom Wappel, a Liberal MP. Wappel apprehends a connection between pederasty or buggery with children and male homosexuality.
He has been well condemned for this, not least by other Liberals. And that’s the political news from the House debate on the Constitution: one MP speaking for a particular interest, kicks another MP who dared to argue against what insists it is a benign national interest.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 16, 1992
ID: 11876009
TAG: 199202160153
SECTION: Comment-Lifestyle
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It has been an Ottawa week rich in activity and speculation. Here’s a precis of the three top items.
First, on the latest native push into the constitutional quagmire, i.e., the Ovide Mercredi ultimatum about Quebec’s distinctiveness and the sudden contribution from the Erasmus commission about the scope and justiciability of native self-government.
While MPs of all three caucuses are disturbed at this native threat to a settlement (yes, even the NDP) the most significant information I have is that Brian Mulroney’s MPs from Quebec have given him and Joe Clark an ultimatum: “Count us out of your voting strength in the House if you cave in to Mercredi.”
Remember the rancorous reaction two years ago in Quebec to the repetitious use on TV of a brief video on an eastern Ontario group walking over the blue and white fleur de lis flag? Just as profound an anger has risen in Quebec at replays of the map displayed by the aborigines at the Toronto constitutional exercise which depicted in red an aboriginal destiny for much of the province.
Second, on the truly massive farmers’ campaign over GATT trade rules. It has quickly become one of the most expensive agitations of the past decade in both dollar spending and organized demonstrations. Each day in the House question period and at any other possible chance, opposition MPs chorus a demand the PM and the government “do” something. The corridors teem with visiting farmers who produce for the so-called “supply managed” markets of milk products, poultry, and eggs.
The simple puzzle is: Why such a storm, and why directed it all at the federal government and not the governments that will sustain the GATT stance and challenge our supply-managed markets in these products?
Tory MPs will privately make several points about the onslaught, particularly in its Ontario and Quebec manifestations. They believe its planners and orchestrators have had the guidance of the key schemers in the labor unions, expert since the free trade and GST wars at harassment which repeats the brute message of a callous government that cares nothing for the backbone people of Canada.
The MPs think the hell-raisers’ longer range is to lay a basis of great public sympathy and intimidated politicians for a future policy in which Ottawa would fund quota floors in particular farm products.
The predicament is far more international than domestic. Canada is skewered by its fierce campaign against the domestically protected grain farmers of Western Europe. On the one hand we stand here, on the other, we stand there!
Can Canada afford to jump out of GATT? No.
Can we have it both ways? Well, we will stall but the 1993 election is a long way off in relation to this issue’s urgency.
What might those desperate to hold on to power do, in particular desperate because Quebec’s dairy farmers have the most to lose and a long, rowdy record of militancy?
While opposition MPs and provincial ministers will keep blaming Mulroney and company, the latter will complain ever louder to the mandarinates of world trade and pray for a compromise, perhaps an internationally accepted, slow shift here to a different process of subsidization.
Third, there is a wide array of proposals from the massive report of the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform, etc.
In better times this would have been a blockbuster but the complexity and diversity of the commissioner’s draft Canada Elections Act is a chilling challenge to a House into its fourth year and to parties knowing what slogging is ahead in responding to such drastic changes in electoral processes and party financing.
The two recommendations that might be whisked into law are: Cutting the campaign period by 18 days (from 58 to 40); and the staggering of voting hours across Canada, ensuring the West won’t have results in the East before its polls close.
Three proposals that would create more contention than MPs of this House want are: stringent limits on spending by interest groups on campaign issues; the banning on election weekend of opinion poll publishing; and the creation of up to eight seats for native MPs, elected by natives.
It’s about even money the election will be under the present act.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, February 14, 1992
ID: 11875258
TAG: 199202130086
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


This weekend some of us in and around politics will mull over the likely effect of the sudden “commentary” Thursday from the royal commission on aboriginal peoples that set out the meaning and range of the aborigines’ “inherent right to self-government.” These are quick, first impressions.
First, the commentary will further worsen Quebec-Indian relations.
Second, Chairman George Erasmus, as befits a blow-dried, Mercedes man, is back to fine suits. Ovide Mercredi may have Mercredi’s beaded buckskin but the Dene chief is as smart and polysyllabic as ever, out-talking and out-cerebrating his co-chair, Rene Dussault, a wispy, hesitant fellow. This will be the Erasmus commission.
Third, however critical any native group may sound about the commentary, its purpose is to make Ottawa nail the “inherent right” into the Constitution now and have it immediately judiciable, not left for up to 10 years for filling out what self-government entails.

It’s a reigning wisdom – the deep antagonism to the politicians of today. One explanation I favor is the widening distance of our elites from plain people. Take the royal commission on electoral reform and party financing.
The commission reported Thursday after two years of work and many millions of dollars. It is publishing its own four-volume set of the report. You may buy this for $85. The commission also contracted a multitude of studies, published in 23 other volumes under the imprint of the Dundurn Press (Toronto).
Roughly 80% of the contributors are professors or lecturers on the payrolls of some university. You may buy the full 23-volume set (either in French or English) for $585, plus GST, and a handling fee of $10.
In sum, a concerned citizen would have to spend some $750 to get “the works” on the background and prospects of federal electoral reform and party financing. What a prime example of how we are both pricing and complicating our politics beyond the understanding of plain folk.

Hail a fresh component in the Indianism industry. For short it’s ANSCORP, i.e., The Aboriginal News Service Corporation, president, Doug McKenzie, Ottawa.
The purpose of ANSCORP is to gather, analyze and distribute news of aboriginal affairs “using seasoned journalists of native heritage.” The president, obviously a native who knows his whites, has a breezy confidence and a wry humor. For example, he told me he and his reporters would not be doing their job “if the chiefs like us.” ANSCORP is not a defence corps. Its staff begins, knowing graft and chicanery are where you find it. His brochure lists some 21 societies across Canada devoted to aboriginal communications. (Of course, all are largely funded by the federal government.)

It may take all the accrued wisdom of Shelley Martel, Premier Bob Rae’s minister for northern development, to attain regional amity from the early consequences of the premier’s love affair with the natives.
My reference is to a declaration, accompanied by maps, from the Teme-Augama Anishnabai Nation of Temagami, issued this week by its chief, Gary Potts.
The maps delineate a big piece of Ontario, called “ancestral lands of Teme-Augama Anishnabai.” Part of the block is labelled “shared stewardship;” the larger part, some 2,500 square miles, is labelled “sole stewardship.”
Indian Affairs data indicate the Teme-Augama people have a roster of some 1,500 natives, about half of whom dwell off the band’s reserve at Bear Island. Census data suggest about 8,000 non-aborigines dwell on these lands, mostly in the part which Potts declares is “sole stewardship.”
Potts says his “vision of co-existence” follows from a memorandum of understanding entered into with Rae. The understanding requires a treaty of co-existence.
“Today’s announcement,” said the chief, “is part of that process . . . outlining the area of land within the homeland over which the Teme-Augama Anishnabai propose to exercise their stewardship authority.”
This is jumping the gun – a unilateral declaration of independence. One hopes Martel can persuade the non-aborigines in the big region that they and their properties will not be harmed as the aborigines assume their stewardship.

At a recent meeting of a House committee dealing with a bill changing the Customs Act, Joe Volpe, a Toronto MP, asked top Customs officials if their service targeted passengers for very close scrutiny coming to Canada on flights from Italy, Switzerland and Jamaica. In essence, the answers were affirmative.
Why should this be? Because the valuable items most smuggled are jewelry and drugs. Italy and Switzerland are countries making much fine jewelry. It can be bought there for far less than the prices it brings in Canada. Our jewelers have complained about the share of their possible sales such bootlegged imports are taking. With Jamaica it’s drugs, not jewelry: Jamaica as a source of drugs and immigrants, now in sizable numbers, especially in Toronto.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 12, 1992
ID: 11874867
TAG: 199202120006
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


What is in this “inherent right to native self-government?” How, where, and with what sustenance would the so-called “third” nation function? Is it to be forever? If so, what’s its locale? If its boundaries are those of all Canada, how will taking part in third nation affairs be exercised over such great distances and in the scores of cities and towns where people of native stock are small components?
Is the third nation to be an open democracy – one person, one vote? What might be tests for its citizenship?
Will members of the third nation have dual citizenship and triple voting rights, i.e., Canadian and native, federal and provincial and native? If so, what does this mean in extra rights, say, in voting for Parliament and a provincial legislature, as well as for a native assembly, or in tax exemptions?
Does this third nation need international recognition, status at the UN, and embassies abroad and within itself?
We must press for answers. The questions become immediate because of what emerged this week in our perilous lurching toward a “renewed” Constitution.
The major native groups cohered behind the demands of Ovide Mercredi, chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). It’s clear they are determined to use as leverage the emotional and complex issue of Quebec’s uniqueness within Canada.
A frank politician must bluntly ask the natives what they expect from their third nation claims and the enshrinement of themselves as a distinct society with an inherent right to self-government.
Until late in the failed process of the Meech accord none of our major politicians foresaw that Elijah Harper would block Manitoba’s approval. Harper did not do it because the natives were dead set against accommodation for Quebec in the accord but because there was nothing in it for natives.
This week we were warned. Another failure like Meech is forecast. And initial reaction from many Quebecers, including federalists, should scare those in the rest of Canada who want Quebec to stay.
Obviously Joe Clark, the prime broker, is apprehensive but hesitates to go head on against what he knows is the emptiness or the craziness – take your pick – behind the bluff of Mercredi’s demands.
Clark’s hesitation comes from the opinion polls. They show a simple, massive guilt complex in Canada, a wide acceptance that we and our predecessors have treated the natives abominably; and so in both atonement we must approve their demands for full recognition as nations and as collectively being a third nation in Canada with its own self-government.
As Mercredi sketched for MPs the responsibilities which the government of the third nation would have, he assured them there would not be an army; however, self-governing did mean a separate, unique system of justice, control of the third nation’s economy, management of its health and welfare arrangements, educational system, plus the nurturing of its unique cultures, including religions and languages.
One can only understand such mad grandeur in the failure of all our elected politicians to push past the rhetoric of claims and grievance to the staggering complexity and astronomical costs of native demands as they have been developed by Mercredi and his predecessor, George Erasmus.
Consider the composition, locales and resources of the third nation.
In lobbying terms there are four main native groups: the AFN representing “status” or “registered Indians;” the Native Council representing non-status Indians; the Metis Association, most of its numbers on the prairies; and the Inuit, almost all in the territories. There is no record of harmony among them.
Census data indicate there are from 750,000 to 800,000 people who could fit in these four groupings – in sum, from 1/36th to 1/33rd of the present population of Canada. A small tail to wag so large a dog.
Although status Indians number just over 500,000 and have the most vocal leadership through the AFN they are widely scattered across Canada and represent a score or more tribes. Most of the members are registered with the 600-plus bands. The bands have even more specific reservations, mostly in the hinterlands.
Unfortunately, more than half such band membership now lives or floats in cities and towns, beyond direction of the chiefs or the band councils. Why? The young people find little to do on the reserves. Both prospects and capabilities in hunting, fishing, and trapping have largely withered away. Welfare and boredom reign.
Other than English, the natives haven’t a common language. Most of the reserves are in fringe or hinterland Canada, i.e., economically poor regions. Our long pre-eminence in logging, pulp and paper, and mining is over. Economic hopes in the hinterlands for white or red are bleak.
Should the four groupings attain their demands, Canada would become a political madhouse. Of course, Quebec will be gone because Quebecers are are neither as stupid nor as guilt-ridden about the natives as the rest of us.
Is there a frank politician in the land? Even a premier?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 09, 1992
ID: 11873967
TAG: 199202090161
SECTION: Comment-Lifestyle
COLUMN: Fisher Report


A situation of the moment seems too strange to last long in partisan Ottawa. Its origins, one thinks, are desperation, and recognition of public exas- peration. The latter factor is obviously behind the muted indignation and real restraint from their normal charades by returning MPs. But more astonishing than decency in the House is the sober sense of common cause in the joint parliamentary committee on “the renewal of Canada.”
It’s not often a committee develops amity and a tacit consensus, and maintains it. Partisan shenanigans have almost disappeared.
Experienced Liberal, Tory and NDP MPs on the committee tell me they have already done much talking in private on what must be in their recommendations to the House and the Senate. One gets statements like these.
“We’re going to agree!”
“We know what has to be in it, and it will be ours, not the government’s.”
“We’re going to put up something Bourassa can use to win.”
I know a Hill scenario is unusual when so many members forecast agreement or insist time is not a problem. The broad assurance is the proposals will be backed by all parties but the Bloc Quebecois.
It is strange to hear Tories touting the constructiveness of Andre Ouellet, a dogged Grit from Quebec, or having both Tories and Grits lavish praise on Lorne Nystrom of the NDP as the best broker on the committee.
The Department of Veteran Affairs is not often the focus of criticism from the Opposition, compared to other line departments. By and large there has been all-party backing for veterans’ programs since the late 1940s. Few crises about DVA drag on.
Last week two criticisms flared, each likely to dim but not blow out for a while. One came from Gilles Rocheleau, a Bloc Quebecois MP for Hull-Aylmer. He was a Liberal MP and before that a Liberal MNA. A different accusation came from Les Benjamin, an NDP MP for Regina and one of the four World War II men in the House.
Rocheleau is in a rage over a letter from the DVA minister, Gerry Merrithew, to French-speaking veterans in Quebec who receive benefits under DVA programs.
“It is a gross insult to the global common sense and fairness,” says Rocheleau, “that the Mulroney government should frighten aged people on pensions.”
The “insult” is in a paragraph about the year ahead. It comes from an account of continuing improvements in services for veterans. My translation goes like this:
“In 1992 the spectre of separatism is casting a dark shadow over our future together, putting in risk of breaking apart one of the most successful forces for good in the world. What a dishonorable end that would be to a magnificent adventure. What an insult for all those who died overseas in war, fighting for Canada.”
For years Benjamin has been active in veterans’ matters. Last week he demanded denials from the government on two rumors. He has “sources” within the DVA who say that in its search for cost-cutting and more revenue, the Mulroney government plans (a) to end the departmental status of DVA, amalgamating it with Health and Welfare; (b) to make taxable veterans’ allowances, disability pensions, etc.
Of course, Benjamin got denials.
My sources say both propositions were recently canvassed in a cabinet sub-committee. It was not the first time for departmental status. Every government since Trudeau’s first has pondered it, then put it off.
I hear the sense of a short discussion was that such moves would be stupid, given the low regard for the government and the small advantages in savings or revenues. After all, over half a million veterans are still out there.
A likelier move may come with the next cabinet shuffle. Simply double up a minister: leave DVA as a department but under a minister for Health and Welfare and Veterans Affairs.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, February 07, 1992
ID: 11873387
TAG: 199202070015
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Have you realized how socialistic we are?
No, this rhetorical question does not stem from three provinces with NDP governments. Consider Joe Clark, the minister marshalling our constitutional reforms. Minutes after proposals were unfolded by Audrey McLaughlin for embedding a social charter in the Constitution, along with a reformed senate to police it, Clark was all welcome.
“It is helpful. It enlarges the prospect of a solution.” He gave assurances both the Mulroney government and the “renewal” committee of Parliament would give the charter the most serious consideration.
Though not for attribution, some committee members told me a social charter will be in their final recommendations, though they assure me it will be so entrenched as not to be justiciable, i.e., interpretable by the courts.
Clark says the NDP’s proposals give substance to a much discussed conception at a propitious point in the constitutional affray. Obviously, he’s crossed the divide, from a free enterprise landscape to a socialist one. The reasons are plain.
First, there’s the staunch advocacy of a social charter by Premier Bob Rae of Ontario; second, the surprising support for it at the Montreal conference from Claude Castonguay (Laurentian Insurance) and Tom Kierans (C.D. Howe Institute).
Clark’s all too aware Rae’s “on side” on Quebec as a distinct society and is the sine qua non of premiers needed to back the federal proposals to Quebec. And he’s seized Castonguay-Kierans as symbolic of a readiness in the corporate world to enshrine a social net in order to get a deal.
Clark’s response to McLaughlin also suggests his desperation. I say this out of an encounter earlier in the week with a veteran minister. He told me Clark was cautioned in cabinet that the left-leaning, national interest groups would use the floor mikes at the constitutional conferences to direct the discussion along their themes. Not only had they achieved this, they even bragged about it on CBC TV.
For the third time Clark had failed to anticipate troubles. This time it’s grave for constitutional content rather than pro- cess, as was the case in the early chaos of the Spicer Commission and the Dobbie-Castonguay committee.
The reporters were critical of the proposals after McLaughlin presented them. She’s invariably decent in such exchanges but she has an exasperating bent for circular statements whose endings repeat the beginning assertion.
This day she began with a “vision of Canada” and through a dozen queries she repeated it again and again. It’s not bad as a teaching ploy: Here is a vision; we have a vision; it’s a social policy for all Canada. “Our goal,” she said, “is to promote a social charter which is a vision of the kind of country Canadians want.”
Surely, reporters said, conceptions like “full employment and fair working conditions” are political questions – grist for partisan debate over economic decisions and management.
Ah, yes, she replied, but surely the most important economic right of all is to have a job. Look at the countries with programs that support a national objective to keep people employed.
A reporter from Quebec wondered what her charter implied for the constitutional reality. Health and education are provincial jurisdictions, yet the charter referred to them.
McLaughlin insisted this did not signify an altered division of powers. “Yes, health and education are within provincial fields but already section 36 of the Constitution refers to the need for regional equality. These proposals are not a method to take over powers from the provinces but to ensure fairness and justice throughout the country.”
But how are fairness and justice to be assured when the NDP agrees the items in the NDP’s “vision” are not to go to the courts? Instead they would be monitored and defended by “a truly representative Senate which would bring together women, aboriginal peoples and visible minorities, as well as the various regions.”
“This Senate,” says the NDP leader, “would be perfectly placed to protect social programs and promote the collective aspirations of Canadians.”
“Ours is simply a means to provide values which even Quebecers share on quality in fields like health and the environment. It boils down to our vision of the country. We should supply services of quality to every Canadian. This is an agenda and a commitment to all parts of the country. It gives an expanded vision of our country!”
It sure does. It enshrines the main themes of the NDP: “full employment, fair working conditions, income security for all, food, clothing and shelter, a quality education available to everyone, a clean environment and a sustainable economy.”
When asked why quality universal child care or guaranteed indexing of seniors’ pensions were not in her social charter, the NDP leader said they could be, probably should be.
There’s humor in all this. Take the vogue of the day since the USSR collapsed. Rejoice, rejoice, socialism’s dead.
Well, not in Canada. An allegedly conservative government welcomes our socialist party’s “vision of Canada” into our Constitution.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 05, 1992
ID: 11872852
TAG: 199202050012
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Sometimes a single case illuminates a grand issue.
Yesterday David Kilgour, Liberal MP for Edmonton Southeast, highlighted a single case. It’s the grievance of a forester, Fortunato Pacios-Rivera, against the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (DIAND). Kilgour called a press conference and described a recent “examination” of the case under the department’s wing as a “whitewash.” He demanded a full public inquiry.
The grand issue was put in the last report by the auditor general. Under a heading, “Inadequate accountability for funding,” he wrote: “Seventy two per cent ($1.9 billion) of the budget . . . of DIAND for the provision of goods and services to the Indian people is self-administered by bands or tribal councils. DIAND is answerable to Parliament for these funds but it does not have assurance in all cases that they are used for the purpose intended or managed with all due regard for economy, efficiency and effectiveness.”
Pacios-Rivera earned an examination of his grievances only after a long hunger strike on and nearby Parliament Hill last summer. He accused native chiefs of depriving him of his property. He had been in partnership with an offshoot of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council. The council represents 10 Indian bands in Saskatchewan. The partnership was to teach and train silviculture and forest usage to the Indians, enabling the bands of the council to manage forested lands in the region. His Indian partners ousted him and seized his property.
Collective white guilt is strong. Few MPs dare to go against such a grain. None but Kilgour has taken the side of Pacios-Rivera. I myself agree with Kilgour that the recent “examination” was a whitewash.
Even before the accountants began late last summer, Harry Swain, the deputy minister for Indian Affairs, wrote the chiefs of the tribal council that the examination would not get into the allegations Pacios-Rivera had made about the takeover of his works by one of their incorporated arms. In effect, he said the terms of references would be ignored and just dealings between the council and his ministry would be looked at.
How could Swain be so sure? The terms of reference for “the special examination” were announced by his minister, Tom Siddon, last July. He said the inquiry was “in response to the concerns of Fortunato Pacios-Rivera and will address all the concerns he expressed.”
Swain seemed to have kept the examiners away from the key gripes of the forester by advising them that the relationship of the white forester and a subsidiary of the tribal council was a matter for the civil courts and out of their mandate.
Kilgour may demand a public inquiry into the ruin of Pacios-Rivera but he won’t get it, nor will the victim ever have the money to take on the Tribal Council in the civil courts. The council has ready access to a very deep federal purse.
Both the present ministry and the leadership of the other two federal parties are scared stiff by the antics and demands of the native leaders. Given the latter’s capacity to ruin a constitutional solution, one understands the apprehension. The Assembly of First Nations was on the warpath over the Meadow Lake “examination” last fall. (It’s an outfit which has never published an audited report of its own spending.)
The First Nation chiefs were also angry at the concerns expressed by the auditor general about accountability. This response helps one appreciate the DIAND release of Jan. 15 that accompanied the examiners’ “whitewash” of the Meadow Lake crew, really a belated justification for the lack of accountability worrying the auditor general.
Even within their narrow limits the examiners found that funds to Meadow Lake marked for education had been transferred to general administration. The release goes on:
“At the time, transferring funds without departmental approval was not consistent with departmental funding arrangements (prior to 1989). The department has since endorsed this type of financial practice with the introduction of Alternative Funding Arrangements agreements. These arrangements are flexible and allow First Nations to transfer funds from one program to another — according to community needs — while meeting program objectives. The Meadow Lake Tribal Council Case is an example of how departmental funding arrangements were not keeping pace with the evolving management capability and capacity of First Nations governments.”
What a wonderfully specious way to deal with DIAND’s incompetence in ensuring accountability in the use of funds that go to native bands.
A wiser way has been found. It is so neatly in line with altered native realities. It’s all in the press release, ostensibly right out of Siddon’s mouth. Swain is smart even if Siddon is not. Read this marvel of fudging.
“Over the past two decades, the relationship between the department and First Nations has changed dramatically to one in which First Nations control many of their own programs and services. Our funding arrangements have been altered to reflect concerns about accountability and ensure the reporting and monitoring of funds keeps pace with these changes.”
What a hoot!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 02, 1992
ID: 12309450
TAG: 199202020169
SECTION: Comment-Lifestyle
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Most MPs do not move around Parliament Hill with their low esteem showing in grim faces but as they return from their homes for the resumption of the session it is easy to get them talking about the subject. Invariably they will get to a prime paradox.
On their home turfs in particular associations or while attending events they are treated well on the whole with few discourtesies. But they are aware that on the local scene they are considered exceptions in the reigning scorn for run-of-the-mill MPs.
The able constituency MPs (and that’s a majority) know there are men and women of other parties around who are dedicated to knocking them off next time, and some will acknowledge they have critics within their own party at home. At this particular time the latter people get at them through complaints about their party leader, not through direct criticism of their behavior.
Why is it, one MP asked, there’s appreciation at home for me as an MP – I’m somebody – but scorn and cynicism toward me and my fellows is the public view across the country?
Of course, he was ready to answer his own question, and his answer had much in it about the media, and television in particular.
One can even find MPs who would recommend the TV cameras be taken out of the House, particularly because telecasting is seen as responsible for question period being a raucous charade. Of course, this would be unacceptable to the people.
Television and its magnificent networks give instant showing of political happenings from coast to coast. This capacity and reach have not only made politics the common denominator interest of Canadians, TV could not do without politics for its core content, nor can one imagine the politicians functioning without it.
Politicians are far from singular in their television preoccupation. In the past 30 years we have gradually worked up a host of interest groups, lobbies and associations – local, regional, but especially national ones. And most of such groups or their leaders are fixed on governments.
They have been destructive in relation to the importance of MPs, largely because they have realized that most MPs have become secondary or fringe factors in politics. The groups have all learned how to put on a performance or squeeze in an appearance on the news or the panels and commentaries. They don’t need the ear of MPs so much as they want to create an impression that catches the attention of the ministers or the opposition party leaders and their cadres of advisers and councillors.
In addition to such bypassing of MPs, Parliament itself in the recent decades has been creating boards, agencies and commissions, many with what we now define as ombudsman features. Think how often the newscasts have the language man or the human rights man or the economic council woman or this or that task force or agency leader.
Our practice has been to externalize through acts of Parliament what once would have been internal bureaucrats. By putting them out at arm’s length and according them mandates, the scope and significance of your plain day-to-day MP has been rolled back.
It is hard to see what adjustments MPs could make that would raise their stature, even if they could cohere in their party caucuses or House committees to develop a strategy to improve their reputation. The most obvious remedies have to be worked up at the top and then directed from there.
By “top” I mean the party leaders. It would have to start with the the prime minister and the leaders of the opposition parties. Only a prime minister can deliberately switch the fixation on himself and promote more attention for his ministers and for MPs and their most promising avenues to notice, i.e., the House committees.
Unfortunately, such a deliberate turn in emphasis requires both a concert in agreement and a realization that television would buck it and circumvent it. Leadership politics is easier, cheaper and more vivid.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, January 31, 1992
ID: 12308867
TAG: 199201310010
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


In political circles few items stimulate as much instant criticism and alternatives as an electoral prediction. My hazard a few days ago has done this.
I wrote that it seemed likely the federal election next year will produce a majority House with the Liberals in charge and the Reformers, BQ, NDP and Tories trailing well back in that order, but close to each other in seat totals. The whole campaign will swing on getting Brian Mulroney out of power. The Liberals offer the best chance for this to voters.
The chief criticism among many was that there are too many imponderables, especially in the economy and the Constitution game, to make any guess on seats 16 months hence at all sensible. A fair point.
But it isn’t silly to make such a conjecture even if the test is still so far ahead. Almost everyone in and around politics gets into the appraisal of chances when a parliament is into its fourth year. And not since 1935 have we had the phenomena of a fourth and a fifth political party, each of which seems certain to have at least a dozen seats and from 8% to 15% of the total federal vote.
Thus we are guaranteed a more fractured vote in at least 200 ridings and a lot of three- and four-way races.
Nothing notable in either performance or in recent opinion polls indicates that the NDP, for so long the No. 3 party expected to replace either the Conservative or the Liberal party as No. 2, perhaps as No. 1, will do so.
To appreciate the NDP situation one has to weigh the certainty the NDP will have lots of workers and funds for the next campaign and the advantage of support from the governing cast and aides of three provincial governments against their grievous mischoice of federal leader and the likelihood, already crystallizing in Ontario, that the three governments will be far from popular come the spring of 1993.
Those Tories who bridle at my figures usually begin that I have overlooked the PM as a superb campaigner and under-estimated both Chretien’s flawed public persona and the incumbency factor in the many ridings with hard-working Tory MPs. And one obvious advantage over the Liberals, if not so much over the NDP and the Reformers, is already clear. The Tories already have a brimming war chest; the Grits have not.
One Tory MP cautioned that I should have considered the real prospect that Mulroney will give up his leadership in November or December. A convention would choose a successor in February or March, after which the new PM would square away a fresh cabinet and go to the people in May. He predicated such happenings on some resolution of the constitutional dilemma this fall which would keep Quebec in the federation, at least through the next year or two.
The Liberals who have reacted do not so much dislike my guess as distrust it. That’s not because it begins by writing off Mulroney as a leader who can ever make a comeback, but because it just breezes by too much that may confound Liberal candidates. The threat from Preston Manning and Reform on the right is becoming formidable, even in Ontario, and there is still a fight in drawing to the Liberals those of the left, particularly the nationalist left, which, at this point, trusts the New Democrats more than them.
And it seems some of the Liberals in Ontario are worried at indications from Quebec that their leader is as distrusted there as the PM is in the rest of the country. One of them told me this was going to undermine candidates with many Ontario voters if they foresee a thorough rejection of Chretien coming in Quebec. If his party is clearly not the party of national unity its chances dim in Ontario, though perhaps not in the West. There it might be an advantage, but who could imagine the Grits sweeping the West?
While a long-time backroom Tory thought I discounted Mulroney going head to head with Chretien, he asked me what merit I saw in a recent piece by Carol Goar of the Toronto Star on Mulroney’s last cabinet shuffle late last April. She has described it as a failure, even a disaster. He thought her insights good. Well, so did I. He then summarized the case of a drab cabinet without a single, obvious choice to succeed Mulroney.
Mike Wilson had “died” out of Finance, and he and Bernard Valcourt had bungled the badly-timed prosperity initiative. Don Mazankowski was merely holding Wilson’s old fort, his zeal gone. Barbara McDougall was a miscast bust at External. Joe Clark had merely become familiar again, his decency and his awkwardness both showing. Marcel Masse at Defence had been a nutty choice. And John Crosbie at Fisheries was out of it.
What alternative did the party have to Mulroney? Jean Charest was very attractive but so young, and another Quebecer. Perrin Beatty had had more ministries than anybody but shone at none, his halo of youth and sincerity faded through years of caution. Kim Campbell was tough and very assured, and already unloved for it in the caucus.
Not a second rank with promise for the top rung. Thinking about the succession sent him back to Mulroney. “He’s the best we’ve got.”
Oops: In last Sunday’s column I said there were only two Tory provincial governments in Canada. There are, of course, three: Nova Scotia, Alberta and Manitoba.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 29, 1992
ID: 12308376
TAG: 199201290006
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Quebec has a distaste for Senate reform. This seems the view of most French-speaking Quebecers, including those Liberals who are federalists.
Far more than most other Canadians, Quebecers reject or are guarded about a second, federal chamber that is elected and thus has a real constituency and a similar mandate to the House of Commons. They dislike the idea that a second chamber would embody either equality between provinces or even a more equitable distribution of Senate membership between provinces.
Quebecers are even more negative about the other bent of some Senate reformers in the rest of Canada who want an elected Senate designed to guarantee representation there for specific interest groups which – so goes the claim – have been our underdogs, i.e., women, aborigines, disabled, blacks, ethnics and homosexuals.
I see optimism growing among the politicians of the rest of Canada that there is enthusiasm for an elected Senate with substantial powers and equitable, if not equal, representation.
One also senses the trade-offs for this: Quebec with a “distinct” clause placed where it wants it, plus recognition of Quebec’s entitlement to some specifics in asymmetry that do not extend to the other provinces.
My warning would be that Quebec will reject any resolution that gives an elected Senate substantial powers, and not even the protection of double majority provisions for language and culture within such a Senate will change this stance.
Few Quebecers of the federalist persuasion are more symbolic than Senator Claude Castonguay, also chairman of the Laurentian Bank of Canada, and a respected man in the political and business elite of Quebec. His recent brief to the renewal committee brimmed with the pride and touchiness of Quebecers when dealing with the rest of Canada.
Nevertheless, the senator was candid in analyzing why the federal proposals were failing with Quebec. Here he is on Senate reform. He thinks it “may well be the thorniest issue of the current round.”
“We know the Western and Maritime provinces see the Senate as a means of obtaining more power within the Parliament of Canada. A number of groups see the Senate as a means of correcting the distortions that the system of representation by population in the House of Commons has engendered. These questions are complex and difficult because they directly involve the distribution and balance of powers in the country.
“In my opinion an elected Senate cannot retain powers as broad as those the Senate now has, because this would inevitably lead to the paralysis of Parliament. Furthermore, if the Senate is to rectify distortion in the representation in the House, elections to the Senate must not, for reasons which seem obvious, be held at the same time as elections to the House. In my view they should be held at the same time as provincial elections and a system of proportional representation should be adopted.
“Finally, with the exception of Canada’s aboriginal peoples, no group should have guaranteed representation in the Senate. This idea is absolutely contrary to the whole philosophy of our democratic process.”
It’s not just for demographic reasons (e.g., tiny P.E.I) that Quebec rejects the principle of equal representation for all provinces, although it seems implicit in Castonguay’s argument that Quebec would not balk at more Western senators so long as this wasn’t attained by taking away from Quebec.
Also in his argument is recognition that the same political parties that now furnish MPs would also be factors in choosing and financing candidates for election to the Senate. So the same parties, the same party discipline, the same old control based on the prime minister and the ministry being determined by the election to the House, not to the Senate. To prevent such dual stamping, there could be finagles like longer terms for senators, election by proportional representation or the single transferable vote, or the dovetailing of senatorial elections with provincial elections.
All this to escape from what seems likely, a popularly elected Senate which would be much like the House in partisanship. And the escape almost guarantees confrontation or the neutralization of Senate and House.
If the reformed Senate has little significant power, Quebec would probably agree to a reduction in its membership. What would it matter?
But an elected Senate with real powers makes a senator a prime spokesman for his province. This does matter in a province where most people see their prime government as at Quebec and based on the National Assembly.
It seems from the passivity of members of the present House during the discussions of Senate reform, particularly noticeable on the renewal committee, that the MPs are ready to share their powers and roles with elected senators, just as MPs acquiesced a decade ago the ultimate judgment on their products in laws going to five judges of the Supreme Court, not to the electorate.
Don’t think Quebec will be anything like as co-operative in having elected senators as its proponents or defenders at Ottawa and within the federation.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 26, 1992
ID: 12307568
TAG: 199201260165
SECTION: Comment-Lifestyle
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The prime frets in the fourth year of any majority parliament in my post-pipeline memory (1956!) are not being booted around much in the chatter of the Hill horde. The frets?
Who will have the House out of the coming election? Is it to be a minority Parliament?
It’s not that most MPs and the cadres of their party leaders are not readying for the next run. They are, but more than most times the experienced MPs are at a personal, pondering stage of whether to run or pull out and take the pension.
This weighing of individual and party chances is not largely confined to the low-in-polls Tories. This has been an unhappy House, and a lot of MPs in all four parties are not enthused about their respective leaders (even in the Bloc Quebecois). In any “hair down” talk with a Liberal or Tory or NDP MP it becomes plain that the debits of his or her leader are high in the mind. To a degree most MPs see this factor cancels out. That is, Chretien may be the figurative dog and McLaughlin the figurative zilch, but few see even a modest return to broad acceptance for Mulroney.
The MPs have been living with the reigning public scorn towards them and they are bruised by this scunner. Most constituencies today are grim circuits for them, rife with out-of-work people or those apprehensive of such a fate. This recession-depression has dragged too long to let opposition MPs ride through the months just by damning the government and the impossible Mulroney. Also, many constituents are fingering provincial governors for their woes, and only Alberta and Nova Scotia have Tory governments.
Such uncertainties run deeper than the economy and leadership and the sheer confusions of a campaign which at this stage seems to have a real prospect at the end of four potential “third” parties – i.e., the Tories, New Democrats, Reformers, and Bloc Quebecois. MPs can see that unless there’s a constitutional miracle this summer or fall this House will go well into a fifth year.
It was with this murky context of uncertainties and probabilities that a veteran MP and I recently plunged into a chat which has had forerunners once or twice a year for many years. I can’t identify him, even by party, but he’s a journeyman, distinguished for me by a knack at “reading the winds,” divining what’s up “out there.”
Here’s a recall of the “numbers” part of our chat. He began: “How do you figure it?” (“it” being the respective weight in seats in the next House, going by present factors.)
I replied, “There’s a jelling under way, I think.”
“For the Liberals?”
“Yes. Last fall a minority House seemed sure. That’s been going, going, gone.”
“That’s what I’m reading too. What are your splits?”
“Maybe 150, 40, 30, 30, 25.”
“Who’s 40? Reform?”
“Yes. Tories and BQ about 30, NDP 25.” “Wow! That’s close to where I’m at. I’ve given up on the brokering game. You know . . . the minority House with no party close to a clear majority, and so making up combinations for a government – Grits to New Democrats; Reform and Tories, etc.”
“There’s a long way to go,” I said, “but if we get to an election with the same five players, I see the voters’ priority as anybody but Mulroney.”
“That’s it,” said the MP. “And clearly neither Manning nor McLaughlin nor Bouchard offers that. Chretien does. The Grits mop up the Atlantic provinces, squeeze 20 or 25 out of Quebec, mostly on the island, take at least 70 in Ontario, a half-dozen in Manitoba, and a dozen in B.C. Tories a wipe-out in Alberta and Saskatchewan, taking a dozen in Ontario and 20 or less from Quebec. NDP holding in B.C. and Saskatchewan, losing a handful in Ontario. Reform creaming Alberta and picking up a few in B.C. and Manitoba, maybe even in farm-country Ontario. Is that about your scoring?”
“Yes, that’s about it,” I said. “A majority mandate, reached without enthusiasm.” So there’s “the game” for this month. Although this particular MP is unsure he’ll run again, I think he will, a year and more from now.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, January 24, 1992
ID: 12306925
TAG: 199201230100
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It’s a journalistic purgatory, being toasted in the constitutional furnace while the economy unravels.
The heat is maddening but inescapable, making a columnist return again and again to the proposals to change our Constitution.
In particular, to return to the two proposals which fit as the basics or minimums. Number one is the full recognition of Quebec as “distinct. ” Number two (or two and three) is an elected Senate and the aboriginal right to self-government.
The “distinct” item is essential, the other two almost so.
What’s now paramount about these three proposals are their chances for acceptance, or for adjustment and fuller development; or, put another way, for causing the rupture of our country which most of us fear.
It was distasteful to me but quite clear after Pierre Trudeau’s referendum triumph in the early ’80s and the subsequent constitutional deal he attained which left forlorn the provincial government of Quebec, that the Quebecois would be back with even stronger demands for autonomy than ever before. And this time, there would have to be give or they would go.
Thus it has seemed to me essential that the reforms accord the Quebecois their distinctiveness and what must flow from it: some particular powers, even unto considerable “asymmetry.” This, much as I and most Canadians outside Quebec dislike this detraction from a federal government with a trans-Canada universality.
And so my attention has turned more to Senate reform and the native issue. Weeks ago I wrote on the views of two people with canny appraisals of the prime factors: for the rest of Canada, Marjorie Bowker, a retired judge and an Albertan; for Quebec, Claude Castonguay, at present a senator and a successful man, respected from high offices held in both Quebec government and business.
Both have made presentations to the “renewal of Canada” committee. What each counsels, Bowker on aborigines, and Castonguay on the Senate, makes sense to me.
Today Bowker’s advice; next time, Castonguay’s.
Figuratively, Bowker cleared the constitutional deck at the start:
“To begin with a constitution should not contain everything. It should definitely not include government policy, nor . . . the proposed economic union . . . nor matters that require intergovernmental agreement, for example, the fiscal harmonization or the removal of trade barriers . . . nor procedural matters . . . in the House of Commons, nor reforms of the Bank of Canada and the broadcasting policies.
“There seems to be a belief among the government and to some extent the general public that if you entrench something in the Constitution you have solved the problem, not realizing, first, that it may not belong in the Constitution, and once it is there it is almost impossible to remove . . . let’s eliminate what doesn’t belong.
“. . . there is a great misconception throughout Canada as to what aboriginal self-government means. Many people think it’s a form of municipal government, but if we look at the definition of self-government it really involves virtual independence. We have the prospect of 2,200 reserves scattered across Canada, which would become enclaves of self-government. The native people do not wish the laws of Canada to apply or the Charter of Rights, yet they demand guaranteed seats in the Senate, House of Commons, and provincial legislatures. Canada would become a patchwork of holes resembling a large piece of Swiss cheese. I am afraid the federal government will compromise on proposal number four out of pressure from the native people.
“I have great sympathy for the natives and for the injustices they feel they have suffered in the past, but we must have ways to rectify these injustices other than a process that could dismember the country by creating self-governing enclaves.
“. . . The federal government must stick to its proposal, namely a legal right of self-government to be delayed up to 10 years until (it) is defined. That is absolutely essential.
“It is a very dangerous thing, this aboriginal self-government, without definition. The natives say, grant it first, define it later. But I have explained what would happen to Canada if the aboriginal people, scattered throughout Canada (on) 2,200 reserves were granted self-government. We would destroy our territorial integrity.
“We have to make it clear in our minds what the natives are demanding. I am saying the federal government has proposed a very valid suggestion, and I fear they may capitulate to native demands . . . I am sure that what I am saying would be very unpopular. (my italics)
“ . . . with regard to Senate reform, I approve of elections. I think we are ready for the change, but I do not approve of simultaneous elections along with those for the House . . . and when it comes to the allotment of seats, there is no way that equal representation for all the provinces will be accepted. There is very little support for equal representation in the Senate.”
In further remarks, Bowker made it clear that if we must have an elected Senate (not an “equal” one) its powers to block a government that has to be sustained by “the other place” must be limited, not absolute and final.
Sound advice!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 22, 1992
ID: 12306472
TAG: 199201220009
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


We have an elected, federal legislature whose members are far from fully used, whose debates are sparsely attended and get scant media attention. Why add a second elected legislature?
Because some westerners want it! Why? The big ramp for a Triple-E Senate has not come from the work of the Senate we have had, and a desire to have it enhanced by the cachet elections would give, but from envious observation of the pro-consul status an American senator has in speaking and brokering for his or her state.
As one who advocates the Triple-E might put it: “Give us American-like senators in powers, plus representative equality, and never again will Ontario and Quebec dominate the whole federal system.”
For me, advocacy of the Triple-E would make more sense if those who propound it went fully toward the U.S. system which has two elected chambers but a separate executive.
The U.S. president’s mandate is empowered by his election through a vote every fourth year of all the people, whereas our PM must get and keep the backing of a majority of the members elected to our House of Commons or his term is over.
Essentially, the U.S. federal system rests on three separate mandates, each drawn from a differing electoral base.
– The president is elected by all eligible voters in the U.S.
– The senators are elected, two to a state, in separate state-wide votes.
– The congressmen are elected, one to a district. Within a state the number of districts are determined by nation-wide representation by population (as for our House of Commons).
It is important that more Canadians appreciate that we are heading toward a system which would adopt one feature of the American model – an elected Senate based on senators chosen in each province – without going all the way and taking the executive (the PM and cabinet) out of the House of Commons and setting it as a branch of government on its own.
The Triple-E proposition as a whole is going to fail because the demand of “equal” representation per province will never wash in either Ontario or Quebec. Also, there will be fierce disagreements over powers and roles of this elected Senate, first vis-a-vis the House of Commons, then relative to the cabinet and to provincial governments.
Proponents of the Triple-E, or even an elected Senate with merely “equitable” representation, seem to think that Quebec as a government or as a people will accept an “effective” Senate if it has a “double majority” check on matters of language and culture. That is, nothing could be legislated with linguistic or cultural effects unless a majority of Quebec senators wants it.
The double-majority is a veto power. Unfortunately for those who propose it, it is a veto at arm’s length from the provincial government of Quebec, and far less attractive to most Quebecers. They prefer vetoes in the hands of “their” government.
Let me predict that if we ever get to the stage where Quebec is at the first ministers’ table again and discussion comes to an “elected” senate with “equal” representation by province and “effective” powers or roles, those who speak for Quebec will bluntly reject “equal” and put narrow limits on “effective” powers and roles (frustrating the Albertans, in particular).
But this is arguing simply from the premise that those who speak governmentally for Quebec and Ontario (which together have well over half the population) will reject “equal” and qualify “effective” into powers that are narrow and roles that are minor. There is another good case for dropping the idea of a second, elected federal chamber, or even keeping the phony second chamber we now have –costly, windy and useless as it is. I prefer forgetting the second chamber and going with the elected one we have.
The duties or roles of a chamber whether elected or appointed can be brought under three headings:
1) To legislate (including the authority to spend);
2) To scrutinize or examine (including estimates, budgets, and appointments);
3) To enable members to question freely and often the words and actions of the governors and their administrators.
One might abbreviate this to making laws, okaying spending, and raising hell. But whatever is done in all chores, the basic means is talk or, as we have it in politics, “debate.”
Canada has had two “talk” shops, the House of Commons and the present Senate, since Confederation. It’s obvious from mass inattention to the debates in both that we could do without one of them, in particular one that could refuse or delay what the executive has advanced through the House of Commons.
If second chambers are so wonderful in restraining the executive and protecting regions, why haven’t Alberta, B.C. and Newfoundland got them? Why aren’t they clamoring for them?
Our present Senate has great powers to block or refuse bills and spending but it has rarely dared use them because its members are mere appointees, not elected by the people. Whenever the Senate has used its powers by refusing or delaying approval there’s been tedious and excessive partisanship. I tremble at a Senate endowed with the voters’ sanction. It would confound an executive answerable to another elected chamber, one that already has too little real work.
There are good reasons other than opposition from Quebec or Ontario to abandon Senate reform and go with one House.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 19, 1992
ID: 12305875
TAG: 199201190155
SECTION: Comment-Lifestyle
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Civil war in Canada? It seemed preposterous 27 years ago when Marcel Chaput, a scientist in the federal civil service, was avowing separatism and plaguing the Pearson government. It still seems preposterous to me in 1992 but talk about the possibility has burst into the open in the past quarter.
Take a package this week from the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies (CISS) in Toronto: a paperback recording fully a recent conference on the implications for national security in our constitutional crisis.
And in 10 days, the annual meeting of the Conference of Defence Associations in Ottawa will be rife with the topic even if it is not prime on the agenda.
My first interest in the potential for violence over any self-determination for Quebec began in the early 1960s when I was an MP. Quebec’s old master, Premier Maurice Duplessis, had died and what was soon tagged the Quiet Revolution began to move. I was a devout believer in a strong federal government.
Through the ’50s and early ’60s Canadians had great faith in the UN and a growing pride in ourselves as peacekeepers. And the UN was growing as new states flaked off from the British, French and Dutch empires. The sanction for the right to self-determination by national groups had become overwhelming.
About the time Lester Pearson as new prime minister launched the Laurendeau-Dunton commission (bilingualism and biculturalism) I asked him whether he was as one with Abraham Lincoln who, in response to Southern secession, went to war believing “this nation is one, and indivisible.”
Pearson abhorred my question. Then, and several times later, he dismissed the prospect of violence. It was ridiculous. He was what has come to seem the quintessential Canadian, talking softly and equivocally on the topic. I accepted his stance because it was broadly apparent that Canadians if forced to think about it, would agree Canada was divisible and official force to keep it together was out of the question. A centennial book of essays on being Canadian was aptly titled The Peaceful Kingdom.
And so it was never official policy to categorize Chaput’s stand as treasonable. When I had asked aloud the treason question, most in my own party (the NDP) were aghast, nor did any other party support such a view, nor were there strong editorial opinions in favor.
Canada was divisible. Using armed force to keep it together was unthinkable.
I was asked to debate separatism with Quebecers who advocated it, and one year (as I recall, 1964) I argued the demerits and consequences of Quebec separatism before large audiences, mostly English Canadians, twice with Chaput, once with Rene Levesque, and once with Pierre Bourgault.
These were very civil, and though the audiences were overwhelmingly with me it was also clear from questions and interjections that Pearson had it right. Terrible it might be but Canada was divisible, and keeping it together by force was unacceptable.
This dual theme has held well until very recently. Now it’s being reshaped, not to assert indivisibility but to argue that self-determination by Quebec will rouse intense animosity from the rest of Canada.
Sober academics suggest there will be mean quarrelling over assets, debts, boundaries, rights of natives, and the distribution of plant, equipment and even weapons. Secessions from Quebec of groups and of territories within Quebec to the rest of Canada are being mooted, even by one as august as Gordon Robertson, Canada’s most experienced constitutionalist.
And with a quarter of the forces French Canadian, the CISS suggests there may be problems. An independent Quebec will require loyal forces.
Almost none of such intimations are being discussed by elected people, federally or provincially. Wishfulness still reigns.
Although it’s far too late to advocate indivisibility, given recent experience elsewhere, it is not stupid to examine means of sustaining peace before the post-separation quarrels come.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, January 17, 1992
ID: 12305423
TAG: 199201170022
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


This week in constitutional terms was not decisive, but it was clear by its close that if unity prevails several major changes will not be in the revised document. Or so it seems after trenchant remarks by Premiers Getty, Rae, and Wells, much kindly obfuscation by Premier McKenna, and a blunt speech by Gil Remillard, Quebec’s minister for intergovernmental affairs.
What matters were discounted greatly?
First, the so-called Social Charter so dear to Ontario Premier Bob Rae and the federal NDP.
Second, the proposed Council of the Federation, the Mulroney government’s move to institutionalize the affairs of first ministers and their agent ministers and give this regularized structure powers to decide on economic co-ordination within Canada, including the harmonizing of fiscal policies.
Third, the so-called Triple-E Senate – elected, effective, and equal – so dear to Albertans, many other westerners and to Newfoundland Premier Clyde Wells.
Of course, none of these propositions is dead in the sense that further talk of them is done. There will be slathers of such talk, especially about Senate reform. Nevertheless, we are to not have any of the three.
To repeat: No Social Charter, no Council of the Federation; and no Triple-E Senate.
Why jump to such conclusions when the constitutional “renewal” group is still barnstorming and has six weeks left to produce a report? When the first of the four grand consultations takes place in Nova Scotia this weekend? And when there are more than four months before Premier Robert Bourassa can first hold the sovereignty referendum required by an act of the Quebec National Assembly?
First, the Social Charter:
It’s dead in terms of anything beyond some pious phrases about medicare and social services which may be edged in somewhere through a largely rhetorical clause. Why so? Primarily because its chief protagonist, Premier Rae, is not yet in a position to spell it out in a firm draft, and partly because he himself is leery about it as “justiciable,” as is anyone else who thinks about the spending straitjackets which could be fastened on governments and future generations by Supreme Court justices ruling on motions brought under some Charter point by an individual or association, or by provincial governments. (“Justiciable” is becoming a very scary, political word – as well it should.)
This very low rating of the Social Charter idea is not to mock Rae’s significance to any settlement of the crisis, if we get one. But he chose this week not to be the traditional conciliator from the linchpin of Confederation. Although he didn’t say it, it’s obvious he thinks Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark are botching the task while Bourassa’s doing a Nero – fiddling while Canada burns.
Rae was not clearing the ground well for the Social Charter to flourish. He wouldn’t define its details or say where it must go. One would conclude more hopefully about the Social Charter if it was apparent among the people or in a big batch of our stronger, national interest groups that support was swelling. It is not. Then, when Remillard subsequently made it clear Quebec would have no part of the Social Charter, it became nothing more than diversionary gab.
Second, on the federal concept of a Council of the Federation:
What’s most evident is that the council has gotten little notice. Even in the renewal committee the government members rarely make much of the council concept. Few witnesses without economic credentials (i.e., most of them) even touch on the council. Perhaps worse for the concept, friends of it have not emerged in the provinces. Rae really didn’t address it. Alberta’s Don Getty has ignored it. Remillard simply said Quebec would not support such a device or take part in it if it were put in place. New Brunswick’s Frank McKenna, even in his now bland mode, was unenthusiastic.
(As an aside, McKenna’s guilt trip continues. “Guilt” because he realized even before Meech fell to Wells and the Manitobans that he had started it all when he unseated Richard Hatfield and reneged on that worthy’s work for Meech so as to get a posture in which New Brunswick could get more from Ottawa in “quid pro quos.”)
Third, on the end of the Triple-E Senate proposition:
Premier Rae and Quebec’s Remillard did not reject some reform of the Senate. Rae made it clear he could do without a Senate. He thinks a Senate accorded significant powers and roles, and backed by the mandate which comes from being elected by the people of a province would undermine or constrain what he still recognizes as the basic institution of legitimate authority in federal Canada, the elected House of Commons.
Of course, what both Rae and Remillard were rejecting is equal representation for each province in the Senate. Quebec and Ontario might agree to let the smaller provinces, other than P.E.I., have a few more senators in comparison to their own totals, but their largesse is dubious and sure to be chary. But the “equal” requirement is the most beloved of the “E”s in the west. If it is left out, the question becomes what could be squeezed into the other “E”s — elected and effective — which would placate the westerners, at least enough to make a deal?
(More on Senate reform next Wednesday.)

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 15, 1992
ID: 12305055
TAG: 199201150074
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Last Monday Premier Bob Rae spent an hour and a half in the national ballroom on the Hill, first speaking, then listening to members of the parliamentary committee on renewing the Constitution. Candidly and without posturing, he set out his views in a fine performance but its content was not reassuring. Here’s my synopsis of Rae’s points.
1. Reform of the Constitution still does not have priority with the people, even in Quebec. The economy-in-peril does; therefore, the economic context should be foremost.
2. Ontario now speaks as one region, not as the heartland of Confederation which traditionally supported Ottawa.
3. Ontario believes the Constitution must have two fundamentals: official bilingualism and recognition that Quebec is a distinct society.
4. It’s vapid to think most of the 28 proposals can now be taken off the table and amendments confined to a distinct society clause, a reformed Senate, aboriginal rights and some jockeying with the division of powers.
5. Ontario wants an aboriginal right to self-government entrenched.
6. Ontario disbelieves there is any worth in a Triple-E Senate. Period!
7. Ontario wants a social charter in the reform package but thinks discussion of it goes before setting out exactly where it should go in the document or what its details should be, although medicare is obvious, with education and basic social services in its train.
8. The social charter will safeguard both individual Canadians and provinces, guaranteeing equality of access and fairness in the allocation of spending.
9. Ontario is “disinterested” in further devolution of powers from Ottawa to the provinces, notably for spending.
10. There is small scope for asymmetrical federalism to accommodate Quebec. It undermines the integrity of the role of federal MPs and perennially aggravates envy and contrasts.
After Rae was done, the instant media assessment had him clobbering Don Getty and Alberta. I thought he was more critical of the prime minister and Premier Robert Bourassa, Brian Mulroney for not dealing with the premiers on the proposals or the process, Bourassa for sitting in the bush until an offer backed by the rest of Canada is made to him. As Rae put it: “Our internal diplomacy stinks!”
Rae was much more direct and succinct than the nine or 10 MPs who questioned him. Most of them made woolly statements that eventually wandered to questions. Two of the Liberals meandered. One NDP MP performed a soliloquy on enshrining a social charter, leaving Rae to say he agreed.
If our crisis is real, the proceedings are a shame, the members still unfocused and wasting time. So after Rae left, I asked some on the committee why there was such frittering.
None disagreed that the statements had been long-winded and the questions belated and usually imprecise.
One NDP member laid it to the House question period: “The House game’s a ritual. Assertion or an indictment is far more important than the question. The partisan imperative has become a rote, and we’ve brought it here.”
Another NDP MP whose preface had been fairly short and factual, his question getting a substantial reply, noted that this is a big committee with three partisan factions and a score of large egos. “We compete, even within each party. Of course, it’s an inefficient process. It can’t be closely managed or directed by the chair. Witness the uproar over Dorothy Dobbie in November. We’re wary of each other.”
A Tory MP whose preface had been fairly short but whose question was so unshaped that Rae had to make it over before replying, assured me this had not been one of the committee’s better times with a witness, perhaps because this was a greater occasion than most.
Another Tory, a veteran MP, who had merely listened, gestured to the TV cameras. MPs craved TV exposure. They knew this tape in particular would be used in newsrooms, making it more vital to demonstrate their acumen than taking a witness along a line of questioning, even the premier of Ontario.
Rae said nothing about any maladroitness but he decried “an illusion out there” that the committee would shortly produce a document of refined proposals for the Mulroney government which after circulation to nine of the provinces, would go as a resolution from the House of Commons to Quebec without any complex negotiations. Think again! There had not been talks with him or any of the premiers about the federal proposals, before or since the committee was struck. “Surely this is not the way we do things in a federal system.”
Rid yourselves of the illusion, Rae said, that there will be a completed package by May and that Ottawa can say to the provinces: “Here it is.”
Rae regrets Mulroney rejected a process based on a constituent assembly. Since he chose this way, no one should have illusions about Ontario’s compliance.
“We will insist on a process where there is negotiation; that is, your best results and the provincial views are to be put to a federal-provincial conference and negotiated there.”
We’re far from home-free.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 12, 1992
ID: 12304272
TAG: 199201120110
SECTION: Comment-Lifestyle
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Premier Don Getty of Alberta is widely mocked and much reviled for wanting to end official bilingualism and multiculturalism while insisting on a triple-E Senate.
Taking these stances now hurts the hopes for resolving the Quebec dilemma this year. Nonetheless, Getty is more than rising to the threat from Preston Manning’s Reform Party, he’s telling the truth or, rather, defining a reality. Not just in Alberta but from Sault Ste. Marie to Prince Rupert – a large majority dislikes and has never liked either official bilingualism or multiculturalism.
These policies were put into place, colloquially speaking, by those who know best. Their sanctions were not democratic in the sense of being popular or much demanded; rather they were simply fairness and equity, asserted by right-thinking people. Whether or not the two programs lose their legal imprimatur in the next few years, I doubt they’ll ever have majority support in Canada.
A point Getty did not make is that the Quebecois, led by those sovereignty-bent, don’t cherish official bilingualism and they jeer at multiculturalism. In the early ’70s the Torontonians in the Liberal caucus and Trudeau’s cabinet had it tough convincing their Quebec colleagues they must have programs and a minister for multiculturalism if they were to hold their bastion along the axis of Yonge and Bathurst.

William Buckley, our neighbor’s distinguished, conservatively minded columnist, has used the fathering of an illegitimate child by Pierre Trudeau (at 72) to underline why “the most formidable engine for continence is not working.” That “engine” for Buckley is “the moral architecture” in a society with a strong Christian heritage. His inquiries revealed the general reaction in “the capital of Catholic Canada, to its most prominent senior citizen begetting a child out of wedlock is something on the order of prideful amusement.”
He’s not way off. I’ve noted little criticism and lots of smiles on Parliament Hill regarding both Trudeau and the mother of the child, Deborah Coyne, and surprisingly little speculation over the conception. “Surprising” because our national crisis is constitutional, and the fundamental basis for this parenthood was surely their concert in views about Meech Lake, etc. It is remarkable – the constitutional dilemma as an agent of Eros!
I was silly enough to put this notion to a veteran reporter, an unmarried woman I knew as level-headed and skeptical. She flared at once, then abruptly shifted to a yearning mood, and she set me straight: “How I envy Deborah Coyne. How I’ve wanted a child. And . . . (long pause) . . . Oh, what I’d give to have a child by Pierre Trudeau.”
Yes, the old moral architecture has gone but not the urge to motherhood nor the cult of motherhood.

In her Sun review of a novel, The Cub Reporter Learns a Thing Or Two by Bruce Hutchison, our oldest, performing journalist, Connie Woodcock concluded: “It’s an odd mix and suggests nothing so much as the idea that Hutchison, author of numerous non-fiction classics . . . should have started writing fiction 40 or 50 years ago.”
But Hutchison did! The first novel I pulled off “The Browsing Room” shelf at the Victoria College Library when I began at U of T in early ’46 was The Hollow Men by Hutchison. It had been published to fairly favorable reviews late in 1944 (when Hutchison was 43). I found it gloomy, heavy with moralizing and a concern Hutchison still bears over public debt and the readiness of politicians to promise and to spend to keep or attain power. It was somewhat a tract against the CCF which then was a looming threat to the parties of the status quo, rather like the Reform Party today. In 1961 the CCF transmogrified to the NDP, now very much a status quo party. (Hutchison’s entry in Canadian Who’s Who lists The Hollow Men as a novel.)

Three sentences in the Oct. 14 issue of U.S News & World Report put succinctly a puzzle I find and a judgment I make of the members of the House of Commons. To wit:
“One of our most perplexing mysteries is why the quality of people in Congress is going up and the quality of performance is going down. Compared to 20 years ago, there are far fewer drunks, crooks and scalawags roaming the halls. In fact, most members are highly educated, highly committed, highly decent people.”
The problem is less the MPs and more the system, its traditions and practices.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, January 10, 1992
ID: 12303642
TAG: 199201100065
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Political reporters tend to make legends of the top personal adviser to a prime minister, as distinct from the top mandarin of the bureaucracy, on whom they usually focus less.
And already it’s so for “Hughie” Segal, really the fifth of Brian Mulroney’s staff chiefs in his eight years in office (because I rate Derek Burney as one). We are hearing and reading much on Segal’s effervescence, wit, big belly and diverse successes as an election strategist and policy tactician.
Oddly, reporters tend to be far kinder about such quintessentially partisan aides than they are about the press secretaries of prime ministers, few of whom (excepting Dick O’Hagan) won kindly assessments from beginning to end of terms, not least the courteous Gilbert Lavoie whose resignation from the PMO coincided with Norman Spector’s.
This contrast emerged with the very first “official” chief of staff, Pierre Trudeau’s Marc Lalonde and his first press chief, Romeo LeBlanc. Lalonde was depicted and respected as a man of awesome power and influence, LeBlanc as a shifty muffler.
Legend limned Spector as super-brainy, a mean, calculating intellectual. Though also a Jewish lawyer from Montreal, like his predecessor, Stanley Hartt, Spector while respected was not liked as was Hartt, whose thumbnail sketch was of a warm, casually idiosyncratic polymath.
Spector’s gone to Israel as an instant ambassador and we have lovable and bright Hughie, almost a formal member of the media. He was a columnist for years and the Lou Costello to Michael Kirby’s and Gerry Caplan’s Abbott with CTV for a long time. (In passing I get annoyed with the protests of the official organization of foreign service officers that this is one more of too many ambassadorial appointments from outside External Affairs. One could make a far longer list, beginning in 1945, of former EA types who were jumped out of the department to grand posts within the government than of outsiders who have been brought into EA as ambassadors.)
Is there any deeper significance in the replacement of Spector with Segal? Say than has already been noted by my colleagues with images of the kinder, more human Red Tory face to come for the Mulroney government, of a switch from the lead theme of severe restraint to pulling together in shared austerity to recapture good times; and of a deliberate primacy of resurrecting Tory spirits and the national, regional and constituency organizations for the campaign?
No, the change is simply sensible. An abysmally unpopular minister is convinced Canada needs him and that he and his party must continue in office for the good of the country. But new ploys and strategems are needed.
Figuratively, the ministry, the caucus and Mulroney himself need some adrenalin shots. Segal can “hype” almost any group, from a couple to a big crowd. You cannot dislike Segal, despite his two similarities to Stephen Lewis: never being at a loss for words, even several thousand of them; and being absolutely a true believer in his party. Almost as vital as his skills, Segal is a loyalist Tory of long standing. A boy candidate in the early Trudeau years, he was into Premier Bill Davis’ inner circle by 1974. And despite his left-wing tag he hasn’t the opprobrium in the west of having been a Dalton Camp follower.
He even wrote the fine speech which that most reactionary of Tories, the late Claude Wagner, gave at the 1976 leadership convention. And through his work in pushing Davis into running for the federal leadership of the Tories he helped ensure there were enough votes at a Winnipeg convention to make Joe Clark ask for a leadership gathering, thus giving Mulroney his chance.
Remember that whatever their considerable merits, three of Mulroney’s top personal advisors — Bernard Roy, Stanley Hartt, and Derek Burney — were not long-term activists in the PC party. Segal has been. (So has Dalton Camp).
Despite wide differences in personality and character an attribute all these men share is braininess. Mulroney is one who loves having very bright people with him, men who are better educated than himself.
Camp, officially an adviser to Mulroney for a few years, was not ranked as his top one, responsible for the office. Camp never really jelled in the PMO; however, Segal is to be its head man, and he should jell. There’s a comparison of sorts between Camp and Segal which confirms why this should be so in the lively Life of the Party (1988) by Eddie Goodman, the central spirit of Davis’ Big Blue Machine.
Perhaps the key differences depicted are Camp’s higher, self-regarding sensitivity and a bent to brood and be profound, as against Segal’s self-joshing and kindly sense of fun. What Goodman noticed were the consequences of Segal’s coming and Camp’s going. Davis perked up; he began to enjoy himself, to feel less burdened, to take a few more chances.
If Segal is good value for Mulroney why did it take so long to get him to the bunker, and then a few more months to put him in charge of it? Too much Mulroney pride in his own partisan foxiness; too much of a fix on the vital but grim issues of keeping Quebec and the wrestling down of deficits. Segal’s a last chance, the best hope left in one person, to turn it around for Mulroney.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 08, 1992
ID: 12303379
TAG: 199201080051
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


This week at my desk one slight task hurt: to crumple a card and put an obscure quarterly it was on into a file box. On the card was: “Hold for Marjorie – PET on Quebec and Charter.” There are to be no more talks with Marjorie Nichols, columnist, lately with the Ottawa Citizen.
The death of this clear-edged woman with a positive personality may reverberate more than most deaths among news people do. Marjorie touched so many. She was much like the late Judith Robinson, a political columnist in Ottawa for the Toronto Telegram in the ’40s and ’50s. Judith was more a prose stylist and iron-set in her opinions whereas Marjorie was more a spoofer and she ranged more widely. Both liked politicians, male and female. Each knew from where she came. And neither, gregarious as each was, ever leaned on anyone else for content or opinions. Both wanted to be present, to be there as it happened, and always to be judgmental, not neutral.
For some 20 years Marjorie and I were friendly acquaintances, not close friends. We disagreed on a lot. From early on I felt one close friend of hers was despicable and another a lovable man but a public fraud. Once our opinions were clear she ignored them and so did I.
We did not speak for a fortnight or so after she and Charles Lynch refused to retire from a first ministers’ conference hall so there could be an in camera session of the ministers. Marjorie had bristled at unnecesssary secrecy at this newly developing level of politics. She thought my criticism of her behavior demonstrated the taint of years as an MP.
We agreed on much. Take my opening reference to the Charter of Rights and its installer, Pierre Trudeau. Neither of us cherished PET as prime minister, nor the Charter because it snuffed out parliamentary supremacy. In our last phone chat two months ago I touted the article and she told me to hold it. She’d drop in for it.
I shall miss her. So will a swarm of others. Each will have his or her own memories to go with the feeling of loss.
Marjorie had the qualities for friendship: fairness and gustiness, candor and warmth, curiosity and a delight in fun, plus loyalty. Before she left the Hill for Victoria in the ’70s to cover the NDP’s interlude in Social Credit’s reign she and Hugh Winsor shared a home which was a memorable treat for any visitor.
In particular I liked Marjorie’s friendship with the late Judy LaMarsh, a wonderful woman but very temperamental. Marjorie was a confidant and stabilizer for Judy after 1968 when she left Ottawa for work as an open-line host in B.C. until her death in Toronto in 1980.
Marjorie was very much a woman’s woman and a man’s woman. In recounting an encounter with a B.C. feminist whom she admired she said she had to tell her: “Don’t get me wrong. I like men. Always have. It started with my father and my brother.” Marjorie would neither seize nor reject the gender theme that has become so dominant in current politics.
I remember the willing ear Marjorie had for Larry Zolf in his stint in the press gallery, from whence came his good book Dance of the Dialectic (1973). And I noted Marjorie’s forbearance with the late Dick Jackson, a colleague with her on the Ottawa Journal. He was a driven man, seemingly ruthless and rude. He almost gloried in being the guy who’d busted a unionization bid at the Journal. When I braced her on her patience with such an ego she said: “Can’t you see its bluff? He’s a pussy cat, a scared pussy cat.”
Marjorie agreed with me that most who knew her through journalism did not realize how American, even Republican she was, in large part through her parents, in part because of her years at Missoula and the University of Montana. About four years ago, just when she was finding she had cancer, I had convinced her she should change papers – move from the Citizen to the Sun papers. She would have a broader forum and a better fit for her opinions. After long pondering she turned us down. She had made her bed with the Citizen; its leaders had treated her well, not least in response to her bleak health prospects. Later, I think she regretted this decision but she never moaned about it.
In our last chat she both chortled and was resentful, almost bitter, about her dilemma as a columnist with the Citizen.
Treatments were sapping her drive and she was uncomfortable at running in a paper with whose editorial lines she so often disagreed and which had three other columnists who kept attacking Mulroney as wrong and evil whereas she sometimes saw goodness in him and sense in some Tory policies.
Even worse than not being anti-Mulroney, she had argued the government must stop financing by far the largest news business in Canada – the CBC. To top this sacrilege, she had scoffed at the arrogance and journalistic aims of Elly Alboim, the top CBC news producer, and Don McGillivray (Southam), the gurus of “investigative journalism.”
As Marjorie put it: “They’d love to ditch me but can’t let me go because of my condition. So the words have gone round. Yes, my opinions have become kooky but patience. For now they’re stuck with me. And of course, I with them.”
Well, no more. A person of great courage and kindness is gone. May her family know many of us miss her.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 05, 1992
ID: 12302757
TAG: 199201050146
SECTION: Comment-Lifestyle
COLUMN: Fisher Report


There’ve been some intriguing points made in the unity debate which you may have missed. Here are several I relished.
First, from an argument on the consequences when Quebec departs by an academic, Donald Swainson. It was in an article, “Ontario and the unity crisis,” in the Kingston Whig-Standard, Nov. 9.
The particular point recalls what some of us think was the worst mistake Bill Davis made as premier of Ontario.
Swainson wrote: “Under the conditions of deconfederation, Ontario will want to reflect on the agreement it made when it entered Confederation. For example, the province’s system of separate schools exists because of one of those agreements, and this arrangement was very much an Ontario-Quebec agreement. The separate school system is heavily entrenched and Ontario’s Roman Catholic community is substantial and influential. Nonetheless, it would naive not to assume this agreement would come under heavy attack. Separate schools might survive but the issue would be hotly and bitterly debated.”
Of course Swainson is stretching it, but wouldn’t it be useful to have a debate for and against a universal, common school system in Ontario?
Second, from Marjorie Bowker comes fresh arguments. You remember her, the ex-judge and author of a best-seller booklet critical of the accord? If Clyde Wells, Frank McKenna, Gary Filmon, Sharon Carstairs, Gary Doer and Elijah Harper were the front-rank killers of the accord that had been reached by the PM and 10 premiers, Bowker was in the second rank of destroyers, along with the likes of the late Eugene Forsey and historian Michael Bliss.
Three weeks ago Bowker spoke to the Dobbie-Beaudoin committee on the constitutional proposals. While she doesn’t like the latest distinct society proposal it doesn’t bother her enough to declare it unacceptable. She can abide it. Thank God she can because she symbolizes much opinion outside Quebec.
(And last month the most distinguished federalist in Bourassa’s cabinet, Claude Ryan, declared “The principle of a distinct society cannot be diluted. It must be recognized explicitly and the consequences must lead to concrete consequences regarding the ability of Quebec to defend and protect its distinctive character.”)
Not many picked up on another salient argument Bowker made, perhaps because it runs counter to the reigning mythology requiring us to either accept or ignore even the most extravagant demands of any aborigine.
Bowker anticipates where their insistence on being “nations” and having an absolute recognition of their right to self-government would take Canada.
After all some half-a-million of the natives are status Indians registered in just over 600 bands. The latter have almost as many parcels of land called reservations. These are scattered from the northwest of B.C. to Nova Scotia. Further, about half those who are status Indians haven’t resisted the pull of the cities and larger towns. Now they live mostly away from their bands.
So Bowker insists the right to self-government must be very carefully defined. Does it mean virtual independence, as seems to be the vision of the Erasmuses and the Mercredis? At least the provinces, in the proposals, are subject by the Constitution on many matters to the federal government. “We would destroy our territorial integrity,” she argues, if the so-called First Nations do not have well-defined rights and authority.
True enough. Now if you could get the Brian Mulroneys and the Bob Raes to address the issue before another resolution of the constitutional crisis gets destroyed by aboriginal protests.
Let me close these references to our unity crisis with a quotation from a foreigner. At his inaugural address in 1861, Abraham Lincoln said:
“I hold that in contemplation of the universal law and of the constitution, the union of these states is perpetual. The union will endure forever.”
Do those words make you wishful? They do me.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, January 03, 1992
ID: 12302288
TAG: 199201030062
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The politics within Canada of 1991 cast gloom over and into my work. Readers might think nothing good came within my ken last year. Not so.
To go upbeat, here are some of better things I noted in the year.
The most pleasing development in the media? Given more chances, women who work for the CBC did very well on air.
For example, Nancy Wilson and Wendy Mesley have become good presenters, comfortable and deft at interviews, even worthy and ready to step in for Mansbridge or Frum.
Anna Maria Tremonti is a strong and aggressive correspondent based in Germany. Denise Harrington is an all-rounder covering Ottawa and a new reporter, Debra Brown, is coming on.
Mostly on the CBC English network, one gets Chantal Herbert, reporter for Le Devoir. She’s fair-minded, busy and sensibly analytical, maybe the best new political reporter in years.
Data from law and medical schools have women moving to a majority in their student bodies. The trends already there in journalism schools. It will be close to 50-50 in all reporting and commentary by 2000.
There were three columnists in particular whose work I learned a lot from and leaned on throughout the year.
Robert Sheppard, the Globe and Mail’s man on the provinces has an extraordinary range of knowledge; his sources are excellent and his analysis is always shrewd.
William Johnson of the Montreal Gazette restitches around every possible angle of both the history and the current events vis-a-vis French and English in Canada. He works with a pro-federalist view that is intellectually consistent on Quebec, but he has more forbearance than his hero, Pierre Trudeau.
I’m enjoying Michel Gratton of the Sun papers for his close-ups – believable re-creations of scenes with federal politicians much as I know them. At times Gratton’s guesswork goes awry; nevertheless he gave me the best, running log on the speculation among MPs, mandarins and the press. He earns a lot of criticism as pro-Mulroney but he isn’t one-sided.
The reporters from Canada whose work from abroad I most appreciated in the year were Stephen Handelman of the Toronto Star, writing on the USSR, and Alan Ferguson, reporting on Germany and Eastern Europe for the Star.
The writer-broadcaster whose work I missed as 1991 developed is Brian Kelleher, for years the Ottawa workhorse of CBC Radio News and recently in Washington. After a review early in the ’80s of some 500 names on the lists of the parliamentary press gallery I figured Kelleher was the ablest reporter in the lot (reporter, not commentator or columnist). He’s deft, concise, well-educated and unobtrusively droll. Kelleher’s health has turned poor and his job has been posted.
Its methodology may have been haywire but as reader and then as a monitor of reaction, I found the Maclean’s article which rated the quality of our universities in order one of the best items of the year. It sparked more useful analysis and widespread talk about the worth and purposes of higher education than we’ve had in a decade.

An essay-article in a book on the Constitution made me ponder more than anything else I read. I kept nodding, he’s right, he’s right. The author was Charles Taylor, the McGill philosopher, the title “Shared and Divergent Values,” the book Options for a New Canada, edited by R. Watts and D.M. Brown, published by U of T Press. Taylor made pithy points like this.
“What was always missing in Quebec was a genuine patriotism for Canada . . . a genuine patriotism for a bilingual, two-nation Canada never developed.” Too true.
After a slow warm-up, The Idler, a larger format, white-paper magazine published in Toronto, has become as enjoyable a read for me as The Spectator or The Nation.
The latest issue has a nifty travel essay on viniculture by James Laxer and a most provocative puff on men-women-sex by Richard Lubbock, spun out from a reading of Camille Paglia’s book Sexual Personae. For example, Lubbock writes:
“The data show that men suffer more than women. They fall prey to more diseases, and run to extremes in every burden of the flesh, from mortal sickness to insanity. There are more extremely gifted geniuses among men than among women, more giants, more dwarves, more rogues and more saints. Quite clearly, life’s trials stretch the average man’s soul closer to the breaking point than the average woman’s. The delicate nature of males seems to arise from the chromosomes . . .” Very provocative.
The book of the year for me was a bad book, an exasperating one, rife with factual errors, vicious accusations and purported skullduggery without much evidence but plenty of assertions. The sub-title is the theme: “Exploding the Myths of Pro Hockey.” Net Worth, published by Viking, is the work of David Cruise and Alison Griffiths.
It will become more rather than less topical now the FBI is investigating the pension funds of the NHL and the NHL Players Association. Despite the errors and mean, often unsustained allegations, it should set more adult readers to reflecting about us Canadians than Hurtig’s bestselling lament.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1992, SunMedia Corp.