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Doug’s Columns 1993 « Douglas Fisher



Doug’s Columns 1993

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 31, 1993
ID: 12717768
TAG: 199312300156
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It’s odd a defeat so predictable became so absolute, but beyond oddity there was more than Tory defeat and Liberal victory in the results of Oct. 25. Our familiar partisan politics may be gone for good.
It’s my hunch that 1993 will be a political year and an election much more revisited by the critics and politicians than any since the war, even more than the seeming landmark campaigns of 1957 and 1988, the first of which was stage one in closing the Liberal regime of 22 years under King and St. Laurent, and the second throbbed with feelings over free trade and settled forever (given NAFTA’s recent endorsement by Chretien) the entwining of Canada’s economy and culture with the U.S.
At this point one cannot encapsule the ’93 election just by saying it proved to be a remarkable, big win for the Liberals, led by a veteran of 30 years in politics, or even by adding that it opened the way for a House easily controlled by a cabinet that plans a daunting array of legislation.
Once federal election results are in, the run of Canadians get on with life, putting the campaign and its consequences behind them. Not so for the participants, in particular the losers, and in this case the big losers, one might say the titanic losers, the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
It would further lower the abysmal, public repute of Brian Mulroney rather than reward him if he and his remainder of disciples come forth strongly in the coming months as the Tory remnants conduct their autopsies and argue that when he turned over office to Kim Campbell in mid-June the legacy she was given was very promising. What is their case?
First, the major opinion polls on parties’ ratings were showing the Tories and Grits almost level in the mid-’30s range after several years in which the governing party was well down, sometimes below 20 points. As for the NDP led by Audrey McLaughlin, the same pollings showed the familiar rating for several years of below 10 points.
Second, the Progressive Conservative party was in fair financial shape (unlike the Liberals) and had a working organization across the land in every province, with many full-time organizers, a well-staffed headquarters with the most modern electronic facilities and mailing lists, all backed by almost 120 MPs who were running again, each with provisions in constituency offices and Hill services like four paid employees and free mailing and printing to hand.
Third, enough veteran ministers had resigned or were not running again to enable the new prime ministers at once to appoint many new ministers in a much smaller cabinet.
Fourth, the leadership campaign had not been overly divisive for the party and its two stars, Campbell and Jean Charest, had seemed to capture national attention and win favorable rather than negative responses from the public.
The Mulroneyites say it was all there in mid-June for Kim Campbell and the party, and she and those who were her close counsellors blew it in just over four months. And such a thesis gets one immediately, interestingly but rather bootlessly, into what the new PM might have done or should have done differently. The could-have-beens begin with:
(a) Going to the people almost at once instead of spending the summer luxuriating in all the “Kim” stuff and the marvels of a woman-at-the-top and thus both wearing away the novelty and revealing Campbell’s not always lovable personality or well-considered thought;
(b) Opening the campaign with a program of specifics, particularly on job creation which had already prepared within the PMO for the speech from the throne that never was, instead of gush about “new” politics and how Kim Campbell would do things so differently;
(c) In English Canada, especially in Ontario, taking on Preston Manning and the Reform Party very vigorously.
It’s my guess that in their recovery from near oblivion the federal Tories have a rock-bottom core vote across Canada, including Quebec, of 15 points, and a loose, widely extended cadre of three to five thousand loyalists, most of them with much organizational experience, a substantial minority with good incomes and the ability to raise funds for the party. And in Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario, the provincial parties seem very durable and Ontario promises even better. In short, ruinous but not a total ruin.
The party with a mere two MPs may not rebound strongly from the disaster of 1993, certainly not much in 1994, but by 1995 we should know if the Reform Party, its almost too obvious replacement, will be the other major alternative to the Liberal party.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 29, 1993
ID: 12717520
TAG: 199312280160
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


We will enter a new year with a record reached in 1993. Never before have we had so many living, former prime ministers – five! The Liberals’ Pierre Trudeau and John Turner; the Progressive Conservatives’ Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell.
Let’s shuffle around the topic of why former prime ministers are little honored in Canada, prompted by the apogee in such disrespect regarding Brian Mulroney.
Mackenzie King was prime minister when I came to politics. No one then spoke much about the living, former PMs, Sir Robert Borden and Arthur Meighen. And shortly, when R.B. Bennett reacted to his party’s harsh defeat by King and the Liberals in the 1935 election by heading off to Britain and a peerage, few gave a damn, even to say “Good riddance!”
The two former PMs for whom there was reverence of sorts were the immortals, Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier, but I now realize their glories were sustained by partisans’ memories. Genuine appreciation had long gone. And even these Canadian heroes were vague touchstones compared with the respectful knowledge of their former presidents held by my youthful American counterparts.
Mackenzie King as PM may be the symbolic and the best explanation for the brief limits on our reverence for prime ministers, during or after office. He was a marvel in longevity in office and electoral survival but was this because of, or in spite of, a dearth of open grace or warmth and his prevarications over most major issues? Trenchant and clear-cut he was not. Reasons for his mode and manner were recognized then and since in cliches about the complexity of Canada’s federalism, regional diversities, and the two language groups.
Maybe King created a mould for Canadian prime ministers which denies them durable appreciation after they’ve been in power for any length of time. And if a PM doesn’t win favor and approval of the country when in office why should fondness and commendation come for him (or her, now) later?
Mulroney and his friends should ponder the first point if they think that in a few years there’ll be reappraisals which will recognize him as an exceptionally active and achieving PM and that he will have a resurrection of respect mindful of that which has now gathered around Richard Nixon, the most disparaged of all modern presidents as he left office.
(I believe academic appraisals in the next century will not be kind to Mulroney as a man of high character but his several major initiatives in trade, taxation, and toward constitutional reform will be ranked with Trudeau’s Charter of Rights as pivotal in our economic and constitutional courses.)
Now, is there any particular significance we can breathe into this record cast of five ex-PMs? Perhaps their respective ages? These indicate our ambitious ones are getting into and out of politics earlier.
Trudeau seems a healthy, vigorous 74 and he’s been out of office for nine years during which – once we put aside electoral chances – he would have been quite capable physically and mentally of bearing the burden of our top office.
Turner’s 10 years younger than Trudeau and he was just 55 when he failed with the electorate and lost the top office, and just 61 when he gave the party leadership to Jean Chretien.
Clark and Mulroney are only 54, and Campbell is just 46 – all three with a lot of living ahead of them but not likely a lot of politics, at least electoral politics.
Given the steady increase in both male and female longevity, particularly since the 1930s, one might expect longer and longer political careers. On that point, it’s notable that federal legislation sets an upper bound of 75 on careers in the Senate or the judiciary. And yet we have four ex-PMs around well short of 75, and even Trudeau, 16 years in office and nine out of it, is not quite 75.
Here we must reach and stop at the one development – television – which has become more responsible for both early exits from high office and electoral politics and for sustaining, if not deepening, the lack of cherishing in Canada of PMs and former PMs (and even of former party leaders).
The immediacy and excessive topicality of politics as carried by the main purveyor of politicians and their work wears out the credibility and ruins respect for the politicians most exposed by the medium.
Right now, and probably it will go on for decades, most of us balk at the thought of television giving us more, much more, of Mulroney or Trudeau or Turner or Clark or Campbell. And, one regrets this prophecy: All too soon Jean Chretien will be gone without public regret or remorse.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 26, 1993
ID: 12717106
TAG: 199312230133
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Backgrounder


It’s a cinch to pick the political highlight of the Canadian year: The return to power of the federal Liberals and its corollary, the rejection of Brian Mulroney and his Tory legatees in the most utter rout of our electoral history.
How quickly we’re forgetting Kim Campbell just as we’re putting memories of Brian Mulroney behind us and foregoing explanations of why the Tories fell so far between their mid-June convention and the poll of Oct. 25. How ready we are to pass by the forlorn Audrey McLaughlin.
Nevertheless, I think few of us see the handsome Chretien victory as a guarantee of progress out of recession and relief from our collective debt.
Few of us a year ago foresaw that an odd couple, Preston Manning and Lucien Bouchard, would have their careers to make or break ahead of them in ’94 and perhaps be instrumental in breaking up Canada as we’ve known it.
These opposition leaders, each backed by high regional support and enough MPs to be troublesome, and probably rambunctious, will be facing an unflashy, low-key prime minister. Surely Chretien is astute in deliberately choosing to be an antithesis to the hyperbole and display of Brian Mulroney and to the aloofness and arrogance of Pierre Trudeau, for so long his leader.
Chretien has as grim responsibilities as any predecessor and the huge, rising federal debt and even provincial and municipal debts hang over him, his ministry, and the coming Parliament. At least we can say he’s making a responsible start on leading us.
It’s also true that we shouldn’t see our political and economic problems as all bleak and worsening. Not all has been going wrong, as some relic Tories will point out.
Inflation’s as close to zero as it can get with the consumer price index below two points for the year. Bank of Canada interest rates seem dwarfed at below 5% when contrasted with those of three to five to 10 years ago. The gross domestic product will be up this year, not much . . . but at least a point. We continue to have a trade surplus and exports continued to grow, slowly, despite the free trade doomsayers.
Wage settlements in the private sector have been low and even slighter in government so restraint is widespread and shared. Slowly and unevenly the neighboring economy of the U.S. on which we so much depend is quickening and the national mood of Americans is more confident as 1993 ends than it was at the advent of the Clinton presidency.
Further, and vital to Chretien’s chances for good government, Canadians have become very sensitive to debt and want deficits down and frugality to reign in all their governments. But on the negative side, and not helped by an obsession with governmental frugality is the continuing stress on jobs, jobs, jobs as the prime national need. The phrase has become a durable cliche.
Who knows how durable the current good will towards Chretien and the Liberals will be. Many of us are praying for them but how long will we sustain them if joblessness stays high and our many, well-organized, self-centered interest groups, fractious at program changes and cuts, unleash their stridencies?
What’s obvious from a down-sized cabinet, reduced ministerial and parliamentary perks, and undertakings that the federal bureaucracy will be drastically reorganized and almost every major spending and revenue-raising program changed? Surely a dour, striving, make-do-with-less Parliament and government.
Already some of the positive emphases in the Liberal’s effective, campaign Red Book have been hedged by ministerial phrases from the PM and such important colleagues as Paul Martin, Marcel Mass, and Lloyd Axworthy.
The hedging has emphasized that time is needed for review and consultation about reallocations of spending and major shifts in emphasis. For example, a new program for national daycare was promised with some “ifs” and clearly it’s off until the deficit’s well down.
About the only guarantee of a major spending program to be left intact is medicare, i.e., as universal, and without user fees. But consider what’s on the Chretien government’s plate.
Chretien must wish he could put all the problems of relations with the provinces so unequivocally to one side as he has any consideration of constitutional reform. That decision seems more than a bluff and it shall be seen very positively outside Quebec. But Chretien cannot be so cavalier about the provinces and federal-provincial programs and their funding. Most of them are in more peril from debt burden than Ottawa and genuinely fear further downgrading by investment analysts. The PM must quickly get a common approach from the premiers and keep it sustained over several years and the end of the general recession, while also praying he won’t have the PQ’s Parizeau at the common table next year. He’s made a good start this week, tentative though it seems.
To the federal-provincial dilemmas add the evidence there will be changes in old age security programs, the Canada pension plan, the parliamentary pension plan, and the whole bag of unemployment insurance. Led by Paul Martin on the finance side and Lloyd Axworthy on the program side, every aspect of the social and educational systems in which Ottawa participates is being appraised to get better results from the same or less spending. All this may bumble away in talk and reports which aren’t implemented may fade away on shelves but it seems certain the Liberals will try hard and not simply hunker down and hope.
Further, the military is to be much reduced. For real savings this means closing many bases and giving golden handshakes to twenty to thirty thousand officers and senior NCOs. Imagine the ruckuses these cuts will raise.
The GST is to be replaced, and already the alternatives are many with a wide range of exponents. Somehow the Liberals insist they will try to ease the bite of payroll taxes.
The thousands deprived of work and unemployment insurance by the collapse of the Atlantic fisheries must soon know there are definite plans and sums for financial support from Ottawa during the transition to other occupations and places.
The thousands of dairy and poultry producers must have big tariff protection because of GATT and this means on-going wrestles with the American administration and Congress over access to our markets, arguing over the interpretations of both the FTA and the NAFTA, plus assuaging the unease of farmers, particularly those in Quebec, at the loss of their marketing boards.
Lord help the Chretien team, the 35th Parliament, and of course, us, because what’s just been sketched means a huge and contentious legislative program, frankly a greater parliamentary load of work than any new government has tackled, at least since the Pearson government of 1963. Although the government has a handy majority it also must report to and be a presence in a House of Commons with substantially more green MPs and fewer experienced ones than ever before.
Speaking narrowly of federal partisan politics and the year 1993, it has been the most shocking year since the Diefenbaker Tories ended the 22 years’ reign of the King and St. Laurent Liberals. But that debacle of ’57, even though it triggered the creation of the New Democratic Party, proved to be much less a transformation in policy and political practices than seems certain to come from this year’s odd electoral consequences. It’s not just the near total eclipse of two of what we’ve been calling “the three major parties.”
This year we got the first big collision federally between the reality of a too heavily mortgaged future and the widespread pride and belief in Canada as a kinder, more caring society than most others. And many of those who so believe cannot fathom or accept the electoral strength that their antipathy, the Reform Party, attained.
Whether Reform is a stayer or ephemeral is one wonderment of partisan politics as the year ends. The other is an even greater shocker to English-Canadian sensibilities (and Reformers are included in the “our”). We have an avowedly separatist bloc of MPs from Quebec as the official opposition in Parliament. In short, perfectly legitimate treason in our central forum and at work. Few of us in English Canada, judging by my contacts, can wrap our minds around this factor and what it may portend, first for a workable Parliament, but even more for a Quebec within Canada.
In short, the events of 1993 have shaken badly the usual political verities and put daunting tasks on Jean Chretien and company in rallying us to pull together.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 24, 1993
ID: 12716906
TAG: 199312230155
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


There’s more stability and continuity in the leadership of the Bank of Canada over its 59 years than in prime ministers or ministers of Finance over the same haul. Now the fifth governor, John Crow, is going, the sixth, Gordon Thiessen, is coming in, and he’s been Crow’s deputy for the past seven years. Governors since the first one, Graham Towers, have been elevated from the bank’s executives.
There can be small rejoicing from the one side of the debate that has exercised MPs, businessmen and most organized lobbies the past year: Should a new government give John Crow another seven years as head of the bank? (He’s only 57, a year older than his replacement.) While Crow’s out, his themes continue. He leaves much praised by Paul Martin, our new minister of Finance, and by the bank’s board of directors.
John Crow was such a Gibraltar of integrity, so responsible a public servant, one wants to dally over the “personal reasons” which made the inflation fighter choose not to be considered for reappointment. A better job elsewhere? In international banking? In our corporate sector? If one accepts literally the joint statement issued by Martin and Gordon Thiessen, the new governor, the latter is to carry on as though he is Crow.
As Martin put it, sounding like a recent predecessor, Michael Wilson: “The government remains committed to a low-inflation policy as a key ingredient in keeping interest rates down and promoting economic growth.”
The joint statement noted that the inflation level targets, measured by the Consumer Price Index, and set in February 1991 at between one and three points rise a year for the period to the end of 1995, are to be kept and extended another three years.
In short, more of the same from a Thiessen-led Bank of Canada in setting interest rates, handling the money supply, and guarding against sharp runs up or down of the dollar.
Put colloquially, the Liberals agree with the Tories that wrestling inflation down was more vital to our economy and national stability than stemming the rise in unemployment.
One may say the Chretien government has accepted the Wilson-Mazankowski line that the lower interest rates and the low inflation so hard-won in the past five years as unemployment zoomed was and is the sine qua non of economic recovery and, some day, more jobs.
Also, under Chretien, there’ll not be heavier federal spending as a recession-buster nor any sharp drop in interest rates or substantial increases in the money supply.
Debate over the target range set from ’91 and now extended to ’98 is put off until the Bank and the government with “experience with low inflation over the period,” can decide on the future frame “consistent with price stability.”
The signal is strong that the Chretien government will be quite orthodox in its financial management. What critics of such conservatism must accept, especially those who felt Crow and his predecessor, Gerald Bouey, were callous about rising unemployment, is that innovation and experiment in monetary policy, and probably in fiscal policy, are unacceptable because of the deficit-debt burdens of all our governments.
This latter observation recalls something which bothered me through the two decades of Bouey and Crow, but par-ticularly after the Liberals regained power in 1980, scoffed at John Crosbie’s assay at “short term pain for long term gain” as Finance minister and under MacEachen and Lalonde in that post, blew the scale of federal deficits from below $10 billion to near $40 billion.
Do you remember any public appointee in a high post who, figuratively, blew the whistle on the spenders as the deficits soared?
There was one, but it was neither Bouey nor Crow. It was the auditor-general, in fact two of them, Jim Macdonnell and his successor, Ken Dye. Each year their reports emphasized the enormity of deficits and the escalating debt burden. They made themselves unpopular with both the chief ministers and the senior mandarinate. While Bouey and Crow generally walked softly by the matter of gross spending, in their remarks to audiences of our elites or to parliamentary committees they were invariably arcane in their analyses and severely noble, like chastising fathers, on the use of the Bank’s disciplinary rods – high interest rates and tighter money.
I asked Thiessen what ideas he might have on projecting his policies, not to the bankers, not to the cabinet, but to the Canadian public. He said he accepts there must be more plain communication of how and why the Bank does what it does. We’ll wait for it, skeptically.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 22, 1993
ID: 12716679
TAG: 199312210072
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Off to India seeking wisdom goes Audrey McLaughlin. Good trip! Good thinking!
One wishes her well because she’s so clearly extraneous to her party’s needs since the election wrecked a veteran NDP caucus and the national pretensions of the party.
What would a canny party do about her?
She isn’t a danger in one sense. She won’t ignore her handlers’ instructions, but all but the most blinded NDP zealot appreciates that some electors from instinct, others by reasoning, read her as a leadership cipher. Unfortunately, the electors in the Yukon saw her as more and didn’t do the NDP the favor those of Vancouver-Centre gave the Tory party.
Now McLaughlin is an awkward remainder from a well-intentioned anticipation of a feminist wave that never came. Unless she decides to resign as leader (but not as MP) during her travels, she’ll be the official party leader in the new Parliament. She was not a strong House performer when she had No. 3 billing. As No. 4, and with the NDP overshadowed by Preston Manning and his Reformers, she is likely to be innocuous at best.
In considering the next leader, the party’s masterminds have two categories to appraise.
First, the choice might be one of the seven veteran MPs, all male, who survived the Liberal and Reform blitzes.
Second, the choice might be one of the four or five nationally known New Democrats who already have records of worth for leadership and persuasiveness.
In the past, four of the MPs have been tipped as leadership prospects. Each of them has been very effective in the House. The most touted is a Kamloops teacher, handsome Nelson Riis, 51, recently House Leader, and ever confident on his feet, even when without content. The other three are the very able lawyer, brainy Svend Robinson, 41; then clergyman and mighty-voiced orator, Bill Blaikie, 42, from Winnipeg-Transcona; and law professor Chris Axworthy, 46, from Saskatoon.
The latter three are far better educated and more resourceful in argument than McLaughlin. Robinson is on any list of the best opposition MPs in modern times. Blaikie is a superb speaker, often with passion. Axworthy didn’t set the Hill alight when he got to it in 1988 from defeating Ray Hnatyshyn but he slowly emerged as a dogged man of common sense. His looks and manners register well on TV.
It would be stupid but possible, given recent strategies, that the party will put off picking a new leader for several years.
There does need to be a plan that doesn’t wait for the next national convention. Should one or more of these MPs soon make their ambitions known it could be dicey. If two or more of them were shaping to replace McLaughlin it could wither the small caucus. As yet a sense of urgency about the leadership hasn’t gripped the party’s activists. They should realize that more national attention will be focused on the new House than any since the last minority Parliament (1979). Sheer survival for the NDP needs all its nine MPs as lions in opposition, with one leading the pride as temporary leader until a formal convention can he held.
Who are those not MPs who may be considered as possible party leaders?
There are five obvious prospects.
First, and second, there is one or the other of the NDP’s Damon and Pythias act – Stephen Lewis, 57, and Gerald Caplan, 55. They’re media Torontonians and national personalities. Each is lucid and glib, either one-on-one or straight-ahead, or on panels or at town halls and lecterns. Each has a fine living as a certified, articulate New Democrat, taken as a surrogate voice of the party’s idealism.
Third, there is Bob White, the Canadian Labor Congress president, an aggressive, self-assured talker, a rather pragmatic ideologue but also a believable advocate of unionists as underdogs.
Fourth, there is Judy Rebick, 48, the recent head of NAC’s feminists, long-time New Democrat, and the most dynamic, cogent arguer among all the known social democrats.
Then there is Ed Broadbent. At 57, he’s the same age as McLaughlin. He’s recouped energies and refreshed his thinking in his well-paid honorific from Brian Mulroney.
Both Robert Bourassa and Jean Chretien came back from retirement to electoral success. Why couldn’t, why shouldn’t, Broadbent? He was a popular public man when he quit Parliament and the NDP got its largest caucus and highest vote under him from the 1988 election.
The next few years will be mean for the NDP. The party needs the best of the true believers sketched here as its federal leader, and any one of the nine should do better than the incumbent.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 19, 1993
ID: 12716346
TAG: 199312190080
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


At last! One of the handful of men most influential in shaping current Canada’s politics and social set-up is retiring, and judging by the parting two-page tribute in his vehicle of influence, he leaves with an honored, if grudging, respect and descriptions best put in familiar four- and five-letter epithets.
It was my good luck to meet Beland Honderich, long-time master of the Toronto Star, just once … in 1958, shortly after I’d been re-elected as a CCF MP into a minuscule caucus. Over a coffee, at his initiative, he soon had me choking back anger. He was patronizing, as though I’d just crawled out from the jack pine in the northern bush, and he barked blunt directions on how we should act in the face of John Diefenbaker’s huge Commons majority.
While I never sought another encounter, the one experience made Honderich vivid to me, and ever since I’ve charted his course, relishing the stories of those who’ve worked under him – and the word is worked “under” not worked “with.” Slowly, reluctantly it became clear that Honderich, most obviously in concert with the late Walter Gordon and Tom Kent, his younger amaneuensis, developed and fostered an array of policies which largely came to pass.
What an odd trio they were. Separately, for open politicking none of them had attributes in oratory, charm, or charisma. Together, in the early and later 1960s, they became the critical jell for several progressive initiatives and a few others like anti-Americanism and multiculturalism which were regressive.
To generalize, the trio, with the Star as their bandwagon, led the shift in Canadian politics from the domination at all three levels of government of a cautious, at best pragmatic muddling, symbolized by Mackenzie King, to an aggressive, nationalistic, anti-American, welfare statist, social democracy.
I mean social democracy as a left-wing ideology along the lines popularized in Scandinavia where governments took the major role in planning and managing the economy and the health and welfare system without socializing all private endeavor in the market.
The clearest, most telling examples of both advocacy and popularization directed by Honderich forced forward the federal legislation that set up two of our most treasured national social pillars – medicare and the Canada Pension Plan – and the policy which shifted immigration from almost wholly white, to yellow, brown and black.
There are reasons why Honderich has been neither greatly revered nor much cursed as the Canadian social democrat. He himself has perpetuated the myth that his Star has merely continued the enlightened, people-minded advocacies of the paper’s late great fashioner, Joseph Atkinson. The latter was a Pollyanna compared to Honderich.
Honderich is not so much self-effacing as a public missionary as plain dour and unwilling to be a public figure. He was shrewd in realizing that too personal a championing of the causes would not help them – leave that to the politicians and interest groups. And flaunting triumphs of his paper’s zeal would breed both envy and resistance.
And so at 75 this largely unheralded generator of political action retires with few realizing, even in politics, that he’s been the single newspaper publisher with more influence on us all than any other – for example, far more than the late Roy Thomson or any of the Southams or the Megarrys and Malones of the Globe and Mail.
The zealous politicking by Honderich’s Star would not have washed well for so long if these missions had dominated the stories and editing of the whole paper. But anyone who ponders the makeup of each issue and the circulation data knows the Star is much more than Honderich’s political crusades.
Oddly, a newish politician, Preston Manning, reminds me of Beland Honderich in being a double-genius. Usually genius is quite differentiated, not the possession and use of great talent across the range of human endeavor. Both Manning and Honderich are geniuses at organization and detailing tasks for minions and they are also geniuses at simplefying and then expressing clear visions of where we are and what we must do to get to where we should all want to be.
In each celebration in print of the Star that I’ve clipped, beginning with the 75th anniversary 26 years ago, Honderich gets in with the line that he sees the Star as “a reporter’s paper.” This is funny and bizarre – and wilful hypocrisy. Such an elevation of the most fearful, driven cadre of reporters in English Canada can be swallowed only by emphasizing that the Star pays reporters very well or by conceding Honderich’s goals were social bulwarks we needed and cannot do without.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 17, 1993
ID: 12716063
TAG: 199312160196
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Giving books as presents? Books on politics for what librarians call “a good reader”?
Here are suggestions from my reading of topical books which more or less tie in with politics. All of them are serious, most somewhat academic.
The swatch of Kim books can be forgotten, and there’s not much of the spate to come on what might be called the vilification of Brian Mulroney. Nevertheless, at hand are two excellent biographies: of George (Lament for a Nation) Grant, by William Christian, and True Patriot by historian David Bercuson on Brooke Claxton (1899-1960) a Grit politician with ideas who, in large part, created the Canada Council.
There are three autobiographies of note: The one by tycoon Conrad Black, A Life in Progress is an entertaining, egotistical and reactionary romp; the big seller, Memoirs, masterminded by Pierre Trudeau, is largely a fraud but a treasure to the host for whom PET is the truly great Canadian; and the third Which Reminds Me, by Mitchell Sharp, once earnest mandarin, once senior federal minister, and still, a guide to Jean Chretien.
There are half a dozen books at hand by well-known print journalists, the niftiest in political insights being Faultlines by Jeffrey Simpson, an appreciation of our national dilemmas using eight activists, and Too Big to Fail, a tale by Walter Stewart of the Reichmann family’s disasters that reaches much farther in sketching the ironies in the political community’s belief in the competence of the Canadian corporate elite. It’s been a vintage year for books by or about Indians, none of which has been anti-native nor kind to whites. One by a western academic, Menno Boldt, Surviving as Indians, seems both magisterial and profound to me; another by veteran journalist, Boyce Richardson, titled People of Terra Nullus, is graphic, thoughtful reportage of a recent tour to several score native reserves and villages.
There have also been many books this year on Canadians at war or gearing for wars or peacemaking (see the Serbian account by Maj.-Gen. MacKenzie). The most popular may be Jack Granatstein’s very political The Generals or Peter Stursberg’s breezy The Sound of War (subtitled Memoirs of a CBC Correspondent). A little noticed military book is likely to be The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis: Canadian Involvement Reconsidered by Peter Haydon. It reveals that under the scandalizing distaste of John Diefenbaker for John Kennedy which helped advance the Tory government’s defeat, there were positive responses to the Americans in the crisis by our military.
My favorites in the war & politics category are George MacDonald Fraser’s Quartered Safe Out Here, and One Foot on the Ground. The latter is an autobiography of ex-RCAF careerist, Norman Emmott, (published by Lugus). Emmott is a fine writer and his career was diverse – from fitter to war-time air-crew operations to peacetime administrator.
Of course, Fraser is world famous as novelist creator of the Flashman series and he’s a Cumbrian, not a Canadian, but his paperback from HarperCollins about his soldiering in World War II with a Border regiment in Burma has three fascinating elements: A lucid remembrance of kill or be killed at war’s sharp end; an unrepentant analysis of why the Japanese are fearsome and ever dangerous; and the wrongheadedness which twists and distorts when later generations use their own values and myths in interpreting the minds and motives of soldiers.
As a book-giver if you can be generous to someone who has an abiding interest in our history and politics the “best buy” of this year is the second mammoth volume of The Historical Atlas of Canada, this one titled The Land Transformed, 1800-1891. It’s far more than maps, charts, tables, and graphs. Sidebar essays illuminate the diverse data, for example, of Indian treaties and reservations, of agricultural expansion, mining exploration and forest usage, of transport infrastructure and competence, of manufacturing and merchandising progress, of urban growth and variations in the ethnic, religious, and linguistic profiles of the country and its regions. A stimulating blockbuster.
Now let me vault back to one of the three books mentioned that are significant for understanding the political ideas and the national policies of modern Canada, i.e. the biography of George Grant. (The two others are Bercuson’s Claxton and the memoir by Mitchell Sharp).
George Grant (1918-1988) was a writer, teacher, philosophical conservative and fervent nationalist. I rate Lament for a Nation with Hilda Neatby’s So Little for the Mind as the books which galvanized the most mass discussion in my lifetime. Grant was engaging, kind, lovable and quarrelsome, and William Christian’s done him justice – warts and haloes, ideas and arguments, talents and achievements. A fine gift.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 15, 1993
ID: 12715773
TAG: 199312140099
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Before Kim Campbell bid her party and Ottawa formal adieu (not au revoir) Monday the veteran security man at the door asked me: “Where have all the reporters gone who doted on Campbell last spring and summer?”
The answer is more than “gone with the voters to Jean Chretien and Preston Manning.”
Monday the once dazzled seemed rather scornful, some even contemptuous, of the most complete loser among all prime ministers ever. At least I read this into four or five of the questions put to Campbell. There seemed an expectation, silly in hindsight, that she would explain her failure or lash out at colleagues, or at her predecessor, or at the media.
But responses were trite and short or curt to the demeaning reporters’ questions, and she fliply dusted off CTV’s flip Craig Oliver with one-word stonewalls, to the delight of a few companions who had come to be there at her last swan.
So off Kim Campbell goes, out of politics, into posterity. She can get on with life without anyone needing to feel sorry for her, and the Progressive Conservative party begins a far from certain haul back to electoral significance in terms of many seats . . . well, enough for a good House foothold in the next federal election.
Some history shows how far back two out of 295 seats puts the party. The previous lows of the Conservative party came from the 1935 election when they were led by R.B. Bennett, a much detested incumbent prime minister, and from 1940 when the leader was Bob Manion, a decent but rather hollow man. Each time the party got just 39 seats, 25 of them in Ontario.
This time achieving a solid recovery is far from all in the federal Tories own hands. If it comes it will be in Ontario and depend much on the fortunes of the provincial party led by Mike Harris in the election due in 18 months or so. A good portent will be if Harris moves from third party leader to leader of the Official Opposition. Given the drag a Liberal government in Ottawa usually has been on the Ontario Grits, and given the likely durable dearth of public esteem for the NDP government, Harris could vault right into power. And in more than any other pro- vince this would guarantee a lift from zero to a score or so federal seats in the next federal elections.
It would help turn back the Reform push whose second-place showings in over 50 Ontario ridings were overshadowed by the Liberal sweep of the province.
Of course, the Quebec factors may be even more significant than the Ontario ones.
Jean Charest as the lone Quebec MP for the Tories and prob- able choice as party leader, will gain some, if not a lot, of notice in this Parliament, but it’s not Quebec as the “comeback” site that is crucial for the Tories. There the question will be whether the BQ caucus under Lucien Bouchard and the PQ under Jacques Parizeau as new premier, in concert, bring off a winning referendum there for sovereignty.
As the bid for sovereignty is being worked to its climax in Quebec the Chretien Liberals will be seen in English Canada, especially in Ontario, as by far the best chance to sustain Confederation. And it will be even heavy going there for the Reform Party and worse for a federal resurgence by the Tories if sovereignty is rejected again.
The Liberal saviors would do very well in English Canada in the next federal election. Ontario voters, in particular, would be grateful. And until they get a chance to be grateful they will not want to split the federalist vote.
Since the election we’ve had two basic arguments from some Tory ex-ministers, one pragmatic, the other counter-ideological. While each is arguable, neither seems certain to me.
Talking practicalities, the likes of Don Mazankowski and Ross Reid say a recovery is certain, its basis the heritage of a great national party that even in this abysmal defeat got over two million votes, has in place several hundred riding associations and will be reaffirmed by its host of former MPs and several thousand participants in the Mulroney administration now scattered across the land. Also, the corporate community has funded the party handsomely in the past decade and will again because the party is a more sensible alternative than Reform.
And the counter given to those who say Reform has pre-empted the core “right” voters of the Tory party is one often advanced by Mulroney, Clark and Stanfield. That is, in a country so broad and diverse no party well to the right or the left of centre can attain office. The logic of this is somewhat sustained by history. The down side for the Tories is that Reform now has a strong voice through Parliament and may well adjust to the lure of the centre. Nonetheless, Campbell’s gone, the Liberals face brutal tasks – and the resurrection is possible.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 12, 1993
ID: 12962355
TAG: 199312120113
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


A month into office and each day hard issues and decisions face the Chretien government for which the Red Book is a poor guide. Killing helicopters and the Toronto airport deal was easy. The NAFTA charade with tag-on memos was awkward, but hardly painful. Now it’s meaner going.
Take UI, the GATT deal, the cod schmozzle, reappointing John Crow, or deciding before Parliament meets how to fulfil the party’s promises and Preston Manning’s demands for “free votes” on much legislation.
Consider the Unemployment Insurance (UI) premium boost due by law at year’s end. The Liberals have had to swallow it, and it’s a choker.
UI is a most aggravating payroll tax for the majority with fairly secure work. It is a big burden on most small businesses. But shortfalls keep recurring in the fund.
Also, it was largely Liberal and NDP MPs who roused an effective antagonism to major UI reforms, especially in the Atlantic provinces and in Quebec and Ontario ridings with manufacturing plants. The reforms were trumpeted by the the thorough Forget Royal Commission on UI in the mid-’80s. So the Tory government backed off from the report’s gist, going for a simpler formula of jacking premiums for both employer and worker.
Consider the hurts the new GATT agreement forecasts for our farm sectors producing milk, poultry and eggs, now shielded by marketing boards sponsored by Ottawa (remember Gene Whelan!).
What GATT promises for our export grain farmers will surely be overmatched by the hurtful competition, notably from U.S. agriculture, to our Quebec and Ontario farmers shielded by marketing boards. How to handle it?
Consider the analysis this week from the Atlantic fisheries inquiry headed by Richard Cashin, a former Grit MP and former union leader of fishermen. Oh, it’s bleak one. It wants at least half the fish plant labor force and even more of the actual fishermen out of the industry.
Most daunting to a score of Grit MPs are proposals to wean fishing industry workers and scores of shore communities from “the pogey”; i.e., off dependence on generous but costly provisions of the UI act. May God bless tiger-like Brian Tobin, the fisheries minister as he pursues the Cashin prescriptions. He’ll need huge bundles of cash to pull them off.
The John Crow case has some wry humor.
On the one hand a lot of Liberals, including the PM, have ripped Crow over the past three years and into and through the election campaign for the Bank of Canada’s zeal in fighting inflation “on the backs of the jobless.”
On the other hand, our leaders in the investment and business sectors, plus U.S. and cross-shore bankers and traders, have inflated Crow into Canada’s Gibraltar. He’s their irreplaceable, irreduceable symbol of the integrity of our bonds and huge indebtedness.
So isn’t there humor in Paul Martin’s posturings of maybe-we-won’t and probably-we-will reappoint this uninspiring, Simple-Simon chap who, to use a cliche of the Business Council crowd “has never had to meet a payroll”?
Now consider the “free vote” proposition, a sine qua non in Reform Party ideas and touched on in the Red Book – though fuzzily, without definition.
Not all, but a lot of Liberal backbenchers think they want the right to free votes for many motions. But deciding how, when, and on what the House may vote without party whips is as hard as defining what aboriginal government may mean.
And the Liberal leadership must spell out free voting before the House chooses its new Speaker (by a free vote) or hunker for months of Reform and BQ caterwauling and procedural dilemmas almost every day for the Speaker. Setting the rules on this one needs a Solomon. Let us hope and pray for poor Herb Gray.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 10, 1993
ID: 12961991
TAG: 199312090214
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It was coincidence an obituary page this week had a notice on Steve Paproski, 65, a Tory MP from 1968 to October, next to a card of thanks from the family of Jeannette Matthey, 37, a reporter for the CBC who died in October.
In age, career and interests the two were disparate. The common factor is a memory left of sunniness. Each brightened the day of those they met, and their warmth and light were intrinsic, not acquired.
I didn’t know Matthey well but she went out of her way to be curious and friendly to me about my work and those I’d known through it like Norman Depoe and Blair Fraser. Her sad passing recalled the recent loss of Marjorie Nichols. Fate did give Marjorie more time at what she did well. The regrets on Jeannette are so deep because her promise was so large. Both were very good reporters.
Long ago the personality of big Steve Paproski got me onto politics’ need for warm-hearted men and women who without calculation ignore the walls of partisanship.
For years Steve had a match in good nature and presence on the scene in Charlie Turner, a Liberal MP (1968-84) for London who died a senator early this year. Each man relished being in and around the House. Each delighted in helping out, often without being asked.
Steve used his oil patch and construction contacts to get scores of students summer jobs. Charlie pushed hard a lot of tough unemployment insurance cases and took up many busted compensation claims (which weren’t in federal jurisdiction). They enjoyed helping and chatting. Good anecdotalists, they brokered across the lines of age, experience, geography and ethnicity. Each had a very smart, poised wife, much pride in their own children and interest in those of other people.
One could imagine satirists, like the Royal Canadian Air Farce, having a romp with MPs like Steve and Charlie as models for the stock political hack but in an unpretentious way they were genuine glad-handers in a line of work often rife with insincerity and shifting loyalties. Those who make a cumbersome process more humane and a key institution more workable with plain brotherliness are good fortune for those who know them and the country.
As one’s life bank builds, a bent comes on to give more attention to obituaries. Each year now I clip or tick scores of death notices, not ghoulishly but because each has some link with past events or periods of my times. To illustrate what obits may recall for me, here are notes about some recent ones.
Nell Martin of Windsor, wife of the late Paul Martin, Sr., mother of the new minister of Finance. A beautiful woman (see her portrait by Wyndham Lewis), she was full of fun with a gift for recall on the great and near great she’d known. One night in London in the mid-’70s when her husband was high commissioner there I got Nell Martin on to Mackenzie King’s wartime cabinet. Some of her racy sketches would have been libellous if printed when their generators were alive, e.g., on the frugalities of C.D. Howe. Her husband stopped the romp on two grounds: “Remember, Nell, this man is a columnist, and I still respect the oath of cabinet secrecy and anyone would know where you got most of this.”
Frank Tindall of Kingston was a most understated coach. From the mid-’40s to 1975 he ran Queen’s football. For a few years in the ’50s I’d see him at morning coffee in the Queen’s bindery, our klatch a garrulous one of janitorial and professorial experts on politics. Frank’s shrewdness and insight are as unforgettable for me as it must be for all those with whom he lived and worked.
Robert Dneiper of Toronto may have been the best-known ever of Ontario’s provincial court judges. To me he is a lesson not to figure a man’s future on his industry and behavior in university. At U of T in the late ’40s few students could have skipped more classes, missed more essay dates, watched more games, and played more cards than Bob. And yet . . .
Ross Silversides of Maitland, Ont., a far-sighted forester of renown beyond Canada, told me one day some 40 years ago on the banks of the Pic River near Lake Superior’s shore about a painting genius who’d once worked on the pulp-haul up the Pic. The name? William Kurelek.
Vince Leah of Winnipeg, a lovely, even saintly man, a good citizen, a great sportswriter and perennial sponsor of team sports for youth.
Alex Mosher of Toronto. Of the half dozen famed prospectors and mine-makers I saw at Red Lake and Pickle Lake before the war, Mosher and the late Karl Springer best matched the archetype of the rugged, roguish claims-staker. He was born in 1900.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 08, 1993
ID: 12961704
TAG: 199312070145
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


We must not get carried away . . . but some very sensible stuff on improving federal Ottawa came out last week from two of the Chretien team, Marcel Masse (as minister of public service renewal) and Mitchell Sharp, the unremunerated elder counsellor of the PM.
The note of caution is important. Every new government in my time but the second Pearson one of 1965 looked attractive in its first quarter or so. And the capital crowd has many memories of sleaze and patronage under the Liberal governments of Pearsons and Trudeau, plus a river skyline of Campeau brick and concrete whose antecedents were much like those of the cancelled air terminals deal in Toronto.
Having put the caveat, let me recommend to you: a) the text of a speech on Dec. 1 by Masse on “getting government right;” b) at least Chapter 9 of Sharp’s new book, Which Reminds Me: A Memoir, which has much common sense on ways to rescue our parliamentary system of government from extremes in partisanship and a huge public mistrust.
Masse has just been a top federal mandarin, and Sharp was just as lofty a one for 16 years during Ottawa’s so-called Golden Age – from the quickening of World War II to John Diefenbaker’s triumph in 1958. In part it was Sharp’s anger over what the Chief did to the public service which brought him into politics and some 13 years as a Liberal minister, during which he fostered the rise of Jean Chretien.
Now for a few appraisals by minister Masse, stuff rarely heard from politicians in office:
“The reality of the fiscal situation both federally and provincially reinforces the notion that the reach of governments in Canada extends well beyond their grasp. Over time, governments collectively have promised more than they could deliver and delivered more than they can afford.
“Too many citizens have fallen into the habit of turning to government to solve problems that should be addressed in other ways. We have to find a new equilibrium where the role of government is more sensibly and reasonably aligned with its competence and resources, both financial and human.”
That’s good. This from Masse is even better: “Another problem in this country is that we have had great difficulty finding working accommodations with the provinces. Too often, the history of federal-provincial relations has been one of acrimony, entrenched positions and grandstanding. In my view, the responsibility for this is shared. Both federal and provincial governments have been guilty from time to time of obstinacy and narrow-mindedness. Can we get beyond this kind of relationship? The citizens of Canada are telling us we have to.”
Yes, words, mere words, but deeds may follow.
Masse went on to detail some ways to get governments working together and getting the public service oriented to a “citizens first” perspective. He remarked that his ministerial chores should not be partisan issues. He said – and left-wingers will say it’s neoconservativism – but I think he’s right: “The problems of government today are beyond ideology.”
Pierre Trudeau’s ghostwritten best-seller is titled Memoirs. Sharp’s is more truly a memoir with far more grist on the Trudeau era from an insider. It also relates a mandarin’s tale of the later King and the St. Laurent governments. There’s some sniffing of superiority and the familiar Grit snobbery about the Tory governments. Sharp inflates Trudeau into a “great” prime minister for his skilled handling of cabinet meetings and because he remains a national savior to Sharp, whatever his legacy of bad economic policies and deficits and debt.
Despite his overall Grit bias and the Trudeau factor, Sharp has been and is a modest man in public life. Sharp hates extravagance in spending and rhetoric. He detests the partisan meanness, particularly in Parliament. So much of it is phony, given that neither the Liberal nor the Conservative party has an ideological foundation. Each is pragmatic, and the NDP, once ideological, has now moved to the crowded centre.
Sharp insists that plain MPs, including those on the government side, should have more freedom from control by leaders and caucus whips in expressing their views and shaping policy.
He ridicules the disdain of “business interests” for those in active politics. He’s determined our public service should be neutral and be accepted as such. And he remains keen on defining and vetting conflicts of interest and patronage.
Sharp concludes with the admission that after 80 some years, “I am still learning to be a Canadian.” For example, that we have and shall have two societies in Canada, one English-speaking, the other French-speaking.
May he last long as Jean Chretien’s adviser.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 05, 1993
ID: 12961363
TAG: 199312050085
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: photo by Reuter
THE TEAM … Sandra and Preston Manning
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Preston Manning is a Christian, an avowed “evangelical” Christian. As leader of the Reform Party his religion bothers some in politics and, even more, those who report on federal politics.
At its simplest, of course, the journalistic reactions are from people at the centre or left-of-centre in ideology. Their mind-set types evangelicals as reactionaries – apostles of small government, cheap social policies, pro-American and against abortions, Catholics and French.
The word “evangelical” has several centuries usage and the definitions have had several shifts. In the Wesleyan and Quaker heydays of the 1700s it meant a belief in the transforming power of faith in Christ.
Today an “evangelical” conjures in media minds an aggressive Protestant who deplores liberally minded doctrines on morality and doctrine that have come to dominate the main-line Protestant churches. Their symbolical evangelical is a TV preacher like Jimmy Swaggart.
Fretting about an animus toward evangelicals seems silly to me. Even now most MPs list a Christian affiliation in their biographies for the Parliamentary Guide. The 1972 advent in the House of Bob Thompson, an evangelical Social Credit MP, led to formal “prayer breakfasts” each year on or near Parliament Hill with splendid turnouts of politicians and leaders of Christian denominations and other faiths.
You can be witness to the tenderness in the media’s outlook on an avowed Christian and how the Preston and Sandra Manning respond to it. Watch them with Hana Gartner on next week’s CBC-TV program, Contact.
At one point, Gartner puts this question to the Mannings:
“Not to dwell too much on your religious belief – that’s private. But I am quite curious how you reconcile your evangelical Christianity (in, I assume, a belief in the literal truth of the Bible) with the reality of what’s going on out there?”
Sandra Manning wondered why the question wasn’t whether their marriage and their work and behavior were true in consistency and transparency to Bible teaching.
This led Gartner to her view that the Bible required wives be submissive, “cleaving” to their husbands.
The “wife” made clear she and Preston had “a traditional relationship or a traditional home” because she had chosen to “go about parenting.
“I’m a mate and a partner, and we’re a team,” Sandra Manning added. “Our primary commitment is to God and how we would see Him directing me and Preston, and then our second commitment is to each other.”
One hopes, almost surely in vain, this televised encounter will be the last circling around the Mannings as religious nuts loose in the asylum of politics.
Preston Manning readied an analysis of a Christian in politics over many years. Read a chapter, “The Spiritual Dimension” in his recent book The New Canada (Macmillan). There in full detail are the points he and his wife made to Gartner. Remember his father, long-time premier of Alberta had a radio Bible hour each week.
Manning said: “ … the great tragedy in Canada is that these things cannot be discussed on a political stage. These things can hardly be talked about in normal public discourse because there’s a fear … of extremists and fanatics who can’t talk about this without wanting to impose it on somebody else, which is as far away from the way Jesus Christ conducted himself as you can get.
“You can read the whole New Testament and never find a single instance where he tried to jam his values down somebody’s throat … And then there are the other people who are so afraid that if we get into some discussion like this, particularly on a public platform that it’ll get off base.”
Which brought a response that was strange from Gartner since she herself had pussyfooted into the topic of Christian belief and the Bible:
“But I must say, I sense a reticence even on your part to broach the subject.”
“Yes … because the media arena is the wrong place to do it in. You have a 99% chance of being misunderstood.”
In time “faith” may become a common topic of public discussion, Manning said, but it won’t happen in the political arena.
Although he is a Christian in politics, most Reform members are not evangelicals. The first principle of the party requires its candidates advance the views of their constituents, not their own. And no federal constituency is dominated politically by evangelical Christians.
Rip Reform for its policies, not because its leader is an evangelical Christian.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 03, 1993
ID: 12961061
TAG: 199312020176
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


A rebuke from a Grit MP for my dispirited reaction to Paul Martin’s first economic statement has some merit. His strictures went like this:
“For several reasons this wasn’t the time for a plan on handling the deficit-debt thing. Christmas is near. We need all the consumers’ spending we can get. For jobs and revenues. Getting inventories down and new orders up. Martin would grinch the economy’s top season with blood, sweat and tears now. He also must ease jitters of provincial ministers over credit ratings and get them working with him as a group. It’s all-together programs or all bankrupt!” Those are plausible arguments. Maybe we should give Paul Martin a quarter to produce a long-range program for our debt burdens.
My critic was also nasty at my parallels between Martin and Michael Wilson in personality, experience, and platitudes as new finance ministers. (Wilson spoke first nine years ago last month). So what if each came late to politics after success in business? Just an irrelevant cheap shot of yours.
Was it? I made the point because Wilson in his day and Martin on appointment were hailed in the business media, with fierce nodding elsewhere, as “the best man in the House for the job” because of their private sector record.
I raised the parallel in private-sector praise because I’ve been reading Walter Stewart’s grabby new book, Too Big To Fail: Olympia & York, the story behind the headlines (McClelland & Stewart).
It ranges beyond the disasters of the Reichmann brothers to popular appraisals of the private sector myths and wisdoms which flourish in Canada.
Much of Stewart’s groundwork on bad-loans’ bankers, mergers, junk bonds, and on such as the EDPER Bronfmans, Bob Campeau and Don Cormie comes from his earlier critiques of business and commerce in the 1982 book, Towers of Gold, Feet of Clay: The Canadian Banks, and the 1992 book, The Golden Fleece: Why the stock market costs you money.
It’s fair for Stewart to counsel us to realize there’s as little shining splendor and proved efficiency and competence among the giants of our private sector as there has been shown by politicians and their mandarins in provision of governmental services and overall economic management.
Anyone who reads the financial pages daily will recall the most of the many examples he makes of boobery, greed, and venality in our private sector. And he fills in answers to these rather rhetorical and social democratic questions.
“Is it possible, just possible, that the magic behind huge corporations with money to risk is a general growth in the surrounding economy, not inherent genius? And that the level of detectable genius within these monsters tends to plummet when bad times intrude?” The deficit-debt task ahead for all of us is so gross we need sane perspectives on the economy as a whole. One myth we must shuck before we can reach such an overview is about a contribution of wisdom through the superior aptitudes and civic sense of private sector executives or associations on the ways to manage Canada’s economic affairs.
Surely Michael Wilson has shown, as Walter Gordon did in the mid-’60s, that any implied excellence carried into the finance job from the private sector is just bosh. We shouldn’t anticipate better from Martin, at least on such origins. Despite all the touting of entrepreneurial know-how, Wilson booted it, and at first flush Martin looks and talks a lot like Wilson.
It’s well to remember as we curse the politicians and mandarins who’ve built the debt-loads how permissive and generous they’ve also been to the corporate sector.
As Stewart generalizes: “We have set up in Canada, Britain, and the U.S., a system that increasingly wants to substitute private for public planning, and to allow entrepreneurs to buy into development, not merely of projects, but of provinces . . . The corporate system that is at the heart of the modern economy works on the principles of every-expanding power and every-diminishing responsibility.
“If society is concerned, first and foremost,” he says, “with only those things that pay off, we can hardly complain when we find private hands in the public till . . . If we have no standard but the accumulation of wealth, we will continue to our successes, and failures, exactly like the Reichmanns, as well as those far more disreputable business men and women.”
I should note that Stewart admires the Reichmanns for the quality of their own property developments and their personal integrity but their over-reach to disaster, despite such quality and ethics, adds force to his (and my) argument that guidance on the deficit-debt from our CEOs and their journalist fans is dubious at best. An example, of course, is their imperative of a second term for John Crow at the Bank of Canada.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 01, 1993
ID: 12960768
TAG: 199311300095
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Paul Martin Jr. is a nice man – likable and earnest. So was (and is) a predecessor long at Finance, Michael Wilson. Why drag in Wilson, the minister of Finance from 1984 to 1991? Well, Wilson in 1984 and Martin in 1993 seem in the same situation.
It was a joy to the business community when Wilson and Martin, respectively, were given the Finance portfolio. Why?
Each qualified for politics through attainment in the private sector, Wilson as an investment counsellor, Martin as a CEO of a middle-size transport company.
Each as a newish opposition MP had a fair run for their party’s leadership. They lost, but each won respect, not least in his own party caucus.
Neither Wilson nor Martin is flashy or given to rousing rhetoric. Their vocabulary is plain and their intonations modest enough not to scare or be taken as intensely partisan. Each is healthy and good-looking. In brief, excellent castings for the Finance role. The parallels continue if you look at what Paul Martin said on Monday about his task and what Michael Wilson said in his “economic and fiscal statement” to the House of Commons on Nov. 8, 1984.
Remember that statement and its side-paper, A New Direction for Canada: An agenda for economic renewal? It’s true Wilson’s presentation was more a blockbuster than Martin’s but Wilson had five weeks more to shape up than Martin. Martin’s main item of news – a higher deficit than projected – was rather well leaked beforehand. So was Wilson’s.
Martin said: “The fiscal realities bequeathed to our new government are sobering indeed . . . Two weeks ago I released the figures for the last fiscal year, 1992-93. They show a deficit of $40.5 billion – $5 billion higher than the previous government had forecast. For this fiscal year, which has four months to run, the Conservative government forecast the deficit would decline to $32.6 billion . . . I would now confirm that the deficit for this year, the last fiscal year of the Conservative mandate, will be between $44 and $46 billion. This estimate is $11 to $13 billion higher than forecast . . . only six months ago.”
Wilson said: “The mandate of Sept. 4 reflects as well a sombre judgment about the recent past . . . Our economic legacy is one of high unemployment, inadequate investment, eroded confidence and personal hardship . . . No less serious or troublesome than the economic legacy is the deficit and accumulated debt situation which we have inherited . . . We are on a very dangerous treadmill . . .
“With present projections and no policy changes, the deficit for this fiscal year would be $34.5 billion, almost $5 billion higher than projected last February by the previous government. That is bad enough but that is not the worst of it. Current projections show the deficit increasing next year to more than $37 billion . . . Next year’s deficit at $37.1 billion would be more than $9 billion higher than projected last February . . . ”
Martin said: “Let me turn, finally, to what lies beyond the budget and to where my remarks began — with an essential optimism about the kind of Canada that remains possible despite our problems. It is there to be created. But something more is needed than optimism . . . What is needed now, and what has been lacking is a broad sense of direction and commitment, a shared sense of enterprise and achievement. It is time to take our future in our hands. Setting that direction involves listening to people and recognizing opportunities, and providing the supportive policies that will allow Canadians to take advantage of them. That is what we came to government to do.”
Wilson said: “There is an abundance of strength, energy, vitality and resilience in the people of this great country. Our imagination and enterprise is boundless, and there is no reason on Earth why we cannot work together to build the kind of future we all want for ourselves and our children . . . The old ways of doing things have not worked. But change must be based on understanding, discussion, and above all, fairness.
“This is a vital part of our mandate: To consult and to listen before acting . . . I will begin by meeting provincial finance ministers and treasurers tomorrow . . . ”
Martin told his audience he would meet provincial finance ministers the next day. He’s also arranging for four big gatherings of open consultation on the new economic directions for Canada.
In 1984 Wilson trumpeted discussions with everyone interested in budget matters and the economy would lead to an agenda-setting national economic conference in five months time.
Deja vu! Right. Maybe the same speechwriters. But each of these ministers was, and is, a decent, earnest man.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 28, 1993
ID: 12960495
TAG: 199311280181
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Sometimes one gets a gift from a reader. Today’s column stems from a 1934 newsclip about Japan. It sketched some astonishing forecasts that came to pass. Further, the Japanese phenomenon described remains astounding, although its focus shifted in the ’50s from imperial to economic power.
A yellowed full page from the Star Weekly for Jan. 13, 1934, came to me from Robert Campbell of Victoria County, N.S.. It carries a long story from London titled “Japan Shines Her Sword.” It was written by Matthew Halton, later to become a respected correspondent of the CBC in World War II.
The content is based on a reading of the book, The Menace of Japan, and an interview with its author, Taid O’Conroy. (The book was published in New York in 1934 by H.C. Kinsey and Co.)
At the time O’Conroy was 51. He had been teaching and travelling in Japan from the end of the Great War until 1933 and had married a Japanese.
Halton was very impressed with O’Conroy. He wrote that his warnings about Japan made him “shiver in very real horror.”
Remember, this was 1934, on the eve of what became Japan’s invasion of China and seven years before Japanese planes suddenly devastated Pearl Harbor.
Much of the article described the values of Shintoism, the war-cult of Kodo, and the views of Gen. Araki, then Japan’s minister of war. Then it turned to where Japan was heading.
O’Conroy said that “Shinto was the Way of the Gods, and Kodo is the Way of the Emperor … All Japanese know the Emperor is divine, and he is therefore something to fight for.”
O’Conroy gave Halton speeches by Araki that were generally unknown in the West. The minister’s remarks were fiery and brutally aggressive. They stressed there could be no distinction in Japan between the soldiers and the civilians. Araki rhapsodized on “the virtue of the sword.”
A sample admonition was, “Kill without quarter! Show the spirit of Japan and Asia against Europe and America.”
Surely, Halton argued to O’Conroy, “There is too great a combination against Japan for her ever to be a real menace to us.”
O’Conroy replied: “As long as there is peace among the white peoples, Japan may be afraid to attack. But the moment western nations go to war again – and it seems evident they will in a few years – at that moment Japan will swing into action in the east, and I dread that moment. Japan is coming more and more into the hands of the military fanatics … The mentality is that of a primitive tribe that has been trained in modern warfare, that has had the results of western mechanical civilization thrust suddenly upon them.
“But it is more menacing. Behind the superficial veneer is that knowledge of a divine right to rule the world, the awareness of their superiority over the peoples of the universe … Japan has already started her campaign. In the near future Japan will march on China.
“It will not be a mere army, it will be nation … Kodo will be the cry, and it will be a fanatical, religious army, trained perfectly, armed with the latest and most modern weapons. They will be backed by a fleet as efficient as any in the world. Their air force will be a match for any nation’s and they will be comparatively near at home. They will get their supplies as they march.
“They will put the inhabitants of the conquered countries to the sword if necessary to ensure their supplies. They know no mercy and will give none. They have everything ready … Their eyes are on Siam, Shanghai, Singapore, Malaya, Burma, India, Hong Kong, Hawaii, Australia, Indo-China …”
Halton closed his piece there with the sentence: “There is Japan as a foreign expert sees her.”
O’Conroy’s portents and prescience were extraordinary. Japan was to do all he said until stopped, largely by American might and the atom bomb.
I’m trying to find out more about prophet O’Conroy’s career after 1934.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, November 26, 1993
ID: 12960118
TAG: 199311250085
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Do you favor aboriginal self-government? If so, what does it mean to you?
Is it a third nation – or even nations – within the bosom of this single state? Or is it something like municipal government?
Naturally Jean Chretien’s Red Book has promises regarding the natives of Canada – a chapter of them, plus a section touting an “aboriginal head start” program in education.
One simple sentence sets out the grand scale of intentions:
“The role of a Liberal government will be to provide aboriginal people with the necessary tools to become self-sufficient and self-governing.” The Red Book doesn’t define self-government nor does a long ancillary paper on native affairs put out by the party in the campaign.
This week a national group has asked for details before it will back aboriginal self-government. The case is in a presentation by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People.
The chamber canvassed its Canada-wide membership and found it bothered over the concept of aboriginal self-government. Although backed by the three traditional parties, the concept is still vague.
Our governments have huge deficits and most onerous debts. The chamber sees the promises attendant with native self-government such as land settlements, financing grants, a separate justice system, even systems of government in cities to serve off-reserve natives, guarantee incremental spending by federal, provincial, and municipal governments. And Ottawa alone has well over $5 billion a year going into native affairs.
There is one brief reference to the royal commission in the Red Book. From my talks with Liberal MPs they don’t feel the need to wait for recommendations from this expensive exercise begun two years ago by the Tories.
Ron Irwin, the MP for Sault Ste. Marie and the new minister for Indian Affairs is a “get on with it” guy, not sedentary or a patient listener. Those attributes are some assurance that once Irwin gets the picture on the dollars available for him, he’ll set out how fast the government will move on aboriginal self-government and what it means.
Staying away from definitions of aboriginal self-government became politically correct for politicians of all parties during the constitutional conferences of the early ’80s. The reason why is plain. It’s guilt.
So many Canadians are remorseful over the poor treatment of natives. The litany of wrongs begins with Jacques Cartier, and continues. Guilt’s other side, a consequential idealism, seeks generous redress for the evil past and a grim present.
The natives themselves, encouraged by sociologists, anthropologists, land claim lawyers, film-makers, and journalists, have so popularized white wrong-doing and callousness that few in federal politics have dared to say that redress for the wrongs and oversights of past generations has grave complications, aside from high dollar costs.
And so native leaders and groups, well-funded by government, have been reiterating grievances and extending claims for their future. They would regain their collective rights, their land bases, their heritages and cultures.
There are four clear groups demanding action on self-government: The Assembly of First Nations; the Native Council, representing off-reserve Indians; the Inuit; the Metis. And a fifth is emerging: A fast-rising association of native women.
The chamber notes that the closer its members are to natives and native communities as neighbors and employers, the more dubious they are of aboriginal self-government and more anxious to have it defined.
If aboriginal self-government is just a form of municipal government, it is favored – but not overwhelmingly. If it’s more, say constitutional recognition of separate citizenships and governing systems which work beyond treaty lands into urban areas, the chamber balks, and not merely over higher costs to non-aboriginal taxpayers in such grand designs.
Obviously the chamber has been reading the statements of leaders like Ovide Mercredi and Ron George with their aims of distinct, perpetual nationhoods whose citizenships are based on blood rights.
The chamber argues there must not be a separate criminal law for natives nor freedom from the reach of the Charter of Rights. The Chamber rejects self-government that goes beyond the local and impinges on or parallels the provincial and federal jurisdictions.
And so should Jean Chretien’s Liberals and Parliament.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 24, 1993
ID: 12959839
TAG: 199311230092
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


When will some brave New Democrat, preferably a trade unionist, assert the arguable, perhaps the obvious?
Get rid of formal affiliation between the unions and the NDP, to the great well-being of each!
The alliance has never been close to full since it was proclaimed 32 years ago. Many unions, including the union centres of Quebec, never came in. Voting analysis has shown most union members do not vote NDP whereas many other voters won’t vote for the NDP because of the link.
To many voters, some unionists, the NDP is suspect so long as the link is there. Further, unionists against the NDP say it’s an abuse of their rights to be toll-gated to finance the party.
A clear party rule outlawing affiliation between it and unions (from locals to national outfits like the CLC) is needed. A motion for this should be put and debated at future federal and provincial NDP conventions. Both party and unions have a lot to gain from losing the chains which bind them.

The Ottawa Citizen has a “media” reporter, Chris Cobb. In a recent essay he rued “pack” journalism on Parliament Hill. The pack, when coupled with the “nice, soft empathy” which so quickly develops between politicians and reporters leaves the big-money affairs of government largely unprobed.
Cobb wrote: “While reporters are jumping up and down in packs and recording yards of rhetorical bunkum from windy politicians, unelected men in suits carry on regardless and go about their business largely out of the media’s probing eye.”
He has the answer for this.
“So the Liberals are back promising to clean up this town, but history suggests they will need their collective arms yanked up their backs many times if all the promises are to be kept. Opposition members, loud though they may be, won’t do it because they don’t know how. Besides, what seduces reporters works even better for rookie MPs. With this new government, a skeptical, independently minded, aggressive media are needed more then ever.”
What’s in Cobb’s argument?
Pushed by TV’s need to be succinct and grabby, and by radio’s “every hour on the hour” voracity, much reportage and columnists’ comment tends to be narrow-focus and repetitious. But producers or editors are senior to most reporters. They could assign them to covering those “unelected men in suits.” They don’t do much of it, probably because it’s so costly and needs highly educated reporters.
Why re-state Cobb’s thesis? Largely to show the zeal common today, almost to a conceit, among reporters on the paramountcy of the media. The parliamentary system, the opposition, and the various interest groups do not keep the federal government honest and fair and to its undertakings. Reporters can and should. This is journalism of grandeur!

Enjoyable as the gossipy sketches were of politicians, journalists and executives were to me as a reader of Conrad Black’s life story (to now) I winced at several because of familiarity with a few of those skewered, e.g., author Sandra Gwyn, and historian Laurier LaPierre.
I haven’t yet seen a riposte from Gwyn but LaPierre has had his in the Financial Post (Nov. 13). A zinger!
First, the historian joshed Black by assuring readers he would not contribute through legal suits “to the libel chill that Black has used so effectively.”
Then he explained he did part-time work at Upper Canada College in the ’50s to help pay for his post-graduate work. Black was not one of his students, nor did he meet him at UCC. He denies the “gossip” that he was much given to caning the boys. Black detested much at UCC, especially caning. Likely that’s why he put beatings by LaPierre together with the latter’s revelation he was a homosexual many years after UCC. A nasty inference, of course.
In the Post letter, LaPierre recalls he and his family later befriended Black at McGill: “He was quite lonely and seemed socially inadequate and intellectually ponderous. His contacts with his fellow students were limited and his arrogance and snobbery prevented him from participating in class with any degree of involvement.”
That’s ruffling Black’s feathers. Even rougher is LaPierre’s closer. A few years ago Black invited him to lunch. After the main course Black left the table and the restaurant without explanation. But his departure came after he asked LaPierre if he was homosexual and got “yes” in reply. Well, as LaPierre puts it graciously, “he had been courteous enough to take care of the bill … up to the point of his departure.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 21, 1993
ID: 12959509
TAG: 199311210078
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Backgrounder


It is very clear. Ottawa as the capital region with its 700,000 or so people is happy. Very happy and excited. But with the excitement in Fat City there are trembles. Wonderful though Ottawa feels it is to have the Liberals back, the composition of the Commons is strange and dubious. Thus the tremulous effect.
In my reading of it the happiness is far more a partisan matter than a deep enthusiasm for Jean Chretien. Oh, he is well liked but as yet there’s nothing like the reverence here as at Pierre Trudeau’s advent.
But large and growing hopes of Ottawans are being hung on Chretien. His contrasts and those of his wife and entourage in modesty and vocabulary to the Mulroneys’ style and hyperbole are seen as apt and most welcome.
More prime than having Chretien in the PMO, however, is simply having the Liberals back and the Tories out.
The Tories are now gone from all the seats in the region, but this rout just completes what the voters of the capital almost did in the ’88 election. One term of the Tories was enough and the capital showed its true partisanship then in a vote to get the Grits back rather than for John Turner. And last month’s landslides for Liberal candidates across the capital’s ridings was a Liberal, not a Chretien, phenomenon.
Let’s cast back from the present Ottawa to the Great Depression of the ’30s. Again and again since then the Liberals kept the largest core vote. Except in 1958, and to a lesser degree in 1984, the Conservatives were well back. Even in those Tory sweeps there was a core Liberal loyalty. The NDP only came on a bit in Ottawa from the late ’60s, and that largely in the very centre of Ottawa proper, aided by successful ventures in school board and municipal elections.
Explanations of Ottawa’s long love affair with the Liberals have often been made. Usually they begin with the considerable quotient of French Canadians in the capital region. Just over a third, and a third of the 70,000 federal workers are francophones. Their attachment to the Grits is storied; so is their rejection of the Tories for Britishness and a lack of regard for the French language and for Roman Catholicism.
Sometimes I think it’s in the gut, not the head, that Ottawans of recent generations felt and feel the Liberal party knows and appreciates them, and so are able to deal more fairly and effectively with Quebec as a political entity and with francophones there and elsewhere in Canada than the Tories.
The Mulroney government’s regime was by and large a regime for grandeur in the capital, symbolized by the Museum of Civilization and the new National Gallery, each with massive cost overruns. But such extravagances never much shook the intrinsic dedication in the region to the Liberals.
Under Mackenzie King as PM Ottawa began to be no mean capital. Under him a prideful, expanding mandarinate was fashioned, largely because of the colossal and centralizing efforts demanded by World War II. King executed on his own, his long-held schemes of grandeur for the capital region with the Green Belt, the Gatineau lands and lakes, and the parkways. The St. Laurent regimes furthered King’s intentions and added the cachet of Ottawa as the cultural sponsor of the country.
The region’s satisfactions with the Liberals were never much undermined in the years of the Chief. John Diefenbaker never spoke kindly of Ottawa or of its mandarins and the bureaucracy. And so Ottawans, by and large, were ecstatic when Lester Pearson brought the Liberals back in June, 1963, very much as they have been the past four weeks.
Pearson’s Liberals did two things that gratified many Ottawans by instituting official bilingualism and accepting unionization of the federal public service. The first led to many more jobs and spending in the capital. And in the ’70s, unionization made our federal employees the best paid and “perked” government employees in the western world, literally from the top to the bottom levels of the hierarchies. (Despite the Mulroney trims, the distinction still holds.)
It was in the early ’70s – in Trudeau’s times – that I and another columnist borrowed an epithet from the Yanks about Washington and tabbed Ottawa as “Fat City.” By then the capital region had come to include Hull and was coming to embrace Kanata to the West, Nepean to the south, Gloucester and Orleans to the east, and Gatineau to the north.
As that favored Liberal builder, Robert Campeau, concretized and bricked Hull into a fortune he would take to the U.S., less capital-intensive developments were altering Ottawa.
Trudeau’s Ottawa was ingenious. It spawned commissions and programs for almost every endeavor. It was the magnet for national, single-purpose groups whose leaders and staffs flocked to Ottawa. So did more and more lobbyists for industry and suppliers.
From the early ’70s forward, official data keeps confirming Ottawa as Fat City, leader among our cities in quantifiable good things: The most university graduates; the highest standards of family housing; the highest average income per worker; the most accessible and various educational programs and facilities, from nursery school to doctoral programs; the most cultural and recreational features per capita of any city – in park acreage, rinks, pools, courts, marinas, aquatic clubs, ski slopes and trails, walks, bicycle paths, drama groups, theatres, equestrian rings and courses, etc.
In sum, as most Ottawans perceive it, theirs became, deservedly of course, the most favored region in Canada under the Grits and the one most certain of stability and growth.
And what Ottawa had, it became determined to keep.
Despite the Diefenbaker gruffness on the capital his administration didn’t knock it back much but he enlarged the myth that his party was both anti-Ottawa and anti-French.
The irony between actuality and the myth of the Tories as anti-Ottawa was even greater through the two Mulroney mandates. There was the tough talk of the Michael Wilsons about restraint and more efficiency with fewer employees but despite restrained budget increases for the likes of the CBC, the National Capital Commission and the National Arts Centre, Ottawa didn’t suffer as much as it seemed.
One would never gather this from the local media which, naturally, inflate anything affecting the community’s future, and nothing affects it as much as “the feds.”
Ever at hand to interpret federal decisions or intentions with criticisms and organized protests have been the leaders of the unions, militant in furthering or defending their members’ raises and benefits. Secondly, the media have also had a grand battery of commentators – the economists, political scientists and sociologists of Carleton University, the University of Ottawa, and of the pressure groups like NAC and the Assembly of First Nations. One doesn’t need much wit to divine that few of these handy critics have been either conservatively minded or openly Progressive Conservative.
The repetitious accusations in the capital against Tory callousness and an alleged philosophy of neo-conservatism came earlier and were far more effective in the capital region than elsewhere. This critical climate confirmed and heightened the remembrance of the Liberal party as the good party.
Jean Chretien has had hardly a fortnight at the reins of power but every day as I move around people have said things like this to me:
“Looks good so far, eh?”
“That’s a sensible cabinet, right?”
“Reform’s too ignorant and Bouchard’s too one-tracked to screw up Chretien, eh?”
“You’ve got to like Chretien’s modesty, eh? Such a contrast.”
There is such hope that Chretien will prove to be a solid prime minister. But still that hope is tinged with rather muted apprehension. This is far less because of the recession and the damnations of deficits and debt and far more because of the Quebec factors.
The Bloc Quebecois is the official opposition. The end of the Bourassa era is at hand. Combine that with Reform’s insistence on being blunt with Quebec sovereignists. Thus the underlying unease of the capital.
Despite the noise and deeds of complaint and grieving which you will be hearing from Ottawa about further, and probably intense, scrimping by the Liberal government, most in this very numerous community feel that what they have is now in the best of all partisan hands.
Many of you far from Ottawa will be thinking, Fat City goes on, dammit. Perhaps it will, but if it’s any clue, there’s nothing in Chretien’s now famous Red Book regarding Ottawa as a better and bigger capital.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, November 19, 1993
ID: 12959184
TAG: 199311180150
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It’s doubtful many of us registered the latest from the deficit and debt front. Certainly demands for more, not less, government spending are not abating.
This week the Ontario treasurer and the new federal minister of Finance revealed that in the financial year 1992-93 their deficits were higher than officially forecast, despite much noise on cuts and restraint. Ontario’s deficit for the year brushes $10 billion. As relatively grim as the figures Paul Martin gave of a deficit just short of $41 billion.
The net federal public debt has passed the $465-billion mark. In ’84 when the Tories took over this debt was $206 billion, and the deficit (largely made by the Liberals) was $38.6 billion.
In short, neither the recent federal ministry nor its predecessor was effective at reducing annual deficits and curbing the debt load. By the way, for 1992-93 the debt load reached 67.6% or just over two-thirds of the gross national product. This ratio is 20% higher than when Mulroney assumed office. Then the debt load was just 46.5% of the GNP. Last year 24% or close to $40 billion of Ottawa’s spending went just to pay interest on the debt, this out of total budgetary spending of $162 billion.
In short, last year Ottawa spent beyond its income about the amount it had to pay to cover interest payments on its debt.
The implications cast a pall over you if you go back to 1974 and the last federal surplus. Then began the brutal rise in the annual deficit and the federal debt. It makes a sad requiem for my generation but it means far worse for the lifetimes of those born in and since the ’50s.
The trends evident in the federal government’s finances make it impossible to set a year within the next decade when Ottawa might reach the stage of paying down the debt. This waits on annual deficits being replaced by a series of annual surpluses, and that’s the stuff of fairy tales.
There’s wry humor in belated acts of the Mulroney mandate to help meet the problem of deficits and debt.
One law, “the debt servicing and retirement account,” set up in 1992, assigns net revenue from the GST to debt reduction. It can only be used to pay interest on the debt or the debt itself. But GST revenues are not meeting forecasts. The total of $30.2 billion for the first two years is pitiful alongside the almost $80 billion needed for interest payments in that time.
The other law, also passed in 1992, “The spending control act,” puts put limits on the amount of federal spending for five years – from 1991-92 to 1995-96. The limits were set in the budget presented in February 1991. The limits excluded some spending such as emergency measures (see grain farmers and cod fishermen) and that required to service the federal debt.
In the substantial House debates on these measures speakers for the three parties put their deep but varying concerns over deficits and debt. With the hindsight of just two years the expectations for the legislation, notably raised by the ministers, seem pathetic. Anyone circling the deficit-debt issue is always drawn to the only certain means of handling it. Spend less, much less. Raise more revenues through taxation.
Optimists put forward a third basic. One finds them mostly on the left side of the political spectrum. Their basic is that an expanding economy with almost everyone working who’s employable means both more tax revenues and less spending for the so-called social net. We shall hear as much or more on the latter basic from Jean Chretien and his economic ministers than about cuts and higher taxes.
But as the bad news this week on government finances got worse what have we been hearing? Is help being offered the Chretien government in its newly won vale of debt?
Already the Public Service Alliance is nasty with the Grits because the freeze on federal salaries and wages is being continued. Leaders of both the First Nations and the Native Council are demanding more funding, not less. Talking of a culture in jeopardy, leaders of the Canada Council beg for more federal dollars. So do the friends and employees of the CBC. Thursday students marched on the Hill. They want more federal money for universities and student aid. Those in the Atlantic fish industry want guarantees of cash support till the cod return. Almost every interest in the health field – e.g., those focused on AIDS or breast cancer – want more funding. Every interest wants more. Even Premier Rae thinks he’ll get more Ottawa money.
Has anyone or any interest beyond partisan politics (see Reform!) said to Chretien: Let’s take less? Or, let’s give up taking. Has anyone said: Let’s join together to master this monstrous debt by giving more in taxes and asking less in services and wages?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 17, 1993
ID: 12958925
TAG: 199311160074
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


There’s a tussle in my head between my bent in favor of Americans and present aggravations at their political values and practices.
Most of us are more aware of what goes on to the south than vice versa. Americans rarely shift attention this way. Arguably, this is fortunate but it’s annoying once again to find they haven’t a figurative clue about us.
Our interests in American matters may be wide or specific, say, in sport or entertainment or shopping or snowbird vacations. We may indulge them most of the time without barriers. Although Americans take us lightly or know little about Canada they do know they have the greatest democracy, economy and society in the world. So they understand they fascinate outsiders; however, such openness to our voyeurism loses a lot of savor whenever particular American concerns have some Canadian aspect. It becomes hard for us not to climb the wall.
We are into such a situation with trade, and it may fret us for years. Much depends on how tough the Chretien government plays the trade game with the U.S.
Frustrations for those intent on U.S. politics have grown because of two issues roiling Americans this season, the Clinton health plan to cover all citizens, and NAFTA.
The North American Free Trade Agreement, like the FTA, an idea of Ronald Reagan, was filled in by George Bush and taken up with determination by President Salinas of Mexico, and approved by our Parliament, led by Prime Minister Mulroney. NAFTA is also President Clinton’s cause, and it has been prompting extravagant claims and counter-claims prior to a vote to pass it or kill it in Congress.
Most Canadians treasure our national health plan and it’s been exasperating to follow as its elements and data have been used by the contrary sides in the American debate over Clinton’s plan. Of particular irritation are assertions our system is very slow and is collapsing from skyrocketing costs and a declining capability for providing the latest and best in surgery and treatment to all patients.
I hope Americans forget about our health plan. We have it and treasure it, largely I think because we come more easily than Americans to collective endeavors which ensure fair access to services for fundamental needs whereas they stay hitched to premises on liberty and freedom which Adam Smith popularized before the founding of the union.
In The Wealth of Nations Smith posited that the welfare of every man is chiefly in his own keeping. Men, in pursuit of their respective welfare within the limits set by justice, contribute to the general good.
Most Americans still seem to believe that economic progress and social harmony ensue from the combination of innumerable endeavors by individuals. They trust the market and its forces more and government less than we do. Thus their reluctance to take health care out of the marketplace.
NAFTA as discussed in the U.S. is even more maddening than health care to a Canadian, beginning with the obvious: NAFTA is not a big deal for Canada, given the slightness of our trade with Mexico. Yet it’s proving to be much more significant within the American polity than the free trade agreement between Canada and the U.S.
The FTA remains vitally important for us, whereas it was, and will probably remain, of far less concern to Americans, even if our government should decide to abrogate it. The current furor over NAFTA is a witness of strong protectionism in Congress which may carry further to supporting interpretations of the FTA on subsidies and cultural industries in Canada that would be very damaging to our interests.
We got a whiff of the brutality in prospect at any time from the political forces in Congress last weekend when Clinton was ready to trade off some harsh penalties for our wheat exports to the U.S. to bring congressmen to his side for the NAFTA vote.
In large part, the forces in the U.S. against NAFTA are the same ones that bucked the FTA and lost, in particular the unions. Their chief fear of NAFTA is of U.S. companies moving off to Mexico for its low-wage workforce and easier environmental requirements. Their views remind us that Americans can easily jettison their faith in the eventual harmony between individual liberty and the common good, particularly if the writ for such faith goes beyond American frontiers.
The sum of these current reactions of mine to the Americans is less confusing than it seems. Like them, but don’t love them. Be on guard at all times. Assume the prospect of their indifference and ignorance, even hostility. And if it’s hostility, be not meek or quiet.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 14, 1993
ID: 12958682
TAG: 199311140118
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: photo by Veronica Henri
CONRAD BLACK … An amazing memory for facts and figures
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Excerpts, reviews, a raft of radio and TV interviews and many straight news reports have given the book A Life in Progress by Conrad Black more notice than any other book and author of recent memory.
Not even the best-selling works of Jean Chretien or Margaret Atwood or Pierre Berton have won so such lineage and broadcast time. So much so a columnist, Rick Salutin, could write a breezy, knowing piece on Black and his worth without reading the book.
Given such blanketing, what’s for me to say about A Life in Progress beyond confirming I enjoyed it. I find it spirited, opinionated, exasperating and entrancing on those in the author’s circle. Let me just recall two episodes which touch on Black. The first came in the early ’70s when he was studying at McGill and into his major opus, the story of Premier Maurice Duplessis of Quebec.
I was working up capsule biographies on sports heroes of our past and turned to Jim Coleman, the best of sportswriters, for leads on several Winnipeggers of renown. What did he as an ex-Manitoban know of Conrad Riley, a world-class rower and rowing coach between 1900 and 1914? He knew a lot and I took notes.
Then Jim said:
“You should talk to Conrad’s daughter, Betty, Betty Black. I see her sometimes at Woodbine. She and her husband are friends of E.P. Taylor and live somewhere in his stretch of Bayview. She herself was a good athlete. She’ll have lots of material on Conrad.”
Jim gave me Mrs. Black’s number. I called and got a most friendly and thorough response to my queries, including a privately printed biography of Conrad Riley.
Riley had been very much a “bootstrap” sort. He’d begun work as a lad milking cows and went on to both athletic fame and substantial and durable business success. He was gifted as a leader of men, very thorough at organization, and an active citizen of his city.
Mrs. Black spoke with fondness of her father and nostalgically about his career in sport. It led me to ask her if she had any athletic children. This set her chuckling, rather ruefully. She said she had two sons, the eldest of whom had some interest in sport but not much aptitude. She’d had dreams about her younger son, named after her father, but she’d given them up long ago. The younger Conrad disliked games and scoffed at them. He wasn’t a Riley in sport although he had the build for rowing and was a very competitive boy.
Some 10 years later in the early ’80s I had my only personal encounter with Conrad Riley’s namesake. There was a dinner in Toronto of the corporate and governing elites, organized by one Brian Mulroney to raise support for St. Francis Xavier University. Among the guest speakers were Premier Davis of Ontario and the St. FXer, “wily” Alan MacEachen.
Conrad Black had been large on financial pages as the young lion who’d pursued and won, controlled by Argus Corporation, hallowed by its past ties to E.P. Taylor, the country’s symbolic post-war tycoon.
I was put at a table with six other people, including Mr. Black and Roland Michener, former governor-general and Speaker of the House of Commons when I’d been an MP. He and I began recalling the House and the Chief and we got on to winning and losing.
Roly lost his seat in central Toronto in 1962 to a Liberal Ian Wahn. I had survived that election. Our chat led him to ask me my margin in 1957 when I had displaced C.D. Howe as the MP for Port Arthur. I hesitated, trying to recall the figure. Conrad Black intervened with assurance: “You won Port Arthur by 1,415 votes.”
I did a double-take because I knew at once this had been the exact margin.
Everyone looked at Black as I confirmed his accuracy. Roly Michener said, “Good Lord Conrad, how would you know that?”
Then he went on as Black shrugged: “Would you know by how much I lost St. Paul’s in 1962?”
“Yes, Wahn won by only 27 votes.”
We marvelled at this feat of recall and Michener pressed Black on how he’d come to know such electoral detail. The answer was simply that he had a memory for facts and figures and had spent many hours scanning The Parliamentary Guide.
Over my years I had met only two people who’d bowled me over with their prodigious gift of memory – Northrop Frye, the literary critic, and Harold Wilson, the former British prime minister. It’s a gift more impressive, even to a jock like me, than crewing winning eights at Henley.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, November 12, 1993
ID: 12662926
TAG: 199311110117
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Has Jean Chretien made his first misjudgment as prime minister in not having the new House of Commons called for a week to 10 days of sittings before Christmas?
If there isn’t a surge of good economic news – say a very stable dollar, high Christmas spending, and no more big layoffs or southward departures – Chretien is likely to be seen as unsure and dallying with his honeymoon and belying his reiterations that “we have the plan here in this book.”
The delay heightens voters’ concern over current issues and the new government’s intentions and it keeps some 200 new MPs from their real beginning of literally taking their seats. The financial markets may force an economic appraisal from the government before Christmas. And the Liberal MPs with service in the last one or two parliaments whom I meet are exasperated with the delay. They want to get going.

Memoirs, (McClelland & Stewart) allegedly an autobiography of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, is very much a con, however much its creators tout it as a memorable work. It reads like an edited transcript of sound-tapes. There’s little candor on the family life and education of our hero and it is narrow-tracked and often discontinuous on the years as prime minister.
The most engaging feature is the pictures, scores of them. These may help sell the hundred thousand copies printed, that and its subject’s grand reputation. The sales will not come from wanting to have and hold a lucid, gripping account of a prominent leader’s life.
In 1939 Trudeau was 20, and coming 25 in 1944 when he went to Harvard where he discovered he had been missing one of the great events of his century. What a fey youth.
His tale doesn’t replay an account current in the heady days of the leadership race of 1968 which he must have floated to underline his anti-establishment poses. It was about his wartime rocketing around Montreal on a motorcycle, displaying swastikas.
Memoirs does refer to his military service during the war. He makes the point that he behaved properly, i.e., he did what was legally required of him to stay at school and not be drafted into full-time soldiering.
And so for several years he drilled at armories a few nights a week and went to summer training camps. He doesn’t say this but he held a commission from the King as a second lieutenant in the 2nd battalion of the FMRs (Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal). At the time he went to Harvard, the “active” regiment of the FMRs, fighting with the 2nd Canadian Division, had suffered ruinous casualties in Normandy and was desperately short of reinforcements, in particular of officers. It never got close to full strength before the end of the war.
In Memoirs Trudeau illustrates his disinterest in the war in never ever having been one of the huge audience of the nightly newscasts of Radio Canada.
It strains belief that the significance of World War II for Canada and the world as a whole evaded this bright chap of 24 until he got to Harvard. What a zombie he must have been as he wore his uniform and did so much drill. Of course this did keep him from the draft and active service. Well, it’s a good bet his mother was aware of the war and the safety of her son.
With regard to Trudeau’s memoirs, one may note with some irony the furor in Quebec over details of sexual experiences and needs revealed in the fresh biography of Rene Levesque, Trudeau’s great rival. The irony is that Levesque, long dead, is shown to the public as having been a womanizer when premier of Quebec and thereafter. Trudeau when prime minister and thereafter never went out of his way to conceal his many, varied sexual liaisons and such affairs shaped into a mystique of glamor and virility that still entrances many Canadians. A still-fathering septuagenarian!

If it’s any consolation to Peter Mansbridge, his interview this week on Prime Time with Margaret Thatcher was neither as disastrous nor as discomfiting for him as the much-remembered encounter almost a decade ago with the British leader was for Barbara Frum. At least Mansbridge tacitly accepted his chastening with some rueful grimaces whereas Frum was flummoxed early and largely a spectator through a bravura solo by Thatcher.
Mansbridge’s partner in hosting, Pamela Wallin, had a better go next night with Pierre Trudeau. At first a girlish twitter of excitement at the occasion threatened to mar it but this disappeared. While Wallin never rolled out her usual aggressive edge, she stuck with Trudeau as he bluffed away his legacy of stronger-than-ever Quebecois nationalism, despite his 15 years in power and his pride, the Constitution of 1981.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 10, 1993
ID: 12662649
TAG: 199311090077
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Recently there has seemed more public awareness of those who’ve fought in Canada’s wars. If there is more sensitivity across the land, what has caused a shift away from the usual, decorous indifference?
The change has certainly not come from the strenuous work by politicians. None of the political parties can be accused of promoting military service and either preparedness for war or positive use of past achievements by Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen. Almost all MPs were reluctant to take the side of veterans who balked at the now infamous The Valor and the Horror, the series sponsored by the CBC and the NFB.
The continuing visceral reaction of so many World War II veterans to The Valor since it was first shown by the CBC some 18 months ago has been a prime factor in reawakening interest in our wartime past.
Another factor has been almost as recent as The Valor – the end of the Cold War! The collapse of the communist menace has force-fed re-examinations of where we stand with our military, and this has roused recall of World War II and the alliances from it which we’ve carried on.
Even more immediately, the allure in the peace dividend has been fading quickly. The dissolution of the menace has brought dangerous feuding or worse among the parts. The hope Canada could bail out of all military but that needed to support the civil power has waned. Fresh arguments are under way about our military – size, training and equipping, and our now exaggerated heritage and practice of global peacekeeping.
Also a factor is the age of those who served in World War II. The some half million still ticking are almost all retired. Many now have the time and the resources for going back to their war. They’re reading, travelling, recalling, and often wondering why their grandchildren know so little of what they did and why.
As a columnist familiar with mail from readers, no issue in my time, not even free trade or Meech Lake, triggered the letters and a flow of analysis, much of it documented, from veterans of the RCAF and the Normandy battles, who are angry or hurt by The Valor and the Horror. Their response reflects an open flowering of concerns that have been there through the decades and not so much latent as not pushed hard.
Since the late ’40s there’s been a steady, busy whirl of unit reunions in cities and towns across the land. For example, our regiment of World War II has one every second summer, and 48 years after homecoming several hundred comrades gather from across the continent. Ours is just one of many scores of regiments and squadrons, ships and batteries which hold reunions and keep in touch by bulletins. Such gatherings rarely occasion media notice, and that only locally, but they memorialize, including the pals who didn’t make it home.
The Royal Canadian Legion has continued as a strong association with a high membership sustained now by younger relatives of veterans or peacetime soldiers. There’s been little slippage in active branches across the country. The durable defence and promotion of veterans’ rights has gone on but few national associations have been so largely ignored by the press. Perhaps because of its early resistance to Lester Pearson’s flag, the Legion was often guyed by reporters, producers and directors of recent decades, and few media stereotypes are more unfair than that of the Legion as old lags over their beer, winning the war again and again.
The general attitude regarding past wars held by most of those working in our media, particularly for the CBC, was shaped by the antagonism of the young people in the ’60s to the Vietnam war. Anti-Americanism and anti-militarism brimmed over into scorn for our military and flourished within our media and in the academe. There was a proliferation of peacenik groups in Canada, scores of them funded in part by the federal treasury. As peace become prime in our political correctness, the wars and those who fought them or prepared to do so again were ignored or belittled. In particular, the persuasive reasons for Canada’s immense effort against the Axis powers in World War II and its consequence in significance as a world power were largely forgotten.
The surprise in all the “pop” denigration of war in Canada is that the backlash from Canadian veterans of World War II was so long in coming. For almost five decades the veterans carried on unobtrusively in civilian life while also persisting at remembrance. Despite a half century and death’s attrition veterans’ interests are wider than ever. Some stimulus is coming with the 50th anniversaries of D-Day, the freeing of the Netherlands and the end of the war with Germany and Japan.
Remember that in our wars Canadians did great things together.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 07, 1993
ID: 12662400
TAG: 199311070110
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


“For forms of government let fools contest, what’er is best administered is best.”
– Alexander Pope

From Lester Pearson to Jean Chretien each prime minister has come to power with a reorganization of the cabinet and its committees, including additions, mergings and, sometimes, subtractions.
The most daring “reorgs” in subtractions were those of the briefest prime ministers, John Turner and Kim Campbell. Brian Mulroney passed by most of Turner’s changes whereas Jean Chretien’s keeping some of Campbell’s mergings and subtractions.
It’s possible Chretien may become the first prime minister to make a reorg of subtractions and a genuine “streamlining” of the PMO apparatus stick since Mackenzie King did such almost 60 years ago.
One can’t be absolute on this latest reorg’s significance for a year or two when we may be able to see what the new ministers without cabinet status called “secretaries of state” become in parliamentary practice and stature within the mandarinate.
To recall, Mackenzie King in 1943 introduced the positions of parliamentary assistants to ministers in order to help the ministers bearing wartime burdens and to assuage some ambitious and restive backbench talent. Within three years most of the new assistants were in the cabinet (one was the father of the new minister of Finance). Then over many decades the chore of parliamentary assistant degenerated into a plum from the PM of salary boost for a few years and a smidgin of prestige by association for a score or more backbenchers than any proving place for cabinet-bound talent. Recently a better role for demonstrating reasons for advancement to the ministry has been to chair a major House committee.
It’s also a caution to runaway approbation of Chretien as a reductionist to remember the initiatives of Pierre Trudeau in the ’70s, notably in 1974, in creating a swatch of “ministers of state for … ”, for example, Barney Danson as minister of state for urban affairs.
By ’78 Trudeau had seven ministers without “line” departments for such matters as multiculturalism, small business, and fitness and amateur sport. Doesn’t that sound much like Thursday’s naming of “secretaries” for training and youth, international financial institutions, and Asia-Pacific.
Since the Trudeau era with all its gush about ministerial collegiality, the journalists who trace “power” a la Peter Newman have been fascinated with which ministers are on what cabinet committees, particularly the one said to be the supreme gathering, “priorities and planning.”
Another aspect in rating importance came with an appreciation culled from the mandarins that the “key” ministers ran the so-called “central agencies” like Treasury Board, Finance, and Justice whose interests in spending or restraining or legislating or appointing or federal employees’ unions ran across the gamut of government.
These bents toward the big committee and the many-handed ministries have tended to diminish the stature of ministers of line departments, say like Transport or Health or Labor or Agriculture.
Are we to go back to the days when a line minister, say of Transport, was more in charge of a particular, recognizable domain, not a mere collegial sharer?
Certainly Jean Chretien is talking that course. He sounds like Mitchell Sharp or Jack Pickersgill, former Liberal ministers, with this theme of letting ministers minister. Already he refers questioners – as on the airline issue to the transport minister. He’s using the aphorism that a minister deals with the hard decisions, the prime minister with the impossible ones.
Chretien in referring to the help he has and will get in setting and sustaining the integrity of his government and caucus from Mitchell Sharp is on to a vital subject which will have immediacy any day.
Trying to assure integrity and getting rid of those who breach it flummoxed Pearson, bothered Trudeau, and helped ruin Mulroney’s reputation. Skepticism is now endemic. Witness media scorn at fatuous remarks by Mrs. Collenette, already tagged as the new “patronage queen.” There’s disbelief this means previous association with the party or the ministers and Grit MPs no longer counts a lot in the appointments which fall outside the public service acts.
The press and the opposition will keep closer score on Chretien’s patronage of merit than on the cabinet structure.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, November 05, 1993
ID: 12662013
TAG: 199311040112
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


A lot of thought, laced with caution, went into the first Chretien ministry. More to the economic right of centre than expected. Strong in parliamentary and bureaucratic experience. Blends geography, gender, old pals rather well but the good class of ’88 gets four posts, the ’93 class gets five. Each ministry in order of precedence, with my opinions:
1. Herb Gray. Ontario. House leader and solicitor-general. Dean of the House. Courageous, popular and knowledgeable. He’s also inordinately serious and slow in thought, and my wonder is whether he has the stamina and the dexterity in French for it. May be trouble.
2. Andre Ouellet. Quebec, External Affairs. Careful and wily. Fine choice who won’t embarrass us abroad.
3. Lloyd Axworthy. Manitoba. Human Resources. Most industrious Grit MP. Left-wing, anti-American becomes ministerial master of domestic policies. A shrewd choice in terms of huge load and the restraints ahead on federal finances.
4. David Collenette. Ontario. Defence and Veteran Affairs. Chosen for party work, not for proven talents. Cheerful, talkative, only modestly partisan. Could be good defence minister.
5. Roy MacLaren. Ontario. International Trade. Prudent, upper-middle-class gentleman. Appreciates history; understands business. He symbolizes the right as Axworthy does the left.
6. David Anderson. B.C. National Revenue. Small role for B.C.’s only minister. A rolling stone of diverse experience. Much intelligence and quirkiness.
7. Ralph Goodale. Saskatchewan. Agriculture & Agrifood. Optimistic, busy, durable and well-liked. Positive choice.
8. David Dingwall. Nova Scotia. Public Works & Government Services. Dour protege of Allan MacEachen. His aggressiveness will be muted because this is not a “show” portfolio.
9. Ron Irwin. Ontario. Indian Affairs & Northern Development. The least treasured of all portfolios for a rough-hewn, blunt man with lots of drive. Sure to strike sparks unto flames with the array of ever-demanding native leaders.
10. Brian Tobin. Newfoundland. Fisheries & Oceans. The smartest of the three loudmouths in this cabinet. (The others are Copps and Marchi.) Gets stuck with most disastrous segment of the nation’s economy. Tough!
11. Joyce Fairbairn. Alberta. Senate leader. Industrious, shrewd, modest politician who knows the PMO. Fine choice.
12. Sheila Copps. Ontario. Environment, and deputy prime minister. An appointment required by the past. Prediction? A gift to the opposition. The most partisan and nasty of MPs gets a portfolio in eclipse and some showy tasks.
13. Sergio Marchi. Ontario. Citizenship & Immigration. Pompous, empty-headed man, fascinated by big words. Prediction? Weakest minister in a strong cabinet.
14. John Manley. Ontario. Industry. Smart, thoughtful, decent and fair. Should become a cabinet linchpin.
15. Diane Marleau. Ontario. Health. Ladylike and studious. Not a vivid personality. Moderately able when speaking but may be rattled by noise and hostility.
16. Paul Martin. Quebec. Finance. Likable, positive person without the adroitness or oratorical gifts of his late, great father. Takes most responsible ministry with immense good-will. Doubts are about his toughness and saying “no.”
17. Douglas Young. New Brunswick. Transport. Good choice for complex, heavy-duty department. He’s bouncy, bilingual and a professional politician.
18. Marcel Dupuy. Heritage (Communications) much touted ex-ambassador with immense experience abroad. Probably too dry for much renown although he may be a dinger in French, head to head against Lucien Bouchard.
19. Arthur Eggleton. Ontario. Treasury Board. A mystery choice for such a heavy, diverse workload. At least it’s not a high-profile portfolio.
20. Marcel Mass. Quebec. Inter-governmental Affairs. Respected bureaucrat is well-qualified for this rigorous chore which focuses on the Constitution and Quebec. Good choice.
21. Ann McLellan. Alberta. Natural Resources. Her election saved Chretien from going with cranky David Kilgour. She comes with fanfare as a beautiful polymath and takes up a task now quiet but potentially explosive, notably in the Oil Patch.
22. Allan Rock. Ontario. Justice. Even more fanfare. Brilliant future PM? Looks neat, contained and speaks well. Most “stars” from Toronto dim in cabinet. He may not.
Off the top, the eight lesser ministers or secretaries of state strike me as less impressive as a group than the cabinet, with the two outstanding secretaries being ex-banker Doug Peters and the Eastern Ontario MP, Christine Stewart.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 03, 1993
ID: 12661764
TAG: 199311020097
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Preston Manning has been wary. He foresees traps and tricks on the way ahead. Witness Reform’s open warning in August that “the principal points of negative attack against the Reform Party will be the following . . .”
The negatives were the “anti-” labels slapped on Reform by the politically correct of Canada regarding the French, Quebec, immigration, women, natives, medicare and pensions.
Manning and his 50-plus MPs, only one with House time, should extend wariness into a considered program for entering, working and surviving in a community in the capital almost wholly hostile to them.
The activists more dangerous to Reform than rivals in the other parties are the political reporters, leaders of public service unions and most of the many national groups with particular, social and cultural interests.
The Reform MPs should scan the list of interest groups that back the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) and the Friends of Public Broadcasting and the Council of Canadians. They’ll be unbridled, persistent scourges of Reform until there is far more electoral proof that millions agree with much of Reform’s critique of our politics. This is at least a federal election away. By then Manning’s cast may have blown its growth as a political force by poorly coping with the critical onslaught to come.
Why give advice to the Reform Party when one doesn’t identify with them? Because I believe Parliament has become a continuing mess in which ingrained partisan chaffering masks both much consensus and common sense.
The centrepiece of House activity, the oral question period, is a farce, a partisan charade. QP and its follow-on, the scrumming at the front apron of the chamber, have become the grist and the gist of TV politics. Through this we get the measure of ministers and their assigned critics.
The question period is not an honest forum where issues are brought forward and discussed with vigor and wit. And literally no one of any significance in the upper political caste or in the media or among the key interest groups gives any serious attention to the so-called debates in the hours of sitting before and after question period.
To me the Reform group of MPs is a hope, maybe the best hope for a sounder, saner House we’ve had since the early ’80s. It will be all too easy for the Reformers to enter the House and be suborned by its practices and the familiar petty partisanship. And so this advice to Reform MPs for their days in Ottawa.
You have a canny leader. Support him.
Prepare your counters, both for attack and defence, in particular for responding quickly and calmly to the put-downs and the allegations.
Be forthright, consistent, fair and modest in both public and near-public utterances.
Better to be quiet than to double-talk or fudge on matters of principle and policy.
Speak in the open forums of the House and its committees, in preference to scrums and one-on-one interviews.
Be cautious with talk and argument with or in front of your staff in Ottawa, particularly if some of them are old hands on the Hill and probable exchangers in one of the great networks of speculation and gossip.
Never relent on the prime Reform’s themes of frugality in politics and government and the imperative of mastering the deficits and reducing the debt.
Make sure your behavior and style of the caucus as a whole and you and your colleagues, comports with the aforesaid themes.
Use the freedom of “free” votes, a notable point in your program.
Steer clear of the obvious antagonists of Reform (e.g., NAC, the CLC, CBC and NFB producers, Toronto Star journalists, those who speak for gays and lesbians, and the Canadian ethnocultural crowd).
Get to know and tap for advice those who represent private sector economic associations, professional groups and the centre- and right-wing think-tanks.
Lean on the researchers of the parliamentary library for information and analysis and the clerks of committees for guidance on preparation and participation.
Never use House work as an excuse for not being available to constituents or vice-versa.
Stay away from the eternal game of threshing either old or new partisan straw.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 31, 1993
ID: 12661472
TAG: 199310310106
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The largest exit ever from the Hill is under way, and the regrets of those of us who have known the departing and respected most of them are not yet salved by the excitement to come.
The departed are so “past tense” once the swell of new MPs rolls into the halls, fresh from the voters and determined to get Canada going.
Three vivid, political memories of mine are of the exuberance and radiant hope in the first hours of the new Parliaments in 1958, 1968 and 1984.
When the victorious leaders – respectively, John Diefenbaker, Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney – parted the golden curtains and moved down the rows to centre-front a swelling thunder of adulation rose from the host. Each time I noticed that even most of the opposition MPs joined the first, though not so excitedly.
At those moments even a skeptic like me was seized with hope and fresh prospects, and also, probably, for the assemblage to come in a month or two. But this time, different from the aftermath of previous sweeps there’ll be but a single MP there of scores who had places short months ago and backed the ministry wiped out by the electors.
Much is being made of the fat pensions the departed will have so quickly, but almost nothing on their sense of rejection and failure despite hard work and fine intentions.
If few occasions in life are more stimulating than being the choice of your community, few are more hurtful than rejection after years of representing it. By rough count about a hundred of the MPs who lost ran third or fourth in their ridings. At first whack, this overwhelming defeat is literally terrible. The wryness and stoicism shown in public masks private grief and railing at both the fates and ingratitude. And almost immediately, certainly within a fortnight, the cachet as well as the writ of being an MP is gone, at home and on the Hill.
The list of the defeated whom one could commend as good MPs goes beyond well my space. Let me touch on those who were special for me.
The House and the Hill as a whole always has a surfeit of partisanship and a dearth of humor. Most of the time, wit and irony and satire are in short supply or blithered over by the prevailing earnestness.
Three of the best bailed out before the election: John Crosbie, Jim Fulton and Marcel Prud’homme. Most of the humorous men who ran were defeated, and the best of these were three New Democrats – John Rodriguez, Dave Barrett and Ian Waddell. (One could never count on humor from any of the women MPs of the last House although one grants both Mary Clancy and Kim Campbell could and did zing at times, mocking rather than spoofing.)
Few MPs who get the floor bring people of the place into the chamber to listen, and to laugh. Rodriguez and Barrett could do this; Waddell was a gentler wit, best at a winning self-mockery.
As it happens most of the “fun” MPs are usually good at hell-raising in the House; for example, the only Grit returnee who’s always good for laughs often has thunder too – George Baker, the Liberals’ cod-father. One hopes he’ll get a secretaryship, if not a portfolio, so we hear him occasionally.
Among the lost entertainers are Pat Nowlan, long a Tory, ousted as an Independent, from the family seat in Annapolis Valley; Don Blenkarn, the most candid, bumptious rollicker among the Tories; and Felix Holtmann, a Manitoba pairing for Blenkarn in broad stuff, even unto buffoonery
Let us hope for some Crosbies and Barretts in the new mob, entertainment such as provided by long-departed, still-remembered MPs like Tommy Douglas, Don Jamieson and Jack Pickersgill.
If one treasures a humorist in the House one also comes to respect the more numerous ones whose inordinate hard work flowers into expertise with good judgment. The best tribute for such exemplars to the new class is to list a round dozen whose loss deprived the House of energy, knowledge and judgment. These are as good as you get as MPs.
Ross Reid, PC, St. John’s West.
Bud Bird, PC, Fredericton-York-Sunbury.
Guy St.Julien, PC, Abitibi.
Jean-Pierre Blackburn, PC, Jonquiere.
Gilles Loiselle, PC, Quebec.
Patrick Boyer, PC, Etobicoke-Lakeshore.
David MacDonald, PC, Rosedale.
Garth Turner, PC, Halton-Peel.
Lorne Nystrom, NDP, Yorkton-Melville.
Bobbie Sparrow, PC, Calgary Southwest.
Ross Belsher, PC, Fraser Valley East.
Joy Langan, NDP, Mission-Coquitlam.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 29, 1993
ID: 12661268
TAG: 199310290088
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Before the overlay of stuff on the new government and Parliament gets deep, allow me some observations on the federal campaign, the 18th of my experience.
1) Despite its recent reduction the campaign is still too long and more costly as a formal process and in outlays by the parties than is necessary.
Given our sophisticated communications and transport, given the relative cheapness and the ease with which a perrmanent voters’ list can now be kept up to date, a campaign period of some 30 days like the British and some provinces have is a practical proposition. The current requirement of 47 days is still too long; the cut from 56 days not enough.
2) The effects of opinion polling on the leaders and their parties were stronger than ever before. This was most noticeable by the end in Quebec and in the far west.
Mega-polling through a campaign sets the trend lines on both the leaders and the parties, as well as creating most of the talking points. Polling leads to stressing of the leaders’ styles and the daily quality of their performances. There was scant space or time for regional and local issues and contests.
This was despite pre-election assertions from both television and newspaper managers that common sense plus hard times would curb the grand treks of follow-the-leaders with more focus on major issues and secondary politicians. There would be far more on the interests and reactions of ordinary voters.
In the event we got a nightly surfeit of Kim Campbell, Jean Chretien and Audrey McLaughlin on the trail, and in time Preston Manning and Lucien Bouchard came to share much more of such attention.
3) Despite the profusion of parties, seen best in the considerable time in TV spots and in ad space used by the Natural Law party, the National party, the Green party, the Libertarians and the Abolitionists, in its opening days the campaign headed for a five-team competition.
The early primacy went to Chretien and Campbell and their parties until the scale of the Reform and BQ insurgencies were made clear by polling. The near-zero impact of the sixth, seventh, etc. parties throughout and in the results is discouraging for those who cherish individuality.
It does, however, underline the feats of Manning and Bouchard in organizing so effectively in such a short time – for Bouchard just over two years, for Manning five years.
Did the many parties confuse voters? Anyone who runs through the standings in the ridings west of the Maritimes sees how intent the voters were regarding choices. They were not wasting or spilling votes on long shots or narrowed idealism.
4) On the hoary arguments about the unfairness or tilt of the media, this was a middling fair campaign rather than a wrenched and wretched one.
True, there was much more tilt against Preston Manning and the Reform Party in the media of the Rest of Canada than there was in Quebec against Lucien Bouchard and the Bloc. Reform is too incorrect politically for most journalists, the majority of whom are from centre to left of centre. This has been most obvious in Metro which has the media that influences the most voters and has the widest reach through CBC-TV news and the country-wide circulation of the Globe and Mail. Aside from an editorial page leaning to the right, the Globe was fair enough on its news side, compared to the CBC.
By and large the CBC had anti-Tory, anti-Reform tilts, almost matching in the early weeks those of the Toronto Star (that prevailed in both its editorial and news phases). The CBC became fairer as the campaign closed, most notably to the Tories. Perhaps the Tim Kotcheffs, Elly Alboims and Peter Mansbridges realized the anti-government bias was too gross. More likely it was because the demise of the government the CBCers hated so much had become certain.
5) The most exemplary and fair campaign coverage by the media was the local and regional stuff. It went far to define and publicize constituency candidates and the local and regional issues. To a degree such range and depth counter-balanced a shift that meant this time in many ridings there was less printed bumph and door-knocking than in the last few campaigns.
A clutch of MPs have told me of fair coverage, particularly by the dailies. As one MP put it, “This was a national election all the way. Candidates were of small account compared with party and leader.”
Finally, a pest on those who squawk that the electoral process is unfair and the parties and candidates vague or deceitful. A citizen of ordinary wit who cared for community and country had the time and much material through the media to make an informed choice.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 27, 1993
ID: 12660865
TAG: 199310260170
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The Liberals have a hefty majority.
They should be able to win every vote in the House of Commons. They should always have their way on the allocation of time, the passage of funds for spending, and the subjects for debate.. The procedural reforms engineered by Harvie Andre, the last government House leader, that the Liberals didn’t like will let them curb filibustering and get through their legislative load.
They should have no trouble in getting the Liberal of their choice as Speaker of the House. Although they won’t have such control of the Senate it’s a fair bet the modest Tory majority there will not be troublesome for a year or two.
Given all this, why am I warning of troubles in the House unless it is managed tightly and astutely by the ministry with exceptional backing from a host of willingly obedient, backbench Liberal MPs?
Parliament is very much in public disfavor. The real planning and decisions and the vital discussions do not happen there but in cabinet committees and with the senior mandarinate or in high-level federal-provincial executive relations.
Nonetheless, for the media, especially television, and for most citizens, the aspect of House time which is the crucial forum is the daily oral question period. It’s there that what become the durable images of a government, a ministry and a prime minister, and of the opposition leaders and parties are fashioned into shorthand labels or epithets.
Question period shouldn’t be but is far more vital in our parliamentary process than either House debates about legislative proposals or the closer scrutiny of bills or departmental estimates in committees.
Names are made or lost and prime ministers and governments sustained or ruined by perceptions layered day by day in the interchanges or crossfire of question period, selections from which are broadcast in short bytes by TV news and commentary. Daily there is a tight, usually topical focus on the party leaders and the major ministers, particularly those responsible for economic or social portfolios.
No one has much analyzed it yet but the new Parliament will not be the usual majority Parliament with the major opposition roles being played by familiar parties with many veteran MPs who by and large know the practices of the Hill.
By my rough count there will be at least 175 green MPs, some 95 of whom will be on the opposition side of the House.
Green MPs in such large groups as the BQ and Reform will have strong tendencies to suspect the prime minister and his government. They will be more impatient, idealistic and fractious than the normal new intake simply because they won’t be coached by veterans about the ways and means of the House.
The new crowd of BQ MPs have nationalism (some might say tribalism) as their inspiration. The Manning host is imbued with a higher morality which makes it very judgmental, most notably of the old, familiar politics.
Another parliamentary disadvantage for Jean Chretien has been little noticed as yet and will become a hard curse to circumvent. He would have been much better off to have won some 10-15 fewer Ontario seats. Instead, there’s one green Ontario Reform MP.
House practices which Lucien Bouchard and Deborah Grey, Reform’s House veteran, know well from experience do not allow government backbenchers any significant role in question period. Given the regional nature of the opposition parties, Bouchard as lead-off each day will by and large tend to go for issues that relate to Quebec.
I project the Reform caucus in its parliamentary work will be much more thoroughly organized than the Bloc caucus. Manning will do something for the west as Bouchard will for Quebec but he’s very shrewd. His next long-term step is to deepen the voting base established in Ontario last Monday. He and his band will be prompted to be Ontario’s voice in and during the prime TV time of the House.
The corporal’s guard of New Democrats has several experienced disturbers of the House in Svend Robinson, Nelson Riis and Bill Blaikie. They too will play the Ontario game as well as they can, given their lack of official party status.
And so Chretien could have as many as 12 ministers and 15 parliamentary secretaries from Ontario to reflect his bedrock but he and they will be struggling after a few months into House routine with a maddening perception that it is the Reformers and to a lesser degree the New Democrats who challenge the government in the interest of Ontario.
Most unhealthy for a big majority!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 24, 1993
ID: 12660449
TAG: 199310240105
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


What will be the Chretien government’s line on nationalism, free trade, and NAFTA?
On its predecessor’s line on interest rates and the GST?
On facing the deficit-debt?
On behaving as Liberals have in the past or going for “reform” in both parliamentary integrity and patronage?
At a coffee-break last week a veteran Hill functionary got a few of us going on the new ministry, roughly this way.
“Look, we know Chretien will have to go for at least 30 ministers. We can figure out a score of them, beginning with Copps, Gray, Martin, Ouellet, Dingwall, Tobin, Axworthy, Marchi, Irwin, Peterson, Kilgour, Masse, Peters, and so on. He’ll have to bypass some privy councillors and we know there must be ministers from B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan from the new inflow. What’s more significant than who is in is who’s placed where.”
He was bold: “I say we’ll see the main lines of the Chretien government and its public image in where he puts the loud-mouths like Sheila Copps and Brian Tobin; the business-friendly idealists like Paul Martin and Dennis Mills; the ideologue of the left, Lloyd Axworthy; the throwback to pragmatic Mitchell Sharp in Roy MacLaren; and the old-style, heavy-duty journeymen, Andre Ouellet and David Dingwall.”
We understood all his references. Beyond the certain emphasis on the prime minister, each government creates its public image most through those heard and observed the most, particularly in House performances.
Both Copps and Tobin are strident combatives, often in bad taste. Even many caucus colleagues shiver at their excesses, in particular at Copps on French Canada.
Will these ranters determine the tone and style of the Chretien government? Does Chretien give Copps a wide writ, say as deputy prime minister and president of the privy council, with responsibilities as the second and back-up voice for the cabinet or distance her from easy slandering in some heavy-duty line department like Health & Welfare or Transport?
Can he trust the vitriolic Tobin not to make the fisheries’ horrors even more turgid and fractious or put him somewhat away from politics of the Rock and the Maritimes and much House work into a broader, less testy task, say as minister of Labor?
While we largely agreed Chretien’s shrewd enough to clip the wings of both Copps and Tobin before they fly as ministers we had less consensus on his placements vis-a-vis his obvious left and right bowers, Axworthy and MacLaren.
The first man scares both the finance folk and all others who fear a return to the cranky relations with the U.S. of the Trudeau years. The second man comforts CEOs and free traders but is far too cautious for the Red Grits. Axworthy may deserve more, simply because of stronger parliamentary work, but what controversies he could generate as minister of External Affairs or of Trade, or gawd forbid, of Finance.
It will signal a government of the centre if Axworthy gets buried in Transport and MacLaren gets Finance or Trade. Communications and a cultural writ for Axworthy would keep him forward for the Liberal left but not instrumental in either the foreign or economic policies of the government.
While Manning and Campbell have talked about “new” politics the winner has made some nods towards new standards in parliament and an end of old-style patronage and partisan rhetoric. And here, the veteran survivor, Andre Ouellet, wily like Allan MacEachen, is a challenge for Chretien (who doesn’t love him).
Ouellet is not far behind Chretien in the sovereignists’ bad books and he might well be the image-maker of the government in Quebec. But he’s crafty and a fixer. He might be worth the risk as House leader. Ouellet is never bombastic in the House, a contrast with David Dingwall who’s usually forecast as continuing as Liberal House leader. Ouellet would be more adroit in brokering House affairs than Dingwall should the Bloc be the official opposition.
Paul Martin must have a big post, one largely economic and domestic. He’s the party’s best augury for fresh policies, much as Dennis Mills is for readiness to experiment boldly. At this stage Martin seems the true “Dauphin.” Does Chretien see this? If so, Martin gets Finance or is made deputy prime minister and responsible for something big like Trade.
Dennis Mills or one of the other few, freer thinkers of the last caucus would symbolize change and Chretien’s willingness to break new ground.
We concluded after scanning the possibilities that Chretien’s placements will reflect his positioning through a long career at the centre, not the left of the Liberal spectrum.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 22, 1993
ID: 12660046
TAG: 199310210183
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


A few old hands on the Hill were chewing over the election forecast, agreeing on Jean Chretien as next prime minister. And this got us talking about his cabinet placements and the Speaker-to-be.
The choice of Speaker was taken from the prime minister’s provenance in the Mulroney years after the debacle caused by his first choice, who proved incompetent. The next Speaker, like the last one (John Fraser), will be picked in a vote by MPs from a pool of candidates in which any MP may put his entry.
A wavering or awkward or unsuave Speaker causes friction and exacerbates misunderstanding, fouling both the House and government initiatives. With a big influx of new MPs certain, and with the French language emphasis sure to come from more BQ MPs, a Speaker who is not tough and firm and also maladroit in French will be ruinous for a workable, let alone a constructive, House of Commons. Considerable House experience and a personality of substance are much needed.
We couldn’t come up with the kind of candidate whose choice would jump out at the 295 MPs of the next House. We anticipate close interest in the choice by both Reformers and the Quebecois but not what their sticking points may be. We did come up with a short list of possible Liberal entrants. We couldn’t imagine a possible NDP candidate. Any good Tory candidate would be one who has held to a Quebec seat, and they may be few. There’s no likely Tory survivor west or east of Quebec who has the French for the task.
Here were the Grits who came up in our canvass.
The dean of the House, Herb Gray, is very weighty and well-liked, and would do well in the vote beyond the seniority factor if he chose to run.
Warren Allmand, another ex-minister, is from inner Montreal and adequate in French. He’s the most bleeding-heart “lefty” of his caucus and surely a sucker for heart-rending motions for debate from opposition MPs.
Jean-Robert Gauthier, a veteran Franco-Ontarian MP: His eastern Ottawa seat is the safest in Canada, and he’s an ex-whip, very dignified, almost to pomposity, but colloquially put, he’s not swift.
Don Boudria, another younger Franco-Ontario MP, has fewer House years but he’s smarter and more industrious than Gauthier. His Rat Pack past hurts and his earned familiarity with the House as an administration helps.
Peter Milliken, Kingston’s MP since 1988, is quick, glib and a procedural authority of unusual finesse but some pall drifted over him a year or so ago and the early enthusiasm for him in his caucus and beyond to other parties has waned a lot.
Douglas Young, in from Acadie-Bathurst in 1984, is confident, humorous and very bilingual. In manner and form he reminds one of Jim Jerome, an able Grit Speaker of the 1970s.
Gilbert Parent, a teacher and four times a victor in Welland is a genial, steady, quiet man. He’s liked all round the House and his French is fine. He may be the sleeper candidate.
David Kilgour, the ex-Tory MP for Edmonton Southeast, is tough-minded and very direct, admired by some but cherished by few. The Speakership might interest him if he doesn’t make the cabinet, and he’d be firm with Reform and he’s far more aware of Quebec than most Anglo MPs.
Mark Assad has held Gatineau since 1988, and before that he was in the assembly at Quebec. He’s stylish on his feet, unassuming and good-natured, assiduous, no fool, well-informed and familiar with themes and methods of the Bloc.
Ron Duhamel, MP for St. Boniface since 1988, as a candidate would also be a sleeper prospect. He’s a literate, precise talker, indeed almost punctilious. He has the mind and much practice as a scholar for mastering procedure.
We talked over possible female candidates and three Liberal MPs came up, none of whom we think would enter unless pushed (privately) by Chretien.
The first, Mary Clancy from Halifax, has too many N.S. colleagues ahead of her for cabinet. She is very confident, but a tongue unbridled has made her few friends.
Christine Stewart from Northumberland in eastern Ontario has grace, poise, dignity and a good voice, plus a friendliness that would draw votes. The doubts are about her stamina and response-time in French.
Thirdly, Diane Marleau, a very capable MP from Sudbury, might expect a cabinet post for good work but one of Chretien’s best friends and prime backer, Ron Irwin, is coming back to the House from the Sault. Northern Ontario doesn’t rate two ministers. Further, Marleau has a voice to wrack crystal.
The contest is likely to come in early December.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 20, 1993
ID: 12659696
TAG: 199310190164
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


There should be a neat Liberal majority unless Jean Chretien has an unlikely late innings goof of major import. Thus what portends regarding the Liberals is more significant than either running dissections of the disastrous Tory and NDP campaigns or understanding the cribbed gains coming up for the Reform party and the Bloc.
It’s unfair to see the Liberals merely falling into office because of the inadequacies of the Tories and New Democrats. My previous columns have sketched: (a) the brilliant use by the Liberals of their Red Book or future program, however flawed or shallow it may be; (b) the host of parliamentary veterans and the extensive experience, residue of the Trudeau years in office, which are likely to define the style, practices and ministerial personnel of the Chretien government.
It’s true that neither the program with its many fudges nor the big squad of old hands presages the excitement of newness or any sense the whole nation is on the edge of grand, fresh endeavors. The new ministry, particularly in its PMO and parliamentary functions, may give us the familiar rhetoric and antics which have led so many to damn Parliament and Ottawa.
On the other hand, experience isn’t always a curse and Chretien, to this stage of the campaign, has done remarkably well in demeanor and tone. He’s both reshaped his personal performances and curbed his folksiness enough to suggest he might be a forthright, “no nonsense” prime minister. Please note this is not a forecast. Underline “he might be.”
Every major male politician I’ve known has always in the pinch turned again or gone back to the style and behavior which first brought him forward and high. Diefenbaker to the rolling, oratorical attack; Pearson always trying to speak to a seminar of equals; Douglas wanting the hall and a crowd to revel in his stories; Trudeau, only fascinating as the very sharp counter-puncher; or Mulroney depending on confiding, genial blarney.
Chretien’s stock line from as early as 1965 has been a reiteration of his love for Canada from sea to sea. He has put this plainly and passionately and in the same style even since his Ottawa advent – the bumptious ordinariness of the very common man. His directness and almost vibrating earnestness, coupled with speedy speech and quickness of gestures of hands and head, have been caricatured widely, particularly since his stint as constitutional leg-man for Trudeau in the early ’80s. It’s what those “hard” Tory TV hits were after.
For many years, because Chretien was not the prime guy but a second level one, his line and style won him much attention as a different sort of politician. For a few years in the mid-’80s after John Turner beat him out for the Liberal leadership he was much cherished by the masses beyond Quebec. Witness the unmatched success in English of Straight from the Heart.
Of course, the popularity won by Chretien in English Canada was countered by the set against him in Quebec for being over-common, uneducated, crude and a vendu. Remember that these images of Chretien in his own province were cut a long time ago and were etched even more deeply after the constitutional success of 1981 left Quebec outside the final agreement. He got more blame than Trudeau.
Whatever wavering or duplicities one may accuse Chretien of, for example, regarding the Meech Lake accord, he has never softened on the priority he gave to federalism and in the animosity he has shown to separatism and sovereignty.
Given the pervasive dislike which affects Chretien and his status as a federal party leader in Quebec and, as dangerous, the fault lines that began to run through his English Canadian stereotype as a lovable Simple Simon, the squeeze on Chretien has been strong.
To repeat, politicians play back to their past successes with style and content. It’s noticeable that in the campaign Chretien has changed his style and constrained his mannerisms. He’s responded to criticisms of his jerkiness and stridency but he hasn’t backed away from his federalism despite the Quebecois’ scorn for it which Lucien Bouchard symbolizes.
This campaign Chretien has slowed down and eased up. He has modulated his voice, even been rather grammatical in his English prose. He’s more dignified and far less scatty. One even sees him listening and imagines he might read. Certainly, he’s drilled himself on the contents of his Red Book and he’s stuck to it, rather than ad libbing as was his old way as a politician on stage and around cameras.
In short, Chretien has been more self-disciplined and steady than his past predicated. Just impressive enough to make one think we could have a serious, dignified prime minister who might lead, even wind up with a passable government.
Hope springs eternal on Parliament Hill.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 17, 1993
ID: 12659356
TAG: 199310170220
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


A reporter working up an overview of the NDP’s dilemmas called to ask a New Democrat of long ago for his explanation of the collapse and whether it means the party’s demise.
Of course, my short answers grew into long ones for these particular questions.
Do you think the New Democratic Party will survive in enough strength to be an effective federal party?
(The short answer, certainly, so long as the party has even one crusading MP with the gall and skills of, say, Svend Robinson or Dave Barrett.)
What are the reasons for the NDP’s low state?
(A short answer is impossible, but one begins with: a) the pre-emption of the party’s themes for the good society by its older rivals, once dubbed by CCFers, “the free enterprise parties;” and b) the increasing misfortune of its mutuality with the trade unions and their narrow and very conservative responses to a radically shifting economy.)
More specifically, how much of the NDP’s difficulties do you attribute to the leadership of Audrey McLaughlin or to the unpopularity of the NDP in Ontario?
(The short answers are that even a Messiah such as Stephen Lewis or a Bob Rae enshrined as a Les Frost “Old Man Ontario” wouldn’t be propping up the NDP’s points this campaign or saving all those B.C. seats. McLaughlin’s no whiz but that’s been clear for three years.)
Who or what party will be the country’s conscience in the Commons if there are few if any NDP MPs?
(The question is naive, crediting NDP MPs, individually in particular, but even as a caucus, with too much decency and courage on behalf of the nation’s underdogs, vis-a-vis MPs from other parties. Conscience is not an NDP exclusive.)
Backward looks are ofen bootless but several times before this campaign the NDP and its antecedent CCF began elections with high hopes and got battered down. Over several parliaments the hopes grew. The party was on the brink of major party status. Then, poof!
Remember? After scraping over 10% of the vote in the three elections, 1949, 1953 and 1957, the Liberals’ loss of government after 22 years saw the CCF begin the 1958 campaign most hopefully. Many journalists saw them passing the Grits. Election night was grim, a wake for the CCF with just eight elected candidates. There were 208 Tories. The disaster was so titanic the cadre of CCF veterans set out to change the party’s name and make it the formal party of organized labor.
The recast itself began with electoral disaster in 1962. The new federal Messiah, Tommy Douglas of Saskatchewan, lost in his riding and despite the prodigious “New” party effort and huge publicity, much of it favorable, just the caucus numbers only rose to 19.
And many forget that thrice under Ed Broadbent – in 1980, 1984 and 1988 – the NDP, after bravura work in Parliament, entered elections talking breakthrough and eclipse of one or other of the old parties. Yes, the popular vote edged up to the 20% range; yes, the seat total rose above 30, and then 40. But 40 is some 110 seats short of certain governance.
One may take from the electoral past of the familiar federal parties, not just the NDP’s, two insights.
First, it’s so hard one may say it’s impossible for the federal New Democrats to knock either the Liberal or Conservative party out of second place and so towards oblivion. (It will remain so until the party can carry a goodly portion of the seats of Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces and Quebec, and is that forseeable?)
Second, too many people in five provinces believe in the NDP as the bearer of social democracy and the party has too large a cadre of experienced activists for it to fade away or be absorbed formally or through osmosis by the nearest alternative, the Grits.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 15, 1993
ID: 12553317
TAG: 199310140208
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Ten days to go and already there have been more post-mortems to read or listen to than in any election I can recall. Why? Why are we explaining the NDP’s death or where Kim Campbell will go?
Much of it comes from our acceptance that opinion polling finds and follows the trends and prospects, letting us draw conclusions like these:
That two leaders, Kim Campbell and Audrey McLaughlin, are doomed and petty status certain for their caucuses.
That two newish, clever and rather confounding leaders have top-line prominence now and will be pivots in the next parliamentary game.
That the fifth leader, though seen as certain prime minister, is already cast as a great survivor, even as an undertaker more than a rescuer.
That none of the five leaders in all their talk bits from scores of places has loomed larger with a particular theme that is loud and clear about a swirl of fears and discontent.
In the noise and confusion, who has spotted one or two grand issues or even any ones that are positive or visionary? Perhaps that’s why we’ve turned to explaining the losers who haven’t yet lost. This time it hasn’t been free trade or NAFTA or the GST. Nor has it been acid rain or the ozone layers or relations with the U.S. or universal daycare or federal-provincial relations or a reformed Constitution.
And although one hesitates to state it, in most people’s minds this election is not about jobs or deficits and debt.
Beyond the latter, supposedly epic themes, despite strong efforts here and there the election has not been about saving medicare and unemployment insurance (at least as yet) nor about keeping the CBC and Canadian culture, nor attaining aboriginal self-government, nor setting a military role for Canada nor about reforming an unconstructive parliamentary process.
The sum of malcontents is high and relates to many of the items just listed but none is dominant. What is, or seems to be, is disrespect for the familiar parties and politicians. Somewhere in the Reform Party’s surge there is this revulsion. Outsiders are defining it as a reaction by those whose beliefs are rooted in a past that has gone or really never was. It’s also seen as that rather rare and fortunately never dangerous phenomenon here, a right-wing reaction, in particular against the left of centre consensus which has set legislative and spending programs for three decades and given us the platitude of “a kinder, caring Canada.”
My hunch is that a silent or unheard majority of Canadians never subscribed to most postulates of that “caring” Canada. It was the consequence of top-down idealism and competitive bidding for the support of well-organized interest groups rather than a array of programs backed by the millions who are of no elite.
Millions never hankered for bilingualism and multicultural- ism, or for a fully unionized and highly paid and nicely pensioned public service, or for a generous immigration program of the “rainbow,” or for big scale funding of cultural endeavors and self-government for aboriginal nations, or for gay and lesbian rights, or for the abolition of capital punishment. Even the establishment of the Charter of Rights and the huge power this delegated to the courts has never been an enthusiasm of most Canadians.
By and large Reform is a lightning rod for a range of discontents which have been there and either ignored or even proclaimed as intrinsic wonders of Canada. As yet Reform is not an emergence of true believers in right-wing ideology.
The surge of the Bloc Quebecois is also a swarming of many malcontents in Quebec rather than an overriding determination for sovereignty and separation. As I read it, neither in Quebec nor in the rest of Canada is this a federal election energized by themes of national unity. The next one may be.
Each region has particular economic concerns, so many stemming from the decline or fall of the resource industries and the eclipse of big manufacturing and its items. Despite the common sort of worry from troubles about cod stocks or pulp and paper sales and prices or about wheat surpluses, none of the leaders and parties has distinctive answers or solutions to them which are winning waves of voters.
Perhaps this comes from an understanding clear across the country that current deficits and debt charges forbid big promises and big spending.
For the first four weeks of the campaign, the line taken from both Jean Chretien and some opinion polling on issues was that this election is about jobs, stupid. I don’t think it is. Rather, it’s a search for something different. Even for a lesser evil.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 13, 1993
ID: 12552639
TAG: 199310120115
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Jean Chretien assures us his government will be honest, open and clean – in short, a contrast to the Mulroney government. Should we take his undertaking and the contrast seriously?
One asks because Chretien seems sure to form the next government even if he hasn’t the 150 MPs with him for a majority. It’s impossible for either the Bloc Quebecois or the Reform Party to win more seats than the Liberals. Reform may get some miracles in Ontario but hardly the 50 or so seats to enable it to edge ahead of the Liberals. At this point Ontario, like the Atlantic, polls show a rapid swing away from the Liberals is unlikely. So is a rebound by the Tories in Ontario.
We have little to go on regarding what the Reform and BQ MPs will bring to the next House in priorities and parliamentary acumen, but we have a lot on Chretien and his Liberals.
The new PM will have close to 25 years as an MP, not far behind the dean of the House, Herb Gray. A batch of ex-ministers from the Pierre Trudeau years should be with Chretien, including Gray, Lloyd Axworthy, Roy MacLaren, Andre Ouellet, Celine Hervieux-Payette, Warren Allmand, Charles Caccia, David Collenette, William Rompkey and Roger Simmons.
Aside from ex-ministers at least 60 other Liberal MPs should be re- elected, including such old-style partisans as the strident quartet of Sheila Copps, Brian Tobin, John Nunziata and Mary Clancy. Chretien will have so much cabinet and House know-how at hand one puzzles where the portfolios will be for the fresh faces he needs and should get from the three most westerly provinces or for the few stars from big business he’s recruited in Toronto and Montreal. Of course, he’ll have to reverse Kim Campbell’s drastic cabinet shrinkage and go back to well over 30 ministers.
So there’s the case that in himself and his MPs, Chretien will form a government numerous in old hands. Let’s return to his undertaking of honesty and integrity.
Despite the broad, current cliche of massive Tory skulduggery and patronage, anyone long close to affairs on the Hill remembers how little difference in wholesome governance there was between the Trudeau and Mulroney governments.
Was the Mulroney government the more venal? No, just cruder and taking more relish in patronage after being so long from the trough. In appointments, contracts, lobbyist relations and consorting with the powerful they were much the same.
Does Chretien now mean his regime will turn its back on the behavior and ethos of the past, including the Liberals’ traditional methods in office?
Will Chretien refuse to feather the nests of literally several thousand Grits with appointments and contracts? Will he open all that to straight merit and open bidding? Will he strip parliamentary extravagance in pensions, swollen staffs and travel perks? Will he end ministerial grandeurs in personnel, travel, publicity and peacock display?
Surely one must be skeptical. By and large these are the Grits we’ve known for several generations, for better and for worse. And not just in patronage and favors. Surely it’ll be the same old Grits in partisan attack and defence, and hardly a ministry of the high-minded or a government caucus of the fair and courteous. The Chretien Liberals will look back and to their experience for values and behavior. It’s not to decry them to underline that he and they are not new brooms.
We must also note that Liberal senators complement the values and behavior of the past. They’re an integral part of the caucus. They have long perspectives in recall of past ministries and Parliaments. Remember Alan MacEachen, Romeo LeBlanc, Pierre DeBane, Bud Olson and Stanley Haidasz? Plus Trudeau apparatchiks like Michael Kirby, Joyce Fairbairn, Colin Kenny, Jack Austin, etc.?
Chretien’s top recruit is a veteran mandarin, a former Clerk of the Privy Council, Marcel Masse. It’s not impugning his integrity to say he brings Chretien a familiar Ottawa.
Turn from Chretien’s likely ministerial cast and a caucus so rich in partisan experience to those closest to him, his handlers.
They’re not a new deal. His triumvirate of handlers – Eddie Goldenberg, John Rae and Chaviva Hosek – are long-time insiders, the men in particular. They’ve been close guides to his career since the late ’70s. Hosek, once a U of T English professor and a failed minister for David Peterson in Ontario, has had several years shaping the “plan” which Chretien’s been flourishing. Believe me, its contents are rife with the past.
To conclude, the Chretien government will be as honest and clean as the Grit governments we’ve known . . . for whatever that’s worth.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 10, 1993
ID: 12552070
TAG: 199310100147
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


Since the ’60s, attitudes of conservative-minded people have been more widely held across Canada than their representation in Parliament.
This will get some redress, at least for one Parliament, if the voters put Preston Manning and a clutch of Reform MPs into the House of Commons. They should reduce an imbalance long tilted to liberal-minded and social democratic values.
The imbalance has favored state activity in almost all fields of endeavor, from the bedroom to ball parks to theatres to factories.
The governments of Brian Mulroney shifted away from Crown corporations in business and services and they talked such a good game of efficiency and frugality they were decried, especially in academe, for following a “neo-conservative” agenda.
Nevertheless, the usual debating ground for each caucus in the Mulroney years began and stayed at the centre-left. Spending remained far more virtuous than frugality. Every cut, real or mooted, from closing a base or a federal office to curbing funding for the CBC or Canada Council was attacked outside and in the House.
We entered fully the era of rights – of women, of children, of the disabled, of visibles, natives, seniors, homosexuals, refugees, of privacy, information and the environment. Each was addressed, and usually through supervision by courts, commissions and boards.
A grid of associations was laid for each sector of political and social action. Leaders of the interests, not elected politicians, became central in public discussion of each field.
The individual MP and what he or she did or could do lost significant public notice and appreciation in both his or her own community and the national one.
All MPs lost roles and influence to the interest group people, in part through the huge attention given leaders of the parties in line with TV’s need to personalize and simplify. A lot was lost to defining and judging duties once in Parliament’s domain, but increasingly given to judges the Yalden-Fairweather-Spicer-Crowe sort of official arbiters.
Through this long apogee of the liberal-minded and the social democratic, our senior governments, led by the one in Ottawa, were innovative, ever ready with funding, expertise and bureaucracies for every problem raised. The definition of problems was generous, the emphasis always on doing good and redressing wrongs, often wrongs done by past generations.
Ottawa has led in instituting the most generous immigration policies and multicultural policies in the western world. Our universal medicare and hospital programs became world class. Our pensions for the elderly and disabled are a world model. And any issue arising along the fault line of our “two solitudes” was met with money and talent. Our language programs became prodigious, going well past official bilingualism. Our sports diplomacy and hosting won us Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Pan-Am Games and their debts.
Were peacekeepers needed? Count on Canada. We worked up haloes both at home and abroad.
We extended or created a phenomenal number of universities and colleges, spending more on education per capita than any rival. We took on more bureaucrats and paid them better than any other country.
Throughout this reign of problem-solving by the kind and the caring there was far more House consensus than clashing disagreement. Critical, conservative voices were few and always muted by both the ethos of correctness and party discipline.
We got the proverbial kinder, caring, gentler, non- American Canada, but the deficits and debt burden got away on us. At the least Preston Manning and some Reform MPs should insure Parliament is deficit- and debt-conscious.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 08, 1993
ID: 12551271
TAG: 199310070182
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The concern is rising slowly in “the Rest of Canada.” Shortly it will be obsessive. After the Charlottetown deal was rejected too many of us forgot the certainty of national discord while many Quebecers want sovereignty.
It’s more than three decades since a cry of treason might have been used against separatists, but no party did so. The principle of “self-determination” was too strong in Canada. And so it’s legitimate for the Bloc Quebecois to pursue separation daily within the House of Commons.
In the televised “debates” Lucien Bouchard, the BQ leader, sustained his part so well that I later met some Parliament Hill regulars agonizing and baffled on how the Bloc might be stopped from confounding the next government.
“Why don’t people realize what’s coming?” asked a veteran secretary. “Imagine the hell in the House with the Bloc against Canada.”
As one familiar with Parliament she foresees the threat as to a workable House. Although previous Parliaments have had MPs who advocated sovereignty-association or the like for Quebec, they were few and petty players. The vital separatist activity was really in the National Assembly and the Quebecois didn’t focus much on the House of Commons.
The House just dissolved sputtered along largely unaffected by the small BQ band that bolted two years ago from Mulroney’s ranks. But that remnant had no mandate as separatists from the electors of Quebec. They were marking time.
There will be 295 MPs in the new Parliament. Is it panicking to think a caucus of 30 to 60 MPs from Quebec will be a serious, running threat to the unity of Canada?
The threat is grave. It’s made more so with the certain advent of Reform Party MPs urging Preston Manning’s “tough love” line on Quebec. Even less propitious is the political history of the prime minister-to-come.
Jean Chretien has drawn even more Quebecois scorn than Pierre Trudeau. It began and has continued since 1967 when as a new minister he went after separatists.
A speech Chretien gave in Toronto laid the foundation for his bad reputation in Quebec. What he said still resonates well with many anglo-Canadians and his line has hasn’t much changed: “I am against the separation of Quebec from Confederation, and I am against an increase in Quebec’s special status within Confederation because both proposals represent failure. Both proposals are backward steps. Both would seriously limit the opportunities for French Canadians for individual and collective development. Both proposals would deny Canada a rich and distinctive character she has tried so hard to develop these last hundred years. Just as we are beginning to make real progress in Canada towards building a truly bicultural country, these advocates of a new special status for Quebec would take us back in the opposite direction where the costs would be great and the benefits would be few.”
If that speech 26 years ago made Chretien a villain in Quebec his errand boy role in the deal which brought the Constitution home and left Rene Levesque and Quebec outside it is even more vivid for sovereignists.
There were glimpses ahead in last Monday’s TV debate. Chretien angered Bouchard by insisting Quebecers were fed up with constitutional talk, and Kim Campbell stiffened the Bloc leader by invoking the sacred name of Levesque against his plan to further independence by working within Parliament.
In a chat before he died in 1987 Rene Levesque talked to me about his feelings regarding former associates, Pierre Trudeau and Jean Marchand. Despite what ensued he still cherished Marchand, and though his differences with Trudeau were profound, he said “I don’t hate the guy.” And then he turned from kindly recall of Marchand to “the one guy I do dislike intensely . . . Chretien!” Levesque almost shivered as he recapped the caricature role of a Quebecer that Chretien kept playing to English Canadians. And that caricature is Chretien’s coming curse as prime minister.
It’s basic civics that a ministry governs so long as it’s backed by a majority of MPs. Jean Chretien now seems sure of such backing from Liberal MPs so why fret? Surely there’ll be four to five years of Chretien and the Liberals in charge of Parliament. On the face of it, yes, but in the eventuality, not likely. Not with an on-going, scornful adversary of federalism in Parliament, haloed by voters.
A resolute opposition group can make any House a choke-hole of governmental intentions. The Bloc is a single-issue party. It will both create a procedural morass and swing everything on to Quebec. The House is the national forum of English Canada, not of Quebec, and the BQs’s work will drive English Canadians crazy and cripple Chretien’s chances for good government.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 06, 1993
ID: 12550589
TAG: 199310050098
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


After the televised debates it seems fair to say the two female leaders, Kim Campbell and Audrey McLaughlin, were not effective enough in them to check their parties’ slides to disaster on Oct. 25.
To put it another way, Jean Chretien lost little or nothing from the two showings that slows or cuts back the widening Liberal edge, and neither Lucien Bouchard nor Preston Manning ruined the regional trend lines in their parties’ favor.
Neither of the women was terrible in presentation or weak in voice or spirit.
Rather, each had so much to make up and the format and their inexperience at debate didn’t give them great chances.
As a major staging point in the campaign the debates were neither dull nor useless but they gave no chances for either a big hit or making up lost ground.
By my count we’ve now had seven servings on television of party leaders in rather stilted formats in elections since the mid-1960s. What has just been provided us was a challenge to the participants but not as thorough a testing or a revelation as could the medium could provide. Each time the event takes so much of the campaign’s focus and then delivers so much less than it could.
There is too much bobbing and side-swiping. At times Sunday and Monday night it was as discordant and adolescent as question period in the House of Commons.
We take for granted that network TV, buttressed by cable and satellities, can go anywhere and reach into every home, but such dexterity and access is not exploited as it might be, in part because it would take so much more air time, in part because sustained, exposed competition scares the politicians. Long stretches of politicking in prime time are taken to be a harsh imposition, even an intrusion on accustomed variety and choices of viewers.
Canada is figuratively a wired city but despite much talk of a nation at the crossroads and an economy near disaster, neither our political nor our media leaders see the political situation as serious enough to ask all of us to listen to a prolonged colloquy of the party leaders in which they could set out their proposals with details and give us a better chance through both exposition and argument for sound comparisons.
It’s no route to enlightenment to stand five party leaders in a row, moderate their performances with a jittery umpire obsessed with retaining order, and have them respond to single questions from token journalists.
The multiplicity of leaders makes it hard for either exposition or common sense contrasts between ideas. To do such needs a series of encounters, each geared to a general but finite topic. The politicians, I think, lack the confidence to advocate this, and thus neither they nor the networks will advocate a series of encounters of the leaders which does without TV personalities or journalists. We could have but we don’t get a series, either spaced over a fortnight or even concentrated over four or five nights in a row.
In this year’s shows we got lots in personality and feistiness that many would find useful in defining their like or dislike of a leader. But such choice is so much about appearance and manner, not substance.
For example, Jean Chretien keeps displaying the Liberal “plan” without being challenged directly by his rivals on its content. He carries the red and blue book around for repeated display much like a kid with his own crayon work. He says the plan was worked up over two years so some may imagine it’s a synoptic array of national programs and intentions.
Chretien’s plan is just an artful, waffley pamphlet, a marvel of compromise to keep within the party far polarities like Lloyd Axworthy and Roy McLaren. Any politically aware adult who’s read Chretien’s “plan” knows it’s flimsy in ideas and dodgy on the GST, NAFTA, the FTA, national daycare, the debt burden and aboriginal self-government. And yet we have the means and techniques to have one televised night of argument by the leaders just on the content of Chretien’s book, and another on the respective plans offered by Manning and McLaughlin, and a final one on current programs and future plans of the Campbellites.
It’s ironic that the issue-thin Grit “plan” has become THE artifact, the “tour de force” of this campaign. It will enter election lore as one of the most successful gimmicks of all time.
Ah, well, why rue another failure to use what television could open up? It’s past, and we wait, doubting the Tories and New Democrats will salvage enough seats for respectability. They could be small, fourth and fifth caucuses of the next parliament.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 03, 1993
ID: 12549926
TAG: 199310030092
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It was a shock to discover from the national list of constituencies and their candidates how many MPs are running again – 219 of them!
Last spring swatches of MPs, notably from Ontario and Alberta, were saying they wouldn’t run again, so many that I prophesied the next House would have the most new MPs ever. This may be the case after Oct. 25, but if so it’ll be through massive losses by incumbents, not because of retirements.
There are 295 seats in the House and only 76 of those who have held them are not trying to return. One must see this far from mighty withdrawal means being an MP is still very attractive. Since about two-thirds of those who are running again are already eligible for an MP’s pension (which we all know is generous) this group perseverance must come from more than the pay and perks.
The big turnout also mocks the many MPs who’ve openly been sorry for themselves at the prevalence of slurs on them as elected representatives of a political party. It also blunts the argument of those in and outside politics who curse controls by the caucus whips and their insistence on sheep-like MPs. Too many sheep want to return to their shepherds.
Not only must being an MP be more satisfying and exciting than it seemed, the bonds to party and to local and regional organizations must also be stronger than most of us imagined.
Some of us have read the chronic dearth of MPs in the chamber after the oral question period for “the debates” as a indicator of both waning participation by MPs and their acceptance a federal system dominated by leaders, ministers, and the mandarinates of Ottawa and the provincial capitals has left them with little to say which merits public attention (and certainly doesn’t get the media’s interest).
By the way, there’s nothing in any of the parties’ platforms, not even of the Liberals, likely winners, which addresses such disinterest with guarantees there can be effective interventions by those MPs who jump the whips. To come back to it, with just under 75% of incumbents nominated, is there likely to be a rather veteran House (for what that’s worth)?
Not if anything near the parties’ points in recent opinion polling hold unto election day, and if the percentage shifts in party support keep to their trends in preference from 80 to 110 of the 219 retreads will fail, most of them Tories and New Democrats. Most of the Tory slaughter will be in Ontario and Quebec, that of the New Democrats in Ontario and B.C.
Given both the national and regional figures of the polls the most vulnerable of all incumbents are New Democrats, followed closely by the Progressive Conservatives in eastern Canada. The Liberals might lose as few as five over all.
Lucien Bouchard and his BQ only have seven incumbents to lose but should keep all but one and pick up somewhere between 25 to 35 more, mostly from the Conservatives, not the Liberals.
The Tories have 39 incumbents back for more in Quebec and 28 in Ontario. They look like losing more than a score in Quebec and close to that in Ontario. They have just seven incumbents in the Atlantic provinces and will be lucky to retain three. In Alberta 16 Tory incumbents are running and eight to 10 of these are likely to lose to either Reform or Liberal candidates. Seven Tory MPs are running in B.C. (which has 32 seats). Kim Campbell may save four or five of them, and maybe herself. In short, given election day splits close to recent opinion polls the Tories will lose from 45 to 55 veterans.
If past swings in electoral fancy are considered, almost always the NDP has either stalled or tailed off a few points in the last week or so of the campaigns. If history repeats there’ll be no magic recovery from the dismal 6- to 8-point support across the land for the NDP.
The best bet a gambler could probably get at good odds at this stage is that there won’t be enough NDP MPs (12) to retain status as a “party” in the House. My hunch is that only a handful of the 37 nominated incumbent New Democrats will survive, and several of these will have to have favorable splits from the candidacies of fourth, fifth, and sixth parties.
Take 76 from 295 leaves 209 incumbents. Figure a failure to return of 50 Tories, 30 New Democrats, and five Grits and the 35th House will have only 120 to 130 returnees. Low!


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 01, 1993
ID: 12549426
TAG: 199309300176
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Should those in a governmental agency set out to defeat the government? You think not? That this is impossible, un-Canadian. We can’t have it here. No . . . well we do!
Watch what CBC-TV news, in particular Prime Time News, is now up to in guiding viewers through the data and arguments of the politicians and the parties. Have you seen one feature in the CBC’s mammoth campaign operation – the so-called “reality” check? It features a senior journalist, the lugubrious and pious Brian Stewart. The checkers, we are told, give citizens the straight stuff on key campaign arguments of the leaders and parties. Not the first but the most striking of these reality gambits came early in the week when Stewart debunked the fixation on deficits and debt.
This stagy truth-bearing is not done by Joe Schlesinger, the CBC’s senior political man, nor by the reporters trailing the party leaders. No, an anchored, august Stewart does it. You may recall that many essays by Stewart this year on Prime Time had to do with the brutality of Canadian troops in Somalia, emphasizing cover-up and the confusion of those in charge, particularly then-defence minister Kim Campbell. Since February Campbell has been (and will be for three more weeks) the chief Tory hope for retaining power. To put her down, to raise doubts about her capacities and truthfulness again and again on network news, is a means of ejecting the government this election.
Who can’t make a good case for a new government? I can. The Tories have had two solid mandates with many failures. Surely it’s time another party and leader had a term in power. But should achieving this be any part of the role for the the largest news reporting and opinion-distributing agency in the country, one owned and largely financed by the government?
It is common knowledge, isn’t it, that all our political parties, even the socialist one are aware and cutting their campaign cloths to big deficits and mounting debt burden of senior governments. And it’s very clear that two outfits, the reigning Tories and the Reform Party, have deficit reduction and controlling debt costs as their central election theme.
Of course, this theme is eminently attackable. And it has been, most notably by the NDP, far more cautiously by the Liberals. There’s nothing unethical about such attacks. So, then why object to the CBC’s use of its safari star to deflate the Tory and Reform balloons on deficits and debt? Why shouldn’t the CBC insist this exaggeration of perils doesn’t square with our strengths and more compelling priorities, like creating jobs and sustaining our well-founded social and welfare systems?
Let me turn to the line we’ve heard since 1984 from CBC officials and friends of the CBC about the cultural harm and the ruination ahead for the CBC from cuts in funding by the Mulroney government. Usually the “friends” see this slow strangulation of the CBC as calculated neo-conservatism. Whatever . . . it’s obvious the CBC and those who work for it have a huge interest in the scale of future government funding. The two bleakest hopes for more money are the Campbell Tories and the Manning Reformers.
Did you see a special report in Maclean’s two weeks ago, “a handbook on debt” and the “tough choices” in handling it? A dozen citizens spent several days reviewing federal spending. After a sobering travail they produced a “summary of suggested cuts” that would save $9.5 billion a year.
There, fourth on the list was a proposed slash of $330 million in CBC funding, about a third of its current take.
Yes, this “tough choice” was abstract, not real. Yes, this review, like the “reality” checks, is a journalistic ploy. But the CBC cut signifies the dangers abroad from worry about deficits. Imagine what such a cut would do to the CBC’s prime and most expensive function – news and public affairs.
So for CBCers to scoff at the fix on deficits and debt that’s at the core of both the PC and Reform campaigns is understandable. But is it right? Is it fair from a CBC employee? Is he a truly neutral reference source?
It seems we’ve had so much advocacy journalism from CBC-TV we take it for granted, for example the promotion of NAC or the “save our forests” crowd. The politicians, especially those in office, have been cowed. Any who go after unfairness or the reforming zeal of CBC News are “dinosaurs.” They breach the sacred “arm’s length” between the CBC and politics. And so no one cries foul when Brian Stewart scoffs away the concerns of Campbell and Manning over deficits and debt.
It’s wrong that a Crown company, the largest, costliest news force and interpreter of ourselves to ourselves (though not the most watched) is reality-busting those likely to sustain or increase the company’s funding.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 29, 1993
ID: 12548835
TAG: 199309280098
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The partisan make-up of the next House of Commons now shaping seems unlike anything we’ve had before. Anyone familiar with the nature and qualities of a Parliament, in particular its rules and processes, has to fear for the next one. Surely you divine the irreconcilables ahead if both the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois are present in enough strength to refuse concert, reject agreements and mount filibusters.
Recent polling tells me the 35th Parliament will be a bloody one a few months after it first gathers. This will be so even if Jean Chretien and the Liberals win a majority (as I foresee). He’ll need a sweep if he is not to have much grief. As few as 20 BQ MPs and a dozen Reform MPs would make grief certain.
We have many difficult Parliaments before the one to come, notably those with precarious, minority governments, genuinely dependent for surviving confidence motions on some MPs from third or fourth or fifth parties.
Each of the three elections in the 1920s produced minority governments and aside from the traditional Liberals and Conservatives, a swirl of Progressive, Labor and United Farmers MPs, mostly from the West, whom the prime ministers had to respect. Liberal Mackenzie King proved adept at surviving, swinging enough of the thirds or fourths to vote for his measures to last as though he had a majority from 1926 to 1930.
In the six elections from 1930 forward the reigning party had handy majorities. So the first minority Diefenbaker government of 1957 was a surprise. However, the three opposition parties were justifiably fearful of an election, and they were routed in the ’58 election when the Chief dissolved the House.
Then three elections in a row – 1962, 1963, and 1965 – produced minority Parliaments. In each, the loosest cannons were Creditiste MPs from Quebec. Aside from locale and language the Bloc Quebecois has few similarities. Only the first of the governments from those three elections was voted out of office. The next two Parliaments were dissolved by prime ministers off after a majority. A tacit understanding to avoid House defeats was reached after the 1963 election between the governing Liberals and the Creditistes. It was re-established when the 1965 election failed to give the Liberals a majority.
Let’s note here that if Jean Chretien as PM should need helping votes from the third and other parties he can expect none from the BQ and only those from Reform at a high, legislative price. The only Creditiste-like MPs in the opposition prospect are likely to be New Democrats, and they may be few.
Both the 1972 and the 1979 elections produced minority Parliaments, each of which died when the government (first Trudeau’s, then Clark’s) lost confidence votes in the House. In ’74 Trudeau goaded the NDP which had sustained him for a price into defeating him, so taking him to the electorate and a handy majority.
In ’79 Joe Clark, short of a majority, declared (as Chretien has done) he would govern as though he had one. His bluff died when a vote against the budget by MPs of three rival parties sent him to an electorate which completed his rejection.
Despite the possibilities of defeat in the House there was much surprise among MPs at each of the three parliamentary defeats I’ve noted. Most MPs want a parliament of length far more than another election. Aside from security, any parliament in its early days has a sense of things to do, whatever the imbalance in its partisan scenario.
A majority House like the last three, with just three parties, may be fractious, mean and unfruitful but it has certainty because the government is undefeatable and because opposition parties are checked from chronic obstruction of the House or its committees by fears of hostile public reaction.
The latest polls presage a House with some 30 to 40 BQ MPs and 10 to 25 Reform MPs. The prime aim of the BQ is to use the House to push the sovereignty of Quebec. Lucien Bouchard can not play patsy with the governing Grits as the Creditistes did in the ’60s. And the Reform Party demands an end to favoritism for Quebec and any moves which give the government of Quebec unique powers.
Chretien as a prime minister from Quebec without a majority of the MPs from Quebec behind him would daily face a House where BQ MPs stressed Quebec and constitutional issues. And worse, the Reform MPs would speak for the millions west of the Ottawa river who’ve had it with the sovereignists and luke-warm federalists.
If there are strong presences of both BQ and Reform MPs there’ll rather quickly be a national emergency with an unworkable House. Shortly, whether through defeat or deliberate dissolution there’ll be another election, one not about deficits or jobs but about Canada as a unity.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 26, 1993
ID: 12548281
TAG: 199309260113
SECTION: Comment


Aside from the election and its tumults, so closely seen and interpreted by the electronic media, publishers keep printing books to explain us and our politicians. Some are slight, some serious and heavy, and occasionally one is humorous.
A slight entry is by Dennis Bueckert, a reporter in Ottawa for the Canadian Press. A paperback from Voyageur Publishing, Kim Campbell: Above the Shoulders, is an easy, short read. The writing is smooth; the tone blends patronizing and know-it-all; the viewpoint is youthful and censorious of anything that is small “c” or large “c” conservative. Campbell’s life is sketched from conception through family breakdown, schooling and two failed marriages.
The portrait is of a brassy, unethical, inordinately ambitious politician, fudging or evading truths and parts of her past. The central theme is a wonderfully topical creation of a prime minister by a well-heeled guiding clique, featuring Sen. Norman Atkins and Dalton Camp, remnants of the Big Blue Machine of the Davis era in Ontario.
Bueckert’s romp is not nearly as rich on Campbell’s family and life as Bob Fife’s book, and not as policy-centred as the one by social democrat Murray Dobbin.
Jeffrey Simpson, a Globe and Mail columnist given to book-making, has produced another serious but very journalistic book about our national politics in Faultlines: Struggling for a Canadian Vision.
Its immediacy comes from the ongoing careers of the eight people examined, including two bright party leaders, Preston Manning and Lucien Bouchard; a most clever premier, Clyde Wells; the Dene chief-cum-royal commissioner George Erasmus; the burly FTA protagonist Derek Burney; and Leon Dion, a professorial interpreter of the Quebecois to themselves.
Simpson irritates many media colleagues, in part because he speaks so succinctly and well, in part because he’s had the print space most read by politicians, officials and fellow journalists.
He’s sneered about as pompous, middle-of-the-road, a soulmate of mandarins, a would-be George Will.
In my opinion he’s as good a political analyst as we have. Perhaps because his early years were shaped by life and interests in the United States, Simpson has had that added dimension which outsiders have so often brought to our critical journalism – e.g., Peter Newman, Richard Gwyn, Anthony Westell, Jack Webster, Lubor Zink and Dalton Camp. In any case, Faultlines has been sobering and discouraging for me, but not because it’s a poor book.
After absorbing the diverse ambitions and values of the eight characters portrayed in Faultlines my country and its continuity, largely as it has been through my lifetime – from colony to nation one might say – is fragile and more tenuous than I thought it was, and not a global model anymore! Unity around a common cause has broken, probably for good. Our politics become more about diplomacy than governing.
To close, consider a more optimistic book, one particularly heartening for New Democrats, fearful for their party. Alex in Wonderland is a paperback from New Star Books, Vancouver, and written by Alex Macdonald, a former MP, a former B.C. cabinet minister, a lawyer, humorist, good companion and optimist.
This is Macdonald’s second book using the simple format of a sequence of “first person” letters or notes about people and events he’s observed or taken part in, e.g., the environmental summit in Brazil. His first book, My Dear Legs, published in 1985 sold well, particularly in the West. This time Macdonald examines current values he finds in politics, critically but not nastily. He divines more goodness and promise than must critics.
He argues or, better, insinuates, we can extend and sustain a kinder, fairer society. But this makes Macdonald and the book sound stuffy and neither is that.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, September 24, 1993
ID: 12547563
TAG: 199309230183
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Looking for the edge? It was with the Liberals well before the campaign was joined, and despite polls showing an exceptional Tory resurgence in my opinion the main advantages still lie with the Liberals. This is more because of the glacial rate of recovery from the recession and a worn, governing party which is both too familiar and unchallenging after nine years in office rather than a consequence of the Liberal campaign to this stage.
Thus far the Liberals have much exposed their leader and he is showing himself to be what he is and has been for a long time, a plain, ordinary, not very exciting man.
Further, the Liberals seem to have gotten off a large program without it being buried immediately in laughter or scorn from the journalistic and interest groups which are crowding the political sidelines. Despite its length their program is vague, tentative in many undertakings, and rather empty regarding the GST, free trade, and debt management but it has many talking points which have been bringing rival leaders forth with criticism rather than jeers. It’s most clever in the muting of those nationalistic, anti-American, and social democratic themes which have been put so strongly in this Parliament by such prominent ex-ministers as Lloyd Axworthy, Herb Gray, and Warren Allmand.
Nevertheless the program is more substantial in campaign terms than what the Conservatives seem to be presenting which, figuratively, is more of the same but with Campbell in charge, not Mulroney. As I noted earlier this week, the literally awful repute of Brian Mulroney is not killing the Campbell campaign but it brakes it from running free.
At least until the network debates the Liberal program has become and remains the most noticed focal point in the campaign beyond the stock “leaders’ day” coverage which is the prime stuff for the dominant media.
If Chretien makes it through the network showings of the leaders without a disaster like being routed by Campbell on some obvious matter the Liberals should slide fairly handily toward something between 140 and 170 seats on Oct. 25. If Liberals only win the 15 to 16 which are certain for them in Quebec the total will be close to 140.
After three weeks of the campaign Campbell is not having a bad one but neither is Chretien. It seems clear, however, that Preston Manning has been doing very well, first in the nature and size of the crowds he’s attracting, second, in presenting his main program themes well, notably on debt management and reducing deficits. These Siamese-twin issues seem the most pervasive of the campaign across the country and ones which neither the Conservative nor the Liberal leader like to dwell on except in castigating each other.
Manning is the ablest politician-as-teacher among the leaders. Also, despite the “aw shucks” modesty and slow phrasing of his talk – very slow when compared to Campbell and Chretien – he’s as quick and apt a counter-puncher as Campbell and he’s able to make much better use of modern political history than either Campbell or Chretien.
One has to dwell on Manning’s positive qualities because their exercise in the rest of the campaign, and especially on the network nights, are so dangerous to any Tory prospects for even a modest sweep in the West and seem likely to scupper a lot of Tory incumbents in the small city/small town ridings of southern Ontario.
Several callers, bothered by the thick fog of this campaign, have asked me if there have been any like it in modern times. No other campaign’s had the particular confusions of this one but it may presage a period rather like that between 1962 and 1965, with three elections in four years. There was also a chronic impatience with the parties’ leaders, widespread doubts of the integrity of elected people, and substantial fringes on both the right and left side of politics in Social Credit and in the NDP, but most remarkably in Social Credit’s Quebec manifestation led by Real Caouette.
Each of the three elections produced minority Parliaments. As each campaign began the Liberals were favorites, with neat margins of from 8 to 10 points in the Gallups. Unfortunately for the Liberals, third and fourth party splits and vigorous campaigning by the much caricatured Tory leader, John Diefenbaker, kept them from winning in ’62 and deprived them of majority power in ’63 and ’65. In the first two, the minor parties took 26% of the vote, in the third, they took 28% of the vote.
These totals are worth remembering now because opinion polling so far shows from 28 to 29% of voters have been ready to vote other than for Liberal or Tory candidates. My hunch is that this time such votes will hurt the Liberals less than the Tories, and give them either a very near or real majority.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 22, 1993
ID: 12547000
TAG: 199309210118
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Will you join me as a voter in puzzling about the Mulroney factor? Where has it gone? We’ve had two national opinion polls since the federal campaign got under way, each by a reputable outfit. Both show the Conservatives and Liberals close. The latter were three points behind at 33 in the first one, and tied with the Tories at 35 in the latest.
The NDP, for years No. 3 in both polling and federal elections, has been in fifth place, showing an abysmal six points in the latest poll, five below both the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois.
Another curiosity, at least this early, is the mere 12 points for the undecided in the latest poll. It was only 20 in the earlier one. I use the phrase “only 20” because it’s unusual that the undecided are at or below 20 points at this stage. In brief, more people than usual have their minds made up.
Unless one of the frontrunners moves up to 38 to 40 points in the last week as the other drops to 30 to 32 points, a minority Parliament is likely. One is helped toward such a conclusion because Reform’s strength in Alberta and B.C. in particular, and the BQ’s pull in Quebec would translate into MPs, not just good second- and third-place showings.
In mid-winter when Brian Mulroney set his departure from office for June, the political commentary was obsessed with the clear and massive public dislike of the prime minister.
Remember nodding at this superlative? “Mulroney is the most hated prime minister in Canadian history.”
It’s a fair assumption that it was point standings below 20 which led to the Mulroney decision. If he’d had a poll in February showing his party within two or three points of the Grits he’d still be leading it. What’s happened to all that animosity for Mulroney and its slop-over to the cabinet and the Progressive Conservative party?
My first hunch is that it hasn’t so much disappeared as become irrelevant to most voters as they appraise this campaign. My second hunch is rather dangerous to voice. The animosity to Mulroney ran wide and deep but considerably more so with those of the media and those who speak for most interest groups and who loom so large in our news as critics of ministers.
And both these groupings antagonistic to Brian Mulroney and the Tories assumed the voters would not forget and forgive either the party or whomever replaced him. Campbell is certainly not flaunting the favors the former PM gave her but it’s clear he is not the electoral burden for her that the present and recent unemployment rates are.
A Liberal MP from the Maritimes who’s running again tells me that nothing in politics has surprised him more than the quick eclipse of Mulroney as the national bogeyman. He thought his party would literally surge to a majority on hatred for Mulroney and disrespect for his party. He still thinks such bitterness will be telling at the final vote count but it isn’t showing much in the riding and the region.
Instead there’s a keen, quite critical interest in all the party leaders and the parties’ postures on issues. Campbell, he says, is not really carrying Mulroney on her back.
The fading of Mulroney as a prime talking point for the Tories’ rivals doesn’t mean he’s either forgotten or an asset to his party and his successor.
But this time, to this stage, neither former leaders nor the past records of the two old parties seems to loom large. What’s up and open are the present leaders and the ideas and programs they’re presenting. Otherwise, the Tories would be far lower than the polls show them to be.
One might argue Campbell’s magnetism has made people forget Mulroney, but I wouldn’t say it.
Although she’s a great contrast in style and talk to Mulroney as yet I can’t see her as a Pied Piper. The Tory rebound may have more to do with Chretien’s attributes than her own.
Whatever . . . in the comparison she isn’t suffering.
The Maritime MP also drew from the neck-and-neck standing in opinion polls what has made some other MPs hopeful, particularly some New Democrats I know.
They think that without a strong tide running for any party or leader, voters will be more given than usual to examining the merits of alternative parties like Reform and the National and the worth of individual candidates on their ballots.
If both tendencies emerge, there will be a lot of three-way and four-way splits with outsider parties scoring some surprises. Also the exceptional candidate or the incumbent who has been much seen and heard will run ahead of his or her party.
When you follow the TV evening with the leaders, see if Brian Mulroney is much resurrected and by whom. He may not even be mentioned.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 19, 1993
ID: 12546429
TAG: 199309190141
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Some diverse campaign comments:
1) The national figures from the first, big opinion poll (by the Globe and Mail) on “which party would you vote for” (now) show the Tories at 36% and the Grits at 33%. But an examination of the splits regionally tell me an election early last week would have given us a Liberal government with a working majority. How so?
Chretien’s party held a good edge across the Atlantic region and a fair edge in Ontario, suggesting a sum of 90 and up seats from those regions. Despite trailing third in Quebec the Grits can count on at least 12 seats in Montreal and the Hull-Gatineau region. For a majority they would have to take 45 and up in the West. Although they trail the Tories across the West the Reform Party is much stronger there than the NDP, usually the third party, and Reform votes hurt Tories more than Grits.
It’s early in the polling but until the Tories get close to even with the Liberals in Ontario and either Reform slips in the West or the NDP comes back strongly, the Liberals will form the government.
2) Should it shake your confidence in the management of the election itself if you heard Elections Canada is capable of mistakes?
Election Canada’s information kit for the campaign includes 24 questions on civic matters, each of which it answers.
One question asks how many winter elections Canada has had since Confederation and gives the answer, four. But that’s only right if the election of 1958 held on March 31 is counted as a spring, and not a winter, election. The ’58 election was very wintry, I know, as a candidate severely frostbitten west of Kapuskasing late in March.
Another question asks who the only persons are in Canada with the privilege of having the title “The Right Honorable” before their names, and answers the past and present Governors General, prime ministers and chief justices of the Supreme Court.”
Aside from many deceased “right honorables” who had been none of the above, on July l, 1992, seven living worthies who were none of the above were elevated, including the first woman cabinet minister and a former leader of the opposition.
3) With the opinion polls showing Kim Campbell riding high you’d think that one or more of the three newish books about her – by Bob Fife, Murray Dobbin and Frank Davey – would be near or at the top of the bestseller lists. The oddity is that Davey’s work which overall got the best reviews of the three has not been on any of the recurring lists I’ve seen. Neither of the other two got near the top of any list and never did both appear on the same list.
4) What a difference a year in the U.S. has made in Canada for Mel Hurtig, the National Party he leads, and for Maude Barlow and her Action Canada, one of the most vociferous participants in the 1988 campaign.
It was so much easier to work up heat and steam over George Bush and Brian Mulroney than over Bill Clinton and Kim Campbell.
5) Liberals plan a Canadian Youth Corps. They must think their competition, and journalists too, have short memories, otherwise why resurrect their own deep embarrassments? Have they forgotten the fiascos of the Company of Young Canadians (mid-1960s into the mid-’70s) and its re-founding as Katimavik by Sen. Jacques Hebert, a fellow canoeist of Prime Minister Trudeau? Gosh, even good Grits like Marc Lalonde heaved with relief when Hebert’s fast faded out and the Mulroney government let that second Grit youth corps die.
6) A short, clear piece of advocacy in a recent Ottawa Citizen by Bob Phillips, a former mandarin and promoter of Mackenzie King’s legacy for the nation in large, beautiful Gatineau Park, has not been seized by any party or candidate as a program plank, not even by the Bloc Quebecois.
It would be a very democratic move to open up gorgeous Harrington Lake for the use of all Canadians. It’s blocked off at each end from the lovely, publicly accessible lakes, Meech and Philippe. Only the prime minister and entourage, including a permanent cluster of Mounties, savor this summer home of prime ministers with its many thousand acres of forest and waters. The Mulroneys loved Harrington and Campbell is based there.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, September 17, 1993
ID: 12545786
TAG: 199309160164
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It’s faint praise, but The Liberal Plan for Canada in all its 112 pages is not as awful as it seemed. It’s readable and understandable despite extravagance in sugary optimism.
The best of the so-called plan is its relative restraint in spending promises and their projections. The wry aspect of the plan is its dodging or fudging of tough questions that beg for clarity and decisiveness. For examples, the plan is bland or imprecise regarding the GST, the FTA, NAFTA, national day care or sustenance for culture.
The briefest of the eight chapters is titled “Governing With Integrity.” It will probably the least examined or remembered. If a Chretien government met the intentions quickly and fully we might enter an era on the Hill without the traditional spoils for the victors and their friends and get a long-needed muting of the mean partisanship which cheapens Parliament.
Although there are undertakings to curb what might be called the commercial lobbyists the plan is without undertakings regarding a more insidious consequence of modern communications, e.g., TV, on political discussion. This is flowering and institutionalizing of major interest groups with particular aims. More and more they set the content and tone of discussion in most policy fields. They have the experts and the briefs which feature in the hearings of parliamentary committees and of the many federal commissions, boards, etc..
What does Judy Rebick say? Hear Bob White on this! Check what line Tom D’Aquino, or Tim Reid or David Somerville, is taking. If it’s “green” contact David Suzuki or Elizabeth May; for counters try Adam Zimmerman or Jack Munro.
Across the face of parliamentary and administrative politics there’s an an array of well-organized interest groups, some largely funded by government, most aided by tax deductibility. Yes, lawyers and bankers pre-date Confederation so there’ve always been been commercial and interest group people intervening in federal Ottawa but in the past two decades both sorts have become literal hordes.
One troubling aspect is the stepped-up use of partisans: Ex-politicians and apparatchiks from the three familiar parties. Such lobbyists usually nurture their party ties and often do major party chores in campaigns and in fundraising. The Grits say they’ll curb the role of the commercial lobbyists but offer nothing to counter-balance interest groups in politics or the political correctnesss they sustain.
In a sentence what are Chretien and company up to with this non-traditional, multi-purpose package?
To seem responsible, and very aware and respectful of the concern across the country with deficits and debt burden, while offering a few proposals for the economy and our social system and, of course, better, much more honest government.
It is not a radical plan; it is not notably diverse or encyclopedic; it is quite moderately left of the stock Liberal place in the centre of the ideological spectrum. While it indicates a bit more interventionist government than the Campbell Tories are offering it should not scare what the NDP calls the big interests, nor on the other hand should it rouse the ire of those who want a return to an Ottawa that “cares” about social and cultural matters.
Let me close these so-so responses to the Grits with two examples of what I mean by fudging and indecisions.
Take the stuff in the chapter on aboriginal people or the vouchsafes on cultural identity in the chapter, “Strengthening Our Society.”
The plan doesn’t note that just the direct, federal spending on aboriginal pople has passed $4.5 billion a year. A lot of money for a host of programs. The Liberals back native self-government all the way but are both vague about the way and without definition of what self-government is to mean. Like municipal government? Or provinces? Dual citizenship, or not? The plan oozes empathy and hurrahs for better education, faster land settlements and more economic opportunity.
The good intentions are rampant but not the money for it all. The appendix costing the plan shows $30 million the first year for two educational programs for natives, rising by the fourth year to $60 million. Forgive me but those sums are laughable, given the billions now going into native programs. Such pittance millions would hardly cover the annual travel bill of the “brief-case” chiefs and councillors.
The cultural stuff is even more pathetic re funding. The costing table lists new spending of $15 million, then rising to $20 million. What a let-down after the text’s promise of “stable, multi-year funding for national cultural institutions such as the Canada Council and the CBC.”
Liberals feel for the artists and the CBC but . . .

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 15, 1993
ID: 13018236
TAG: 199309140127
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


These are impressions from the first stages of the campaign, mostly received through watching a lot of TV news and commentary but occasionally reinforced or altered by scanning a dozen or so daily papers and some chatting up of other journalists and a few of the present MPs.
Firstly, the sum of what I see of Kim Campbell and Jean Chretien through TV exposure is hardly disastrous for either, but there seem serious, even dangerous, omens for each.
Campbell seems preternaturally taut and stretched. She hasn’t cracked or flubbed seriously as yet but, as a viewer, I apprehend she will blow sky-high with a temper tantrum and bursts of vitriolic phrases.
Chretien, in my years of watching him, has almost always been far more keyed up than most politicians so his tenseness and rackety vibratos are familiar.
I sense, however, that his usage of English has regressed, not improved, and the awkwardness of it for the viewer is harsh and, I think, antagonizing.
In short, each of the two leading leaders should slow down both emotionally and in speech. It’s obvious neither can duck a lot of daily exposure to the camera and encounters which demand ad lib repartee but if her tension and his wrangling with language keep on, a lot of voters in English Canada are going to look more closely at Preston Manning simply because he’s less of a strain for a viewer. As for Audrey McLaughlin, she is whistling bravely through the graveyard to a political tomb and we’ve not had enough of Mel Hurtig to go on. Lucien Bouchard is about to impinge on English Canadian psyches through TV as a menace who will set the voters wondering which of the Liberals or Tories makes the best counter to him.
Secondly, it’s obvious the leadership apparatus and, one assumes, the entire campaigns of the Grits, Tories, New Democrats and Reformers are well-heeled and when the campaign gets to the advertising stage we will be blitzed with messages, most negative, about other parties and other leaders.
Thirdly, despite the Pollyanna idealism pre-campaign about the imperative for the media to see the politicians deal with issues rather than fix on personalities and both staged acclaim and confrontation, so far most of those of the media covering the campaign – and for TV and radio in particular – are well into the same, familiar emphasis on leaders, an emphasis rich in judgmental ratings of performances.
Straight reporting seems to be an anachronism, particularly for those working at the CBC’s election coverage, whether anchors or reporters. From Day 1, the Mother Corp chose to be proprietorial, as though the election is its prime duty and its glory. As CBC newscasts riff through the leaders’ days the judgments flow and the flicks of kerfuffle or disharmony are emphasized far more than what literally was said and done. For example, how much longer do we have to hear the banalities on the shadows Bob Rae casts over Audrey McLaughlin?
Fourthly, it is not impossible but it seems less and less probable that the grand “debates” of the party leaders on network TV in English and in French will settle either the leadership quotients or the major issues. Why so? Because there will have been a surfeit of appearances and charges and counter-charges before the debate, wearing down anticipation and blurring the issues. The main contribution of the TV debates will be the major interpretations taken from the performances in French and the reactions to them in Quebec.
The issue that’s on the rim of bursting forth is the hoary one of national unity, and all the fatigue with constitutional reform won’t keep it from the fore, especially west of Quebec, if voters become more seized with the persona and aims of Lucien Bouchard and the likelihood of a spoiling, negatively disposed caucus of Bloc Quebecois MPs.
In short, whether Quebec returns is the most bothersome question, ranking ahead of the mean choice between more jobs or more debt load. Thus, the aftermath of the debates will likely centre on reactions to Bouchard.
Finally, I have a hunch, gleaned more from talking to MPs and other participants at the constituency level than from TV, that a majority, perhaps a handy majority, of the electorate, is more in a conservative than in a liberal state of mind and more skeptical of more government programs and intrusions in the economy than is usual during our federal elections.
Why think this? Largely because it’s the best explanation for what the opinion polls have been showing. So far there is no swing to the only certain alternative to the party in power.
Of course, the swing may well come. If it does we’ll know about it before election day. And those who fear a minority Parliament, roiled by separatist MPs, will relax.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 12, 1993
ID: 13017904
TAG: 199309120128
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Are we into the most important election ever?
It seems a Simple Simon question, but today a good former MP told me he saw this as the most important election of his lifetime.
Why? Because he felt it would determine if we continue our shift to American values and attitudes, or stop it and get back on the track of the collective good and meeting the needs of the many.
Then I read Peter Newman’s latest piece in Maclean’s. It ends with “every election is important. But this time, the risks have never been greater.”
Newman thinks the compelling quality of this election lies in the profound discontent in the electorate with politics as they have been, along with a mass awareness that our society and its economy is in transit with change under way everywhere.
Change around the globe is hard to shape, let alone manage, but Newman seems to see our choice as between “old” politics and “new” politics and the latter has much to do with doing less through or by government.
One may sense a sharp difference in what Newman and my former MP see as most significant, around and within this election, and yet agree that each has a good argument. What’s harder to grasp is the importance and the utility of the choice each one seems to pose.
Back to a so-called kinder, caring Canada? Or, forward through efficiency, frugality and competition?
In short, I wonder whether a clear victory for one of any of the parties with even a slight chance of winning is really going to determine how our politicians and the federal system respond to change, shape the transition and allay our fears and skepticism.
Before raising what I call the burnt-out factor, which I believe is most influencing politicians and voters this season, let me note what both Newman and my friend agree about – that repeated deficits and galloping costs of the public debt are making for a bare-bones campaign without promises of grand, new undertakings. But when talk of frugality, efficiencies, and no more taxation runs across the partisan spectrum what fresh advocacy is possible, what new programs are imperative?
My thesis embraces more than the deficit-debt conundrum. We’re stalled and almost inert in the policy and program sense. We’re stalled because Ottawa has been so active, addressing scores of issues or problems with programs, laws, agencies, and grants through the post-Centennial years. Arguably, we’ve been more inventive at using government and its resources than any western country even Sweden.
We – or rather our leaders – have pushed government into backing, in whole or in part, almost every human endeavor, from the rights of women, children, handicapped, natives and homosexuals, to better recreation and to easier sexuality (e.g., abortion or birth control).
We’ve done far more for the arts and for ethnic distinctions and heritage, and for bilingualism and multiculturalism, and for higher education.
We created the most generous immigration and refugee programs in the world and have done our part and more in the world through peace-keeping and foreign aid.
We’ve backed health and medicine in almost all their aspects, and most fields of economic enterprise, including industries and regions in decline and losing because of changes in resource values and usage.
Just range over that list. Reflect on the awesome scale and diversity of what we’ve done and have been trying to do through governments and public funds.
Done so much; spent too much; and so much more to do with so little to sustain it in either money or certainty of success.
Now add to the list three self-imposed convulsions: 1) Emplacing a monster tax change, the GST; 2) the time-scaled closer trade with the U.S.; 3) and several mighty runs at constitutional change, the successful one of which has been altering inexorably the relationship between our judges in their courts and the long familiar writs of Parliament and legislatures since 1981.
Consequentially, official arbiters of rights and rules seem everywhere – protecting, rebuking, exhorting, levying fines, and issuing “stop” orders.
All this has much changed us and how our communities work. More, I think, than World War II. Such changes and their subsequent inertias are quite aside from the process of world-wide change and transition that Peter Newman talks about.
In baseball prose our pitching arms are tired out. Could they come back out of this election and the mandate it confers? Figuratively we’re burnt out and, switching metaphors, we can’t imagine anything new under the sun for which we have the money and the energy.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, September 10, 1993
ID: 13017606
TAG: 199309090168
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


This will be a federal campaign most of us will endure rather than enjoy or get excited about, even though its predictability is up in the air.
Roughly three situations are familiar as the seven weeks of the general election campaign begin because each of them has been much canvassed by the politicians and their media.
No appraisal of any of these situations gives a certain guide to the next Parliament beyond the obvious, that we will get a government led by either a Liberal or a Progressive Conservative.
First, there is the leadership situation: Kim Campbell and Jean Chretien in particular; then Audrey McLaughlin, Preston Manning, Lucien Bouchard and Mel Hurtig.
Second, there is the perceived mood of the electorate, already profiled, largely through opinion polling or the reigning scenarios of provincial politics, notably in Ontario and B.C.
Third, there are the so-called issues and the matching planks or propositions for them put forth by each party.
A fourth situation is always present in a general election but never noticed much until the results are posted and then only when it is seen to have been a pivotal factor. When there’s no mighty issue or cherishable leader the candidacy element may count for much in many ridings. This time there’ll be more multiple candidacies than ever. Also many incumbents are packing it in. Those who are staying who’ve been assiduous, particularly those not in big city ridings, seem to have good shots at surviving this one. Big swings usually snowball most in metropolitan regions and are weaker in the boondocks.
At the formal start, Campbell is the least discounted leader among the three who head the familiar parties. She’s the freshest and has shown some wit and quick reactions in her brief and largely uncontested exposure. Already she has centre stage. It’s apparent, however, she must have a good and largely goofless campaign if the Tories are to continue in office. This seems possible at the moment – not probable, possible.
Why possible? In particular why, given the pervading sourness across the land and the gross distaste for Brian Mulroney? The answer is largely in the fixation with leaders, firmed so much by TV, and the relative unpopularity of both Jean Chretien and Audrey McLaughlin. Also there’s a few who think a ramp for Preston Manning will emerge and total disbelief there could be one for Mel Hurtig.
There seem two certainties and three dicier prospects when one weighs the mood across the country by region. The sure things in terms of bias seem to be for the Liberals, in the Atlantic region and in Ontario. It’s hard to imagine the Grits losing to the Tories or any other party more than four of the 31 Atlantic seats or more than a third of Ontario’s 99 seats.
At the moment Quebec defies confident prediction because of the vogue there for the Bloc Quebecois and the heralded dislike of Jean Chretien. One doesn’t dare hazard how Campbell will match up in Quebec with the two native sons.
NDP survival with a cluster of MPs depends so much on Saskatchewan and B.C. If its strength holds in both, the Tories should have better chances, the Liberals worse. But the reverse is likely with Reform. Reform votes would mostly be former Tory votes. In Alberta where Reform should run best, through the splits the Liberals could win the most seats since 1968 (when they got four).
There may be a slight edge everywhere for Campbell as the first female PM and one who has quickly seemed credible as such but that is unlikely to be as useful to her party’s numbers coming out of the West as the rather unnoticed fact she is not an Eastener.
Most regulars in the media who’ve been making such crude regional scans of prospective party support repeat what seems obvious: A House of minorities is as likely as a clear win by the Liberal Party. The Liberals are the only contestants with a chance for a sweep, and that’s why the odds are 5 to 3 for a Chretien government. A fair bet but no sure thing.
The third situation, that regarding policies, is both less distinctive and far more subdued than is usual at elections. Although the recession with its job losses drags on, the massive national worry about it is more than matched by concern over the chronic deficits and elephantine debt burdens of all government.
So the politics of grandeur are out. Promises are albatrosses. The contest is grim. Who might do the best at the least cost and without more taxation?
As of now the promise is of a hair-shirt campaign for leaders, candidates and voters, and any clear winners will wear the shirts for a long, parsimonious time.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 08, 1993
ID: 13017353
TAG: 199309070108
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Ken Dryden, lawyer, author, and ex-goaltender, has a new book, not about hockey, The Moved and the Shaken, published by Viking. And The Generals, published by Stoddart, is a new work by Jack Granatstein, a prolific historian at York University. By stretching, one might class each book as “political” but the common factor, aside from same-day arrival and being easy reads, was their long lead time. Dryden began study of a very ordinary Canadian five years ago. Almost as long ago, word was around that Granatstein was “doing” the Canadian generals of World War II.
And the consequences of their work? Each book held me to its end. Although Dryden’s is a tour de force of clear prose I struggled with its significance, or rather, the significance the author believes is there.
The Generals is stock Granatstein, well-documented, sonorous, judgmental, and completely “top down” account of ambitious rank. The sources are heavily official and the narrative always seems far from battle. Somewhere there was “the sharp end” where men shot and ducked or waited, and wondered about their leaders. Most soldiers of World War II experienced war from within battalions or regiments which fitted within brigades and divisions and corps. The veterans would welcome the story of how well or otherwise their generals prepared and led their formations, and why they came to feel a few were very good, many ordinary and some disastrous.
Prof. Granatstein was a postwar student at Royal Military College, and much of his story is the signal domination of pre-war RMC graduates in the higher commands. There’s less examination of the officers from militia units who rose to run divisions and brigades. The book is essentially a weave of military with governmental politics. This fits with Granatstein’s tag as the historian of Ottawa’s Golden Age, i.e., from 1939 to 1957. We get much on how a few generals – notably Harry Crerar, Maurice Pope and Charles Foulkes – were masters of politicking within the Allied bureaucracies while so many of the rest – notably Andy McNaughton, Guy Simonds and Tommy Burns – were political numskulls. The best cameos are of Bert Hoffmeister and Bruce Matthews, youngish commanders who rose on merit from the militia’s obscurity.
Ken Dryden’s The Moved and the Shaken is subtitled The Story of One Man’s Life. The man, Frank Bloye, is 46, married with three children, lives in Scarboro and works for the credit card division of Imperial Oil.
When the author first found his subject he chatted with some of his relatives and fellow-workers, “ . . . each of whom in a hushed voice wanted to know: `Why are you writing a book about him? He’s so . . . so average.’ ”
Dryden notes that doing a project on youth’s problems for the Peterson government had shaken him.
“ . . . I had come to realize that the people I was supposed to be acting for I didn’t know. I also had the feeling that the politicians and bureaucrats around me didn’t know them either. These weren’t the `ordinary’ achievers invited to be `the public’ at government conferences and gatherings, or the `ordinary’ articulate people interviewed on TV. These were people who go unnoticed because they aren’t very noticeable and who for the most part don’t want to be noticed.”
So he’s put in several years getting to know an ordinary Canadian so well that by the end of the book you know and respect the man and the way he faces life. In a note about his book, Dryden had said “beyond its other purposes, the book and its subject offer an interesting context for the coming election, and maybe its fundamental challenge.”
Fundamental challenge? While reading the book, I kept wondering about its “challenge” to political leaders and candidates in a campaign. Why would this Scarboro man and his family have archetypal significance in electoral politics? A family that gives hardly a smidgen of time or thought to politics?
The Bloyes do not follow what passes for politics in either newspapers or on television. They live; they cope.
Ken Dryden thinks the Bloyes of Canada could be or should be the context for the campaign. As he put it: “Frank Bloye is like many millions of other Canadians. He doesn’t tune to Prime Time news. He never follows what you pundits are discussing. Those who do are very much a minority. Most Canadians ignore what the politicians say.”
It’s clear that the values and aims of Frank Bloye as he lives day by day are disturbed or confounded by the changing values in the country and by what’s been happening on the job and in Scarboro. He keeps going, he endures, but he’s not reached, let alone inspired or empowered by politics and parties. Yes, in his millions, there is a challenge.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 05, 1993
ID: 13017116
TAG: 199309050156
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It’s already time to note and even belittle some ploys of the federal parties in the lead-up to the election campaign.
Kim Campbell and her handlers are surely exploiting beyond fairness the interval between attaining the top job and her prime duty in it – to call the election, overdue in terms of decency.
The Tory schemers have felt several months would give them media breaks, keeping interest away from other leaders and chances to unveil fresh policy positions for media coverage which are at least phrased differently from those of the Mulroney government.
Election results may show delaying the call was brilliant one. But what if the public which follows politics is tiring of Kim Campbell? If the people take their cue from those who cover politics? Already most of them are leaning backward to be fairer to her rivals, especially to Jean Chretien, giving him more sympathy and notice. And the rising concern for poor Audrey McLaughlin is palpable among the many women of journalism.
Also, the Tories decided to play hard in the usual, tortuous diplomacy to arrange TV debates of the leaders. It’s hard to figure why they would want the impression made that they were out to hive Preston Manning over his inability to handle French, but ready to suffer Lucien Bouchard of the BQ and his performance in English.
It would be sensible, given Campbell’s brio and adroitness at counter-talk for the Tories to welcome all comers, including Mel Hurtig. It hits a note of fairness. Surely, the more the merrier for her, and the worse for her main rival, Chretien. Why so? It will show her as the doughty one. There she would be, beleaguered by all, an able defender of office against a diversity of critics, Chretien among them.
What the Tories did achieve by routing Campbell around with big speeches on the organization of government and Parliament, on education and training, on the economy and small business, and on law and order was to force forth some Liberal policy papers being held for disclosure in the formal campaign. The consequence for the Tories may be to ensure that more than ever the campaign will be far more about leaders and their antics, not about policies. A comparisons of the policies so far just shows there isn’t a broad gulf between Tories and Grits on the economy or justice or much else. Both are positioning just right of the political centre.
The past few days Campbell and handlers chose to take the edge off both too much frugality and too much law and order by restoring support to the “centres of excellence” program for science and renewing the funding for Charter challenges in the courts, a program much used and cherished by lesbian lawyers. The latter program was anathema to most MPs in the Tory caucus. By restoring it, Campbell shows she’s ready to override the collective wisdom of her backbench. That sort of thing may play well for her with Toronto Star, even with the NACers, but they’re agin’ her anyway.
The Tories seem to have decided to make much use in English Canada of the French Canadian ministers with the most pizzazz, Jean Charest and Bernie Valcourt, rather than Gilles Loiselle, who as minister of Finance holds what has been in usual coverage and impact, the ministry that ranks just behind the PMO. Loiselle gives nothing to the others in brains or argumentation but he’s more formal and less sexy. Anyway, the display of Charest, Valcourt, and (surprise!) Doug Lewis as a preacher to judges, indicates the Tories aren’t wholly focussed and dependent on Campbell. Smart enough, not least because in quick comparisons of a few personalities with the Liberals, the Tories are all right. The Liberals have chosen, probably wisely, not to feature either their loudest, most partisan star, Sheila Copps, or their most ideological and left-leaning celebrity, Lloyd Axworthy. It looks like a Chretien show all the way; make it or break it with him.
The neatest ploy so far has come from the Reform Party but so far it’s produced neither much ink nor many TV clips. It is to forestall criticism by informing everyone in the media before the campaign what negatives other parties will use in commercials against Manning and Reform. The nasty stuff will stress how fatal Reform would be to good relations within Canada for Quebec; how prejudiced Reform is on issues of race, language, culture and gender; how ready Reform is to suborn medicare and national pension programs; and above all, how Reformers are sparked by the bigotry of fundamentalism. At least the Reformers will be able to say, “We said this would happen.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, September 03, 1993
ID: 13016826
TAG: 199309020112
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report
SERIES: Part 2 of 2



Here are questions on native self-government which should be answered through broad public discussions.
Shall there be a Canada-wide aboriginal government as well as some regional governments (e.g., Crees in Quebec) along with governments for the 500 present “nations”?
Or shall any such aboriginal governments just be akin to municipal governments in Canada in responsibilities and reach (e.g., the Sechelt band government in B.C.)?
In short shall they be creatures of a senior, non-aboriginal government?
Shall they function within the constitution and the laws that are a frame for all present governments and now affect the 27 million of us?
Many non-natives assume such will be the situation, but that doesn’t seem to be the thinking of those who lead the native associations.
Shall any such government of native people have a complete writ, unchallengeable by non-natives through Canadian laws?
That is, shall such aboriginal governments be unlimited by the powers and responsibilities of the federal, provincial and municipal governments of Canada? This seems implicit in what the chiefs have been saying. They talk of their own capital, of their own systems of education, of justice, policing and taxation and of their own laws and customs regarding property.
Shall each aboriginal person have a unique native citizenship which he or she passes to offspring, as well as Canadian citizenship? Or shall the first exclude the second? If there is no such exclusion it means a form of dual citizenship and individual rights in perpetuity within the boundaries of Canada. Won’t this mean never-ending tensions and conflict between the two interests – of Canadians and their governments and the aboriginal governments with their citizenship based on blood?
Shall such aboriginal governments have a writ only for specific people on lands with specific boundaries (such as reserves or treaty territories) or shall their reach and responsibilities go beyond to their large number of citizens-to-be who live in a diaspora among non-aboriginal people?
Say their reach goes to the 50,000 or more of aboriginal stock now living in Metro Toronto. How shall these people be kept on record or account? How shall their rights in education or welfare or policing or in courts be framed, exercised and the costs covered in these other jurisdictions?
Perhaps the most fundamental question that the chiefs, the premiers, and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People haven’t examined and answered is whether such governments are to be democratic as we understand the word democracy? Shall the Charter of Rights affect such governments? Shall they share in the infamous “notwithstanding” clause? One has to ask this because some native groups have hereditary leaders and most of them have a conception of group or collective ownership and sharing which predominate over individual rights.
And so, shall the basis for choosing and renewal of such governments be through a system which honors free, open and regular elections in which each native has one vote?
Is there to be an agreement before any of the new aboriginal governments are created on what entitles a person or a family to aboriginal status and how it can be attained or lost?
The reports so far from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples aren’t much help on these questions. For example, it states that “no single pattern or model can be adequate, given the great variety of aspirations and circumstances among aboriginal peoples.”
It has asked that “the transition . . . allow for a wide range of options.” It has said there is need for “some clarification of the respective role of the federal and provincial governments” in the transition process. What an understatement!
And, naturally, the commission insists there must be “secure, long-term fiscal arrangements as well as increased access to lands and resources to allow for greater self-sufficiency.” In short, generous, continuing funding, probably as long as the sun shines and the rivers run.
A few land claims have been negotiated. A few are in the courts. Most are either being framed or are in tentative negotiations. Many of them are for gigantic pieces from what are now provincial and municipal lands.
Colloquially, the lands are as big-ticket as the dollars. Current federal funding for the aboriginal people, now at about $6 billion, will seem petty by the year 2000 if our politicians do not stop bumbling and get cracking on the implications of aboriginal citizenship and governments and their limits.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 01, 1993
ID: 13016567
TAG: 199308310087
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


As a reader I wince when a columnist pushes a piece past the usual 700 or so words, but the sudden acceptance last week by the premiers of “the inherent right to self-government” of aboriginal people needs double length. Why? Because this is a huge bumble.
Most of us, including MPs, have thought little about the costs or the consequences of applying this right, nor have the natives and their lawyers.
The undertaking is far more drastic than either the FTA or the GST. It may and probably will alter governing and citizenship in perpetuity without either constitutional change or, worse, any clear appreciation of its future obligations.
As an election begins have any of the federal parties put forth their plans for what’s looming for all of us from this application of the principle of self-determination? Far from it!
Several incidents prompt my urgency. One seems slight, almost silly: The recent stories in western papers about 20,000 or so individuals on the prairies scurrying for something known as “Metis cards.” Why the rush? To share in the benefits expected from the recognition of Metis claims by the federal and prairie provincial governments.
A second incident was more major. Maybe you caught the import of words by the host premier, John Savage, as he wrapped up the annual premiers’ conference. He told Ottawa the premiers accepted “the inherent right to self-government of native people.” They want the federal government to get on with it without constitutional negotiation.
The last hours of the premiers’ assembly passed in an amiable discussion, favorable to this “inherent right of self-government.” This pleased the leaders of the five largest associations of natives who were there and taking part.
The consensus of this day at Baddeck, N.S., dovetailed with an imperative issued a week before in a preliminary report of the now lengthy and very peripatetic Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. The sum of those whom the Ovide Mercredis, Ron Georges, etc. claim to represent runs to about a million, given some generosity in how “aboriginal” is determined in terms of blood or culture.
So, if all proceeds as the premiers, the chiefs and the commissioners agree, a burgeoning million of Canada’s 27 million inhabitants are to get governments for themselves which are distinctive and not subservient to the governments we have had – federal, provincial and municipal.
Most Canadians ought to know the make-up of the million. Here’s a sketch of those on the way to some sort of unique governments of their own, ones distinct from what they have had as citizens with the right to vote and to stand for office in federal, provincial and municipal elections.
First, the million have nothing close to a unique language except English, and the ’91 census indicated only about a third can use regularly one of the many native languages.
The million seem grouped or associated as either “official,” i.e., Indians registered under treaties (500,000), or unregistered or “unofficial” Indians (400,000?), or Metis (60,000?), or Inuit (40,000).
The official Indians, now at half a million, belong to some 600 different bands, most with some lands.
These “list” Indians and their reserves are dotted across Canada, mostly in the hinterlands.
The unregistered are also scattered, with more and more in the larger cities. Their “voice” is the Native Association of Canada, which also says it speaks for about 200,000 “status” Indians now living more in cities and towns than at home on their reserves. In cities or on reserves the unemployment rate for natives is high, probably over 50%. Economic prospects in or near most reserves are bleak.
The first of two demographic trends among natives is well-known – a very high birth rate and its consequence, a youngish population.
The other development has emerged more recently and its dimensions in needs and costs is still unmastered by our present bureaucracies. Increasingly, young natives are voting with their feet for city living, sometimes completely, but often using their reserve as a fail-safe.
The registered Indians, usually in bands affiliated with the Assembly of First Nations, get the lion’s share of direct federal spending, now about $6 billion a year. (This doesn’t include old age pensions and children’s allowances.)
Given such data on scatter and diversity and the premiers’ consensus on going ahead, some blunt questions on native self-government should be raised now.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 29, 1993
ID: 13016290
TAG: 199308290089
SECTION: Comment
JOHN CROSBIE … Resolutely spoofing the politically correct.
COLUMN: Fisher Report


At a recent ceremony the National Archives accepted the papers John Crosbie has acquired during 10 years in the Newfoundland Legislature and 17 more in the House of Commons.
In his remarks Crosbie entertained. He was self-mocking, with many apt quotes from authors of antiquity to TV scriptwriters. He had a blunt, unapologetic reference to tax credits for his papers, a long used practice of the National Archives.
Once he’s done helping keep Tory the riding of St. John’s West Crosbie intends to come a commentator on politics as a speaker and writer, based in either Toronto or Ottawa. He’s not planning to mine his own records but to deal with current affairs.
It’s unfashionable and may remain so for Canadians to cherish any elected politician, and as Crosbie says, an ex-politician has a very brief shelf life. Nonetheless I wish Crosbie might be a model for imitators in the next Parliament and beyond.
Crosbie wasn’t the best speechmaker among the MPs I’ve heard. That ranking I’d split between three long-gone MPs: Don Jamieson, another Newfoundlander, John Diefenbaker and Tommy Douglas – with an asterisk for the late Colin Cameron (CCF-NDP) as peerless for crystal-clear phrasing.
But Crosbie was the most durable wit, almost always pungent and stimulating. He has the French bent for mock heroics, sometimes to Rabelaisian excess. Like the Grit, Jack Pickersgill, he got attention in the House because they didn’t want to miss what the crafty devil would slip in and speed on. Despite preliminary indirections, Crosbie would have a target – a rival partisan or the current controversy or himself or even colleagues unto his party leader.
Parliament won’t miss Crosbie that much, because 95% or more of what’s said there gets no notice beyond it. What a few of us will miss is the humor and paradox he provided again and again. May he really take the commentary road, using his braininess and feel for fun.
Despite the furors he roused and was censored for – e.g., by feminists over Sheila Copps – he’s the only politician of prominence who’s kept defying and spoofing what we call political correctness.

Now to another ex-minister and retiring MP, Marcel Masse.
A Tory MP from Ontario who’s not running has told me an undertaking from on high about an appointment for him “has gone by the boards.” After a pause his grimace became a smile, and he said: “Ah, I’m not forlorn. A lot of others have been passed by.” Then he laughed, “Consider Masse. So far nothing, and there can’t be a thing for him unless and until Campbell’s back as prime minister.”
This reminded me that Masse was the least appreciated of Mulroney’s ministers among Tory MPs who were not from Quebec. Mulroney’s skills as a leader kept submerged much fuming over Masse by dozens of MPs, angry at his linguistic demands and nationalistic vigilance. Despite massive seething there was never an open revolt at Masse’s antics and projects, in particular as minister of national defence.
Few in English Canada know of the minister’s grandest effrontery. He put on track a program “to establish naval presence in Quebec.”
The HQ of the naval reserve was moved from Halifax to Quebec. New naval reserve divisions were instituted at Chicoutimi, Trois-Rivieres, and Rimouski. Two years ago Masse announced the Pierre d’Iberville Fleet School for the Canadian Forces at Quebec City. It is named after “the great navigator and sea fighter of three centuries ago.”
Yes, three centuries ago Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, born in New France, was a mighty warrior. He scourged the English navy in Hudson Bay, pillaged along the Atlantic Coast, wiped out English settlements in Newfoundland and struck fear from Maine to the Carolinas.
Even so, in the 1990s, who but a zealous Quebec nationalist would undertake to recreate a naval tradition for his people within the most British of our armed services, and disfavoring “the Warden of the North.”
This month a noisy hullabaloo is under way at Quebec, protesting against the d’Iberville project. It’s not at Halifax, not in the Tory caucus.
Heritage buffs of Quebec are angry over the project’s destruction of local tradition and ambience. Their appeals, even to the UN, have been dismissed by present federal ministers. So one must wonders if our school texts in English need rewriting. If Nelson’s still in them, d’Iberville should also have place and praise.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, August 27, 1993
ID: 13015992
TAG: 199308260137
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The “last” rally of the Tory caucus has radiated electoral confidence for the cameras and reporters. Are the some 150 incumbents so sure of another mandate, led by Prime Minister Kim Campbell? The short answer is no.
But as a generalization the majority, including those who won’t be running again, now think there is a good chance there will be a minority Tory government and a fair chance of a majority one. And this is what the 10 weeks of Campbell as leader has done for them.
Despite the excitement of their leadership convention the realistic among the MPs hoped at best the ’93 election would not be a rout. Now, most notably with Ontario MPs whose confidence was lowest, there’s a belief that with a good campaign by Campbell their party may survive in office.
As example, three of the retiring Ontario MPs told me their party will hold most of its present 46 seats. Clearly, the most refurbished hopes are among B.C. and Alberta Tories, the weakest still among the Nova Scotians, but even a recent swing through that province has revived a desolate membership.
Quebec? Anglo Tories haven’t a clue, but they’ve been reassured by their Quebec colleagues that the Liberals are not regaining a base outside the island of Montreal. What this neutral odds-layer reads from the Tory caucus and the recent polls on both the party favored and leader preferred, are election results eight to 10 weeks away which go like this:
1: A good chance for a majority Liberal government (say, five to three);
2: A slightly safer chance for a minority Liberal government (say, three to two);
3: A quite modest chance of about four to one for a renewed Tory government, most likely a minority one.
The Liberals still hold a margin of preference in the polls, and the abysmal NDP totals indicate few, close, three-way races in ridings west of Quebec in which NDP candidates figure, say as in 1988. It will take a miracle recovery by McLaughlin and party in the campaign to keep the NDP from losing 30 or more of its 43 seats, most of the 10 in Ontario to Liberals, and more likely to Liberals than Tories of its 19 B.C.seats.
Plot it this way: 25 or so NDP seats to the Grits, at best five to the Tories, and a Tory majority is almost impossible.
Now, what about the native-son factor?
One reality of past elections running back through 28 of them to 1891 is overwhelming. Whenever Quebecers had a choice of voting for a party leader from their province they chose to elect more of his candidates.
Quebecers did this seven times for Laurier, from 1891 to 1917. They did it for St. Laurent three times, 1949, 1953, and 1957. They did it five times for Pierre Trudeau, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1979, and 1981. They did it twice for Brian Mulroney, 1984 and 1988.
To repeat: On the 17 occasions Quebers could vote for candidates behind a native-son leader they responded by giving him a majority of the Quebec MPs to Parliament.
Is such a record irrelevant this year because of the repeated opinion that most Quebecers dislike Jean Chretien so much they won’t hear the call of their tongue and blood?
Surely we should be chary of forecasts that Quebecers will ignore Liberal candidates and troop to those led by Lucien Bouchard or Kim Campbell?
One is very chary after an even closer look at the Quebec record from the 1891 election forward: 28 elections and 24 times Quebecers chose a majority of MPs who were Liberals.
The exceptions were the three noted above – i.e., the phenomenon of the Dief sweep in 1958 and the Mulroney triumphs – and the election of 1962 when the Grits elected the most MPs (35) but a surprising surge to 26 seats for the Creditistes kept them from a majority of the province’s seats.
This time it may be Bouchard and the Bloc Quebecois which get an electoral boost as Real Caouette and Social Credit got in 1962, but if this does happen which of Grits and Tories will suffer the most? The past record indicates the Liberals will be almost impossible to dislodge from their Montreal seats and more Tory seats seem vulnerable to the BQ than the nine the Liberals have.
In closing, note that in the Quebec media the fluency-in-French of the various leaders is already being heatedly debated. This discussion will get a much heralded and closely rated focus in both the antecedent fooferaw and the actual “debate” on TV in French by the leaders. The pressure will become extreme for Campbell to perform well in French, certainly far better than leaders McLaughlin and Manning. If she doesn’t, one or other of the native sons, perhaps both, will get the surge in Quebec.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 25, 1993
ID: 13015732
TAG: 199308240077
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Simply as fair play, the election should be under way. The photo ops and rechurned releases from the party in office are more and more offensive. The election has been delayed too long.
Enough of distancing Mulroney. Get on with Canada.
By law the formal campaign has to be seven weeks in length. Given the wide, deep reach of TV and radio with political news and the election narrative, it’s still too long.
Posturing about the election has been with us for over a year. People in my trade have been snarky for months with the politicians and parties in Parliament. We lack respect for leaders, whether old or fairly new or brand new, and most attentive citizens seem to have caught our impatience and disrespect.
The pent-up exasperation does not mean we expect a campaign that is either exciting and satisfying or that the country will emerge glowing and enthusiastic about the victors.
Why such dourness about the way ahead?
First, because already there’s been too much wear and tear. The partisan processes of the Hill at hand for all parliamentarians from the prime minister to the few independent MPs have been overused for too long. This happens when the incumbents hang on well into a fifth year. Every dodge and ploy in the politics is used to inflate leader and party and to deflate the rivals. The resources for pre-campaign work in talent, services and funding are large, especially for the three parties with parliamentary caucuses, and one consequence of their intense use seems to be a growing boredom with the particulars of candidates and the nuances in issues. In short, well before the call we have had too much of federal politics.
Opinion polls and rumors of them have not been registering boredom but for several years they have indicated a volatile, almost a mobile, electorate, and in recent months an antipathy to politicians as such. There seems little eagerness for either fresh issues like NAFTA or replays of old ones like national day care or reforming the Senate.
A second element in the present tawdry scenario has also obviously been overworked – the leaders!
Long ago – some with say with the Chief, for me it was with Trudeau – our parties gave up a team approach or trying to flog a team rich in talent and ideas. They vested almost all the appeal of a party in a campaign on the leader’s personality and character and what he chose to talk about (usually divined by private polling).
For journalists and to a fair degree for politically minded voters, two of the three leaders of the older parties are shop-worn and Prime Minister Campbell is on the way to frayed edges. Not much has been made nationally, particularly on television, of Preston Manning or Lucien Bouchard or Mel Hurtig, and the campaign may not strike a better balance.
An election’s much like a pennant race, with lesser notice going to those who cannot win, except for their roles as spoilers. This season this is regrettable because each of the three very long shots has particular ideas and puts them well. Manning is a real conservative; Bouchard a true Quebec separatist; and Hurtig a genuine anti-American nationalist.
The three have been discounted, the first two because polling shows their prospects are so regional, the third because his numbers are so thin and scattered.
In intelligence and argumentative power each of the three compares well with Campbell, Chretien and McLaughlin. A fairly done, six-person debate on TV would demonstrate this but if it occurs such performances will be count mostly for they affect the fortunes of Campbell or Chretien.
In my opinion, five of the six leaders awaiting the voters have brains, knowledge, ideas and energy. They compare well with those who have led federal parties in previous federal elections. Even so, it seems clear that a lot of voters will either be for or against the two parties and leaders with a prospect of forming a government. And I believe they’ve been mulling this choice for 10 weeks since the Tories chose Campbell.
Campbell and Chretien seem vivid contrasts but so much of it is only in style, appearance, and the way they talk. The advance word from the Liberals is that they will unveil a voluminous list of initiatives they would undertake in office after the campaign begins.
Unless the Grit list has a shocker or two like abolishing the GST or withdrawing from the FTA with the U.S., campaign news and comment will range over a swatch of relatively minor issues, not mighty ones, other than the key one of what leader do you dislike least or which party do you trust most.
Let’s get into it and get it over. If it becomes a dramatic campaign, a teeth-biter, my misjudgment will be shameful.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 22, 1993
ID: 13015482
TAG: 199308220148
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The long, rambling title outlines one of the most entertaining, mean and petty political books of recent years. George Ehring and Wayne Roberts, “long-time members of the NDP and senior unionists” says the jacket, are the authors of: Giving Away a Miracle: Lost Dreams, Broken Promises & the Ontario NDP.
The publisher is Mosaic Press and the book’s just out.
Despite the national party’s standing at 8 points in the current Gallup poll there are enough once or present New Democrats around to make a best-seller of this expose by two very certain left-wingers, scathing in their scorn of the Bob Raes, Bob Whites, Ed Broadbents, and the Greers, the Sears and the Lewises of the post-1970 NDP.
The focus of the book is largely but not exclusively the Ontario NDP, and much of it zooms in on the NDPers, unionists and interest-group activists headquartered in Toronto and finding there the vigor, ideas, and scheming of bold underdogs and, of course, the traitors or naysayers who keep them down.
The book might have been labelled Lament for the Waffle Era or From Movement to Party to Oblivion. There’s extravagance and color in the limning and judging – usually harshly – of the party’s regulars, especially the elected MPPs and MPs. The tone is gossipy and tabloid-like, particularly on the Queen’s Park of the Peterson governments and Rae’s present one.
NDP members who’ve been active in constituencies will be most roused or despondent over the first of the three parts to the book.
Part One takes a mere 40 pages for a synopsis, well-fertilized with selective history from the Depression and the Regina Manifesto forward, about the NDP’s “10 deadly sins.” There is a punchy, mostly derisory, text with each of:
– Ideology without ideas.
– The No Dissent party.
– Out of step with the social movements.
– Keeping the labor brass polished.
– Figuring economic policies which add up.
– Romancing the working class.
– Sorry, we don’t speak your language.
– Liberals; easy to hate, hard to understand.
– The media is the messenger.
– Container, content, image: Old wine and new glasses.
Part Two is fast-paced through some 250 pages (60% of the book). It begins in 1970 and the clever-talky years of Stephen Lewis as star. It romps disparagingly over the prince’s abdication and the scuffles and dealing which brought forth his successors, first the unfortunate Michael Cassidy, then today’s Brahminish incumbent, Bob Rae. The “accord” the party reached with the Liberals which made David Peterson premier is assessed caustically, so is the economic boom and legislative work in the Liberal mandates through to and including the mistimed election campaign which ruined Peterson and elevated an unprepared, disbelieving Rae.
Part Three’s organization is crassly ironical, reverting to the 10 deadly sins of the party as chapter headings for a litany of unpreparedness and foolish, and stupid, and unethical behavior from top to bottom of the NDP caucus and its battening cadre of advisers and researchers.
The authors, despite their class-consciousness, are not given to long bouts of earnestness, often a bore in the Canadian left. Here, however, is some defining gravity from their preface. It indicates where they stand, and for whom their message is bent.
“Ontario’s size, wealth and complexity are the acid test of an NDP government’s ability to change the economy and deal with the power elite. If the NDP cannot succeed in bringing new, social, economic, and political relations to Ontario, then there must be something deeply wrong with the party, a flaw so profound that radicals will have to rethink their options. That assumes, of course, that Bob Rae’s government will even give the NDP program a chance. You might get better odds at one of his casinos.”
The debunking of Bob Rae is wicked, and amusing. So are the caricatures of New Democrats, hypnotized by parliamentary performance and legalism, and suspicious in extreme of dissent in either the party or a union.
Canada for real socialists like the authors is where the activist blacks and other visibles minorities are, and the gays and lesbians, the natives and new immigrants, the feminists, pacifists and environmentalists.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, August 20, 1993
ID: 13015146
TAG: 199308190090
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Another Valor? Last Saturday, James Eayrs, once a Star columnist, tweaked the Globe’s Ottawa columnist Jeffrey Simpson, for ignorance. Simpson had praised biographies of quality by Americans of Americans like Harry Truman but found the comparative output scanty and dull on Canadian leaders by Canadians.
Eayrs’ counter was imposing, an annotated list of Canadian authors and titles, the sum of which was that Simpson is “unknowing.” Prof. Eayrs, now 67, has been a prolific author since the ’50s and four of his books have a group title, In Defence of Canada. He’s one among a score of scholars who’ve written books since World War II on defence and the military.
From Eayrs-Simpson, let’s turn to another piece in the same Globe, by “television critic” Liam Lacey, its heading: CBC PLUNGES INTO BATTLE; STAR-STUDDED DRAMA TELLS THE REAL STORY OF DIEPPE.
A two-part, four-hour drama about the tragic landing in August, 1942, costing $5 million will be shown on CBC-TV in ’94, “perhaps the most ambitious in the CBC’s history,” Lacey wrote. He had talked with the producer, Bernard Zukerman, and noted that “looming over Dieppe . . . is the large chilly mess of The Valor and the Horror, last year’s controversial CBC series on various World War II military foul-ups which earned the wrath of veterans . . .”
Zukerman, “a history buff who has made other World War II documentaries” told Lacey that “Dieppe will not be judged so severely for it is not a documentary but a fact-based drama (as opposed to The Valor which was sort of a drama-based documentary.) And the series is certainly not designed to mollify vets.” Then Zukerman, too, got to comparisons:
“In Britain, and in the United States, events in the war have been examined from every possible perspective, the heroic, the criminal, the victimized. We have so few examples,” said Zukerman. “What we’ve done – the journalists, TV producers and artist – is that we’ve allowed the official versions to rule. So suddenly, 50 years after the events, the McKennas . . . are treated as though they are traitors. It’s so important to understand that this material doesn’t only belong to those who served, but to all of us who live in this country.”
Zukerman, “a history buff,” believes Canadians writing on World War II have been both less productive, ranging and critical than American and British writers. And “official versions” of World War II have dominated Canadian opinion. What are these official versions? Zukerman through Lacey doesn’t say.
Might it be Eayrs’ work, voluminous on the interplay of politicians and generals, Canadian, British and American? Surely, not. Eayrs, ever erudite, is sharp with ministers, mandarins and the brass. Has Zukerman in mind the histories or the editing of the late C.P. Stacey? Stacey was long the head of military history for National Defence, planner and often author of books on Canada in World War II published by Ottawa.
But anyone who knows the Stacey canon knows him as skeptical and challenging, ever ready with hard or nasty questions in appraising victories or disasters like Dieppe and Hong Kong.
Often I’ve noted references in books by American and British writers on, say Normandy or the Scheldt or the capture of Rome that praise Stacey’s books and the records which he and his staff gathered.
The reality is Canadian scholars, journalists, and veterans have written much about Canada in World War II, some slight but a lot of it critical of leaders and performance. Zukerman, like the McKennas, insults a massive bibliography, one that ranges from memoirs to a profusion of regimental histories to a lesser wealth in novels. Already Zukerman sounds like fellow film-maker Brian McKenna, who got his history so right his Valor is error-free.
Liam Lacey says Zukerman is relying a lot on a book on the raid by Brian Villa, a military historian. This book is fascinating and provocative, one of the best among eight on Dieppe that I’ve read (none “an official version”).
Some authors were less sure than Villa whom to blame for the tragedy – he’s harsh on Mountbatten – but none worked for the government or the services.
Most truly official stuff on Canada’s World War II was produced by or under the aegis of Col. Stacey. Anyone familar with his “official” accounts or his memoirs or his romp with Mackenzie King’s private life honors his frankness.
It’s no sin that a younger generation produces work critical, even savage, about their predecessor, using hindsight to blame or praise. But if Zukerman of Dieppe is well-quoted he’s ignorant of a large literature with lots of divergence, many heroes, many fools and some villains.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 18, 1993
ID: 13014985
TAG: 199308180068
SECTION: Editorial
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


For 50 of my 65 years the Liberal Party governed Canada.
Thus many in my generation accepted the myth or can recall it – sometimes feeling its tangibility, as I did in past candidacies. The Liberal party, even only the Liberal Party, knew how to govern Canada.
What’s occurred in my current reading of the waiting electroate, in part through travels, in part through talks with MPs out on door-to-door chores this summer, is plain. The old myth has gone. Has the myth of Crit excellence and competence been replaced with the obvious alternative, the Progressive Conservative party as our natural governors? No, but because it is familiar as the governor over the eight years and the nation carries on, the Tory party is seen as somewhat able whereas the Liberals, so long from office, have lost their link to their wonderful myth.
Citizens don’t seem to give a damn that Kim Campbell’s a neophyte in power whereas Jean Chretien has more cabinet experience in more portfolios than any previous leader of the official opposition. He may be the most certain choice for a different prime minister this fall but it won’t be because of memories of either his past work in office or of the former legends who forged the myth – like Mackenzie King, C.D. Howe, St. Laurent, Pearson, Martin, Sr., or the Trudeau cast.
Of course, there’s never been a federal myth extant on the New Democrats as a competent governing party, and given the doleful exercises in office by NDP ministries in Ontario and B.C. voters, at least for many, many moons. At this point let me point to something in myth evolving in Ontario.
Within 18 months of Bob Rae becoming premier my canvasses of opinion in the province turned up indications, strongest in the agricultural and bush regions of Ontario, that the flow of favor in reaction to the NDP was not to the Liberals, so recently in office, but to the Conservatives. And this was not a swing pushed by performances of Mike Harris, the PC leader, or abetted by Lyn McLeod, the faceless replacement of David Peterson. No, a parallel in Ontario to the old federal myth about the Grits is that the Tories knew how to run Ontario – memories of four decades and four premiers unto Bill Davis. Witness recent opinion polls on the party favored by provincial voters of Ontario.
So Bill Davis and his party are recalled fondly by many in his old bailiwick, not so Pierre Trudeau and C.D. Howe and their party across Canada, in particular to the west of Quebec.
This week I encountered one of the ablest of the newer Liberal NPs, almost a certainty for a Grit cabinet, and a busy constituency man. I said, somewhat teasing: Something’s happening out there. It’s swinging. It’s no cinch for anybody.”
He was gruff and quick. “Don’t tell me. I know it. I’ve hit it at too many doors. They’re fed up with all of us, with every party. They don’t believe us.”
So what portenede, I wondered. He said something like this: “On the final count I think we’ll win. When they get down to it in the booth their disgust with the other guys will be greater than with us.
This recounting dovetailed with what I got the day before from an NDP MP for a western riding. “Oh, the hostility!
Shortly after the latest Gallup showed Campbell’s current phenomenal popularity a second Liberal MP, a journeyman victor in many elections, braced me on how I read the omens. I sketched this, stressing it was from Ontario contracts.
No sweep in sight. No party a sure winner. No enthusiasm of any leader. Less contempt of Campbell than for Chretien and McLaughlin. Not one big policy issue. Not the constitution. Certainly not NAFTA or the FTA with the U.S. or debt-mastering. No demand for any program that costs money and more debt or more taking. Disdain goes beyond MPs and senators to reporters and those who speak for self-promoting interest groups like the feminist, natives, ethnoculturalists, environmentalists, unions, teachers, business executives, and peacemakers. A sour, conservative electroate though hardly a capital-C Conservative one.
“As I find it,” I said, “your party isn’t recognized for a single, major policy or platform plank, and your leader holds few hearts or minds.”
He had kept nodding. When I was done he said he agreed and it was small consolation that he was sure to hold his riding. He’d hoped for a Canada-wide sweep, a confident, new prime minister with much to do and the will to do it in his caucus and across the country. So what to expect? We agreed on an election game with deuces wild. One not yet won or lost by anyone. But if the Tories get another term they’ll have the myth the Grits once radiated.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 15, 1993
ID: 13014625
TAG: 199308150067
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Well away from Ottawa, in both Ontario and Manitoba, my political antenna pinged with two instant insights, one regarding Stephen Lewis, the other about the majority party through my life – the Liberal party.
The views on Lewis aggravated one who has had small respect for this crown prince of social democracy except as a super-burbler of polysyllabic prose.
The opinions on the Grits, or, rather, the lack of respectful opinions, were an immediate caution on my earlier forecast of a Liberal sweep in the coming election. I was set to wondering why and how the Liberals’ cachet as those who know how to govern Canada has faded.
Sometimes with my prompts, more often out of a willingness to grieve over our parlous state and who’s been responsible for it, most adults with whom I spoke mentioned one or a few names as political villains, usually past and present party leaders like Brian Mulroney and Bob Rae, sometimes Jean Chretien, rarely John Turner.
Michael Wilson is ill-remembered by some. So are the present and former head of the Bank of Canada; so are much seen and heard leaders of interest groups like Judy Rebick and Bob White.
A few with a long view harked back with blame to Pierre Trudeau and beyond to Lester Pearson and John Diefenbaker. In contrast, in Ontario Bill Davis is rather fondly remembered; in Manitoba it’s Ed Schreyer.
But when it came to heroes or possible heroes for the nation as a whole, the name which bobbed up most often was Stephen Lewis; yes, even ahead of Pierre Trudeau.
Where the latter’s image is rarely defined beyond “a real leader,” Lewis is seen as informed and persuasive. He makes issues interesting. He portrays us as ready and able for global leadership. And always there was “He can talk!”
Now, these references were not made or drawn mostly from New Democrats, although some of them long for Lewis in Audrey McLaughlin’s place. No one was strong for any MP in the current NDP caucus or for Bob White. It would seem the country, or a significant portion of those in it, would welcome Stephen Lewis as a federal party leader.
To talk with emotion and splendor still means much, politically!
The disappearance of the Liberal image as the “know how” party is much harder to explain. The particular skills of Lewis are obvious. What’s foundering the Grits isn’t.
After nine years of Conservative government under a leader who remains detested, one would think Liberal days of power would be recalled fondly with a determination to get them back in office.
Has it been two less-than-compelling leaders since Trudeau resigned? Is it more complicated, say the failure of the federal party to distinguish itself in policies on economics from the Tories and on social matters from the New Democrats?
Or is it as simple as burn-out, a tiredness with the familiar “You didn’t, we did!” partisanship? Tweedle-Dums and Tweedle-Dees?
Perhaps there’s an intuition almost everything has been tried by Ottawa in using money and programs since Trudeau’s advent and the consequences in deficits and debt are grim and as much the Liberals’ responsibility or even the New Democrats’ as the Tories’.
If among those I met there were those enthusiastic for Stephen Lewis as a leader there was nothing on prospects to replace Jean Chretien. That is, the Liberal drift from long-held respectability is not generating awareness of alternative leaders. Not Paul Martin, Jr., not Sheila Copps, not even New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna.
“Volatile’ is the tag most used the past few years for the rapid fluctuations in the popularity of the parties (to which the many opinion polls are witness). Note, for example, the topical poll showing the Ontario Tories under Mike Harris well up on the Liberals under Lyn McLeod with the reigning NDP far back
Without doubt the so-called core vote of all three parties – P.C., Liberal and NDP – is much reduced from the stock ranges up to the 1980s. No more inherent favorite. No more natural ruling party, Liberal or otherwise. Much more rests on the perceived worth of the party leader at the key moments of politics than on the past record of the party.
One hunch is that the curse of the nouns “Conservative” and “conservatism” and the adjective “conservative” has faded in Canada (as it did earlier in the U.S.) and so has the positive aura of “Liberal,” “liberalism” and “liberal” (as it has since Jimmy Carter’s presidency in the U.S.).
Yes, the Grits should win, but the country’s not panting for them.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, August 13, 1993
ID: 11962404
TAG: 199308120167
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It will be fine if the six reform items the prime minister proposed this week come to pass. Gauge their worth in the instant response of rivals that these were theirs or common ideas on the Hill for years.
True, each item has been around a long time. All but one has been advocated in some form in my column over the past 25 years. The exception is the MPs’ pension plan. I left it alone because of a conflict. I’m in the plan as a former MP.
Let me paraphrase Kim Campbell’s package. Her covering speech was lucid and succinct.
1) PENSION REFORM: Legislation would ensure no MP would collect a pension before 55 and “double-dipping” from the federal treasury would end. The National Citizens’ Coalition has raised hell about these aspects of the plan and its indexing since the late Colin Brown, the NCC’s founder, got a rough ride in a House committee from Link Alexander (PC) and Lloyd Francis (Lib.) over his demand that indexing, in effect since 1974, be ended. Indexing is a feature treasured by all federal retirees. Let me predict the bill to achieve these changes will also get a rough ride if it gets to committee in the next House.
2) PARLIAMENTARY REFORM: Each of the PM’s six ideas for cleansing the House will have to be approved by all caucuses in the next House. Here’s what she wants.
More free votes. That is, fewer formal votes on government propositions that require obedience to the parties’ whips.
Mini-debates where ministers will respond to questions as in days gone by when estimates were debated in the House.
More draft bills and synopses for bills would be sent to House committees for review and changes, a practice first introduced in 1963 (by a Tory government) which has been rarely followed since then. And committees would be given authority (i.e., by the cabinet) to amend legislation.
More use of committees to review and barnstorm with big issues – like bilingualism or abolition of the Senate.
Those persons to fill senior posts in major agencies like the CBC and the CRTC would be required to pass muster before the requisite parliamentary committee.
Most difficult is a Campbell intention to civilize the oral question period through strict application by the Speaker of the existing rules which postulate relevancy, no repetition and no partisan and slanderous preambles. If this comes to pass it would ruin the careers of Sheila Copps, Brian Tobin and Svend Robinson. Not since Roly Michener’s days as Speaker (1957-63) has QP been regularly civil, and after Lucien Lamoureux’s term ended in 1974 it became a circus and the staple grist for the press gallery pack.
3) OPENING THE BUDGET PROCESS: This is the most thorough set of propositions. Not surprising since every minister of Finance from Walter Gordon (1965-67) to Michael Wilson has talked up such reform. Campbell wants the process on a regular timetable, having preliminary floats of the choices facing the Finance minister for public response and review by Senate and House committees. A post-budget review headed by the minister would continue until the choices for the next budget are put out. These seem the easiest reforms to carry forward but a minority government situation would screw them up.
4) CHANGING PATRONAGE APPOINTMENTS: Ah, Lord! Correct Kim Campbell decrees appointments will be of “qualified” persons and have “gender, linguistic, regional and ethnic balance.” Each job, its description and needed qualifications, will be advertised. Each appointee will be formally announced – with biography. A roster of qualified candidates will be kept for each job. The really major posts will go before parliamentary committees and need House and Senate approval.
I predict these reforms, if attempted, will be a dog’s breakfast of partisan charges and counter-charges. Giving up patronage is a cruel hurt to loyalists of all parties, even the NDP. Eventually, most such picks will be made by a permanent commission.
5) LOBBYIST REGISTRATION ACT: The Mulroney government started registering lobbyists, setting in train a demand for much more on who, with what pasts and links, is after which politicians and mandarins for what interest groups and for what retainers and fees. Whomever wins the election, changes will be made and in a few years the rules will be a yawn.
6) CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: Campbell would legislate a tough Conflict of Interest bill for all parliamentarians if she retains her office. Meanwhile, she’s making the current code more stringent for ministers, parliamentary secretaries, their spouses and dependants. These proposals, like those regarding lobbyists are more cosmetic, not intrinsically vital.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 11, 1993
ID: 11962057
TAG: 199308100090
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The departure of Gerard Veilleux as head of the CBC moved Robert Lewis, editor of Maclean’s, to ask that Peter Mansbridge and Pamela Wallin be given the old 10-11 p.m. news hour. This would regain lost viewers and please the thousands who miss them on Prime Time at 9 p.m.
Such a shift would seem easy for the CBC and likely would raise the numbers, which an acquaintance in the CBC says are running from 600,000 to a million below The National plus The Journal in Barbara Frum’s last year.
Is the earlier time the only reason for the tumble in viewers? In a recent, long trip west I asked almost everyone to whom I spoke about news on TV and in the papers. Both Mansbridge and Wallin have their fans but no one liked them together.
The critique of them as a pair gets to words like glitzy and condescending. An adjective, brittle, was tacked on Wallin; for Mansbridge it was stuffy. Some recalled fondly “straight news” by single readers like Knowlton Nash, even Earl Cameron.
Mansbridge-Wallin are seen as overbearing in two-on-one interviews, their bridging chit-chat as banal and witless, the frequent editorializing caveats as sophisticated sermonizing. Subs like Bill Cameron and Nancy Wilson were cited as more human. There was more criticism of the presenters than of the time slot. Several people said they’d come to like CTV news because it was less preachy. A few drew a similar contrast on why they preferred W5 and Eric Malling’s drollery to the earnestness of The Fifth Estate or the forebodings of David Suzuki. Some viewers noted a contrast between the Girl Friday Pamela of Canada AM and the super-coiffed apparition of Prime Time.
By far the most accolades I heard for CBC come from devotees of CBC radio. Such appreciation is not universal but a substantial minority have it and are fiercely loyal. It’s clear, however, that phone-in-talk-shows on private stations, much of it bashing politicians, bureaucrats, feminists and homosexuals, get far more listeners than the CBC’s mix. Nevertheless I found CBC radio news, the morning show and As It Happens have far more vociferous backers than anything on CBC-TV.
Since my extended travels two years ago, far more households can get Newsworld. While still far from CBC radio as a staple for “active citizens” it’s getting there, in particular the 10 p.m. newscast and the provincial roundup, and is significant in keeping Canadians from turning to CNN and PBS.
The main news item during my trip was the flooding down the Mississipi and Missouri valleys. On two occasions my respondents wondered why there wasn’t more about it on “our” stations, then as after-thought each granted there may have been on Newsworld.
It seems the pace may have slowed but is as inexorable – more and more of us get our news of politics and social issues from TV and less and less from newspapers and magazines. That’s trite but it was reinforced by what I heard about politicians, entertainers and athletes. Always, opinions and impressions seem to be from TV. For example, it’s lethal what TV exposure has done to Jean Chretien and Audrey McLaughlin and is likely to do in short order to Prime Minister Kim Campbell.
A prominent issue of current CBC affairs never came up from anyone I queried regarding their use of TV and radio. i.e., the resignations of three major leaders of the corporation: The aforesaid Veilleux; the most prominent woman executive of the CBC Trina McQueen; and Elly Alboim, the chief news producer of parliamentary news and commentary.
In Ottawa, the politicians and journalists, and across Canada the feminists and veterans of the media are concerned about these departures. This is most vivid among journalists over Alboim.
Unlike predecessors like Pierre Juneau and Al Johnson, Veilleux said little and was so rarely seen he’s hard to miss. And McQueen’s real worth was spread more by word-of-mouth in the CBC than by the profusion of gender-pumping stories. Alboim? He’s been a sleeper.
Within the craft of newsgathering, notably among younger people and those on journalism faculties, Alboim had become the setter of coverage standards and a model in reaching to the core of policies and political behavior. He did this without exposure on TV or by writing about his work, surely witness to the reach and penetration of the CBC in our journalistic community.
Along with the deep regret of CBC reporters and producers at Alboim’s passage from them to the world of lobbyists, there’s a much broader regret he will no longer be an influence and guide for quality journalism. It seems a pity that almost no one “out there” knows what Alboim signified at the CBC while those within it do.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 08, 1993
ID: 11961512
TAG: 199308080094
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


A few weeks visiting across Ontario and Manitoba has been chastening for an Ottawan, particularly a columnist. People would talk politics but their interest and their now fabled disgust had to be primed.
Baseball, fishing and the execrable weather are more prime than the Raes, Filmons, Campbells and Chretiens.
Provincial affairs draw more interest and every community has political issues in variety, the most debated of which is education. Teachers seem the least loved, outpacing lawyers and doctors.
Prompting would get the opinions rolling. Here is a sketch of them; not a Gallup, but the big impressions from scores of chats.
The anti-Mulroney venom is not far below the surface but in dozens of detractors the bile was never obsessive. Brian and Mila seem past tense. Nowhere did I meet any nostalgia for past greats like Pierre Trudeau or the Chief.
The present nostalgia is tinged with frustration. It’s for the days when jobs were plentiful and everybody knew they were getting ahead or soon would be.
As a corollary to this, Kim Campbell seems to be assessed on her own, often harshly, rather than as Mulroney’s heir. The reigning attitude is a mix of mild curiosity and doubt.
Nowhere did I get an unprompted measure of her cabinet or of goners like Mike Wilson and Don Mazankowski. And few remarked on the starry team Jean Chretien says he’s got.
While no tide is running for Campbell, her ship hasn’t foundered. Several women told me of a masculine rejection they could read in their circles. This was most remarked in small town and blue collar men who aren’t ready for a woman prime minister.
What’s promising for Campbell has nothing much to do with either enthusiasm or animosity. It’s the lack of both for the other party leaders — and for all the other parties, not just the Tories.
Most voters I met think the Liberals will win the federal election but few who told me this were enthusiastic and a lot forecast a minority government. Few went for my suggestions the Liberals would sweep both Ontario and Manitoba.
On balance, I read a clear edge for the Grits in these opinions but no edge at all for Chretien over Campbell. It’s obvious Chretien doesn’t suffer much from the skeptical doubt about Quebecers in Ontario and Manitoba and yet he hasn’t even a smidgen of the friendly aura that enveloped him when Straight from the Heart was the greatest best-seller ever among political books.
Few people wanted to talk about Audrey McLaughlin, even the many New Democrats ready to argue pro or con about Bob Rae. (More pro than con, to my surprise.) They seemed embarrassed for Audrey — too pathetic to mock, too ineffective to excuse. TV has done her in.
The Preston Manning phenomenon seems quite different. Few identified themselves with the Reform Party but most (when asked) spoke respectfully of him. A few likened him favorably to Ross Perot.
Nowhere and with no one in all this chat about politics did I find excitement about a single politician or party (although some wondered why the Tories hadn’t gone for Jean Charest). At best there’s a longing to “get the damned election over with.”
Most of the elected representatives are much more respected than the emphasized rage against politicians would lead one to expect.
As an augury for the next 12 weeks to the election, what I’ve gleaned from my travels is a contest the Grits should win and the Tories lose. But there could be massive indifference in the electorate.
To win, Campbell has to build some respect and the only way to do that is to master Chretien in argument and wit. She’s not yet detested but neither is he.
In both provinces I heard little good about the NDP and a fair number predicted the party’s demise, yet almost everyone I met who was known to be a New Democrat was gloomy but not defeatist, at least for the long run.
Few wanted to talk about the great issues of whither Quebec or free trade or NAFTA, or rescuing the environment, or ending deficits, or even where more jobs may come from.
Why so?
I think the post-referendum burnout lingers and hope is scant for what leaders and parties are offering.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 21, 1993
ID: 11957428
TAG: 199307200056
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Last week’s Gallup on voters’ intentions was bleak for New Democrats. The release said that at 8% it was “matching the all-time low for the NDP of July, 1961.”
Before putting such a percentage in a perspective from the birth of the CCF (1933) through its name-change to NDP (in August, 1961) until today’s poll figures, let’s recapitulate the explanations of the party’s flutter down from a high in the Gallup of just above 40% three years ago after Audrey McLaughlin’s advent. As an aside, I disbelieve the core vote for the federal NDP is below 12 points.
The prime reasons offered for this NDP nadir are threefold: The failure of McLaughlin, chosen to replace Ed Broadbent 32 months ago to register as an interesting, let alone a compelling, party leader; the deep unpopularity of the Rae, Harcourt and Romanow governments in their first terms in Ontario, B.C. and Saskatchewan; the up-front association with labor unions, seen by many as a mutual identity.
The provincial tie-in has this extra significance with the NDP. Unlike the Conservative or Liberal parties a membership in the NDP covers the whole party – federally and provincially.
After the alleged “blah” leaders and the provincial fiascos, notably Bob Rae’s debt-defying challenge to public service unions and the medical profession, the explanations get to the widespread – even global – loss of faith in the capacity of social democratic and socialist governments to implement and manage “social and economic planning,” in particular using government ownership or control of commercial agencies.
Then there’s the apparent interweave of New Democrats with so many of interest groups beyond unions which are vociferous for funds and laws to fulfil their aims and needs – examples: The feminists of NAC, gays, lesbians, peace devotees, artists, performers, the mentally and physically handicapped and almost all aboriginal and visible ethnic groupings. Despite the high public profile of these groups, their popularity seems to run far behind their creeds on TV screens or in headlines.
All these explanations bog us in the NDP’s dismal present. Last month, two veteran MPs of the party said to me they fear seat losses to below the 12 needed to keep formal recognition as a party in the next House.
Let me list some electoral data of CCF-NDP percentages and seats through the 17 federal elections since the party got under way and under five of its six leaders, J.S. Woodsworth, M.J. Coldwell, T.C. Douglas, David Lewis, and Ed Broadbent. McLaughlin’s first election comes soon.
If you keep in mind the House has had from 245 seats in 1935 to 295 seats in 1988 the low totals, even more of MPs elected than of percentages, will shock you.
1935: Under Woodsworth, 9%, 7 MPs;
1940: Under Coldwell, 9%, 8 MPs;
1945: Still Coldwell, 16%, 28 MPs;
1949: Still Coldwell, 13%, 13 MPs;
1953: Still Coldwell, 11%, 23 MPs;
1957: Still Coldwell, 11%, 25 MPs;
1958: Still Coldwell, 9%, 8 MPs;
1962: Under Douglas, 14%, 19 MPs;
1963: Still Douglas, 14%, 17 MPs;
1965: Still Douglas, 18%, 21 MPs;
1968: Still Douglas, 17%, 22 MPs;
1972: Under Lewis, 18%, 31 MPs;
1974: Still Lewis, 15%, 16 MPs;
1979: Under Broadbent, 18%, 26 MPs;
1980: Still Broadbent, 20%. 32 MPs;
1984: Still Broadbent, 19%, 30 MPs;
1988: Still Broadbent, 23%, 43 MPs.
Over 17 elections and 55 years the federal vote of the socialist party has ranged from a low of 9% to a high of 23%; from a low of 7 to a high of 43 MPs.
In 17 general elections not one CCF or NDP MP from Quebec, New Brunswick, and P.E.I., and only three men who ever won seats for the party in Nova Scotia, and only one in Newfoundland or in Alberta.
Each of us may draw their own readings from such a listing. In a country-wide sense a large majority of Canadians have never been seized by socialism or social democracy, or at least willing to vote for a party which so proclaims itself.
Has poor leadership been the problem? Veterans of the CCF-NDP most revere T.C. Douglas among those six leaders, followed by David Lewis, the most respected for brains and presence. Note their showings!
Clearly the NDP now, as it was in 1935, is more a “move- ment” than a political party poised to govern Canada.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 18, 1993
ID: 11956760
TAG: 199307180090
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Gall is a high attribute of Michael Pitfield, 56. An “independent” senator since 1982, administrative vice-president of Power Corp. since 1985, and director of several mighty corporations, Pitfield often sounds off.
If you were either critic or fan of Pierre Trudeau you recall something of Pitfield in government and politics. As clerk of the Privy Council before and after the Clark interlude in 1979, he planned and managed two massive reorganizations of the cabinet system and ministries, including the spawning of many ministries “of state” and the “envelope system.”
His earned sobriquet in the mandarinate of the ’70s was the Black Spider, but criticism in the public service or by ministers and caucus was muted.
Everyone knew Pitfield had perfect access to Trudeau and his full confidence as a peer in reason and mind.
Pitfield, of a wealthy, socially prominent Montreal family, was a child genius at school, a boy wonder at university. He came to Ottawa in his early 20s to work, first with a governor-general, then as aide to Tory minister Davie Fulton, then as secretary to a royal commission on publications headed by the legendary Tory editor Grattan O’Leary.
In the mid-’60s he joined Marc Lalonde, also a sometime aide to Fulton aide, and others including Pierre Trudeau, in drafting and publishing a manifesto for Canada’s future. At the time among the cognoscenti Pitfield was a most superior intellect, but a thinker rather than a partisan mover. His wealth and social cachet, coupled with his acclaimed braininess explain his quick ascension in the mandarinate. He was assistant secretary to the Pearson cabinet before he was 30, and two years later he and Lalonde were by Trudeau’s side as he began his heralded rationalization of the whole federal apparatus, starting with the PMO and cabinet.
It’s needful to recall this career to appreciate the surprise a decade ago when Pitfield chose to take a Senate seat or to understand his nasty foray last week against Kim Campbell for her “reorg.”
The uproar over the Senate gift was loud, led by Joe Clark, who’d fired Pitfield as Clerk of the Privy Council because of his years as a friend and servant of Trudeau. The critics had an extra malice toward this gift of 30 years with senatorial pay and perks. Pitfield, like his wealthy peer and promoter, was personally notorious for frugality and freeloading.
Nonetheless, in the Senate chamber, in committees, and even more as a speaker thinking aloud in various forums in Canada and abroad, Pitfield has been fairly steady in attendance and moderately active in speaking for institutional reform, including an elected Senate. His proposals got far more media attention than those by most other senators, in particular his stuff on the relations among officials, ministers and Parliament and his critical rejections of the Meech and the Charlottetown accords.
Last week both the Globe and the Ottawa Citizen printed a Pitfield letter that charged Campbell “has precious little justification for the exercise that is now tearing the public service apart and costing the treasury millions of dollars.”
Pitfield uses (as I have) the lack of an electoral mandate for such a huge reorg and the likelihood another prime minister will shortly undo these changes. He makes the good points there seems no urgency in such changes before a general election vote and that Campbell hasn’t had the time even to understand the changes or know much about the mandarins whose futures are being ruined.
Pitfield says this reorg has been lying about in the PMO for a long time and wasn’t proceeded with through legislation by her predecessor because this meant explanations and much debate in the House and the Senate. The justification is just political packaging, without evidence that “billions will be saved.”
Pitfield argues that “in strict constitutional law” Campbell hadn’t the authority to make these grand changes before her role as prime minister was ratified by a vote of confidence of the House. He ends with a cruel cut from an ex-mandarin, that Campbell has done nothing “much more than rubber-stamp what her advisers have put together.”
The letter is snarky. It hasn’t the tone of a true “independent.” It’s from a schemer and pusher of even grander, costlier reorgs but, using a pet interjection of MPs, Pitfield’s “Right on!”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, July 16, 1993
ID: 11956030
TAG: 199307150185
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


First, a hunch. Prime Minister Campbell will call the election a week to 10 days before Labor Day, probably choosing Oct. 12, the day after Thanksgiving, for the voting.
Why not later, say, the much-mentioned Oct. 25? Maybe the obvious edge of the Liberals will fade? In an election tomorrow they would roll up to 190 or more seats. Why not wait?
Because the Tories have so few ways to reduce this edge until the campaign is under way. Not until then will Campbell be able to show her superiority as a leader and a more sensible program than Chretien has to offer. Campbell does have a chance but it will take a terrific campaign and goofs galore by Chretien.
The mooted advantages for the Tories in waiting longer for the call seem more and more wishful, i.e., more distance from the Mulroney presence and record; more good economic news; and some recovery by the NDP of support gone to the Grits.
The grand reorganization with super-ministers has been launched but this is only significant news, and that mostly bad, in Ottawa itself.
Younger people, particularly in the media, regard the class action suit against the McKenna brothers, the CBC, the NFB, etc. over The Valor and the Horror by the RCAF association as a wrong-headed nuisance, and little more than the futile lament of old gaffers glorifying their youth and donkey leaders.
This reaction is in line with the original responses to criticism of those who produced and showed the documentary.
The courts may give the action short shrift but those scornful of it should know thousands of veterans back the action and are contributing to meet the costs.
Further, those preparing the action have competent legal advice, including several former justices of superior courts and several retired crown attorneys.
This week Jack Marshall, chairman of the Senate sub-committee which last fall held hearings on The Valor and the Horror, put some charges before the full Senate which will get consideration when the Senate reassembles.
Marshall summarized the CBC’s behavior regarding The Valor as “hypocritical and dishonest” and then he accused Robert Pattillo, the CBC’s vice-president of communications, of lying and fabricating in his criticism of a recent article in Saturday Night by Ann Collins.
Anyone appraising Marshall’s material on Pattillo’s untruths, including his witnesses and documentary evidence, must wonder how a blunderer like Pattillo got and has held the post given his foolish bluffs.
Once upon a time in Ottawa Gerard Veilleux, the CBC’s leader, was known as both smart and politically astute.
Assuming what seems likely, a Chretien government and a much reduced Progressive Conservative caucus, who would be the likely leader of the party by the end of the Parliament?
Even if Kim Campbell wins her seat in Vancouver will she last long as leader of the official opposition?
The topic comes up in chat about Campbell’s stamina and staying power, and the unfulfilled ambitions of Jean Charest and, of all people, Perrin Beatty, only 43, and a splendid nit-picker during a dozen years in opposition.
My guess is Campbell will remain leader if she holds her riding and has from 120 to 95 MPs but if she loses at home and has less than 90 MPs she’s toast.
It’s hard to see whether the story played out over three weeks about senatorial expense money hurt or helped any particular party among the older three.
Although abolition gained backers by the hundreds of thousands this solution has not been sole property of the NDP since the Charlottetown accord, supported by that party, postulated a reformed and elected Senate. The New Democrats dropped their long crusade for killing a second chamber because voters west of Ontario seemed to want a stronger, elected one.
As stories multiplied of senatorial perquisites we saw Liberals enjoying as much or more them Tories. Take my favorite senator, Peter Stollery. As a Liberal MP his claim to fame was as a global wanderer. In 1981 he wouldn’t quit his Spadina seat for a mere job on a pension or parole board. No, if Jim Coutts, Trudeau’s principal secretary, wanted in the House on his way to the leadership, Stollery wanted in the Senate. He made it, then Coutts blew the by-election to Dan Heap, a radical NDP preacher. Coutts is almost forgotten but until 2010 AD the peripatetic Stollery goes on at public expense.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 14, 1993
ID: 11955514
TAG: 199307130075
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


All three authors of the new books on Kim Campbell have used topical work over the past year from dailies and magazines. This is most obvious in Reading Kim Right by the literary professor, Frank Davey.
Murray Dobbin, the dyed-in-the-wool leftist of the three, also draws from the dailies and far more from CBC transcripts than the others in his The Politics of Kim Campbell.
The third book, Kim Campbell: The making of a politician, by Robert Fife, is not as imaginative as Davey’s nor as partisan as Dobbin’s.
It’s no shock that the cynicism about politicians rife in the media and the public affected these three very different writers. They all are patronizing toward almost everyone who has a part in the succession to Brian Mulroney.
Fife is the least certain in this, probably because he was too busy vacuuming facts for his quickie to get magisterial very often. Of course, Fife can be the moralist. Just read his previous book on sleaze, waste and extravagance on Parliament Hill.
The patronizing by Davey is done largely through omniscient, quotes-at-hand intellectualism. Often jocular or spoofing, Davey’s ironies and metaphors are largely drawn from the canon of CanLit. As with so many in the academe or bureaucracies across Canada, Davey’s basic newspaper is the Globe and Mail, which brings me to a serious indictment in question form which he raises near his conclusion. He writes:
“The coolness of the Globe and Mail toward Kim Campbell developed into near hostility as the . . . convention approached.” Davey sketches many items and what he calls “editorial interventions” which he thinks brought reporters, columnists and editors to a line harsh on Campbell.
For example, a photo emphasizing her campaign symbols in juxtaposition to “the most loathed prime minister in Canadian history” and depictions of her as “unpredictable, shallow . . . and in the pocket of a discredited Mulroney.”
Davey says: “These attempts by the Globe to intervene as an institution (rather than a collection of individual writers and columnists) in the Conservative campaign raise very difficult issues about party politics and democratic process.
“Does a Canadian political party – which is a much different constituency from the population in general . . . and a decidedly more democratic institution than a Central Canadian newspaper with close ties to Bay Street – have the right, or power, to choose its own leader?
“Or does the power reside in a general population manipulated by a narrow barrage of media images?”
“How democratic,” asks Davey, “is a `free press’ when it is dominated by one nationally circulated, small-c conservative paper that can for days place damaging images and stories about a candidate onto every delegate’s breakfast table?” It’s true the Globe is far more widely distributed in Canada, even into Quebec, than any other daily. But dominates the press?
Does he mean dominates the media, including TV, and through that the whole country’s politics? By Jove, I don’t believe it!
It’s also true the Globe’s Report on Business section by its nature has much from and about Bay Street. But the Globe as a “small-c conservative paper”? The professor has missed the variety of biases of Globe reporters and columnists. My reading indicates just two arch-conservatives, columnists Terence Corcoran and Al Strachan.
Bob Sheppard, a top columnist, is about as conservative as, say, Tom Berger. Jeffrey Simpson is an empiricist like so many out of Queens. Michael Valpy symbolizes bleeding-heart liberalism. Rick Salutin’s a Waffle sort; Bob Fulford’s a stock liberal; Hugh Winsor, an archetypal federal Grit.
The Globe has a gaggle of leftish, often mission-bent, reporters and editors like Geoffrey York, Kevin Cox, David Roberts, Robert Matas, Andre Picard, John Gray, Murray Campbell and Colin MacKenzie. Writing on cinema, drama, dance and arts in the Globe is the provenance of very urbane sophisticates, radiating concern over AIDS and anti-pornists. Feminism and its advocates get lots of space, even into the sports pages – see writers like Linda Hossie and Susan Delacourt. And at the top, William Thorsell, editor-in-chief.
Whatever his reverences towards Brian Mulroney, Thorsell’s Globe is far more a forum for unabashed advocacy of the rights of gays, lesbians, “visibles,” natives and feminists than the paper of preceding chiefs like Norman Webster or Dic Doyle. Thorsell agonizes openly about oppression of homosexuals – hardly a sign of conservatism.
Surely the Globe is too varying and inconsistent a bag of advocacy and opinion across the spectrum of politics and taste to be classed as either small-c conservative or the arbiter of the free press. Anyway, Kim made it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 11, 1993
ID: 12805803
TAG: 199307110105
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


As a book title, Reading “Kim” Right has some wit.
Not so the title of the other new paperback about Kim Campbell: The Politics of Kim Campbell from School Trustee to Prime Minister.
Murray Dobbin, a Saskatchewan author, wrote and James Lorimer published the heavier effort. Its earnest, denigrating line of criticism from the left never lets up, but if you detest the “neo-conservatism” which the partisan enemies of the Progressive Conservative party say has been its bent under Brian Mulroney you’ll revel in Murray Dobbin’s harsh review of Campbell’s life so far.
A year ago Dobbin carved up Reform Party Leader Preston Manning as thoroughly.
The other, lighter book is more challenging and more fun. It’s from Talonbooks and written by Frank Davey, an English professor at the University of Western Ontario.
Davey is on the edge of much Canadian fame as an interpreter of our psyches and trends, rather like that won years ago by novelist Margaret Atwood. Such luminosity will be helped, but not depend on Reading “Kim” Right but on another new paperback, the literary analysis, Post-National Arguments. It is subtitled “The Politics of the Anglophone Novel since 1967” and was published by the University of Toronto Press.
I was not surprised at Davey’s wind-up on Kim which saw her like plucky Anne of Green Gables. He thinks she radiated assurance to Tories the way Anne did to her benefactor with the promise, “I’ll try to do and be anything you want me to, if you’ll only keep me.”
In his literary book Davey has a rolling feast of allusions, parallels, and metaphors drawn from the content and arguments in 16 novels, used mostly to note political values and to suggest how fortunate we are to have so much divisiveness and debate to excite us. This shows we have missed or passed the stage of an all-encompassing nationalism.
Davey began the scholarly work begins with a scintillating comparison of the well-known and contradictory epistles published in the dailies during the free trade election of 1988. He emphasizes the romantic Canada-centred nationalism and self-confidence of the anti-Mulroney appeal. Its sponsors just signed their names as though we’d know who they were.
He contrasts this with the appeal to global reach and international standards of the less egotistical ones who backed the FTA – each signer listing his occupation.
Davey as a professor rewards the reader who works hard at following the often convoluted continuity of his arguments. In passing, one gets some excellent digests of interesting novels.
He will make many readers of Post-National Arguments feel they understand the diversity and conflict so apparent in our communities is not that of an adolescent country but a mature one.
In the Kim book, however, Davey is less esoteric and sometimes smart-alecky. But his mocking or patronizing of politicians is neither vicious nor confined to Tories.
I felt Davey wasn’t out to destroy Campbell, but to let us know what we may have on our hands – and it isn’t certain to be something bad or disastrous.
Despite being more fun than Dobbin’s cynical indictment, my hunch is Davey’s Kim won’t sell as well. Dobbin’s material is prime stuff for all Liberal, NDP, Reform, and BQ candidates and door-knockers in the campaign already under way. He makes a good fist of defining her ideas about parliamentary politics, based on the old Edmund Burke themes.
But an argument Dobbin makes at the end of The Politics of Kim Campbell is overdrawn. Pierre Trudeau also burst out of obscurity in a hurry and he wasn’t subsequently flummoxed by being beholden to those who marshalled his leadership run.
Dobbin sketches the Campbell bandwagon from its quiet start when Brian Mulroney tipped Marcel Masse to get her going, on to the victory ballet. He thinks she has too few political credits and too many political debts.
Unlike Mulroney or Clark she has neither many friends nor a lot of old colleagues in the party. So, as an outsider, she’s most beholden to the clique of “old-time party hacks and public relations firms” who made her.
So Dobbin postulates “her so-called new way of doing politics will be, of necessity, very much like the old way, if she wants to survive as Tory leader.”
Maybe this will come to pass, but I doubt it. I think with power, especially if it’s power with a renewed mandate, Kim Campbell will be just as individualistic, arrogant, and master of her parliamentary party as Trudeau was of his.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, July 09, 1993
ID: 12805506
TAG: 199307080092
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Let’s take a glance at a human side to the Canadian Senate through the tribulations of a rather archetypal senator.
Phillipe Deane Gigantes, 69, was raised in 1984 to the Senate by Pierre Trudeau (for whom he’d written speeches). He had been a newspaper columnist, author (nine books), a Royal Navy officer in World War II, once a prisoner of the North Koreans, a counsellor to King Constantine of Greece and a son of a prominent Greek general.
On June 9 the Senate committee on internal economy, budget and administration met at length to consider a draft set of rules for handling harassment charges in the Senate’s environs. This is the same group that shaped the now infamous grab for more expense money. The draft rules were a fifth try. They posited processes within the administration of the Senate to be used before charges which were unresolvable went forward to the Human Rights Commission. Sen. Gigantes was very critical of the proposals, causing a discussion for almost two hours which ended without disposing of the matter.
Let’s dive into the affair where Gigantes begins to explain his intrangigence: “Some time ago, I wanted to hire as my researcher a Senate page who has worked for me now for 3 1/2 years. A senior official of the Senate, whom I will not name, told this girl and I quote: `All he wants is to get up your skirt.’ ”
“Under this procedure how am I protected from such slander? The girl was frank, forward and unafraid and came and told me who the official was. I asked her to go and ask him why he thought so. He explained that it was quite clear that I like women too much. I complimented them.
“Then she heard this from others who had heard it from that official. I had to go through the procedure of saying to her, `Look don’t take the job. Other women have worked for me, here is a list of them. Go talk to them.’ The point is there was no protection for me from getting a bad reputation.
“It has been recognized, finally, that complimenting a woman in an elevator on a new dress she is wearing does not constitute sexual harassment, even though some male employees of the Senate think so and have said so . . . What do I do? I am a senator . . . I have to go to the director of human resources and say, `Please, will you appoint a conciliator because Mr. X has calumniated me.’ Then what happens?”
“They say, `Oh well the girls who work for him do not tell the truth. They will do anything because they are afraid of losing their jobs . . . ‘ Frankly, having seen how some officials of the Senate behave, I do not want to have those officials or any other officials of the Senate dealing with the character of a senator, nor do I want the director of human resources deciding who will be the conciliator to judge me.” Why would it be unfair? Because he’d have to go to the people who “have been spreading these allegations . . . because I am not a North American.”
The senator continued: “I am of European extraction, and what is considered good manners where I come from is considered strange behavior here . . . This procedure allows anybody to slander. I had a Commissionaire say to one of my new assistants that I was obviously a homosexual because of the way I decorate my office.”
His grieving became even more pungent over a second proposal to have hard cases referred to the deputy leaders of the parties in the Senate.
“I am a very partisan person. I am harshly partisan, and my harsh partisanship may affect the judgment of people from the other party and cause them to be adverse to me because I’ve taken shots at them in the Senate.”
Gigantes detests Lowell Murray, the government leader in the Senate, and he gave chapter and verse on it, rather unsettling the committee. Then he revealed another story on the wrongs slander creates. It had the ring of truth, touching me more than the allegations of lechery and homosexuality.
Some years after his captive months with the Korean Reds he wrote a book about it. He had also become a federal employee in Canada. So were his wife and a younger brother. The John Birch Society in the U.S. sent our RCMP security service one page from his book. On it was a story of one American atrocity – this among scores of descriptions of communist atrocities.
A young Mountie took the page to Gigantes’ deputy-minister as evidence of a communist spy in his ranks. This tag, says Gigantes, “put him in limbo for over three years.” Worse, it meant his wife and brother were both “red-flagged” and their curse lasted for 11 years. No promotions simply because the slander meant they couldn’t get a security clearance. (I knew the brother – a brilliant statistician.)
The main moral today? As the senator puts it, for a slander “there is no repair.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 07, 1993
ID: 12805254
TAG: 199307060063
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Who wants to be fair to prime ministers and their spouses, particularly the last pair?
You may recall the uproar over the half-million spent in 1984-85 in bringing Stornoway, an “official residence,” up to speed for John and Geills Turner.
You may also remember how the media were scandalized at a swimming pool for Pierre and Margaret Trudeau at 24 Sussex Drive, another “official residence,” which was partly paid for by the Liberal party. Then there was the outrage over the organic vegetable garden created at the Harrington Lake lodge, another “official residence,” for Margaret Trudeau at a cost of over $200,000 and paid for by the government.
You are unlikely to remember the years of mystery and suspicion as Mackenzie King, a prime minister without a spouse, kept acquiring property and erecting old ruins at Kingsmere in the Gatineau hills, all of which he eventually bequeathed to all of us, in doing so creating another “official residence.”
Now we have a general outrage because the National Capital Commission has paid the Mulroneys $150,000 for furniture they left behind at 24 Sussex Drive and Harrington Lake.
It’s my argument – probably bootless – that the dilemma of what ought to be provided our party leaders by the government or by their parties has been around for a very long time, and it is now clear that recent major attempts to clear it away have failed. We need a new start after a substantial debate on what the public purse should provide party leaders in the way of housing and services. An important aspect of the discussion should be on the the type and scale of provisions for the spouses of leaders for which the federal government pays.
It’s ironic that it was Mulroney as PM who took the first, large steps to rationalize the dilemma of the official residences, in large part after much parliamentary criticism of spending by both the government and the Liberal party to benefit the Trudeaus and the Turners. First, in 1984, Mulroney set up an Official Residences Council to advise the National Capital Commission on plans for sustaining the official residence. Then, in 1991, the NCC created an Official Residences Collections Avisory Committee to advise the Council and the NCC on: a) the acceptance of gifts; b) the commissioning of art and decoration; c) the purchase of art and fixtures for the residences.
We come to dislike and distrust our prime ministers very quickly, and whatever they or their families do we seem to see as fair game for both opposition and media pursuit.
Some of the goods bought from the Mulroneys may have been paid for by the Mulroneys themselves; some were probably paid for with money provided by a particular set of funds the Progressive Conservative party set up years ago to help the particular social and entertainment costs which face a leader.
All three parties – the Tories, Grits and New Democrats – have assumed such arrangements to help their leaders handle their duties and are a private matter within each party. The NDP got into what the older parties had been into for over a half century when Ed Broadbent was leader, in particular to help make easier the inordinate amount of travel required of him.
An element in the current moral outrage stems from the fact almost all the moneys parties now raise are abetted by tax credits sanctioned by an act of Parliament. That is, the money from party funds going to aid Brian and Mila, and to John and Geills before them, and to Pierre and Margaret before them, and to Joe and Maureen before them, were raised by what we call “tax expenditures.”
So the moralists demand: Why should the public pay twice for what the Mulroneys left behind?
It has seemed to me the Trudeaus got off easier than the Mulroneys and Turners although he was more of a tightwad with his own money. But he was known to be wealthy through inheritance whereas both Turner and Mulroney made much of their humble origins, so opening up themselves to the charge they revelled in living high off the hog (i.e., the public).
In opposition, Mulroney undertook that as prime minister he would pay for his family’s groceries and would set up some open rationale for spending on the prime minister’s housing and entertainment costs. On taking office he made his move with the new council on the residences.
Should we end the provision of official residences for leaders? If this isn’t done then there must be clear rules on what the leaders and their parties may provide and own, with some public accounting of any moneys raised through tax credits. My preference would be to let leaders and their parties provide their housing, and provide a federal guest and entertainment set-up for the major functions a prime minister must undertake.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 04, 1993
ID: 12805040
TAG: 199307040136
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Brian Mulroney had a precedent of sorts for the elevation he gave last month to Don Mazankowski
Memories are short, even among political reporters.
A year ago, on Canada Day, Brian Mulroney announced what amounted to a prime minister’s honors list. He “elevated” seven privy councilors (who were already `honorable’) to “the highest title than can be given to holders of public office, that of “Right Honorable.” He also “summoned 22 prominent Canadians to the Privy Council.”
Three Grits and four Tories raised to Right Honorable status, including such veterans of the House and the hustings as Paul Martin Sr., Jack Pickersgill, Jean Luc Pepin, Ellen Fairclough, Alvin Hamilton and Bob Stanfield.
Six of the 22 new privy councillors were MPs or former MPs or MPPs, including two New Democrats, Lorne Nystrom and Pauline Jewett.
There was one ex-premier, Ontario Liberal David Peterson, and a variety of other achievers such as scientist Gerhard Herzberg, journalist Bruce Hutchison, painter Alex Colville, tycoons Conrad Black, Paul Desmarais, Charles Bronfman and Maurice Strong, unionist Richard Cashin, hockey player Maurice (Rocket) Richard, writers W.O. Mitchell, Rita Joe and Antonine Maillet, and federal mandarin Paul Tellier. (Pierre Trudeau had named several of his top bureaucrats to the Privy Council.)
Last July there was remarkably little commentary or criticism in the media of these elevations to more eminence. It was as if it were a non-event or a happening without national significance.
Aside from one newspaper editorial I spotted nothing critical of Mulroney or derisory of such a swatch of honorifics. I put the dearth of notice and criticism down to what has seemed obvious over the years since the Order of Canada (with its three levels of gongs) was established. That is, Canadians in the main haven’t even a moderate fascination in the honoring of their notables or would-be notables.
Recent chats I had had with two ministers in Lester Pearson’s cabinet of 1967 when the Order of Canada was launched, Jack Pickersgill and Mitchell Sharp, made it clear it was overwhelmingly “Mike’s idea.” In the cabinet considerations that Centennial year the weight of argument had been against such awards, the opponents stressing the unegalitarian and hierarchical elements in such awards.
Perhaps because of my lingering distaste for rank that began when soldiering in World War II, I’ve tended to discount governmental awards of distinctions and have felt I have had lots of company.
So far I’ve been been unable to find if there was a cabinet discussion, let alone an argument, last year in the Mulroney ministry before the PM came out with his honors list. In terms of precedent for Mulroney in the creation of privy councillors as honors, not for serving in cabinets and courts, Pearson also opened this up in Centennial year when he made all the premiers of the day federal privy councillors.
As for the “Right Honorable” prefix it came originally to Canada as an honor of the Imperial Privy Council of Great Britain for the Canadian prime minister and eventually for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and, much later, for Canadians who became Governors General. At the close of World War II the Imperial council made four of Mackenzie King’s ministers Right Honorables – Jimmy Gardiner, C.D. Howe, James Ilsley and Ian Mackenzie.
Thus, Brian Mulroney had a precedent of sorts for his seven elevations last year and for the one he gave last month to Don Mazankowski.
And this brings me around to my opening on the short memory of journalists. The texts of both press and TV stories which I read or heard on the extra eminence for Mazankowski treated it either as unique or of unusual rarity, despite the blockbuster precedents of 1992 and 1946.
As a Sun colleague has pointed out, Mazankowski gets neither dollars nor a ribbon. He has something I hope he and his family treasure even if most of his countrymen don’t notice or care.
If there’s disinterest or a bit of confusion about honors it’s obviously less controversial than matters of fabric and furnishings of official residences provided prime ministers, leaders of the Official Opposition, and Speakers of the House.
See the raging prominence given payments to Brian and Mila Mulroney for furnishings left behind. This too has precedents, such as Trudeau’s pool, which I’ll review next column.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, July 02, 1993
ID: 12804706
TAG: 199307010087
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Ah, Canada at Canada Day time.
A year ago celebrations force-fed by federal money made much of our country’s magnificent 125 years. A lot of the hype was designed to complement the push for referendum votes in support of the Charlottetown accord. As one hostile to the accord my Canada Day message was dour, titled “You’ll have to excuse me for not celebrating.”
My lament made much of us no longer being busy and fruitful through “doing great things together” (as the late Frank Underhill put the essence of making and keeping a nation).
I rued the scorn for our history and its alleged narrowness and meanness, typified in the abandonment of “Dominion Day.” I grieved over the promotion of hyphenated Canadianism with its very righteous correctness. I regretted the domination of hesitant politicians by interest groups with their respective tunnel-visions fixed on demands justified by gender or sexuality or ethnicity or language or occupation or region.
Above all, I hated some major changes postulated by the accord such as the elected Senate and entrenchment of aboriginal government. Today I rejoice in the unbelievably low-key aftermath of the accord’s rejection. We can do so much with and for each other without changing the Constitution a whit, including carrying on with the Quebecois and their sense of Canada that’s different from ours.
Although its raison d’etre was explained, this week as I re-read last year’s piece on Canada Day I found it too brooding. I was not hopeful enough that enough of my fellows would send the accord to limbo. And this turns me to why I am so much more optimistic about our country this year. An immediate reason is the incipient federal election. Such elections are arguably our grandest, recurring scam; nevertheless I am happy the campaign is literally, if not legally, under way.
A topical point here. Bob Rae’s tone was unbecomingly sour when he rejected the new prime minister’s dinner invitation but he’s more right than wrong in classifying the occasion as both an electoral ploy and inherently useless in both its timing vis-a-vis an election and in its brevity. If Kim Campbell can race the sun from Newfoundland to B.C. on Canada Day she could set down in Toronto for an hour or two to get Rae’s line on the stances she might take at the Tokyo summit.
Both the election campaign and Bob Rae are more than just topical factors in my less jaundiced views this Canada Day.
There is cleansing and renewal from most federal general elections, and for those whose beat is Parliament there is the hope recurrent of a fresh House of Commons after one too long and well past any worthiness. The next House will have the largest changes in cast in modern times. Childish though it seems I’m looking forward to it.
Bob Rae fits in my renewal of hope simply because he’s challenging some rockbound attitudes in both politics and the workplaces of Canada with his social contract talk, however wispy and inconclusive it is thus far.
To simplify, the social contract Rae envisages, whatever its historical precedents, however utopian it may be, is a proposition all of us need to examine seriously.
Rae seeks to bridge the gulf between the socialist belief in a planned economy managed by government and the free enterprise belief that the market and its competition must be the central economic premise in Canada, in part because it’s the best guarantee of individual freedom and democratic government.
At last a Canadian socialist or social democrat in power is openly facing the inherent hypocrisy of both the unions and the big business interests. As each at the political and social level damns the other for the recession and governmental deficits and debt burden, they carry on the adversarial gambits of negotiations, threats of strikes, and settlements.
All of us have a stake in the economy. All of us have an interest in the services and transfers provided by governments for health and education and culture. Most of us know we need to sustain a network structure of roads and transport and communications. And most of us realize the decisions regarding such should not be imposed by either an omniscient government or the major corporate and group interests of the country.
Sensible, fair discussion of the social contract forces the unions and the corporations and the professions out of their narrowness and toward a concern for the whole. Even if or when Rae disappears and we are yawning at the phrase “social contract,” we will have had for a time a larger, brighter vision of our responsibilities to each other and of our legacies in landscape, resources and people.
On with the election. On with new leadership. On with a good country.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 30, 1993
ID: 12804472
TAG: 199306290076
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Let’s examine the second and third aspects of Kim Campbell’s opening gambits as prime minister. The first has been praised: Reducing the cabinet to 25 members, down from a Mulroney high of 40 to where it was 30 years ago.
The second aspect is cabinet personnel. She added seven new ministers to 18 incumbents, including herself. This aspect has drawn few huzzahs, but recognition she has tried to meet three perceived needs: To reward backers and the most serious of her leadership rivals; to get some fresh, and pushy MPs into cabinet; and to put what seems the superior talent at hand into the economic ministries (i.e., Jean Charest, Gilles Loiselle and Bernard Valcourt).
Most afterthought on the personnel leads me on to gloomy ground. The new talent is good enough and vigorous, say in comparison with a tentative Chretien cabinet. A handful of the experienced ministers are solid, but few at best are much more than puppets for what one prays will be exceptional deputy-ministers and chiefs of staff. Who are some of the ministers denigrated by my generalization?
Take Mary Collins. She is like the popsicle ad, sunshine on a stick, but switching images, she is out of her league as leader of Health, a massive department whose writ is tied to costs and issues now confounding every government in the country. Monique Landry has more vapidity and less charm than Collins. She’s got a big bag tagged “Heritage,” stuffed with the arts, communications, multiculturalism, citizenship and sport. This needs an articulate minister, not a bland marionette.
After adjectives like earnest and decent, what else positive may one say about Tom Siddon, now with Defence, after years of confusing whites and natives?
Pierre Blais, the Justice man, is Campbell’s replica of Mulroney’s well-remembered rough-and-ready Roch Lasalle. He spews words at a breakneck pace, but who knows what he says? Jean Corbeil remains at Transport. Mulroney should have axed him last year for aggravating, vague, unintelligible performances in the House. Gerry Weiner and Charlie Mayer are as decent and earnest as Tom Siddon, and occasionally humorous. Weiner’s a minister only as the Tories’ anglophone Montrealer. Mayer at Agriculture is there as that rarity, a knowledgeable grain farmer in the House.
No, the smaller cabinet is not a twinkling galaxy. But let’s get to the reorg. It’s the third and most dubious aspect of Campbell’s opening gambit – a make-work switch-of-chairs affair of questionable benefit. Campbell is very intent on her reorg. When done, if done, it will be a blockbuster. The way she put it, the reorg is her witness of a smart, open, caring government.
If she persists in the next 10 weeks with the reorg beyond gerry-rigging some cabinet committees before she calls an election she does Canada a substantial disfavor. This is not because it means a summer of waffle and self-praise over more efficiency, frugality and real priorities. Phony busy stuff. No, the disfavor is in instituting such massive structural and personnel changes without a mandate from the people.
If, as is certainly probable, Campbell fails to carry the country be sure a Chretien government will not go ahead with her reorg and the legislative acts needed to legitimize it. Chretien will have his own reorg, his array of cabinet committees, his range of ministers and departments.
To reorganize the organizational chart, to shuffle the managers (and almost always to create more of them) is a familiar pattern for large institutions, public or private. In Ottawa a reorg is never far in the past; another is usually coming or the most recent one is being reviewed or “fine-tuned.”
There have been nine major reorgs of the federal government and its ministries announced during my time as a parliamentary voyeur, and seven of them were carried out, more than less. One reorg was by Diefenbaker, one by Pearson, three by Trudeau, one by Clark, one by Turner, and two by Mulroney.
The most titanic ones with huge multiplier effects in appointments, promotions, and complexity were Pearson’s in ’63-64 and Trudeau’s first two, ’68-69 and ’77-78. Those set forth by Joe Clark and John Turner were major but quickly overrun and soon forgotten after their electoral defeats.
Campbell’s reorg would be a huge one. It would be laudable if she were to sketch her reorg and advance its merits as a prime element in the programs she and her party offers the voters. It’s cavalier and most wasteful, however, to announce the reorg and spend several months on its shuffles and conflicts without either legislative or electoral approval.
The fair deed would be to call an election before the end of July or recall Parliament to consider and legislate the reorg.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 27, 1993
ID: 12804237
TAG: 199306270171
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The new prime minister got off the mark very well by reducing the size of the ministry substantially, projecting a drastic reorganization of the cabinet system which is interesting, even promising, and choosing Jodi White, a capable, honest, no-nonsense person, as her chief of staff.
Kim Campbell was less impressive in her cabinet choices and their assignments although she showed an admirable ruthlessness in not reappointing several from the Mulroney cabinet.
Most of the seven brand new ministers are either fair (Peter McCreath – Veterans Affairs; Larry Schneider – Western Diversification; Bob Nicholson – Science) or good (Garth Turner – National Revenue) or excellent (Ross Reid – Fisheries; Bobbie Sparrow – Natural Resources; Jim Edwards – Treasury Board).
The main excuse for the very modest abilities of some of her reappointments is that she simply had to reward her main backers in the leadership race. This will explain several relatively dim-witted reappointments (e.g., Tom Siddon – National Defence; Mary Collins – Health & Welfare; and Pierre Blais – Justice).
But then you wonder why Campbell would lift Pauline Browes, who didn’t back her and who has a feeble public presence, to the difficult task of Indian and Northern Affairs. It beats me, in part because there were some excellent alternatives on the backbench from the Metro region (such as Don Blenkarn, Patrick Boyer, and Bill Attewell).
A secondary excuse for several of the reappointed (e.g., Gerry Weiner in Multiculturalism and Jean Corbeil in Transport) is that they are the only available Tories in their home constituencies and regions and so very important electorally.
After those four paragraphs it would seem this ministry is very unimpressive. Well, it has a few sharp, capable people in vital portfolios.
Take the toughest one: Finance. In my book Gilles Loiselle is the smartest, toughest minister we’ve had from Quebec since Marc Lalonde. If anything, he’s more deft in English than Lalonde although not as naturally loquacious or as determined to dominate situations. Loiselle could be too briefly at Finance to make a national mark but if this government survives into ’94 he’ll do well.
In contrast to Mike Wilson, Loiselle is less repetitive, more subtle in argument, and – this is my hunch – much more stubborn with spending colleagues.
Jim Edwards is a dandy straight arrow for Treasury Board and as good or better than that for his extra assignment as “interlocutor” for the the interests of Metis and non-status Indians, two groups whose days in the limelight of concern are overdue.
Jean Charest gets, and may prove he can handle, a swatch of appointments: Deputy prime minister and minister of Industry, of Consumer and Corporate Affairs and of Regional Development for Quebec.
If he and Campbell get in synch on sensible interpretations of the very major reorganization, it could mean their party could carry into the election more radical promises of change in institutional Ottawa than anything put out by either the Grits or the New Democrats.
One can be this categorical in the short-term about Charest. If the Tories are to return as a government they must win half or more of the seats in Quebec. Charest may do this, certainly far more than Campbell or other Quebecers like Loiselle and Blais.
Perrin Beatty, only 43, takes External Affairs and is now the senior privy councillor in the cabinet, the only one left from the Clark government of 1979. There’s no better demonstration of the recent departures of ministers than the fact Beatty has only two cabinet colleagues from the first Mulroney cabinet of 1984 – Tom Siddon (Defence) and Charlie Mayer (Agriculture).
Beatty is wonderfully adroit at evasive dialogue and mouthing complexities with assurance, so he’s most unlikely to get into controversies and trouble.
On the other hand, he hasn’t the style or qualities to become the global traveller Canadians would cherish.
In the cabinet, Bernard Valcourt ranks next to Charest as a very personable politician and now that he has the Labor department to go with Employment and Immigration he too will have even more opportunities to be seen and heard.
All in all, Kim Campbell has gotten off well, better than I expected.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, June 25, 1993
ID: 12803884
TAG: 199306240131
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Is the scunner CBC News has against the Mulroney government to be fastened on his successor? Or is the inordinate play Prime Time News giving what it calls “the Somalia Affair” a ploy for better ratings?
Or is Brian Stewart, the Corp’s safari-jacket star, so luminous now he can poof up tragic incidents involving our airborne regiment as it served in a dangerous situation into a question of Kim Campbell’s integrity and competence? Why not focus on Mary Collins, the associate defence minister, who’s far more clued in on peacekeeping?
In the first kerfuffle over alleged murder and torture of Somali civilians there was a serving officer whose letters home gave the story a skyhook. Not this time, with assertions the chief of staff gave directions to officers on the scene to be careful, even intimations they were advised to cover up anything which might embarrass Campbell.

Now that we know John Crosbie is departing politics we realize what vigor and contrast he pumped into the stock partisanship which is the boring curse of our parliamentary government. Wit, candor and honesty in the open are rare on the Hill.
Two comparable MPs who spring to mind also represented Newfoundland ridings: Jack Pickersgill, the Liberal who dominated parliamentary strategies and antics between 1958 and 1968, and the late Don Jamieson, by and large the best House talker in modern times.
When I pushed recall further I found more than half the names on my short list of the most entertaining MPs were or are from the Rock.

Something odd may be stirring out in the country about pensions. Several MPs have told me letters have been coming to them from veterans of World War II which see a “basic war pension” for those who served in theatres of war.
We’ve not had a definitive lobby for such a pension or bonus, undoubtedly because our veterans’ benefits have been both comprehensive and fairly generous – the notable example to help the most unfortunate having been the “war veteran’s allowance,” sometimes called the “burnt-out” pensions).
There are some 580,000 Canadian veterans of World War II still alive, their median age is 73, and of these less than a third are on any DVA benefits.
A proposal for a “basic war pension” was put by two MPs to DVA mandarins at a meeting of the Committee on Veterans Affairs. The mandarins said they knew nothing of it.

Speaking of World War II veterans, there are only four of them in the House of Commons. Three will not be running again. The one who will is former RCAF pilot Dave Stupich (NDP Nanaimo-Cowichan).
He’s likely to be the only living war relic in the next House when it observes the 50th anniversary of the victory. The retirees are ex-RCN seaman Bill Winegard (PC Guelph-Wellington); Les Benjamin (NDP Regina-Lumdsen) of both the RCAF and the artillery; and Bill Kempling (PC Burlington) who had an exceptionally exciting war as a combat pilot in several theatres.

Dan Smith, an author of a new paperback on Indians (The Seventh Fire from Key Porter) is exasperated with my less than enthusiastic comments on his book in one column and my subsequent failure in a later column to even mention it, although I quoted remarks made by a federal mandarin which he had used in his conclusion. He has a case in the sense that an author who puts years of work into a book on such a harrowing, difficult subject merits some criticisms in detail, not just a brushoff by a reviewer who then turns to extolling a “better” book by Menno Boldt on the same subject.
Even though The Seventh Fire didn’t “reach” me, I say again, it is well-written and has much data on the push by natives for self-government.

In the past 20 years no lobby group largely funded by taxpayers has had more time and space from the media and claimed the attention of MPs more than NAC, i.e., the National Action Committee on the Status of Woman.
Even those who choke on the stridency of NAC leaders like Judy Rebick will get some understanding of NAC from a book from U of T Press celebrating NAC’s 20th anniversary. It’s Politics As If Women Mattered by three protagonists of NAC: Jill Vickers, Pauline Rankin and Christine Appelle. Despite their general bias, theirs is a straight, scholarly account.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 23, 1993
ID: 12803625
TAG: 199306220155
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The top of the front page story in last Saturday’s Ottawa Citizen was headed “Opposition outraged . . . ” Outraged by what? It’s easy for you to figure out even if MPs of the opposition parties are almost always in a snit over some unsacred or corrupt action of the governing party.
Although the headline fits with the Southam paper’s anti-Mulroney line taken editorially and in the presentation of most Parliament Hill stories, the “outrage” this month is common in most dailies and TV newscasts, including the Sun papers.
Of course! It’s over patronage appointments, notably the rash of party activists, including MPs and “bagmen” to the Senate, but even a costless honorific to Don Mazankowski.
Day by day the PMO or the PCO has announced honors, awards and appointments, and to much more than the Senate. To ambassadorships, consulates, commissions, boards, etc. banks, the bench. Hundreds and hundreds, the reporters fume; an excess worse than anything by Pierre Trudeau or his mannequin, John Turner, in 1984.
The spate has shocked the righteous in journalism such as Stevie Cameron, an investigative sort who knows all about Inside Ottawa, and even that trumpet for journalistic balance, the Star, has been outraged. Citizens across the land must imagine that the prime topic for anger and cynicism whenever two or more members of the parliamentary press gallery get together now is the high season of patronage as the Tory era comes to a close (they hope). Insofar as the rage of the Liberals and New Democrats goes we have hypocrisy, plain hypocrisy.
When or if the Chretiens and Coppses gain office this fall their appointments to the Senate and to boards, commissions, etc. will be as heavily Grit as Mulroney’s have been Tory.
Perhaps you think the federal NDP would be above patronage. Well, look what the party does or has done in the provinces it has won – B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario.
Do NDP premiers go out of their way to appoint known Grits or Tories or Socreds to high office within their administrations or to external commissions and boards? Has the party (which is a unity, coast to coast) even made it a credo that all crown appointments shall be made after publicizing vacancies, taking applications and using a process managed by a neutral public service commission for determining merit?
The answer is negative to each of the questions. The chief reason why this is so, even for the party of secular angels, may be regrettable but it is real and indelible. Our political system is highly partisan. Partisans support each other. They cleave together against rival partisans. A party seeks office to put into effect its programs. To do this its partisans want around them and working for them like-minded loyalists.
What I’ve sketched is obvious, a commonplace. Some of us think we have an excess of partisanship in our politics. Some of us think we should abolish an unelected parliamentary arm. Until the unelected Senate is abolished it will be an institution of partisans because it can stall or kill a government’s intentions. Mulroney did more than any previous PM to do away with the unelected Senate.
Even Audrey McLaughlin as PM would have to appoint NDP partisans until she managed (one wonders how) to abolish it.
Yes, the present “outrage” over the Senate is in itself an outrage against reality, a mindless reflex in anger at the government and its leader. Only the Lord may know if our Senate is doomed but such a goal is not in sight this century and problematic in the next.
Much as one seeks it, who can find in the faithful still rallying to each party a total lack of expectations for appointments and promotions? Just take the Hill. It swarms with hundreds of young apparatchiks of the three parties and most of them hope. Yes, they hope for appointments.
So why would Mulroney or Campbell be different than then prime ministers before them and make senators, ambassadors, and commissioners of high-minded neutrals or deserving Grits and New Democrats?
There is a slightly better case for fewer appointments of those who back the governing party to boards like the CBC’s or the NFB’s or to commissions like the CRTC or to citizenship courts and refugee tribunals. Some such tasks are full time, others occasional. There are literally several thousand such appointments (see Canada Yearbook). Perhaps 500 of them are plums and an end to plums is not in sight.
Despite the “outrage” none of the parties is advocating all or even most appointments by a “merit” process or an absolute end to patronage. Any prime minister will want to know that those given such roles are sympathetic to the government’s aims and will not be disrespectful of them.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 20, 1993
ID: 12803289
TAG: 199306200104
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Kim Campbell was not the first “right honorable” Canadian woman. That honor goes to Kathleen (Kit) Marshall, briefly a Liberal prime minister during a hectic “minority” period.
The fictional story of her rise and fall was fashioned by Judy LaMarsh and published early in 1980, the year of LaMarsh’s death from cancer at 55.
A search for parallels between quick-tongued, opinionated women in politics took me back to the LaMarsh novel A Right Honourable Lady (McClelland & Stewart). The protagonist had become prime minister with a narrow convention victory over a clever minister from Quebec who later did her in as prime minister.
LaMarsh was only the second woman to hold a federal cabinet post. There have been a score or so since her pioneering time.
In the Lester Pearson ministries from ’63 to ’68 she headed National Health and Welfare, helping set up the Canada Pension Plan.
Then she made much of the stage for the Pierre Trudeau years as hostess of the Centennial extravaganza. The 1967 show engraved her in Canadians’ awareness. Shortly she was to leave electoral politics for a media career, largely because of antipathy to Trudeau with whom she’d had conflicts in the Pearson cabinet.
How changed we are since ’68. After Pearson gave notice of his retirement there were weeks of flurry in the media attention over possible successors but none of it touched on LaMarsh nor did she promote herself as candidate, despite a high public profile, the Centennial glow and considerable skills as a parliamentarian.
On the Hill at the time she ranked as a grander success as minister and colorful personality than Kim Campbell did on the Hill and across the country three months ago. The likes of LaMarsh and Flora MacDonald and Jeanne Sauve and Barbara McDougall were pathmakers to the PMO for Campbell.
As it goes colloquially, LaMarsh tended to let it all hang out. She was usually handy and ready with blunt opinions on persons and issues. Although she was far more a journeywoman Grit than Campbell has been a stock Tory, she was every bit as flip and piercing in repartee.
In passing, let me draw several contrasts.
Both LaMarsh and MacDonald toiled for years before they became MPs in the lower channels and offices of their respective parties. Campbell has not that background to curse or help her (in this she has another similarity to the Trudeau of 1965-68). But LaMarsh was much more like Campbell and unlike MacDonald in being a fierce, partisan warrior in the House.
LaMarsh was only 43 (three years younger than Kim Campbell today) when she left Ottawa. Shortly after she wrote her indiscreet Memoirs of a Bird in a Gilded Cage. Several ex-colleagues, including the late George McIlraith, felt she should have been prosecuted for the revelations in the book of cabinet discussions. The secrecy that envelops the discussions and papers of cabinet are supposedly to be guaranteed by the oath each minister of the Crown has to take.
I would recommend the novel A Right Honourable Lady to younger readers who are outright political buffs. Part of their fun could be in identifying in it some of the real-life characters of Ottawa in the ’60s and ’70s. The “heavy” from Quebec has qualities similar to Trudeau’s, not Jean Charest’s.
The plot is far more of a stretch than the descriptions of cabinet, caucus and the House. These, though stilted and not up to Peter Newman prose, are reasonable facsimiles. And there is much, very much, in the heroine’s stream of consciousness about the hurts of a sensitive woman in high office.
The denouement forces Kit Marshall out of politics but fortunately to a future with time for an attentive spouse. Her exit is the ultimate consequence of a secret deal for a nuclear reactor made with Fidel Castro by the Trudeau-like minister. The CIA uses the alleged deal to enrage the American president who then makes unacceptable demands of our woman at the top.
Such views from the White House, recalling John Kennedy with John Diefenbaker over Cuba or Lyndon Johnson with Lester Pearson over Vietnam, are particularly harrowing for Marshall because the U.S. ambassador is a friend and former lover.
Her resignation comes after defeat in a minority House on a censure motion pushed by righteous socialists and mean Conservatives.
A moral Campbell might draw from the novel is to watch her back. Even a leader’s own ministers may stab her there.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, June 18, 1993
ID: 12803018
TAG: 199306170133
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Could the next House of Commons, the 35th one, be as unsatisfying as the 34th that packed in Wednesday with untypical camaraderie and a flow of nostalgia over departees like the prime minister, his deputy Don Mazankowski and the Speaker John Fraser?
Yes, is the short answer.
The last day was untypical, exemplified in a piety from Brian Mulroney his attendance and disinterest have belied – he loves Parliament. Oof! What a whopper. At least Jean Chretien (who is not good in the House) hasn’t used this old refrain.
Talking to MPs of all parties, none really relished this House. Each noted the ugliness within and the scorn without.
Of course the next House will be just as unappetizing for its members although it is almost sure to have a larger influx of new MPs than the previous high tide of 1958 when John Diefenbaker swept in with 208 seats. Unfortunately, neither the party leaders for the next House nor most of the experienced MPs who will be behind them have strong proposals to end the ritualistic phoniness and game-playing on Parliament Hill.
No party advocates abolishing question period or even giving the Speaker the authority to blow away the multi-party arrangements and pre-preparation of the charade by recognizing questioners at random and rejecting every questioner who front-end loads a “question” with accusatory assertions.
No party is ready to see the chamber peopled at all times with at least a modicum of MPs, including ministers, by instituting much higher quorum requirements.
No party advocates a drastic cut in proceedings devoted to “debate.”
Nor is either of the older parties ready to free from the whip and punitive treatment their members who serve on House committees. Until this is done, the work – in particular the committee recommendations – will be as stylized in partisanship and gamesplaying as the House and question period.
Most competent MPs have come to prefer committee work to being in the chamber but that preference is often vitiated for them by the heavy enforcement of the party line and the light consideration the government gives most committee reports.
As the government in Ottawa governs, always with inordinate media attention to the prime minister, and then to the other party leaders, the rituals of Parliament roll along largely unattended except for the big one – the daily, oral question period of 40 minutes, a staged, shared-by-all hypocrisy.
Rarely are there as many as two score of the 295 MPs in the chamber after question period. Speeches by the thousand are made in a session. Few MPs listen. Few anywhere read them in print and 99% are ignored by the press. Party leaders are rarely there except for question period and the ministers present during “debates” are always on a duty roster.
As the House shut down, Harvie Andre, the government House leader, romped aggressively through its legislative record. The totals are impressive; to a lesser degree, so are the contents. Andre does deserve credit although he gets mostly blame for the single internal reform of merit this Parliament: Enforcing time limits on many debates by using closure. This regularizing of a long available tactic begins to master what has become the prime strategy of the opposition parties, particularly the NDP. Delay! Frustrate! Even filibuster.
Naturally when this government (or previous ones in the past two decades) so curbed stalling, it was limned as a steamroller over the wish of “limned people of Canada” for more discussion.
If the Liberals are the next governors with a majority their House leader will surely ape Andre and fit closure in.
A detached observer might say my description suggests a rather positive condition.
What’s wrong with the institution if:
a) The government in power got through most of what it wanted, including the FTA, the GST and the Charlottetown agreement (which the referendum later killed);
b) The opposition has had continuing opportunities to castigate the ministers and the administration daily in question period with the nastiest of it featured nightly on national TV, plus the chances to both orate repetitiously in the House against the government’s bills and examine them minutely in House committees?
Why doesn’t this satisfy those on each side of the House? One gets varying answers from the MPs with blame loaded on the media and interest groups and gross, public expectations. MPs are unhappy because Canadians blame them all, not just Brian Mulroney, and respect for Parliament has disappeared. And one, bless him, a New Democrat, was most honest: “No money to spend; no fun.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 16, 1993
ID: 12802707
TAG: 199306150091
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


For a week the chatter on the Hill will be more about the first Campbell cabinet and her staff wizards than about policies to be pursued or how the new regime may distance itself from the departing one. Kim Campbell will have lots of advice, from close and far away, including much from columnists. My prescriptions are five in number and the first is somewhat contradicted by the second.
First, she should be herself – quick, crisp, and aggressive.
Second, she should keep her public (and televised) appearances to a minimum, even at the G-7. Get at the domestic tasks with as little hesitation as possible because hesitation’s corollary is exasperating speculation.
Third, make clear internally to her staff, including the campaign team, and her ministers and their staffs that no one speaks or leaks for her as prime minister. (A salutary and effective ukase which Pierre Trudeau issued on taking office which let everyone know who was in charge. And it worked.)
Fourth, she should not interpret how or why she won but get on with a priority her victory created of salving Quebec.
Fifth, be quickly, obviously and concretely frugal with several examples, including a decidedly smaller cabinet, a leaner PMO and a down-sized PCO, plus putting an urgent tag on the overhaul of the pay, perquisites and pensions of ministers and MPs. After such looming pedagogy, let me advance more general appreciations of the governing party’s choices.
An early election? Say just after Labor Day? Or a later one, well into October, even one in mid- to late November?
It’s now a seven-week stretch from dissolving Parliament to election day. One reason to go late may be a strong expectation there will be more and more improvement in the economy unto November. Another is the chances it would give to have a short, active session of Parliament in which Campbell stakes out an economic program for the campaign.
Reasons to go early are even more persuasive, including the now narrow voting margin in the House over the opposition parties and the huge number of lame duck Tories with little zeal for attendance. Also, this is an ugly, poisonous House. It’s resumption will be an unedifying circus, more hurtful to the fresh PM and ministry than to the Jean Chretiens and Audrey McLaughlins. And if an election isn’t called by late August Campbell’s point surge in the polls will be fading.
How large a cabinet? Who should be in it and where should they be? If Crosbie and MacKay confirm they won’t run again, drop them. Campbell hasn’t the time or the talent to set in place much for the post-election future but she can go for freshness in a much smaller cabinet, say, of 20 ministers, 15 less than the current one, with eight to 10 of them new. Do this, even though she must ask a few ministers who backed her to step down for the run to the election.
She should broach to Jean Charest the idea of campaigning in tandem with him, the duo of PM and deputy PM. To sustain this she should do her best to get Gilles Loiselle, the ablest of the “nationalist” ministers to take Finance and agree to the more federalist approach of Charest.
Every wiseacre sees the Liberals sweeping Ontario and basing a majority government on that swatch of seats. Campbell needs fresh ministers and more vigor from the Ontario backbenchers. She should ask Doug Lewis or Tom Hockin or Paul Dick to accept her decision to go with a lot of new blood. She can do that if those backers stand aside and she drops John McDermid and Pauline Browes who were with Charest.
None of the present Ontario ministers, not even Perrin Beatty, is any striking advantage in the campaign ahead. She shouldn’t waste the currency that Garth Turner and Patrick Boyer have gained. John Reimer from Kitchener makes a fine symbol for what Jake Epp meant in the Mulroney ministry. Turn bulldog Don Blenkarn loose on the Toronto Star types. Let David MacDonald hit them from a different flank.
Campbell’s cabinet choices in the Atlantic provinces, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are limited by resignations and the relatively few MPs who’ll be running. Alberta’s an embarrassment of riches for replacing the retiring “Big Three.” She can go without a new minister in B.C., given the play she’ll get.
The leadership run was brutal in revealing Campbell’s weaknesses as a campaigner. She is not a grand performer for big events or the traditional barnstorming (which Mulroney did so well) but she is impressive and clearly-etched when speaking directly to the camera or when she is caught by it while talking and exchanging with questioners. She should really work on this aspect of politicking. Her main rivals now are no great shakes on television.
And that’s enough presumption for today.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Monday, June 14, 1993
ID: 12802549
TAG: 199306140007
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Who will win the general election?
The odds now strongly favor the Liberals.
With yesterday’s choice of Kim Campbell, Jean Chretien jumps into the square-off with her as a good bet to remove her as prime minister very soon.
In my forecast Jean Charest stood a better chance to beat Chretien than Campbell, only in part because he could carry such a hefty block of MPs from Quebec. The leadership campaign itself has wiped away both Campbell’s novelty and her pretensions as a linguistic and scholarly polymath. The Liberals will never leave her exposed bluffing alone, nor will the media, in particular her once-claimed mastery of French. Charest was less venerable, a steadier campaigner, and above all a politician easier for the public to like. That last factor is intangible, and one which a prime minister usually does not keep for long, but with the election so close with Charest it would have helped the Tories. Campbell? She’s smart, sharp, but not likeable.
Rationally, the Tories should have chosen Charest but reason arrived too late. Yes, many were realizing it this week but her early edge in hundreds of commitments was too much. Granted she earned that edge. Campbell’s first backers gave her a wonderful campaign start.
Let’s turn to the profiteer of the day. For three years Chretien has been leading the official opposition, his party heading the opinion polls, and he the obvious prime minister-in-waiting. But for much of that time the clarity of his prospects were roiled.
Would the very unpopular Mulroney run again?
Would the recession end and an economic surge come, belatedly making the free trade agreement and the GST less damaging to the Tories?
Would the move to substantial regional strength of the quite contrary pair, the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois, plus the NDPs success in capturing three provincial governments help deprive the Liberals of a majority, even let the Tories survive an election as a minority government?
Neither Preston Manning nor Lucien Bouchard has disappeared, but with the election less than four months away each is well below his worth of two years ago. As for the federal NDP, it has been a long freefall to where it was “before the Broadbent Days.” An NDP rally now seems preposterous unless Premier Bob Rae makes some magic with the unions.
Put these shifting situations alongside Mulroney’s retirement and the quick evidence that his party is still strong in membership and funds and has good leadership prospects and you could discount Chretien. This discount was heeded by stories of his unpopularity in Quebec. His knack of murdering grammar and pronunciation in two languages once made him a loveable mascot in English Canada. Now it has become a drawback.
In my judgment the changes in political circumstances this year have been capped by the choice of Kim Campbell. Now we have a remarkable simplification for most voters, even those in Alberta and Quebec. Their fixation will be overwhelmingly on the Liberal and the Tories.
In a politics where leaders now symbolize and represent so much, suddenly though not surprisingly the choice is urgent, plain, and clear: Chretien or Campbell?
Jean Chretien was 29 when he became MP in 1963. Kim Campbell was then 16. My scan through decades of The Parliamentary Guide shows his combination of 10 different portfolios and 15 years as a minister is unmatched. Other ministers since Confederation have been longer in cabinet but none, not even Alan MacEachen or the late C.D. Howe, held such a variety of posts. He’s been minister of justice, of finance and external affairs, the top three posts in bureaucratic Ottawa below the prime minister. Perhaps even more to his credit, for six years he held the worst of all portfolios for gaining or keeping a good reputation – Indian and Northern Affairs.
His present caucus of some 80 MPs is moderately loyal to him with office in sight and has some modest talent. He hasn’t an array of distinctive policies or priority programs to defend in the campaign. While his party isn’t rolling in money his performance shouldn’t suffer from the lack of it. And despite recent discouraging poll comparisons, with Charest in particular, Chretien is almost to the hustings with a party that has been well ahead of the Tories for two years and still is, with the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth parties less threatening than they were a mere quarter ago.
So on this day when it’s as simple as Chretien against Campbell, he has to be a heavy favorite, and she will need miracles.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 13, 1993
ID: 12802422
TAG: 199306130172
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The new prime minister will need a cabinet, at least to hold posts to the election, maybe to meet Parliament briefly with a review of finances and display an altered cabinet structure.
Given that 12 of today’s 35 ministers are definitely quitting politics and so are some 40 other Tory MPs, what’s left for the post-Mulroney ministry?
Of course, the new PM may ask retirees like Joe Clark, Don Mazankowski, Mike Wilson, Elmer MacKay, Harvie Andre, Otto Jelinek, Benoit Bouchard, Monique Vezina, Frank Oberle, Barbara McDougall and Shirley Martin to hold their posts.
But if he or she plans to cut the cabinet numbers sharply (to 25, says Jean Charest) or wants to hit the hustings with a fresher cast invigorated with new cabinet rank, there might be many new ministers, even a dozen.
This broad brush swipe at the subject of cabinet shouldn’t overlook the three modern precedents of a new PM being picked by the reigning party first, not the electorate. What did Liberals Louis St. Laurent, Pierre Trudeau and John Turner do about their first cabinets?
St. Laurent eased into the PMO in late ’48. A year of the five-year mandate was open to him and he led Parliament in a four-month session. He made few changes in the 21-member ministry he inherited before the ’49 election.
In ’68, although Trudeau had two years to play with, he struck for an election within a week of taking office. He entered the fray with four new ministers from the backbench, relieved by a few appointments of Pearson ministers to commissions and the Senate. However, three-quarters of his cabinet for the campaign had been in the last Pearson ministry.
In ’84 Turner had almost a year’s grace, if he wanted it. He chose to go to the people in less than a month. Before he did he revamped the ministry, overlooking leadership rivals and ministers Gene Whelan and John Munro and elevating five backbenchers. Three ministers had gone to the Senate. (Note: In 1984 Trudeau appointed 11 Grits to the Senate, Turner three; a model for Mulroney?.
Turner was set on downsizing the cabinet, forsaking Trudeau’s “collegiality,” and giving his ministers more individual authority. He got few campaign kudos for stripping down the cabinet’s committee system, perhaps because of the unholy uproar over his Senate gifts to Trudeau wheel-horses.
Jean Charest in particular, Kim Campbell suggestively, have indicated they would both downsize cabinet and streamline the committee apparatus.
It seems the winner will have neither the chances nor the curse of Senate appointments, but a far better prospect of quickly making and dropping ministers than Turner had in his pursuit of a tidier cabinet.
If it’s Charest and he goes for his 15 departments and 10 fewer ministers than today’s 35, he’ll have to drop half a dozen of the 23 who plan to run again to seem very fresh and bold.
Is there good backbench talent for new ministers? Yes, more than enough for a dozen good ones.
Take B.C. It has four ministers (Campbell, Mary Collins, Tom Siddon and Oberle, who’s quitting). Parliamentary secretaries Ross Belsher or Dave Worthy are earnest and capable.
Take Alberta with Clark, Mazankowski, and Andre quitting. Sound replacements would be Jim Edwards (obviously!), Bobbie Sparrow, Jim Hawkes or Ken Hughes.
Take Saskatchewan with Bill McKight quitting. There are just two alternative Tories, Larry Schneider, a Regina MP, and Geoff Wilson, who holds a farm riding. Both are sensible and industrious.
In Manitoba, Charlie Mayer may run again and he’d be kept. The choice to replace Jake Epp would be between busy-busy Dorothy Dobbie and the colorful Felix Holtmann.
Ontario must have two to four new ministers and the choices are many, beginning with leadership aspirants Patrick Boyer and Garth Turner. Surely Campbell would elevate Don Blenkarn and perhaps Barbara Greene, whereas Charest would consider David MacDonald, perhaps Bob Horner or Bob Nicholson.
Quebec’s dicey for the new PM, not from lack of talent but more in keeping those ministers who were behind the loser and in finding a usable non-Franco from Montreal with so few at hand – probably Vincent Della Noce.
New Brunswick has Bernie Valcourt and if another minister is needed, Bud Bird would be splendid.
Nova Scotia offers slight pickings if Elmer MacKay can’t be persuaded to continue.
Newfoundland is simple. John Crosbie and Ross Reid are the choices and the latter’s a Campbell supporter, the former a Charest booster.
P.E.I. is a non-starter for the new PM with three Grit MPs and a vacancy.
There you are, Campbell or Charest. Elevate MPs and/or pass by some ministers.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, June 11, 1993
ID: 12802082
TAG: 199306100174
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


A reader from Aylmer, Que., closed a long letter by asking me to “expose what Kim Campbell really stands for, what her ideology really is. It would go a long way towards restoring public confidence in the media.”
She had already described Campbell as “very much left of centre … someone who should not be running for the Conservative party to become prime minister of Canada.”
My first reaction was flip, to say the “public” in my time will not have confidence in the media, and to suggest she put her hopes in the Reform Party or push Jim Edwards, the most conservative of the five candidates. Her well-put letter does show her firm, right-wing views.
However, there is a Progressive Conservative Party, not a Conservative party in Canada. This is not quibbling.
The double-barrelled contradiction came in the war years of the 1940s. The CCF (or socialists) were catching on. Government controls were strong and Ottawa-centred. Public expectations for post-war reforms were high. The new title was the price the party paid for getting John Bracken, the “Progressive” premier of Manitoba, to be its leader. His hey-day as such was brief; not so the “Progressive.”
Why wasn’t it jettisoned? In large part because “conservative” had become an unpopular word in Canadian politics, suggesting opposition to change and a preoccupation with the past and imperial ties, the latter very exasperating for Quebecers.
A consequence of the double-barrelled tag was a re-emergence and triumph in usage of a very old tag. Most of the thousands choosing Sunday among the five candidates will accept that tag – Tory, and Tories! Brevity, and a rarely-remembered history going back to 18th century England.
In recent Canadian usage “Tory” itself has been doctored, reflecting the same paradox as Bracken’s insistence on “Progressive” and the insistence of some much like my correspondent on a genuine small “c” party. Red Tory!
In 1967 at the wonderful circus at Maple Leaf Gardens which chose Bob Stanfield from a field of 11, reporters used the “Red” tag. Donald Fleming and Wally McCutcheon were certainly not Red Tories; the eventual duo at the top of the last ballot, Stanfield and Duff Roblin, were.
A Red Tory was reform-minded, accepting both Keynesian economics and the conception of a welfare system with “universal” social programs.
Who in today’s journalism or party work doesn’t identify PC MPs, especially ministers, as either Red Tories or just Tories? We may note that the leading aspirants, Campbell and Charest, have both Red and plain Tories beside them. For Campbell: Ross Reid and Don Blenkarn; for Charest: Joe Clark and Otto Jelinek.
Such roominess is easy to explain.
The Liberals long ago under Mackenzie King, the Tories post-Depression, and the New Democrats now, this year, came to terms with the Canadian reality that voters mostly stick to a broad centre of the left-to-right spectrum. Those bent on office know their party must be “a house of many mansions.”
My anti-Kim correspondent notes the growing use of “social” and “economic” as prefixes to “conservative.” Thus Campbell is an “economic conservative” but not a genuine “social conservative.”
Thirty years ago this distinction was made in the House by the late Ged Baldwin, a steady PC MP from the Peace River and a precursor of Patrick Boyer as advocate of reforming Parliament and the electoral system. But Baldwin also insisted he was an economic conservative. He distrusted government roles in the market economy, with Crown corporations and subsidies to business. My last chat with Baldwin came a year or two into the Mulroney regime, and he was less sure his dichotomy was practicable in office. Mulroney was a liberal on social and cultural matters and a conservative on economic ones.
The delegates should know by now that Campbell, a thoroughly modern Millie, is socially to the left of centre and economically just right of it, whereas Jean Charest himself is socially and economically just left of centre.
Of the candidates Jim Edwards is the most right of centre, socially and economically. He should win if this is truly a party of conservatives. It isn’t. Patrick Boyer, the most issue-minded and best-informed candidate has been ignored by those set on a winner. So has Garth Turner, the most vigorous, though not very rigorous, radical of the right.
It may be some consolation to my correspondent that Kim Campbell is not the best bet to beat Chretien this fall. Ask any honest Liberal; their apprehension is of a young, Red Tory Quebecer.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 09, 1993
ID: 13022337
TAG: 199306080059
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


All of us around politics use the word “complex” a lot, and few matters on the political agenda are simple, their resolution obvious. None of our major matters is more complex, and getting more so than that to do with natives – whether Indians or Inuit or Metis.
And yet the native problem as it comes through to most of us in harrowing items on TV seems simple enough. We must – all of us – right the wrongs we’ve done, assuage the guilt we’ve earned.
Give the natives self-government and sovereignty. Let them enjoy their communion with nature and the lands and waters of their ancestors. End the Indian Act’s bureaucratic regime. Give generous land settlements from the huge reaches our predecessors seized. Fund the governments generously as the natives regain their culture, pride, and nationhood. Put their sovereignty in the Constitution. Accept for human eternity native rights in lands and along blood-lines.
But the native problem is not simple. To use the word we use too much, it gets more complex.
My own example? In the early ’60s I was MP for a large, hinterland riding with more Indians in it than any other. My view then was that in 20 to 25 years a generally agreed course of action would bring the quality of life and good opportunities for natives in line with national norms. Oh, that was naive. It’s true that spending programs galore have brought native mortality rates down and birth rates up. There are far better health services and educational provisions for the children. Nonetheless, the most positive thing about the difference between the early ’60s and the early ’90s is not in less tragedy but that most of us realize now we have a large and difficult native problem.
Last column I pushed a book, Surviving as Indians, by Menno Boldt, an academic, as the most candid analysis of the past and present native dilemmas with thoughtful prescriptions for them that I’ve found. It’s a complex book, rich but difficult, with much history, sociology, and close reasoning.
Boldt argues that the key priorities to go with a noble, durable readiness by Canadians to support Indians’ survival as Indians are: a) a recapture of native culture and values across the scatter of a million people in hundreds of locales; b) an acceptance by natives, especially native leaders, that they will only escape dependence by taking part in the economy and labor market of Canada; and c) an acceptance that this participation will largely be in urban areas, not on the reserves, most of which are in the bush.
On his cultural theme Prof. Boldt uses the example of the Jews, a people scattered in many countries but with bonds through common belief which have survived for centuries. Yes, the ideas and customs of Indians are sustained and passed along orally by elders whereas the Jews have possessed a written “Book” of beliefs and worship. But Indians do have or must regain and share and act upon a wonderful, common view of their relationship to nature and its vision of the world.
In short, a vigorous, shared culture is vital, even more vital than so-called self-government or continuing the game of identity and rights fixed and carried on by blood.
In Boldt’s epilogue he notes the difficulty of understanding native matters because of “the dissimulative rhetoric of the Canadian government and the extravagant rhetoric of Indian leaders.” The politicians and bureaucrats are rarely frank and honest, subdued by native anger into Pollyanna assurances of good will, while the Indians rant and whine because that wins both media attention and lots of funding.
My previous column used some words by Harry Swain, until a few months ago, the top official in Indian Affairs. The quote was from another new book. I used it because it was a brutal listing of the tragic causes and effects in native communities. Within hours of publication I got a letter from Swain and a transcript from which it had first been lifted – a talk-and-questions’ session with federal assistant deputy-ministers after the Oka crisis.
I’d used the quote to show the pessimism of those working in Indian Affairs. Swain thinks the transcript shows he is not pessimistic nor should Canadians be pessimistic about developments and trends in native matters.
I grant he’s right on the first point. However long, candid, graphic, and complex his rendering of the native dilemma in Canada he did radiate determination and optimism. I contest his second point – that there are far more grounds for national optimism than pessimism. And shortly, out of the analyses of Swain and Boldt I’ll make the case for pessimism, e.g., arguing the flight of native youth from reserves to the cities guarantees cultural assimilation.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 06, 1993
ID: 13022055
TAG: 199306060114
SECTION: Comment
3. photo of LESTER B. PEARSON
4. photo of PIERRE TRUDEAU
5. photo of BRIAN MULRONEY
COLUMN: Backgrounder
MEMO: A prime minister in office cannot be popular, says the Sun’s senior parliamentary writer. But what made Brian Mulroney so overwhelmingly unpopular?



Such public antipathy envelopes the prime minister it is manifestly too soon to make magisterial judgments on the Brian Mulroney era.
Let me do it anyway, including references back to other prime ministers, and with some comparative ratings. As a caution about any prime minister, keep in mind this canny observation on those with the highest office by the late Bruce Hutchison in his book Mr. Prime Minister, 1867-1964:
“None had ever known precisely what he sought. All had often done the reverse of what they said would.”
In his appraisal of the 14 prime ministers when he wrote, Hutchison felt only Sir Wilfrid Laurier had the high and affectionate regard of the public as he left office. Now Pierre Trudeau, Joe Clark, John Turner and Mulroney have run the list of prime ministers to 18, and none of them got or gets what Laurier did. One may add, however, that Trudeau’s repute with the public has risen since 1984 because of vociferous disciples and his own stands on Meech Lake and the Charlottetown accord.
To fit Brian Mulroney into the perspective provided by his predecessors I want to make two extended observations.
Firstly, journalists may make quick retrospectives of a leadership period but eventually it is historians and political scientists, i.e., academics, who establish the durable judgments with biographies and studies of administrations and issues. Here, most academics have never been conservatively minded and almost as many have been strong Canadian nationalists, tending toward anti-Americanism.
So Mulroney, tarred as a neo-conservative and a Reaganite by academics, is most unlikely to win a far higher rating, say two decades later, as was gained through later reflections about Harry Truman in the U.S. or Mackenzie King here.
Some time in the Eisenhower years American historians began to survey themselves on the presidents – from the great to the poor, i.e., from Washington to Harding, from Lincoln to Ford. And some presidents of the past do go up and down on the survey lists.
We’ve done little like this, and few of us from the elderly to schoolchildren have any appreciation of the historical stature of our prime ministers. Most Americans can take off a bit on their most honored trio, Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. Who among us could on our comparable trio of Macdonald, Laurier and King.
Secondly, since the advent of nationwide radio (in the 1930s) and even more since TV became national (in the 1950s) the prime minister has become the most intensely topical, continuing personality heard, seen, and reacted to by most Canadians. The PM is the lightning rod for our responses to almost everything, and it’s obvious we are too diverse, particularly in regions and in values and beliefs, to develop and keep a strong, favorable, majority opinion on this focus of our feelings.
To you today, whether Tory, Grit, or otherwise, such warning corollaries about our harsh judgments of our leaders and how these may in time be adjusted are largely irrelevant. Away with Mulroney! But the shots last week by Mulroney at Trudeau over the Constitution remind us of the growing concern of politicians for their place in history. Only 54 and healthy, Mulroney should have years to defend his record and reclaim some repute and ranking. Such may seem peripheral, but just as Trudeau out of office has cast a long shadow, so may Mulroney.
His retrospectives will go far beyond the Constitution and national reconciliation to such initiatives as the Free Trade Agreement, the GST, privatization of commercial Crown corporations and our overdependence on the state. A dozen years from now his arguments may seem more reasonable than at this nadir moment in his fortunes.
Most citizens are outside the game of politics. Within it are the parties and their members and caucuses, plus the mandarinates of all orders of government, plus the large news and commentary element in our journalism, and they give much weight to electoral successes of a leader and his immediate legacy in promising successors, money in the bank, and a good organization. On this score (see chart) Mulroney rates very high, way ahead of Trudeau of John Diefenbaker.
Parliamentary democracy is always wrestling with issues, symbolized by legislative bills, and in appraisals of bills, quantity counts for less than quality or significance. In part, Mulroney has rocked most adult citizens with his parliamentary and negotiating vigor on the Constitution and continental free trade. Both matters have long been in the questions or issues paramount through our political course. This list covers most of them:
Quebec and national unity; federal-provincial relations; unemployment; inflation; economic relations with the U.S.; honesty in government; the social “net.”
And for Mulroney we must add four more recent concerns: Deficits and debt; aboriginal affairs; gender and ethnic fairness; and cultural sustenance.
Mulroney has been active and more cursed than praised on every one of those issues. Examine each one of them for success or failure or not proven. You make your judgments. Here are mine.
On national unity we’re neither better nor worse than when he arrived, but as he leaves I dream that the moratorium on constitutional initiatives will go on and on.
On federal-provincial relations we are considerably less antagonistic and more co-operative than they were as Trudeau departed, but Mulroney has put in train major alterations in the pattern of equalization payments and joint programs largely instituted in and after World War II.
On unemployment, we’re worse off but more aware we need much more adjusting to the effects of changing technology and global trade competition.
On inflation, Mulroney can say he’s beaten it down, something Trudeau once claimed not long before it got away on him.
On economic relations with the U.S. we have the most active and divisive issue of the Mulroney years, and it’s not so much a draw as too soon to say he’s won for us or lost the Canada most of us thought we had. My reading is that Mulroney’s joy in presidential associations has harmed his public standing more than his smoothness and blarney.
On honesty in government, the Mulroney record improved considerably in the second mandate but there was a long way to go, and a reasonable impression is of hypocritical government with shaky moral standards.
On the social net, Mulroney has begun a shift from universality but in practice there’s more emphasis on tightening administration and entitlement than ripping the net away.
On deficits and debt, despite Mike Wilson’s heralded plans in 1984, the government’s successes have been most modest. Perhaps Mulroney deserves credit for an acute national awareness and a sensitivity in all administration but at the best his achievement is just getting operational costs below revenues.
On aboriginal affairs, Mulroney’s failures are less than they seem. Generous spending and immense publicizing of grievances and demands this past decade have sharpened the political acuity of the native leadership and brought out an array of propositions, few of which, unfortunately, tackle the conundrum of natives in great numbers now moving from the reserves to the cities.
On gender and ethnic fairness, considering the vociferousness of the respective groups, most of which began to get funds from the Trudeau regime, Mulroney has largely carried on, absolutely with regard to multiculturalism and immigration, but also in major appointments for women.
On cultural sustenance, the Mulroney record is not as negative and niggardly as its myth, sparked so much in the cultural communities by budget restraints on the CBC. The restraint and cuts seem to augur a goal of much reducing, even ending, federal funding but Mulroney has neither spoken nor acted with such a clear intent, although he may have wanted to, particularly because the most severe, absolute criticism of him has come from those engaged in arts & letters.
So there you have my assessment sketch of what Brian Mulroney’s been and done as prime minister.
A prime minister in office cannot be popular. But what made Brian Mulroney so overwhelmingly unpopular?
I think his initiatives and more his style and the character that crystallized for most of us. In short, we reject him in large part because he is so smooth, pleasant and clever.
Mulroney’s perceived political attributes, maximum rating 4 shamrocks
Brains – quickness, cleverness ***
Appearance and style **
Oratory **
Television impact *
Fairness; honesty; trust *
Sociability and access ***
Electoral competence ****
Managerial competence *
Loyalty among colleagues ***
Heritage – short run —
Diefenbaker Pearson Trudeau Mulroney
1. Party legacy – succession, 5 7 3 7
unity, finances
2. Legislative landmarks – 4 7 6 6
e.g. medicare, Constitution
3. Economic management – 4 5 4 4
budgets, deficits, jobless
4. Provincial relations – 6 6 4 7
Equable? Negative?
5. International relations – 3 6 6 6
Active? Passive?
6. Cabinet performance – 3 4 6 4
Strong? Balanced?
7. Parliamentary performace – 6 5 6 4
Good? Respectful?
8. French Canada – as a 3 6 6 6
perennial dilemma
9. Public’s perception on 4 4 3 2
10. Leadership vision – 5 3 6 4
SCORES (out of 100) 43 53 50 50


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, June 04, 1993
ID: 13021770
TAG: 199306030135
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The chiefs and the elders, their lawyers and consultants, demand and accuse while a bulky royal commission plods across the land, absorbing the grief. In short, the aboriginal drama rolls on, disturbing, frustrating, and as far as ever from a decent ending.
Before I recommend a splendid book about the Indian situation and its solutions let me set a context for it.
In the Mulroney era few files have expanded more with books, briefs, governmental reports, committee proceedings, judicial rulings, and learned studies than the native file. An industry of sorts has flowered, including a huge lobby. Most of its personnel and their products are sympathetic to the natives. Material critical of the cause is rare, in part because it is politically correct to accept in absolute terms our collective guilt. The guilt means we must empathize with native leaders like Ovide Mercredi and Ron George. It’s obvious, however, we’re so mired in guilt on the one hand and grievance on the other, that not much is shifting toward solutions.
Last week two books came in on aboriginal self-government. The splendid one is difficult because it is very argumentative and the arguments are made with much history, law and philosophy. Its author is a Lethbridge sociologist, Menno Boldt. Surviving as Indians; the Challenge of Self-Government (U of T Press), is a detailed prescription for: a) saving Indian culture; b) developing a self-sufficient native economy; c) re-establishing Indian autonomy.
The less useful new book has its merits. A racy read, in part because it’s ultra-topical, it reminded me of a series of feature spreads in the Toronto Star mode, and its author, Dan Smith, is an editor at Honderich House. His paperback, published by Key Porter, is titled The Seventh Fire; the Struggle for Aboriginal Self-Government. It is advocacy, “for the cause” journalism, its tone optimistic, not doomsaying. The most pungent paragraph is on the last page, a quote from Harry Swain, until a few months ago, the top mandarin in the department of Indian and Northern Affairs. If Smith had opened with it, than examined its points, even refuted them in detail we’d find it easier to believe his theme of wonderful, promising, purposeful activities underway in native communities across Canada.
The Swain quote reflects the pessimism in the senior federal bureaucracy. Boldt takes chapters to explain the pessimism and its causes. Indians, he posits, cannot regain independence if non-Indians don’t go beyond guilt and spending to deeds.
Harry Swain told Dan Smith:
“We’ve got to talk about what’s really going on out there. Persistent poverty, the worst kind of lassitude, an awful lot of Indian people are sitting around waiting for something to happen. The abuse of all kinds, the abuse of alcohol, the abuse of people, abuse of substances of one kind or another, self-destructive behavior, suicide rates which are two or three times at least of what they are elsewhere, incarceration rates that are many times the national average. A strong attachment to reserves, to a way of life based on reserves, which most people would say cannot yield earned incomes that are anything like satisfactory in the modern world. An entitlement mentality, a focus on rights, a focus on what is owed, a focus on rights rather then responsibilities, a focus therefore on the past. There is almost an Irish or Lebanese quality to all this, in terms of focusing on past wrongs rather than future opportunities.”
Boldt’s book of 384 pages gets into every matter Swain mentioned. It has a good index, a useful bibliography, and 19 appendices, running from the Royal Proclamation of 1763 to data on native languages and dialects to the latest figures on Indians receiving social welfare.
Next week I’ll sketch the ways and means Boldt proposes to the Indians and the present generations of non-Indian Canadians that might ensure the survival of the Indians as Indians. He’s deliberately, some would say excessively, provocative.
He hammers out the ideas, values, and tactics which those who came from Europe used in slowly and surely boxing Indians in their present miseries and dependence. Indians are close to obliteration as a self-sufficient people with dignity and pride.
Boldt is vigorous in his thesis that the obsession of native leaders with the “politics” of self-government guarantees their own failure because two other imperatives are more important if real self-government for such a scattered people to have a chance. First, a unity on Indian cultural beliefs and practices must be pursued, full tilt. Second, jobs and incomes in the real economy must be achieved, and this means shifting from a fix on reserves to far more urban living.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 02, 1993
ID: 13021494
TAG: 199306010066
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


How could it be? Such different speeches about the Constitution by the two men most active in recent efforts to change it – and not a word by either about the other?
Any veteran reader of texts by Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark will concede these are among their best, Mulroney’s in argument, Clark’s in candor. As politicians, both have liked to draft their own speeches, and if not, to edit closely what’s prepared for them. Mulroney’s argument is more rigorous, his fix primarily the Meech Lake Accord. Clark’s concern is the later Charlottetown deal and it is devoid of replays or excuses.
My hunch is Clark wrote all his speech to the Canadian Club of Toronto and the PM set out his aims to a writer, then took over the draft and shaped it for delivery to the Confederation Club in Ottawa.
Clark’s speech is personal, thoughtful, abstract and simple. Unlike Mulroney he neither canvasses nor reinterprets the negotiations. His softer reprise is of what the defeat by referendum revealed about ourselves and what, in good time, we should do. These quotes from the speech reflect his theme.
“The Charlottetown Accord was not accepted. The vote was not for anything else – not the status quo, not some other proposals, not even new negotiations . . . I was depressed the night the referendum vote was counted. And certainly it would be extremely foolish for anyone to pretend that those multiple failures did not matter. We did not resolve any of our problems. All we decided was to reject one set of solutions.”
He is somewhat consoled that the process opened “a larger Canadian conversation that reached beyond the normal participants.” And we learned, he says, what we do not know and need to know about ourselves. The rejection was not a denial that we need major reform.
Clark closed with the piety that “we have a country which has what so few others can even dream of, a community which is the best community in this world . . . a country with a future.”
There was tougher argument and less blarney in Mulroney’s exercise. Journalists have emphasized that Pierre Trudeau was his target and that he focuses on the Meech Accord as an outstanding achievement and tragic failure, not Charlottetown and its referendum defeat. He is seen as defending his role in constitutional affairs since 1981.
Mulroney is bitterly aware of the tide of mass unpopularity as he leaves office and the antagonism to him in the academic world of historians and political scientists. He thinks the latter shapes eternal judgments of his worth as Canada’s leader.
Brian Mulroney is determined that eventual judgments will be fairer than present ones. Certainly this speech will be much analyzed in academe. He banks on the future recognition that there was much achievement and high purpose in his huge endeavor to bring Quebec back to the table. He had to address Trudeau’s role in causing the failure and certainly he is right to depict Trudeau as more crucial in the defeat than others such as Elijah Harper and Clyde Wells.
Mulroney realizes Trudeau symbolizes a view of our federalism that appeals to English Canadians. However, the Trudeau concept of Quebec as merely a province like the others is rejected there, and sooner or later this rejection must have a constitutional accommodation.
A post-referendum numbness still affects our ruling establishments. We have a tacit moratorium on pursuit of changes. Perhaps the prosaic, pragmatic working of federal-provincial affairs may mellow away the Quebec issue. Such hope may explain a Montreal Gazette editorial which hit Mulroney hard over his words in the speech that “the time bomb placed under one of our main pillars is still ticking.” The paper’s line recalls the joy in Britain when Chamberlain came home from visiting Hitler with the news he had secured “peace in our time.”
Mulroney underlines the assurances Trudeau gave Quebecers at federalist celebrations when Levesque’s referendum on sovereignty association was beaten in 1980. He said he would “change the Constitution to renew federalism” but his renewal was in amendments that neither major party in Quebec nor the National Assembly could accept. After Robert Bourassa and his Liberals ousted the PQ government in 1985 he broached proposals for constitutional change to which Mulroney as PM had to respond. Mulroney had to turn the constitutional wheels again, and not as alleged by Trudeau, to pay off Quebec nationalists and make his own fame.
The PM makes a compelling argument but if the federation survives until then it will probably be well into the next century before he gets such grudging consideration. By then only he may care.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 30, 1993
ID: 13021241
TAG: 199305300171
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Media appraisals suggest those now going to or leaving the Senate or to federal boards are ciphers and deadheads. Much as I want the Senate abolished I must balance the mocking with notes on a few of those.
Consider two ex-senators who didn’t have to resign but did – Hartland Molson and Staff Barootes.
Now 86, appointed as an Independent by Louis St. Laurent in 1955, Hartland Molson of Montreal was the most senior of all senators and one of the last two who antedated the Pearson rule that senators leave at 75.
Many will be aware that Molson is wealthy and know why; some may recall his long link with the Montreal Canadiens; only a few know he was a fighter pilot who saw combat over Britain and the Channel in World War II; very few will know he was a classmate at RMC of the late Walter Gordon of Liberal and Toronto Star fame but not a fellow-traveller through a lifelong friendship.
A quiet witness to Molson’s sense of duty is his record of good attendance and activity in Senate proceedings and committees through 38 years.
He is modest, rather self-effacing, but assiduous.
On several divisive issues over the years he showed he was truly independent. Once in while on issues of patriotism he was passionate.
For example, he was hurt and bitter over the NFB film which depicted Billie Bishop, an ace among aces in the Great War, as far from brave and honest.
I told Molson I was sorry he was leaving the Hill, and he was succinct: “No. It’s time.”
Staff Barootes was a true villain for me until I got to know him several decades after he was the leading spokesman for the medical profession in its war in the early ’60s against the introduction of medicare by the CCF-NDP government of Saskatchewan.
In 1984 at 66 he gave up his active role as medical specialist to accept a Senate post from Brian Mulroney.
He’d long been busy in medical associations, Anglican affairs, and the Progressive Conservative party.
Those jaundiced on party politics would assume his appointment at his age was just a reward for party service, not an augury of parliamentary activity.
As it developed few senators, Tory or otherwise, have been as seen and heard or as forceful. The doctor is shrewd, sharp and guileful. He came to Senate combat with a style and humor that matched well against Grit ministers of long renown like Allan MacEachen and Romeo LeBlanc.
Neither TV nor radio journalism got onto Barootes as wit and story-teller.
On the Hill superb anecdotalists are rather rare. I think readily of a few, like Grattan O’Leary, George Nowlan, Don Jamieson, and John Diefenbaker, all gone, and the still lively Larry Pennell.
Then I stall, except for Barootes. His repertoire goes far beyond doctoring and politics. Some publisher should open it up.
The PM’s elevation of Marcel Prud’homme, the “dean” of the House, galls the latter’s Grit colleagues and rankles reporters who gag on Marcel’s ubiquity, flamboyance and geniality.
He’s an original. A fool, especially a man often in his party’s doghouse, doesn’t get re-elected eight times.
Few will say it but Prud’homme has been astonishingly brave. His bravery made me doubt Brian Mulroney would also be brave.
Why? The PM has been a steady, devout backer of Israel and ultra-sensitive of Canadian Jewish groups. And for more than twenty years Prud’homme has openly backed the Palestinian cause.
Finally, a sentence on Derek Blackburn, 59, an MP for 22 years and seven times elected in Brant riding, who has taken a job with the federal immigration board.
He is a courteous, well-educated, unbumptious man who aside from deserving his tag of “constituency man” has worked and shone more in committees than the House. He’ll be good value on the board.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, May 28, 1993
ID: 13020978
TAG: 199305280084
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Much current outrage over new senators is hypocritical, largely the old stuff of getting even in partisan wars.
Brian Mulroney is no worse and arguably a smidgin better than his predecessors, especially Pierre Trudeau. Mulroney could give all the 10 or so Senate seats left at hand to cronies and still not match the idolators, drones, and bagmen whom Trudeau decked with rich, enduring emoluments.
It is less than a year since it seemed we would be done with an appointed Senate. Last August reporters had canvassed the senators to find out which ones would be electoral candidates for the reformed and elected Senate to come from the constitutional accord. (Nineteen would; six might; most wouldn’t say.)
The accord didn’t fail so thoroughly because most voters were repelled by the idea of an elected Senate or by the plan for First Nations’ sovereignty and self-government though neither was a big draw. The results put the kibosh on the aim, mostly advanced by Albertans, for an elected upper house. We have the same, familiar institution and the constitutional requirement that a prime minister chooses who shall be called to it.
Every Tory and Grit partisan knows a Senate seat is the sweetest award in politics. Since Confederation it’s been ABC in the political game that this right of the PM is a marvellous means for (a) holding the faithful, (b) creating openings in the cabinet and caucus and (c) sustaining and having at close hand good organizers and fundraisers for the party.
Since the 1950s three Conservative prime ministers – but Mulroney in particular – learned through suffering that a Senate controlled by the appointees of the rival “old” party may frustrate, even ruin, a government’s basic intentions. That’s why Mulroney was forced to another constitutional right unused since Confederation. He appointed eight extra senators to end Grit control and ensure initiatives like the free trade deal and the GST were approved.
No one in elected office or the high mandarinate will forget what the Liberal senators, marshalled by Allan MacEachen, did to sidetrack or delay the Mulroney government’s programs and emphasize their alleged wrongfulness.
If Mulroney doesn’t ensure that the still narrow majority his party has in the Senate is extended he will be an altruist beyond Canadian belief. He has no imperative, not even from public opinion, to pursue any of various suggestions that would not require constitutional change.
For example: To let a provincial government provide a nominee for an opening through an election (as happened a few years ago in Alberta); or appoint only distinguished non-partisans; or work towards a balance in gender; or accept nominations for seats from the major interest groups, including aborigines and ethnics; or in Mulroney’s case, to be noble and not appoint any more senators, leaving the choices to whomever is prime minister after the next election.
Is there an element of relish for Mulroney in largely filling the vacancies with those who will vote the Tory caucus line when he is long gone? Of course! In politics the maxim of “Do unto others as you would have done unto you” is even followed by the saints of the NDP. One may imagine a Chretien government in 1994 being frustrated in its determination, say, to abolish the GST or unprivatize Air Canada.
It would be my guess that a referendum this summer that simply asked “Do you favor the abolition of the Senate?” would pass handily. Formally, only the NDP advocates abolition. The Reform Party seeks an elected Senate with specific and substantial powers so as to guard provincial and regional interests.
Since the referendum neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives, those well-experienced in usage of the Senate, has separated the question of any Senate reform or its abolition from their pre-referendum undertakings in the accord.
A few changes pushed by a prime minister might in time make the Senate more palatable to cynical citizens. First, the easy riders, at least a score in number, should be weeded out. Most, not all, are Grits.
How do you weed? In general, the PM should see that Senate feather-bedders are made known. Put the Senate on the same five-day week as the House. Have stringent cash penalties, including no funds for staff and travel, for those who do not to attend Senate sittings or the hearings of committees to which they’ve been named. At least a dozen senators really do little but savor their perks yet cost thousands for staff, travel and “research.” Those who have accepted party affiliation should lose it for repeated failure to work.
Yes, such weeding seems far-fetched but dreaming is surely as useful as raging at “patronage.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 26, 1993
ID: 13020606
TAG: 199305250067
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It is almost a columnist’s obligation to join his fellows in taking sides in the Stanley Cup race. This season the duty is heightened by a prospect of a Toronto-Montreal replay along Durham’s line of “two nations warring in the bosom of a single state.”
As a fan I have won and lost with the Canadiens for some 40 years. The sentiment crystallized the night I saw Rocket Richard carry the puck, Babe Pratt, Bucko McDonald and Turk Broda into the net. He was indomitable. His spirit stays, even in this year’s finalists, a team without a Howie Morenz, a Maurice Richard, a Jean Beliveau or a Guy Lafleur. (It has a Plante!)
Regarding the Leafs, many dealings with Harold Ballard through the ’70s made me pray each year his Leafs would have a season without a win. That might crack his regime and give the community and Leaf loyalists what they deserved, a team with some dignity and a fair chance. Sport, like politics, conjures some abysmal leadership but no one matching Ballard in reckless, self-indulgent sleaziness has lasted so long in politics’ high places. Cliff Fletcher merits an Order of Canada for such a quick, splendid diversion from the Ballard years.
Nothing intrigued me during time spent researching the history of sport than the quick but lasting way hockey became embedded coast to coast a century ago, yet how rapidly its founding and its spread were forgotten.
And hockey remains our prime concern, our top common denominator. Other team sports of much merit, which had good starts and drew much participation and many fans, such as lacrosse, soccer, rugby and baseball have waned as much or more than they have waxed over the century.
Hockey was born in Montreal in March, 1875, at the newish Victoria rink (ice surface 200′ x 85′), bobbed west to Ottawa and Kingston in the early ’80s, then surged through all Southern Ontario and into the west in the early ’90s. The man most responsible for its birth, for the first formal team and first rules, was also crucial in the donation of the Stanley Cup for hockey supremacy some 18 years later. He has yet to make the Hockey Hall of Fame.
This Cup season we have TV spots harping that this is the centennial of the Stanley Cup. Although the story line on hockey in Canada is a long one, we cherish little and recollect even less about most of the game’s movers, say, like the Patrick brothers who brought it so far, or even remember the victors over most of those 100 years. My father believed Cyclone Taylor was the best of all time; I would argue for Bobby Orr or the Rocket; my first grandson is a “Wendel.”
In hockey we do not remember and encompass much beyond 1 1/2 generations, even in terms of the most memorable factor in the game, its best players. The passions of Canadians for this rough, risky game are not for its narrative history.
Nevertheless, hockey’s grip on us reflects more of what we are than the wordy heads with halos that represent us at the UN, GATT, the OAS and NATO. Bobby Clarke or Don Cherry is more archetypal than either Stephen Lewis or Maurice Strong. Much as we marvel over the saints-on-ice genius of Wayne and Mario, our zeal for hockey booms beyond the peace-loving and the fair-minded. If we ponder a bit on hockey we realize how far we are from the now vogueish self-depiction of a people gentler and kinder than those next door.
To celebrate this season we have The Official National Hockey League Stanley Cup Centennial Book, edited by Dan Diamond, published by M&S. It will stir any scanner with images of the great players and teams of his or her days.
I thought this Rolls-Royce production might recover the name and mention the contribution of hockey’s catalyst, James G.A. Creighton, born in Halifax, 1850, died in Ottawa, 1930. He was educated at Dalhousie and McGill, first as a civil engineer, then as a lawyer. A patronage choice of our first PM, Creighton was law clerk of the Senate for four decades. In Montreal he sparked the first hockey game and first club, and 18 years later in Ottawa he got the sons of Lord Stanley, the governor-general, into the game. And so came the Cup.
Our neighbors keen on basketball honor James Naismith, their game’s founder (and our countryman). Our neighbors devoted to baseball have gone further, persevering with Abner Doubleday as their game’s founder, decades after proof from the head of the New York Public Library that another man, not Abner, should have the honor. While we are as much or more intent on hockey than they are on either basketball or baseball, its history, early, middle, or recent, matters little. This season, this year, does. En avant!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 23, 1993
ID: 13020304
TAG: 199305230119
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


What surprised me in the belated reaction of political reporters and editorialists to Peter Newman’s grabby article based on a close talk with Kim Campbell goes beyond their seeming shock at her glibness, candor, and gall to their critical exegesis, much of which has been unfair to the woman.
The critics haven’t had the grace to underline that Newman as a writer loves the vivid. He almost always marshals his subjects’ opinions and his cameos of their persona with colorful words and metaphors.
When I read the piece on Campbell a few weeks ago I wanted to call Newman and compliment him, not just for a racy, timely read but for capturing her moppet-like assurance about almost everything. His fairness merits applause because it’s easy to be unfair to Campbell. I have had that urge through the weeks since she bloomed so suddenly as the candidate who could not miss winning both the highest office and the next election.
Such over-reaching by Campbell and the big clique around her is obnoxious. It’s so crudely manipulative and arrogant. It predicates a party membership and an electorate of Simple Simons and flogs style and form over character and content.
As a fellow journalist I have sometimes bridled at Peter Newman’s fascination with actual or potential leaders who have flair, intriguing episodes in their pasts, and lots of quotable anecdotes and phrases. Yet my penchant in politicians is not dissimilar. I tend to inflate those who are splendid at speaking and rebutting in the House of Commons.
Before Campbell rose to reply to her first question in the House almost five years ago all I knew about was her adroit switch from Vander Zalm’s Socreds to Mulroney’s Tories and that she had edged in a rough fight a heralded feminist certainty of the NDP who (it was said) had both intellect and beauty. After just a few sashays by Campbell in House I sensed that here was the one in 100, an MP who could talk and think exceptionally well while on her feet and under partisan attack.
Of course, such particular skills do not make a well-rounded, all-purpose politician or go far in making an excellent PM. Good character, intrinsic decency, and a sound grasp on needs and priorities do not necessarily go with a starring capability in question period. (Shades of John Diefenbaker.)
To make this point comparative, while Campbell is well ahead of Jean Charest, Patrick Boyer, Jim Edwards and Garth Turner as a parliamentary performer she’s well short of Charest in making people feel easy and recognized. Boyer has already done more thinking through the problems of parliamentary federalism and writing books advocating sensible change than Campbell will in her lifetime. Edwards is at the opposite pole from Campbell’s dash and spark in his Stanfield sort of considered carefulness and plain qualities. Turner, in some ways like Campbell in speedy glibness, is far more a real, conservative populist than Campbell in her rational certitude could even understand.
Both the Newman article in Vancouver magazine and the big one on Campbell in Maclean’s by Kaye Fulton and Mary Jannigan are useful to any citizen who wants the next prime minister both to interpret our troubles to us and gain our support for a sure mandate to master them. A reader finds in both pieces the same unusual woman and a rare kind of politician for Canada: Bold, quick and confident; intellectual but not profound; a generalist ever ready for deductive leaps; and by and large unusually fascinated with herself.
On rare electoral occasions we are collectively daring. We go overboard for a prime minister. We are swept into plumping for the leader rather than the party or the party’s leadership group or for one or even a few major policy propositions. The big dares of my time have been obvious – for Diefenbaker, Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney.
It is clear to me that of all the Tory aspirants, Kim Campbell is almost a composite of features or skills possessed by that trio. It makes me hesitate and think longingly for someone who would be more steady than flamboyant, a listener more than a talker, and a modest prime minister.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, May 21, 1993
ID: 13020005
TAG: 199305200179
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


In part because so little blood was shed, there was scant journalistic praise for the platform jousts across the country of the Tory leadership candidates. All the aspirants seemed reasonable. While none was either inarticulate nor played the fool, four of the six were irrelevant, in part because most media focus was on Kim Campbell and Jean Charest.
What most impressed and depressed me about the forums was the failure of the longshots to crack this fix on the two ministers. Instead, they confirmed both a narrow range in their differences on policies and a group distaste for hard views on very contentious matters.
What are such contentious matters?
Abortion on demand; capital punishment; homosexual rights, including marriage; official bilingualism; aboriginal sovereignty; multiculturalism, immigration and refugee programs; funding of advocacy groups; the CBC as primarily a gatherer and conveyor of news and interpretations; enforced job quotas for women, visibles and the handicapped.
At the forums none of the aspirants chose to forward really conservative views on such issues; they were all scathing, however, about deficits and debt.
The threat to us and future Canadians in the large debt burdens of government has become conventional wisdom. The most liberal minded of parties in office in its Ontario manifestation is witness to this. On deficits and debt the differences of the six hung more on how long each would take to bring an end to annual deficits than on such options as tax increases, program cuts and public service wage and salary restraint.
None of the five MPs chose to say what she or he had learned and we should know about the failures of the economic plans to create jobs and master deficits which Michael Wilson began to unveil late in 1984. These have not done well in either aim despite the determination of the PC federal caucus “to stay the course.”
It was exasperating that Edwards, Boyer and Turner, trailing far back of Campbell and Charest, chose not to take stands on the “fierce” items that put most Canadians to the right or the left. Most have real import to conservative-minded voters. For example, even Garth Turner, the most radical Conservative in the bunch, chose not to run far with his harsh critique of present imnmigration and refugee policies. The others were platitudinous on Canada as “a nation of immigrants.”
In brief, this group process produced consensus and blandness on policies. One may regret but understand such political correctness on the part of the two front-runners. It did little for the longer shots.
One may find confirmation in recent polling of some majority views in the populace which our major federal parties and their politicians handle gingerly, if at all.
Most Canadians favor capital punishment.
Most Canadians favor a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.
Most Canadians are not in favor of official bilingualism, even in Quebec.
Most Canadians shoulder a guilt about past mistreatment and the social and economic situation of native people but they do not favor the concept of aboriginal sovereignty expressed in a “third order” of government parallel with the federal and provincial governments.
In last year’s constitutional referendum most natives did not vote, and most of those who did were against the accord which leaders of the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Association and the Metis supported. None of the Tory aspirants has taken analysis of the native dilemma past being benign. None noted fresh census data on the escalating flights from reserves to the cities by the young people. They’re voting with their feet that land settlements and sovereign nationhood based on reserves are not for them.
Jean Charest says he will repeal the Indian Act and wipe out the department of Indian and Northern Affairs but he has neither an appraisal in depth of this serious, complex, costly dilemma nor practical proposals on what might be done beyond throwing more billions at it. His competitors neither challenged Charest for more nor outlined how they could make aboriginal sovereignty workable.
To come back to immigration and refugees. Most Canadians dislike both the the high scale and the composition trends of recent and current immigration. They are not prideful Canada takes in relatively more immigrants and is the most lenient in screening and accepting immigrants and refugees of all developed countries. Sadly, their opinions were too incorrect for real advocacy at the Tory forums.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 19, 1993
ID: 13019678
TAG: 199305180095
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


If the voters do not oust their federal government it will not be from a dearth of books which lambaste Brian Mulroney and his alleged neo-conservatism.
Other less splenetic authors are also explaining our national dilemmas. Today I thumbnail eight recent books, none cheery and the last two very difficult. The first four (which rake the Tories) are in order of their entertainment for me. If you revel in anti-Mulroney stuff you will also savor the new books by Mel Hurtig, the nationalist cheerleader, and Linda McQuaig, a left-winging Torontonian.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE, by Lawrence Martin; 296 pages; published by McClelland & Stewart, and subtitled “The Americanization of Canada in the Mulroney years.”
Ex-Yanks seem clearer than the native-born on how the prime minister has suborned Canada’s decency and modest nationalism. Mulroney has sped our slide into continentalism by following the visions of reactionary presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Are we now inextricably linked to America? Martin’s grim answer is in several concluding anecdotes. Yes, we are.
FALSE GOD, by James Laxer; 141 pages; published by Lester; subtitled “How the globalization myth has impoverished Canada.” A rollicking, long pamphlet by (it says) “one of Canada’s foremost political and social thinkers.” Wow! What would that make Mel Watkins?
The U.S. is doomed to decline, says Laxer. Reaganism, Thatcherism and their Canadian copy-cats have been wrong-headed and covers for more to the wealthy and ever more poor people. Getting closer to the U.S. is stupid; we must escape the free trade treaty and deal with all the world. Laxer picks no rescue party; my hunch is his will be the Grits.
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS, TRYING TIMES, by Brooke Jeffrey; 248 pages; published by Key Porter; subtitled “October 1992 and the defeat of the powerbrokers.”
A Trudeau worshipper’s reading of the failed constitutional referendum as symbolizing more than Mulroney’s folly. Our power elite is out of touch and justly discredited. Salvation? It should be in Trudeau’s vision of one Canada.
NOT WORKING, by Stephen McBride; 259 pages; published by U of T Press; subtitled “State, unemployment, and neo-conservatism in Canada.” The author, a scholarly social democrat, insists ever more jobs must be the state’s top economic goal. Neo-conservative themes as pursued by Ottawa and most provincial governments are putting people out of jobs and strangling economic recovery. An academic Stephen Langdon.
LIFTING A TON OF FEATHERS, by Paula J. Caplan; 273 pages; published by U of T Press; subtitled “A woman’s guide to surviving in the academic world.”
Don’t let distaste for “feminism” keep you from this well-organized, readable guide. It goes well past dodging harassers, providing the best sketch I know of both the anatomy of our universities and the faculty lifestyles. Very good!
SAFETY LAST, by Nicholas Regush; 212 pages; published by Key Porter; subtitled “The failure of the consumer health protection system in Canada,”
A pushy reporter for the Montreal Gazette handles roughly our federal watchdogs for health products like new prescription drugs and breast implants. He may be unfair, but his book should light fires under MPs for their lack of inquisitiveness and knowledge. This part of the bureaucracy is clearly not “one of the best in the world,” as defending ministers keep saying.
INTERGOVERNMENTAL FISCAL RELATIONS IN CANADA, by Robin Boadway and Paul Hobson; 158 pages; published by the Canadian Tax Foundation.
The thesis is blunt. Our huge debt crisis has our vital system of transfer payments in such jeopardy the whole federation may be cooked . . . unless! Unless we raise taxes, cut spending on goods and services, cut both intergovernmental transfers and transfers to individuals and businesses, all on a temporary basis. Praise be that word “temporary.”
GOVERNMENTS AT WORK, by Mark Sproule Jones; 291 pages; published by U of T Press; subtitled “Canadian parliamentary federalism and its public policy effects.”
While far more opaque in its academia, this work flummoxes me just as did Voltaire’s Bastards, the best-seller by John Ralston Saul. I couple them only because of similar frustration. As a reader I sense there have to be great truths somewhere in such complexity. Governments At Work may be an analysis of how governments really work here by a close analysis of how commercial shipping, pleasure boating, and the control of water quality developed and function at Hamilton’s harbor. Though baffled I won’t shrug off Jones. He may be a genius.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 16, 1993
ID: 13019355
TAG: 199305160122
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


House committees usually win little notice, and almost none in a parliament’s last months. Here are three enlightening samples taken from the record of such committees.
Take abuse of the elderly. The topic has sparked a subcommittee of the House committee on health to hold hearings after an order was passed by the House to study abuse of the elderly.
Until I read what witnesses said I thought such “abuse” was physical and sexual, perhaps with some medical factors like doping. In fact, physical violence is not increasing. What has been is economic abuse, and it makes up some two-thirds of all elderly abuse.
The main element comes from what to do with the the property and income of elderly people.
Children or other close relatives, welfare officials and lawyers become involved in disposing of or assigning assets, in particular for those going to institutions because of infirmity.
Others often decide what is best for the aged one. In the process, a social worker may be callous or inflate the subject’s incapacity. Often relatives disagree or feud over properties and their use or sale. The best advice coming to the committee is for repetitious vigilance by a provincial agency over the resources of those whose self-sufficiency has been surrendered or taken away. Somehow economic abuse seems sadder than physical abuse.
On May 4 Ovide Mercredi, chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), spoke at length to the Aboriginal Affairs committee. Most of his time went on a critical survey of the annual list of spending by the department of Indian Affairs. Not surprisingly, the chief finds many items where the spending is short of the needs, with far too many spending choices still being made by federal bureaucrats.
Late in Mercredi’s discourse the committee’s chairman asked him a question that bothers anyone who knows the 500-odd locales of bands, most remote from major economic activity and where unemployment is endemic and the young people frustrated.
He asked whether the AFN or more localized groups are looking at the whole matter of viable communities.
He cited a band in Saskatchewan with unemployment over 90%. “Is there any economic development that could be performed in that community that could turn it around, or is the community located in the wrong place in order to avail itself of economic development?”
Mercredi was succinct: “The presumption I’m working from now, and I’ve stated it earlier, is that all communities are potentially viable.” He went on to scorn “various politicians” who have put forward “relocation as a solution for our people.”
Aside from rebuffing the idea in general he made clear that the prime solution for the isolated bands is to get them much larger blocs of land.
There followed some chivvying about the many natives heading for Toronto, with the chief noting that those who have done so are not finding wealth there. His answers lie in much larger reserves and an attendant scope for tourism and the recapture of skills and opportunities to fish, trap, gather and hunt. The chief’s views are firm. To me they seem anachronistic.
Also on May 4 the House committee on official languages met with Victor Goldbloom, the commissioner of official languages. As always in this committee the most persistent force was Robert Gauthier, a franco-Ontarian and a veteran Liberal MP from eastern Ottawa. He never gets off his bilingualism horse. Examples? Well, he elicited that over 85% of complaints to the commission over language come from French Canadians; and that despite several years of review an NCO in the armed services who kept calling French Canadians soldiers “f—g frogs” has been promoted, not punished.
Gauthier’s drive is seen in his own words in the committee: “According to Statistics Canada’s most recent statistics, the rate at which French speakers are assimilated into English-speaking groups has gone from 29% in 1981 to 35% in 1991. The assimilation of linguistic minorities in this country is proceeding very rapidly.”
And he’s right.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, May 14, 1993
ID: 13019037
TAG: 199305130157
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It is probable Kim Campbell will become prime minister, and just as probable Jean Chretien will be prime minister some 10 weeks later.
Insofar as Parliament Hill may serve as a gauge of partisan fortunes, the Liberals have regained most of the certainty they would return to office this year which they felt before the Campbell phenomenon flared across the land.
The Liberal confidence is evident here in the swatch of nominated candidates they have been showing the parliamentary ropes. It is manifest in their brass in the oral question period, a daily drama their leader misses more than he takes part in because he is doing what he does better – romping the country recreating the little guy from Shawinigan everybody once loved. Why, this week the Liberals even brought forth a substantial policy paper on farming, along with some genuine farmers as candidates.
The reasons for such assurance in the official Opposition go beyond the monthly Gallups which show the Liberals keeping well ahead. The chief ones stem from the current public impressions of the leading political personalities. Worries about their man’s lacklustre ratings are fading as the Liberals see that Brian Mulroney exacerbates Canadians more than he did before he announced his resignation. His successor, however drastic the contrast, cannot slip away from such relentless animus, nor can Tory candidates.
The rocketing ascension of Campbell which scared all opposition politicians flattened out late in April, and is arcing downwards. With huge exposure she has quickly proved fallible. The glamor of her persona and the neat edge of her mind and talk seem much less scary now that the mysteries of her rather jerky and inconclusive past have come out. She may be able to handle the blather of the House splendidly but now the Liberals know she is not the Lord’s gift to the Tories as either a direct performer into the camera or as she is caught for TV from scrums and press conferences.
The many veteran Liberals who recall that representation from Quebec was always the core of their many mandates for office have also come to appreciate that Campbell is much less a threat to their acquisition of a tidy set of seats in the province than Jean Charest. Liberals pray Charest does not produce a miracle, nipping Campbell on the last ballot.
If Mulroney’s mean aura, Campbell’s vulnerability, their wealth of candidates and aspirants, their slow but certain preparation of policies, and the continuing shakiness of economic recovery were all the Liberals saw going for them it would be plenty to make them high. But there is more in the down spirals as forces at the polls of both the NDP and the Reform Party.
Of course these parties tend to get support from electors on different parts of the political spectrum. Reform, in particular, has been a draw to voters who have more a Tory than Grit bent. For a time last year it seemed Preston Manning and his program of frugality and downsizing government was going so well in rural and small-town Ontario that there would be enough Reform MPs from there and Alberta to deprive the Liberals of a majority government, particularly if they should be set alongside in opposition with 40 or 50 NDP MPs.
If Manning and his party are in relative eclipse from where they were in 1991 and 1992, Audrey McLaughlin and the NDP are almost blacked out. The NDP is far down as a consequence of a leader without impact and the developing catastrophe to the normal certitude of the party on policies. This disaster is underway through the realities with which NDP governments in Ontario, Saskatchewan and B.C. are wrestling.
Despite an old refrain that the New Democrats and their CCF predecessors served as conscience for the Liberals when in power, Liberals in opposition detest the NDP because it keeps forcing them on issues of conscience, equity and nationalism.
Largely in continuity with their Trudeau era, the Liberals as we see them in Ottawa are more on the left than the right side of centre. They overlap NDP moderates. As yet they are far from reshaping a governing party in which a C.D. Howe or a Bob Winters or even former young Liberals like Tom D’Aquino or Tim Reid would be comfortable. They want the nationalist voters who range from unease to hostility toward the U.S. They see themselves as the true friends of the underdogs. So it is heartening for them not to face a campaign war with three or four fronts, and where a one-on-one with the Mulroney-scented Tories looks like a waltz.
How sound is the Grits’ probability? Well, Campbell still has to win the convention and Chretien has to make it through six intense weeks head-on with her or, perhaps, Charest.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 12, 1993
ID: 13018739
TAG: 199305110093
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Some Liberal MPs are pleased Jean Chretien has largely forsaken the House, where he does not shine, for the road. He has a Jack Kerouac sort of feel for the road and he has been drawing responsive crowds.
He himself is routing the repetitious tag of “yesterday’s man.” Now the more critical in the seats around him are swinging from fears he could blow it on the campaign trail to the second big problem in his leadership, as they see it.
By now they know Chretien is not going to give up Eddie Goldenberg, his henchman for almost 20 years.
What these schemers hope to do is to hive off Goldenberg to only one prime function, i.e., briefing the leader, and out of both policy-making and partisan strategy.
Chretien is vulnerable to control because he is not a reader. At night he does not tote home bags of documents. On the other hand he is a marvel at remembering and using oral briefings which are topical and deal with what might come up. Most of this he gets from Goldenberg (who does read a lot and fancies himself a guide on everything).
Chretien also has a sharp memory of his past roles and ministerial encounters which, coupled with the oral briefings, lets him bounce along through the days of talking and moving with much immediacy and few gaffes.
But Goldenberg as chief of staff is (they say, and I believe) a disaster in dealing with others, in particular with elected politicians. Some think it is because he has been Bergen too long to Chretien’s Charlie McCarthy. To Eddie, politicians are to be informed and handled.
At present the Liberals are planning (I think dreaming) that they will be able to separate Goldenberg from both managing and policy-shaping functions, to sequester him as the briefing king, and let a very small group of others – a committee of the caucus, responsible to the caucus – guide the leader on policy and strategy. The odds are against their success; nevertheless, the issue of Eddie Goldenberg will bedevil the Liberals if, as they expect, they form the government this fall.

The article may take time to reverberate to the multitude now more or less intent on political leadership; nonetheless, it is hard to recall a piece which overall is tougher on an aspiring prime minister than that on Kim Campbell in Maclean’s this week, written (thankfully) by women, Mary Janigan and Kaye Fulton.
What set me thinking about the Campbell they revealed was NOT on how she may do in a brief whirl as prime minister but on how long she would stay as leader of the loyal opposition. The writers catch her exceptional quickness of mind, her daring in taking chances, her superb skill at embroidering her career’s episodes and changes. But they also limn a person whose character and personality are neither for steady loyalty nor the long haul. This Campbell impresses and depresses, leaving an unlovely imprint.

A recent award for leadership to Svend Robinson by a homosexual group was a reminder it is just over five years since the NDP MP from Vancouver came out. Despite some doubts of colleagues he survived the ’88 election and has kept leading the charge for gay rights. When he first revealed himself he said: “Of course there are gay and lesbian MPs who are Conservatives, who are Liberals, who happen to be in the cabinet.”
In those days the estimate (derived from the Kinseys) was that about 10% of the population was homosexual. So the House would have up to 30 gay MPs.
At that time some sideliners like me thought that within a year or two there would be more gay MPs in the open, joining Robinson in the charge for full human rights for homosexuals. That it has not happened means what?
Was Robinson wrong in his remarks about there being others?
No. But first, one should note that two recent surveys indicate that 10% was far too high, that the best estimate on gays is between 1% to 2% of the male population. After a check with some veteran MPs it seems likely there are seven male MPs who are homosexual and one lesbian MP. That would be just over 2% in percentage terms (and close to the new estimates).
Why doesn’t Svend Robinson have open company? One of the other homosexuals told me his sexuality was his very private matter, and I agree, but I also take Robinson’s loneliness as a reading by others of Canadians, and it is that they are still far from easy about their candidates being homosexual.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 09, 1993
ID: 13018450
TAG: 199305090163
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Why are more MPs than ever before choosing not to run again? When nominations close, the total may be well over 100.
Here’s a view given me by a retiring New Democrat: “This has become a depressing place: Negative, poisonous. Most of us do the riding stuff well but here we’re boxed, all of us.”
A matching opinion came to me from a departing Tory who knows the House from A to Z. He sees even ministers are hamstrung, circumscribed by debt, baffled on how to get it down. “Even the opposition guys,” he said, “can’t promise much but getting rid of us.”
It may be cheering to those who scorn present MPs that given at least 40 lost seats in the election the next House will have more new MPs than ever before. Could such novelty be inspiring and constructive? Well, are you heartened by the likely or present party leaders? Until deficits are brought way down or a broad agreement crystallizes which says to hell with deficits and debt, Parliament and legislatures will be grim.

A veteran senator who had years in the House has commented on my list of Top 20 MPs. While agreeing it had quality, he regretted I hadn’t noted some others, e.g., those who speak very well like Dave Barrett (NDP) and Peter Milliken (Lib.). The good humor and wit of Ian Waddell (NDP) merit notice; so do the decency and common sense of Maurice Foster (Lib.) and David Macdonald (PC). And he wished I’d tabbed “the Father of the House, Marcel Prud’homme (Lib.).” He has a “strong sense of the occasion and is eloquent and dramatic.” Fair comments!

I’ve had several letters and calls over critical remarks in two columns about Hugh Segal, Mulroney’s top aide who’s just resigned and is probably heading to CTV. Most thought I was mean-minded.
One writer, a Jew living in Toronto, asks not to be identified. He insists I’m “crazy” to suggest Segal’s “Jewishness could be a bonus” in the leadership race.
“You ignore or don’t know about the Alberta factor. You haven’t lived for years there. I have, and I know it was the opinions of Albertans about Jews, evident since Aberhart’s days, which forced Segal to back off the leadership.” I think he’s haywire.
Opinion from another Jew, Dr. Murray Heit of Milton, counters the previous one. He ran well but unsuccessfully in 1968 for the Tories in the Ottawa riding in which a youthful Segal made a bubbly debut in 1972 and also ran well but lost.
“I had never believed,” said Heit, “that being Jewish had been a political drawback but I am not sure about Segal and his Jewishness, as you put it. Personalities do factor in but I believe he could be an Anglican for all that it matters.”

Fellow columnist Peter Worthington defended Leslie Bennett for years. He’s the RCMP security chief dismissed decades ago under suspicion as a Russian mole. Worthington is happy Bennett’s been cleared and may get financial redress from the government. The clearance came after a former Soviet spy chief insisted Bennett was not his “mole” in Canada.
Worthington’s turning to champion again the cause of Leonard Peltier, the Indian from Canada who’s long been jailed in the U.S. for taking part in the killing of two FBI men at Wounded Knee. Several good books, in particular Peter Matthiesson’s In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, are convincing Peltier should be freed.
Meantime I suggest a further cause to my colleague. He’s often written on the matter, and it needs someone like him to get into Russian files and solve the puzzle in Herbert Norman’s suicide in 1957. Was our man in Cairo and Mike Pearson’s friend a Soviet agent?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, May 07, 1993
ID: 12415868
TAG: 199305060191
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Memorializing is not in vogue. We lack interest in our history and small dues go to our elderly who have helped shape it. So it surprised me how much recognition bloomed for Floyd Chalmers after his death. A long time ago he became a publisher of note (Maclean-Hunter) and a continuing benefactor of the arts.
Just once, 30 years ago, him – a big, powerful man. While courteous he was blunt and succinct in lobbying some MPs abut the grim future for writing and publishing if Henry Luce and his Time-Life group were to have a free access here.
I didn’t know it then but already Chalmers was a major doer and giver in the field of his volunteerism. Over six decades he helped sustain music, drama, etc., co-opting others and their money to the cause. He was uncommonly modest about this work. Canadians who push for more governmental funding of the arts underline that we lack the American tradition of Carnegies, Fords and Rockefellers, multimillionares who set up in their name huge foundations for education and the arts. In part Chalmers was a Canadian exception, except he cared nothing for perpetuating his name on his legacies.
Bob Secord, a younger man than Floyd Chalmers, also died last fortnight. His work for the general good will also ripple along to future generations. He was the most constructive and affable bureaucrat I’ve known. Post-war he turned from studying history at university to work for the Ontario government in what became known as “community programming.” In Secord, Premier Bill Davis (’71-’85) found a complementary interest in sport and an unobtrusive leader in furthering it. One could say that together they fashioned the amazing web of facilities and programs for Ontario people which has been a model to other provinces and a standard for the Western world.
No broad endeavor in Canada, not even in religion or politics, inspires more volunteerism and the giving by hundreds of thousands of their time and money than sport. Bob Secord’s fix was not on the SkyDomes or Stanley Cups. It began at the bottom, from the family based in neighborhoods to the municipal community. The aim was play and chances to play for everyone in every community and region from Moosonee to Cornwall, from Dryden to Windsor. His memorials are without his name and in a host of recreations and competitions.
Duncan Macpherson, the great political cartoonist, has left us after drawing retrospectives upon his retirement after 35 years with the Toronto Star. Few in politics over those years would deny his genius or a ranking as the very first among comparatively many cartoonists of quality. Those who’ve followed politics have had their images of John Diefenbaker, Mike Pearson, Pierre Trudeau and Joe Clark set by his caricatures: The braying partisan; the lisping ditherer; the toothy arrogant; the benign clod.
My contacts with Macpherson were few and years ago but we had a common but very different experience in the early ’60s. To this day I wonder why we got such contrasting treatment in visits to the USSR. To underline this let me sketch what we have in common. We both spent years in the military in World War II at a low rank. We are much taller and broader than most men and like most large folk we’re easygoing. Neither of us is deft in company nor rich in social graces.
Separately, the same year, within a few months, each of us made a trip of many days to Russia, beginning in Leningrad. Duncan was sketching scenes and people for the Star; I was an MP and columnist examining where the Soviets were in two of my interests, forestry and sport.
A year or so later we met by chance in Ottawa and I told Duncan how great his stuff from Russia had been, how it helped illuminate my own visit there. In response he was morose. What a vicious, rotten system. What a bleak time he had had. How badly he’d been treated, particularly by a nasty, mean translator and guide who often left him derelict. His chapter and verse on the trip was harrowing. I asked why he thought he got such treatment. He hadn’t any idea beyond the ingrained distrust in Russia of foreign journalists.
I said his tale was so different than mine. I’d had a wonderful time, made so largely by a terrific translator who’d kept me going from breakfast to late night – kindly, educated, companionable, witty, anecdotal, and very pushy for my benefit. She gave me a gift when we parted and later she sent me snaps of some visitations.
“To top all this service,” I told Duncan, “Marianne, a PhD in English literature, is corn-haired, a blue-eyed, pink-cheeked beauty who radiates health and friendliness.”
There was a few moments pause, and then the mutual bafflement began. We had had the same translator and guide.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 05, 1993
ID: 12415336
TAG: 199305040144
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Three times since the end of World War II a prime minister chose to retire and after a party contest the job went to a minister or a former minister. Let’s note these cases before turning to what seems certain to be the fourth case -Brian Mulroney to Kim Campbell or Jean Charest.
Why reflect on precedents? Because of what has been getting meaner across Canada since Brian Mulroney signalled his exit. It’s a dicey matter for the leadership contenders and will be even more so for the winner.
In 1948 Mackenzie King was succeeded by Louis St. Laurent, his External Affairs minister and lieutenant in Quebec. Next year St. Laurent went to the people and won with a margin of almost 120 seats over George Drew and the Tories. CCF and Social Credit were far, far behind. King, a far from popular predecessor, was without significance, pro or con.
In 1968 Lester Pearson was succeeded by Pierre Trudeau, his minister of justice but not his Quebec lieutenant. Trudeau won the leadership over a gaggle of other ministers. He needn’t have called an election for another two years but he did at once and won a smashing victory over Bob Stanfield and the Tories.
In any populist way Pearson was neither a beloved nor a much respected PM and he was not a touchstone of consequence in the leadership contest. In the election itself he was neither a debit nor a credit to Trudeau. No doubt enthusiasm generated by the Centennial helped the Liberals but that huge happening was not seen as Pearson’s doing. The themes of Trudeau’s campaign were on youth, vigor and change, not on continuity with Pearsonian stuff such as being a global broker.
In 1984 Pierre Trudeau was succeeded as prime minister by John Turner who almost immediately called an election in which he and the Liberals were drubbed by Brian Mulroney and the Tories. Turner could have had a long parliamentary session as PM through the fall and the winter of 1084-85. He struck for his own mandate.
From his first notice through to the convention Trudeau largely stayed out of the limelight but in going he left a mean legacy for Turner.
Beyond the baggage of patronage gifts like judgeships and Senate seats, Turner and the Liberals sought to avoid Trudeauism. They knew what anathema the retiring PM was, especially in the West. And Mulroney relentlessly prodded the voters about the Grit arrogance Trudeau symbolized. Although all but cretins knew there was no mutual warmth and scant respect between Turner and Trudeau, the new PM chose neither the time nor a really fresh team to distinguish himself from his predecessor.
To contrast the ’68 amd ’84 campaigns, Trudeau won on his merits (as they seemed) and he was not crippled by angry memories of the Pearson years. Turner was the victim and Mulroney the beneficiary of a widespread, collective determination to vote against Trudeau liberalism.
This review prompts a question regarding this political summer. Talk all you want about inadequate leaders such as Jean Chretien, Audrey McLaughlin and Preston Manning saving the Tories; do you believe now that any one of them, or for that matter, Kim Campbell or Jean Charest, will be the prime politician on the voters’ minds?
With the current mandate near blown, there’s no time for a new session, not even past two month’s grace for a fresh cabinet. Further, the next ministry must be of odds and sods with so many Tory ministers and MPs quitting.
The next PM and the party must take what momentum is there from the convention and ignore Mulroney where they can through the seven weeks of the campaign.
This brings us, or rather, the Tories, to a phenomenon that has been heightening since the convention was called.
Time and again recently in personal situations I’ve noted citizens openly fuming at the PM. Scan the nasty letters to the dailies; listen to the viperous on call-in-shows. The rage against him is astonishing, and it is still rising.
Given Mulroney’s expansive style and his already keen defence of his years in power, the dramatic night when the Tories must “hail and farewell” their departing chief means an intense, negative jolt for the governing party.
There must be a night of glory for the Mulroneys even though it accelerates the carry-through to the hustings that here is the gang which gave Canadians nine years of Mulroney.
The Hate Mulroney syndrome is not easing; it’s getting more fierce and fearsome. How or (even) can a new leader escape that curse without abjuring clearly and soon what the people see Mulroney represents in shifty grandiloquence, Cadillac lifestyle, and cosying with the Yanks?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 02, 1993
ID: 12414641
TAG: 199305020156
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


First, some wagering advice. Get odds while you can on Jean Charest over Kim Campbell. By convention time it will be either an even-money scenario or edging towards Charest as slight favorite.

Is Hugh Segal’s partisan loyalty real or in doubt?
This week he resigned as chief of staff at the PMO to return to “the private sector.” Yet only three weeks ago he was suddenly being touted as a candidate of significance to replace Brian Mulroney.
And Segal played this candidacy very big for days. He carried off several televised gambits in response to his peculiar draft by three cabinet ministers.
Later, after huge attention, he did a big league refusal to join the contest. “Big league” in part because he did an “on the one hand, yet on the other hand” gambit to a full-blown press conference.
Segal talked first on how challenging the task, how flattering his sponsors, how deeply he had pondered his candidacy. Then he swung in closing to his realization that a successful candidacy would deprive his family of so much of his time and caring.
This remarkable show of egotism did leave one with the idea that for Segal the Tory party ranked right after his wife, kids and Canada. Now he’s bailed out on the party.
Or has he?
Did Brian Mulroney suggest he leave? And will a private sector Segal resume his paid role as spokesman for the Tory party on network TV?
I’d bet on this.
When you see him, consider that there could have been a prime minister but for a wife and kids.

There’s a personal irony and dire portents for the NDP in the dismissal of Steven Langdon by Audrey McLaughlin as the finance authority of the federal NDP’s caucus because of his biting criticism of Ontario Premier Bob Rae and his ministry for unsocialistic policies.
The irony is that the political activity of Rae and Langdon began at the same place and time, in the same groups with the same aims – as activists at University College, Toronto, between 1965 and 1969, demanding student rights and representation.
They were in their early 20s, writing and speaking for the left-wing campus causes of the day, most of which are now politically correct. Both were large enough to win flares of coverage in the Toronto dailies.
Indeed, Langdon went almost at once from college to the Toronto Star as an editorial writer and columnist (a stint he hasn’t included in his Who’s Who notes).
Of course, Rae went off to Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship and then into law. Langdon went on from the Star to graduate studies in economics and a PhD.
When Bob Rae was in the federal caucus just over a decade ago he also was the finance critic. He was generally liked and respected by his fellows. The same may be said about Langdon. He’s a beaver and a courteous, considerate colleague.
But he has been the most certain socialist of the caucus since he came to it in 1984. He’s still a man for “the class struggle.”
His intense socialism has been bothering those in the caucus more attuned to the shift in the populace to doubts about governmental roles, new spending programs, and economic planning. Now he will be less noticeable in the House but not in the country. One might call Langdon the most certain, if not the last, socialist in the caucus.
The dire portent for the NDP in Langdon’s case is the polarization it furthers between the two rough camps among New Democrats – one might say between the socialists and the liberally minded; or between those who know pragmatism is essential as issues unfold and economic circumstances shift and those who know that socialist principles must never be abandoned to meet particular or short term problems.
The division and its tensions are heightening at a bad time for the party. A federal election is almost at hand and it’s likely more than half the 43 NDP MPs won’t be re-elected.
Langdon, like a lot of the union leaders, hasn’t divined that Rae’s vision of “the social contract” could become the ultimate in socialist idealism, if Rae is able to take it beyond deals between unions, government and other public sector employers to a general, renewable agreement between all the groups with an interest in the economy and our social services.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, April 30, 1993
ID: 12414032
TAG: 199304290145
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


In his budget Don Mazankowski announced he was convening his provincial counterparts “to begin working on a co-operative approach to the debt problem.” This call of his is belated, proven so because most lambasting of the budget is over its failure to address “the debt problem” despite tips this would be the minister’s order of the day.
Aside from the gamut of gatherings by federal and provincial leaders to solve our constitutional dilemmas, for over three decades the various ministers of finance (or treasurers) have met at least twice a year, and each ministry has a substantial sub-industry on fiscal and spending affairs.
Why so much bureaucracy and interchange? Nothing is more basic or more complex in Canada than the deals and rules which determine federal transfers to the provinces. (This fiscal year these will hit $39.2 billion or 25% of all federal spending).
What are the transfers for? First, there are “equalization” payments, in effect for almost 50 years. These help the “have not” provinces, presently seven, give their citizens something like the same level of services which the affluent provinces like B.C. and Alberta give theirs. This year equalization costs Ottawa about $9 billion. Another $7 billion will go to provinces under the Canada Assistance Plan (which tops up welfare coverage) and over $20 billion goes to help all provinces sustain major health and education programs.
When our first ministers met to talk about the economy in December, 1991, federal papers charted, graphed and texted the history and details of all these financing interlocks. There was analysis by program and by province; there were pages on debts – federal, provincial, municipal and personal; there was much on interest rates and inflationary trends. A lot of the federal analysis was mimicked by the provincial mandarins. The latter often went beyond their province’s past, present and future economic situation into those of Ottawa and the other provinces. One might call it making sure of fair shares.
I cite this conference and its paper chase to underline why I wonder it is only now, according to Mazankowski, that he’s asking for a co-ordinated approach to the issue which made a fool of him this week – our huge government debt burdens.
In May, 1992, Mazankowski’s department issued a “summary” of a grand research study by “a working group” of federal and provincial officials. The summary was titled: “Federal-provincial study on the cost of government and expenditure management.”
This was plain, no guff stuff, setting out without excuses or partisan ploys “the historical pressures on government spending.” It sketched the trends in spending since 1975 and it charted demographics like birth rates, aging and immigration. It focused on the high spending on health, social services and education. It noted “specific pressures” like environmental demands, unfunded pension liabilities of public employees, increases in criminality, even the rising costs from ever more challenges under the Charter of Rights. It stressed how assumptions could be strained or confounded by global factors in trade, monetary policies and productivity. It drew some “main messages” from the whole review.
What do you think the first message was? “The development of an overall fiscal management strategy.”
Gosh, this message of a year past is why Mazankowski is convening all his counterparts next month. The answer why he didn’t do it over a year ago may be that every high-level politician was busy constitutionalizing.
About a month ago I received a report on something called “federal debt management.” The material in it was arcane stuff of, and for, actuaries, auditors, and micro- economists. Its purpose may have been to satisfy a demand from the auditor general, or just to show the gravity of the federal debt problem (now heading for $500 billion) and Ottawa’s determination to master it.
The coming conference may be less co-operative and more circus-like than Mazankowski bargained for, given Bob Rae’s recent initiatives. Meantime, here are two explanations for the squib of a budget that are popular on the Hill. They intertwine.
Some MPs tell me the two ministers after the Tory leadership, abetted by the PM, argued successfully in cabinet that a very tough offensive on deficits, etc. in the budget would crimp their campaigns and put a pall over the convention. Worse, it would be the debating issue of the federal election. Worst of all, a truly major attack now could ruin a very promising economic recovery. And a strong recovery is the best of solutions for big deficits and the debt crisis.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 28, 1993
ID: 12413411
TAG: 199304270108
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The early evidence from post-budget radio and TV talk and phone-in shows has been shocking. It makes you ask why Brian Mulroney and Don Mazankowski lost their nerve.
Were they without polling data showing what the budget aftermath is revealing, that there is a readiness across the land for measures to slash the huge governmental deficits and to get at our debt burdens?
There were wry touches in the reactions. On programs from different locales I heard three businessmen cite the fine example just given Ottawa by the Rae government. Why hadn’t Ottawa followed Ontario’s lead and attacked the deficit-debt quandary directly with sharp cuts in spending and some mea- sures to raise revenue?
One answer, given by Tim Reid, head of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, was that Mazankowski had wanted to be very tough. For over a year he’s been active in the campaign which has made millions aware of the public debt and fearful Canada may soon be an international bankrupt.
Mazankowski, said Reid, had the plans but the cabinet wouldn’t approve them. His intimation was that the pending election made the cabinet soften the minister’s tough intentions.
The responses of union leaders (like Bob White and Nancy Riche of the CLC or Daryl Bean of the Public Service Alliance) lacked their usual condemnatory vim. They had expected far worse in cuts in government jobs and program spending.
Several of those who speak for provincial governments and for groups interested in welfare and health issues were happy that the intrinsic program of federal transfers of money to the provinces was left alone and social service spending was not to be slashed.
In the snippets of his assertions Bob White, like Audrey McLaughlin of the NDP, insisted that the prime Canadian pro- blem was not deficits and debt but unemployment. Above all, White and McLaughlin said, the Canadian people want jobs. Well, they have in the past and they may again, even soon, but at this point – the spring of 1993 with a federal election less than five months away – the majority’s political fixation is on the deficits and debts of government, not on jobs.
Just as there is a remarkable unity of opinion now among Canadians that our politicians should put in abeyance both the constitution and inflation fighting, there is a national awareness unlike anything in my time that we cannot continue with big deficits and an always escalating interest burden from the debt.
Several post-budget critics (not politicians) noted that Mazankowski was not explicit in either his speech or budget paper with the staggering figures of the debt. Yes, much of his argument dealt with the problem, including the usual Tory delineation of when and how it began and became menacing in the Trudeau years. Yes, he reviewed the counter-measures his government has taken, including the assignment of GST revenue and money from the sale of crown companies to debt-servicing. And there’s much in the budget paper on the effects to come from the Spending Control Act which Parliament passed last June.
Despite all this material about our prime economic issue the minister did not stress that the net federal debt as we move from fiscal year 1992-93 is at $458 billion or that his paper projects that five years down the road (1997-98) it will be $563 billion, or $105 billion higher than it now is. He did openly regret his forecast of the deficit for the fiscal year we have just entered is a whopping $32 billion.
Jean Charest put forth the nice phrase that Mazankowski in this budget was “merely setting the table for us” – i.e., for whomever is the next prime minister to put on to the table his or her programs for the future, including the steps to be taken to reach an end to federal deficits. Charest plans to do it in five years, which earns a contrast with Mazankowski’s projection that by then there will still be a sizable deficit of $8 billion.
The two favorite recourses of the leaders in our federal system when they have a major problems are: 1) to appoint a royal commission to study it and make recommendations; or 2) to call a grand conference of all those in power across Canada. Mazankowski took course 2) under the benign heading in his speech of “working together for fiscal and economic progress.” Within a month he’s to convene “a special meeting to begin working on a co-operative approach to the debt problem” with his provincial and territorial colleagues.
This event will be the next focus for the millions of us more fretful than ever over public debt. Surely it will star Bob Rae and Floyd Laughren, not Brian Mulroney or Don Mazankowski.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 25, 1993
ID: 12412770
TAG: 199304250095
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


A new book of length, substance and worth, titled The Atlantic Provinces in Confederation, is to hand from the University of Toronto Press, and it has reminded me I should know more about these provinces and their people.
In the ’40s I spent a few months training at Debert army camp in Nova Scotia. It began my bad conscience over the Maritimes.
I had found the people friendly. The landscapes were strange and pleasant, the bays and seascapes more so. Most towns and roads were fascinatingly old to one born in a bush town just a few years older than himself. The bad conscience faded fast after we hied to Halifax and over the seas to Britain and the war. As a priority, and even as an experience, the Maritimes disappeared.
Ever since I made it through teaching, librarianship, and electoral politics to journalism I have analyzed and written without much thought of the Maritimes. When I did it was often as a trailer to Newfoundland persons and events. Otherwise my reflections, would be about why such very capable Maritimers as George Nowlan and Allan MacEachen weren’t more thrustful or what kept the poorest among us from electing MPs for the party of the poor, the NDP.
Canada east of Quebec deserves better from those west of there, does it not?
Is it a straight line from the relatively few seats in the House to the national inattention?
Or has the lack of notice followed from the early establishment and continuance of a clients-to-patron pattern in the relations between the Maritime provinces and Ottawa?
Is there a Maritimes’ psyche of unobtrusiveness and modesty, even a readiness to be overlooked?
Has there been a long, slow slide in the personal and collective ambitions of Maritimers through the decades as the transcontinental economy shifted westward from Montreal to Toronto and the prairies burgeoned with people and business?
Has the geographic land gap of Quebec and our central Canadian concerns over constitutional issues and the chance Quebec will bolt the federation covered and muffled what the people of the four eastern provinces mean to the whole?
All or part of those six questions for those west of New Brunswick are dealt with in the book. Implicitly the case is made that the Atlantic provinces deserve better.
The book is a whopper at 628 pages, loaded with photos, drawings, charts and election summaries. It’s divided into four chronological sequences (e.g., 1867-1890). The index is thorough; so are the bibliography and the notes (at the back). The balance is toward politics and economics but social analysis and cultural activity from sport to the arts is worked in.
The writing and research was split by 13 historians, most of whom seem both skeptical regionalists and just to the left on the political spectrum. The editors, E.R. Forbes and D.A. Muise, see this as the first modern history of Atlantic Canada’s experience within Confederation. And they’re right that their book reveals something of the “frustration at the limitations of life on the periphery of a much larger community’s vision.”
I recommend it to those of the Atlantic diaspora who want perspective on where they came from. It’s a dandy book for the political buff, even for a tourist on a driving holiday. It will long be a readable reference source for students of Canadian politics and economics.
Two topics intrigued me more than others. First was the ways and means of Newfoundland premiers in keeping their Atlantic brethren at bay. The second is a recurring presentation which knocks the idea this region has been a dreary drag on Canada and refutes the thesis that out-migration was, or will be, the answer to Atlantic Canada’s woes.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 21, 1993
ID: 12411593
TAG: 199304200095
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


MPs in general are unpopular and short of respect. We in political journalism have not been kind. Our judgments in print and newscasts complements what viewers draw from the House on TV. My columns get the razz from readers when I say the present House has a lot of able, hard-working MPs – probably more than others of modern times.
In recent weeks I have worked back and forth over the list of MPs and the Hansard and committee records. The numbers of those who show well or usefully are higher than I thought, the turkeys fewer, a ratio say of 5-1. After noting the very good MPs I had a list of over 40. From there I pared to my top 20 MPs. Deliberately, I passed by ministers, party and House leaders, Tory leadership aspirants, and those who’ve said they would not run again. So it’s 20 out of about 150, not out of 292.
The list is alphabetical. No attempt was made for partisan or provincial balance; personality, knowledge, ideas, candor and wit were the big factors.
1) Vic Althouse, 52, (NDP, Mackenzie, Sask.). For 13 years the best informed MP on farm issues and agriculture in the global economy; well spoken, with wry humor.
2) George Baker, 51, (Lib., Gander-Grand Falls). A 1974 entrant, neither a party zealot nor a party grouper, he’s the best entertainment in the place and a clever questioner.
3) Bud Bird, 60, (PC, Fredericton). First elected in ’88. Busy, sensible, positive, a splendid committee chairman, and particularly clued in on resource industries and national economics.
4) Jean-Pierre Blackburn, 44, (PC, Jonquiere). Came in ’84 from a region dominated by the PQ, is highly individualistic but very busy within caucus, and persistent and clever in committees.
5) Don Blenkarn, 62, (PC, Mississauga South). About on par with Svend Robinson (NDP) as the best-known, most controversial backbencher. Bright, lucid, right wing – and very humorous in his rude fashion.
6) Don Boudria, 43, (Lib., Glengarry-Prescott-Russell). A Rat Packer in ’84 who rose above that nastiness; a superb constituency man, a caucus work-horse and a bear for details.
7) Deborah Grey, 40, (Reform, Beaver River). Loneliest MP since her byelection win in ’89; she speaks well, knows her material, spells out party policy well and cleaves along without seeking or getting the attention she merits.
8) Jim Hawkes, 59, (PC, Calgary West). Blunt, articulate, highly educated; his 14 years with immense time in the chamber make him the MP who knows Parliament best.
9) Felix Holtmann, 49, (PC, Portage-Interlake). So earthy and rollicking his intelligence and independence gets overlooked. His mind-set is rural, but not simple.
10) David Kilgour, 52, (Lib., Edmonton Southeast). In House in ’79 as Tory, switched and seems settled. A thorough-going lawyer, he’s crotchety, bold, persistent, and so very serious.
11) Joy Langan, (NDP Mission-Coquitlam). New in ’88, she’s good spirited, straightforward, and steadily coming on in House and committees.
12) Roy MacLaren, 59, (Lib., Etobicoke North). Ex-minister with minor posts; radiates honest, informed common sense, much business acumen and a fairness in partisanship.
13) John Manley, 42, (Lib., Ottawa South). Watch him. Simply splendid in all phases of an MP’s work; unslick and likable enough to be trusted across party lines.
14) Dennis Mills, 46, (Lib., Broadview-Greenwood) Seen as a flake by many because of myriad schemes and ploys but a natural politician full of ideas and contacts. Newish, industrious, he speaks so much he’s getting to be good.
15) Pat Nowlan, 62, (Ind. Cons., Annapolis-Valley-Hants). An MP for 28 years, 25 in Tory caucus. He developed slowly; now has a gutty, droll decency which makes for candid talk.
16) Ross Reid, 40, (PC, St. John’s East). Some think Reid the cleverest, best informed MP. Not an inspiring but a persuasive speaker, writes well and is unbeatable in committee work.
17) Svend Robinson, 41, (NDP, Burnaby Richmond). Smart, industrious, edgy, often mean in his leftishness, but brave, with a superb mind and a knack at making cases into issues.
18) Guy St-Julien, 52, (PC, Abitibi). A lone wolf who has held up well in a big caucus, developed his ideas for reforming Parliament and party financing, and made them known.
19) Barbara Sparrow, 58, (PC, Calgary Southwest). Arrived in ’84 and slowly emerged as able, canny, direct, informed, moderately partisan. Perhaps top female in speech content.
20) David Walker, 45, (Lib., Winnipeg North Centre). Class of ’88, an academic with a dry wit, a practical bent, wide interests and satirical flair.
They’re very good MPs, and so are many other MPs.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 18, 1993
ID: 12410840
TAG: 199304180046
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


As it has turned out, the critiques of the first encounter of Tory aspirants have been more savage than anything in the show’s content or than the five performers deserved.
For example, the lead sentence on a radio news item built to this defining phrase: “boring and sterile.” Unfair. Exaggeration!
Most of the off-the-top judges on post-debate television opined that Jean Charest won, Kim Campbell lost. The other three, given the lack of assessments or their brevity, seemed to have been irrelevant.
Along with the accord on Charest as the hit (which builds towards a drama at the convention) there was much patronizing; for example, over the dearth of disagreement on the panel, the common cause on many matters, and the lack of disavowals of Brian Mulroney.
The amiable politeness between the five and from compere Stanley Hartt and the prosperous audience seemed to gall those judging. How pervasive now is the idea of the politicians as inferior, notably to those whose work is appraising them.
Was there really an expectation in anyone familiar with the Hill and the five candidates that Kim Campbell should or would ace her rivals with content, argument and quip? It seems so and it is puzzling because each rival has been an exceptional MP, not a run-of-the-mill one. Each through his own interests or Hill chores has as wide or wider a pool of experience to draw from as Campbell.
To me, Campbell was far from a disaster Thursday night. The truth about the show, as I heard and observed it, is that it was a good one, made so by all. None of the five was an embarrassment to the others.
To be fair, one should concede there was a common awareness this was just their opener in a long haul to the vote. Too vivid contrasts with a rival’s postures could boomerang.
Also, the deficit-debt monster has become so dominant a common denominator of all political discussion it circumscribes the imaginative reach and program choices of all politicians, even New Democrats.
What was surprising and symbolic of the candidates’ maturity was that none of them chose the sure-fire way to rouse a partisan crowd. That’s to harpoon or mock the other guys – the Grits on free trade, the peripatetic Jean Chretien, the abusive Sheila Copps, the sanctimonious Preston Manning, etc. The only whipping post of the night was Bob Rae and company, and the cracks were few and one was funny.
What was more understandably passed by cannot continue through the next few weeks. The five looped the most fundamental and eternal issue of Canada.
“Deux nations.” The French factor. Sovereignty and Quebec.
Except for peripheral touches on the Charlottetown accord and its rejection by referendum the candidates left “Whither Quebec” alone. Yes, it’s in abeyance, in a moratorium of constitutional exhaustion and doubt on what to do. Nevertheless, the issue is too grand not to have drawn some appreciation from each of the five.
Perhaps there was an implicit expression about the greatest issue in the adroit bilingualism of Charest. Recall how his anecdotes were not set in Quebec but elsewhere in Canada, e.g., New Brunswick. Ah, what a super-federalist. Charest contrasts almost across the board to Jean Chretien but each is an avid federalist from Quebec.
To sum up episode No. 1, each candidate took a good shot. Boyer was serious and academic but he made some good points. Turner is flip and at times too stagey but he was quick, certain and direct. Edwards, somewhat the sleeper of the race, is the most conservative in social, cultural and economic matters, and this is a very conservative year.
Although so different in style there’s not much between Charest and Campbell. Each is as fine a leadership candidate as I’ve seen in any party since the Tories chose the Chief in ’56. Charest is the smoother and more likable. She is more direct and aloof. Is he too young, and French? Is she too cocky?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, April 16, 1993
ID: 12410308
TAG: 199304150165
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Always something of grief or demands is bobbing on our aboriginal front. Here are three samples.
First, reflect on those recent roadblocks by native bands in New Brunswick. These brought to heel the government of Frank McKenna. It backed off making reserve Indians pay the provincial sales tax. McKenna, everyone’s favorite premier, was not in TV range as his surrogate caved in.
So action that is criminal gets sanctioned again.
A second incident was national and showed even more that political correctness dominates in native relations.
Did you see or read anything from a politician after Allan Blakeney, the former premier of Saskatchewan, quit the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Affairs?
Blakeney didn’t resign because of sickness or his family. He quit because the commission, now two years into its chores, wasn’t going toward solutions but recapitulating complaints and guilts. He felt he was contributing little.
Blakeney is not a sorehead or a sensitive creature. He’s a common sense, “let’s do-it” man. Neither my memory nor a run over the list of past royal commissions found one with a membership so stacked for those the subject of it all. Aside from a co-chairman, a Quebec judge, and Blakeney, the commissioners either have an aboriginal background or, like ex-judge Bertha Wilson, are protagonists for the cause.
The commission’s bias was so obvious at the start one wondered why it included a neutral sort like Blakeney.
Woes, demands, and allegations are chronic in our political history. Just recall the storied grieving on the prairies against Ottawa, the CPR, and eastern banks, or the pleas from the Maritimes since Confederation about getting short shrift from Ottawa and central Canada. Such familiar orchestrations now compare poorly with the scale and diversity of allegation and demand which natives have worked up so well.
Last week I asked a veteran NDP MP: “Why has there been no reaction from the politicians to Blakeney’s resignation, for example, from your leader or your Indian Affairs critics?”
He flinched and said: “You know why. That’s touchy.”
So I wondered if federal politicians might ever be as forthright on native affairs as they are, say, about about helicopters or daycare or NAFTA or clear-cut logging?
He shrugged and said I shouldn’t wait for it.
So what the PM began without a modicum in fairness and balance will maunder on, extending the real reckonings for another decade or two.
The third incident has some humor. It comes from a full page ad in last week’s Hill Times, a tabloid whose scope is largely what goes on in and around Parliament. The ad is from the Metis National Council. (Recent data from the ’91 census show some 135,000 Canadians said they were Metis, out of 1,002,675 Canadians who reported some aboriginal blood.)
The banner line on the ad reads: “Introducing a new era in aboriginal government.”
Then comes: “The Metis Nation believes it possesses the right to govern itself.” This right, the ad says, is based on the constitution and an 18th century treaty.
After the grand assertion comes the wallop: The council “takes pride in introducing the national governing body of the Metis Nation.”
We see a photo of the ministers in the “Metis Nation Cabinet” and a chart of its structure. The cabinet has seven ministers: For communications; justice and social development; environment and northern development; economic development; human resources and land claims; culture and the status of women; and president and minister of national affairs.
This seven league leap by the Metis scoops both Ron George, head of the Native Council, and Ovide Mercredi, Grand Chief of the First Nations. They may claim many more thousands of followers but the Metis are first with a cabinet and a head of government, Gerald Morin.
The Metis ad says this cabinet “is a major milestone in the political evolution of our people” and gives a cagey nudge.
“We assure all Canadians that we do not seek sovereignty outside Canada . . . we realize there is a need to co-ordinate our efforts and we look forward to good faith negotiations with other levels of government.”
Nowhere on the page is there a mention of the royal commission or a reference to the Hon. Tom Siddon, Brian Mulroney’s minister to the aborigines.
Canada won’t master native affairs without frank politicians, ones unafraid to demand responsibility for their own behavior and practical solutions from those who want native status and recognition in perpetuity.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 14, 1993
ID: 12409793
TAG: 199304130155
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Several readers have wanted more than a recent column gave them on the seeming crisis in the NDP-union “marriage.” One wanted examples of some critiques of the marriage made in 1961 through the joining of many unions in English Canada with the socialist CCF other than those by labor leaders Bob White and Dennis McDermott.
You recall the anti-inflation campaign sponsored by the Trudeau government in the 1970s adopted wage controls and was backed by provincial governments of NDP persuasion. This angered many labor leaders. Speaking for them, McDermott demanded both common cause on prime issues and more discussion with union leaders before NDP policy lines were taken. For a time the federal MPs under Ed Broadbent had a different anti-inflation policy to that of provincial New Democrats in the West.
And Bob White, now head of the CLC, was openly angry after the 1988 election at the failure of Broadbent and the NDP to get out ahead of the Liberals in attacking the U.S. trade deal.
In retrospect, there was really little protest when the NDP got going, either from devotees of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, then almost three decades old, or from many high in the trade union movement in English Canada who were against committing to the new party. Most who were antagonistic held their tongues.
The idea had seemed quite auspicious when first put forth by the Canadian Labor Congress and CCF leaders not long after Diefenbaker’s big sweep in 1958. Hadn’t the Tories wiped a future for the Liberals, so long the reigning majority party? A fresh party, truly left of centre, was a great pitch.
Well, the Liberals proved very resilient and the Tories in power remarkably inept. As for the new party, it took almost three years to get off the ground and its prospects were ruinously inflated by insistence that existing organizations of farmers and co-ops would be within the NDP just like the unions.
A pungent critic of the new party idea I knew about at the time was Murray Cotterill. But through the start-up, rather than attack what his colleagues were promoting, he used his publications to air both the pros and the cons of the new party idea. He was then the public relations director of the Steelworkers, one of the staunch backers of the idea, and he had been very active in the CCF since the mid-’30s.
Not until his retirement in ’72 did Cotterill break ranks openly and detail why the direct links of labor with the NDP were “a political mistake.” Labor, said Cotterill, should have puts its money into its own political action and education system, not giving it to a “debating society.” Without its own political machinery, organized labor reacted to the NDP and its elected politicians.
Both the broad focus in politics and Parliament and the long loyalties or family ties of many union members to other parties worked against a strong bonding and an identity of interests between unions and a political party. And Canada didn’t have the strong class bias that sustained the bonds of British unions with the Labor party. An association at the top of the CLC with the NDP was more sensible to Cotterill than scores of union locals being affiliated with the party.
In 1968 Gad Horowitz, a labor historian, wrote Canadian Labor in Politics, rousing unionists and New Democrats with an examination of why socialism was influential rather than powerful in Canadian politics (though absent in the U.S.). The NDP may have been inevitable, thought Horowitz, but much stood in its way to becoming a majority party.
Horowitz observed that conflict within the NDP between unionists and non-unionists had already hampered effective organization in both the party and the unions. Wrangles in the party tended to become chronic over “labor domination” and its converse, inadequate labor support.
There was always bite in a socialist party between the dreamers and the doers, between those concerned with purity and dogma and those ready to compromise policies, even principles, to get votes. Unionists get fed up with dreamers. Tradition and past practices of many pre-industrial American unions still barred many locals from affiliation with a party. And the more the NDP became identified as the labor party the harder it would be to lure votes of those in other groups within society.
In today’s relationship we can sense that last point by Horowitz. Many duck the NDP because it’s labor’s party. A point Horowitz didn’t make wasn’t clear in ’68 and is now. Most unions are on the defensive, conserving a status quo against change and what technology and external competition are causing. It’s an attitude inhibiting for a political party, in particular one that holds office in big provinces like Ontario and B.C.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 11, 1993
ID: 12409021
TAG: 199304110108
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Ontario’s Bob Rae and Floyd Laughren have boomed the phrase “social contract” into prominence. Is it new or a reissue of a well-known conception? Well, it’s at least three centuries old.
The premier and his treasurer are variously described as seeking a social contract or a social charter or a social deal with all interest groups in the public sector funded or regulated by the Ontario government.
A few days ago I noted a report in one Toronto daily which cited an agreement reached recently between the Harcourt government of B.C. with its health workers as the precursor that prompted Rae.
In another Toronto daily an academic had a piece stating that it originated in Britain in a deal made by a Labor government led by Harold Wilson with the unions affiliated with the Labor party. The aim was equitable wages and benefits over a considerable period. These would be struck and adjusted later through mutual discussion and agreement by all the interests involved, not through adversarial negotiations backed by the strike weapon. (It was not a happy contract.)
Today I got a booklet sponsored by the C.D. Howe Institute titled Ties Beyond Trade. Its essays by economists deal with labor and environmental issues under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Four of the essays have “social charter” in their titles and a fifth reads: “The social side of free trade.”
The essays indicate the phrase “social charter” and its attendant ideas was brought to discussions on our continent from the policies of the European Community. Its member nations have been developing programs and rules to manage and make fair the requisite political and economic integration. For example, the social contract accepts that the poorer countries should have support in attaining and keeping social standards in line with the richer countries.
The relevance to Canada of such a social charter with the U.S. and Mexico arises from the disparities of the three countries in wage levels, education, skills, environmental standards, and health and welfare provisions, particularly because Mexico’s standards are low and its political system quite undemocratic. These issues are basic if NAFTA is to meet fairly the idea of a level playing field and decent standards for the workplace and the respective environments. Millions at low levels of income should not be at the ruthless mercy of the market and corporate competition.
These several usages of the social charter or contract- British Columbia, Britain and NAFTA – indicate the general conception is one that emerges as a means of easing economical adversarialism by postulating the general good and a negotiated balance shaped by governments between the economic interests, say, in a province or a country or a community of countries.
One dictionary has two definitions for “social contract:” 1) an agreement to regulate the relations of citizens with one another and with the government; 2) an understanding between governments and labor unions of a country in which the unions agree to limit wage demands in return for legislation and fiscal planning to create conditions favorable to workers.
It would seem Rae is after a meld of both, beginning with 2) but reaching to 1).
As for the historical origins of “social contract,” one turns to two philosophers, John Locke (1632-1704), the godfather of the American constitution, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), the inspiration for much in the French Revolution. Both men worked up a philosophy on nature, man and society. Each set out to replace the absolute authority of kings with a reasoned arrangement, one that encompassed all interests and both set out and defended good social values.
As the Preacher of Ecclesiastes said, there’s nothing new under the sun.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, April 09, 1993
ID: 12408353
TAG: 199304080189
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


What bothered me most about the sudden float of Hugh Segal as a leadership candidate was the dubious critical acumen it revealed about his promoters, Bernard Valcourt, Bill McKnight and Michael Wilson, three competent cabinet ministers.
Through some two decades as a pushy, talky fellow, largely within the top echelon of the Ontario Tories, Segal has shown four attributes above many others: Glibness, craftiness, gall, and self-mockery. The mocking takes the mickey out of his cunning and helps excuse his run-on, rolling glibness. The gall? It was best seen in his role on TV (CTV) as a paid surrogate of the party leader.
Segal himself has kept the story going of the response he got from a senior Tory organizer in the early ’70s when he pushed himself as a candidate for an Ottawa riding and was told to buzz off, that he was too young, too fat and Jewish to boot. What an organizer today might say is: Too glib and too fat. (Today the Jewishness could be a bonus.)
There are five candidates in the Tory race. Only Jim Edwards is not glib. Patrick Boyer is glib but bumbles enough not to intimidate. Kim Campbell, Jean Charest and Garth Turner are very glib, perhaps not quite in Segal’s league but competitive. Does this race need another glib one?
What trait of Brian Mulroney bugs Canadians more than any other? Surely it is his glibness: The seamless susurrus of his talk which makes so many divine hypocrisy in him. Hoo, what a talker! Smooth, blarney for any occasion; occasional rodomontade with some sonorous, Latin-root polysyllabics to radiate knowledge. Mulroney and Segal were youths when I first heard them. Even then each was a gabber, although Mulroney had just a sliver of Segal’s self-spoofery.
In the privacy of the PMO and cabinet sub-committees, Valcourt and McKnight may have been witnesses of Segal’s exceptional intellect and his memory chip store of political policies and partisan antics. There he must have fascinated them with prolific cleverness. Previous polymaths of inside Ottawa like Jack Pickersgill, Michael Pitfield, Marc Lalonde, Derek Burney or Stanley Hartt did this to many ministers. Fine! Segal may fit in such a fine-brained constellation. But it wouldn’t have been his intellect but his gab which would have been his prime impress in the leadership race. Did the Tories, did the country, need another motor-mouth, one relentless in self-mockery, self-justification, and self-promotion? No. We were saved by the most heart-tugging of factors – love of wife and kiddies.
One ought to distinguish the justified from the thoughtless in the mocking by leaders of arts and culture interests for “Unique Among Nations,” the 41-page paper just put out by Perrin Beatty, minister of Communications.
The paper was a required response to a House committee report last year on “the role of government in support and development of culture and communications.”
The MPs were in the tradition of committees that undertake such reviews, i.e., more mindful of aiding those in the field with funds than of the costs of such subsidizing or the state of the public purse. Neither the MPs nor those who beseeched them with needs and plans for better, brighter moves gave any priority to what’s become accepted in the past year: Ottawa is figuratively broke, its deficits gross, the debt ballooning.
Almost all interests within the culture-communication ambit, from writers to actors to those who love “the Mother Corp,” delighted in the recommendations of the MPs (who represented the three big parties). The back-patting was nice, recognizing so much in talent, virtue and patience. Even better were the recommended increments and longer-range budgets.
Beatty could have escaped the scorn if he’d been blunt and candid, say with a one-paragraph response like this:
“My government’s response to the House report titled The Ties That Bind is regrettably succinct and discouraging. In a kinder world in which governments were unstrained by debt costs and high, repetitious, shortfalls between revenues and spending, the specific recommendations of the committee would be heartening and useful. This is not the present world and is unlikely to be for four or five years, probably longer. My government cannot provide relatively more funds in these fields and may have to provide even less. Therefore the recommendations must be left in a long abeyance.”
Instead Beatty pranced along with nice, empty prose, repeating and praising the proposals, then moving past them with platitudes such as “cultural vitality within economic reality.”
If you’re broke, you’re broke. Governments are broke. Let’s admit it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 07, 1993
ID: 12584808
TAG: 199304060099
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Several print reporters working for Southam papers have been placing a critical expectation on the candidates for the Tory leadership, in particular on the front-runner, Kim Campbell. Their line may have sprung from the aggressive choices Pamela Wallin, the TV presenter, hammered at Campbell in an interview the night she formally entered the race.
The thesis seems to be that to be credible as the next prime minister Campbell must openly deny the pariah leader, Brian Mulroney, and many major policy initatives of the government like NAFTA, the GST, purchasing helicopters, and capping transfer payments.
Both Campbell and her rival, fellow minister Jean Charest, should also state their intentions on fulfilling postponed or incomplete undertakings of the Mulroney government such as a nation-wide childcare program, equitable access to abortion and full homosexual rights. And as the only woman candidate, Mrs. Campbell should also undertake to advance the main premises of Canadian feminists.
The judgmental journalists seem to think Campbell and the others in running must abandon everything which smacks of Brian Mulroney and pitch themselves as though they should match or top the likes of Lloyd Axworthy and Audrey McLaughlin as they go after the Tory prize. They seem to see the Progressive Conservative party as it should be as very Red Tory in its attitudes and Mrs. Campbell unacceptable to the party and the country if she takes right-of-centre stances.
Such a reading of the party and the country contradicts the attitudes I think prevail in the current political scenario. First, neither social democratic policies nor nationalistic fervor are in vogue. Witness the cautious centrism of Jean Chretien. See the piffling response to the most certain federal leaders and party – Audrey McLaughlin and the NDP. In my memory the electorate hasn’t been so small “c” conservative since World War II. The prospect has surged in the past year that our governments could go broke under the weight of deficits and debt. This has gotten through to millions even though it hasn’t to many interests which depend, directly or indirectly, on the public purses of Ottawa, the provinces, and the cities.
The public is not looking for radical policies or a cornucopia of programs. The wants are simple, though devilishly hard. The people want frugal, careful, government and candid, unobtrusive leadership. They suspect politicians in general, and in particular those who promise programs which will require more spending. Or so I would read political Canada for 1993, and it seems to me Kim Campbell has understood this. She’s also too clever to make journalists’ days by intimations that Brian Mulroney is a menace. She’ll have lots to say that’s interesting without seeming to be a disciple of Joe Clark or a clone out of either NACers or REAL Women.
I would wager that neither by word nor deed will she put herself as far from Mulroney as Pierre Trudeau did from Lester Pearson in April, 1968, or John Turner did from Pierre Trudeau in July, 1984.
There are differing views on all this, I think for example of columnist Dalton Camp. He’s never more clever and fascinating than when things are in flux in his party. You might recall that he became almost every academic person’s symbol of a Red Tory after Professor Gad Horowitz in 1966 traced the historical vein of socially responsible conservatism in Canada and popularized the term. So read Camp as the Tories choose their leader and head into the election. Figure what he’s shaping.
As Campbell broke to the front, Camp seemed very favoring but apprehensive. Remember that his initial march to fame came as a leader-breaker and a leader-maker in the federal Progressive Conservative party. As a columnist Dalton Camp writes as a thoughtful, unregimented Red Tory. Often he is proprietorial in a self-deprecating way about the party. Lately he hasn’t been revealing any participation in its current or recent provenance but he has been giving circumspect advice to the party’s members and to both Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell.
As I interpret Camp’s suggestiveness, the prime minister should let the contest play through its course without getting close to it. Whatever he does Campbell must keep clear of him. It will be hurtful if the prime minister is seen as either masterminding the process or favoring a successor, particularly Mrs. Campbell.
Perhaps it’s from the veteran Camp that younger journalists are getting the ideas that Mulroney is still the curse and the new leader should define herself as . . . well . . . a Red Tory. If she does, well before the convention, there’s a good chance she won’t carry it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 04, 1993
ID: 12584349
TAG: 199304040216
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


A few weeks ago the Clerk of the House of Commons told MPs some 5,500 copies are printed of the daily Hansard (in English and in French). The talk fills from 70- to 90-odd pages each day. Each page has around 1,200 words.
When a session’s Hansards are cumulated they may run from 8,000 to 10,000 pages and comprise five to seven bound books. The words are caught by Hansard reporters and on tape.
An immediate typescript (or “blues”) is issued every half hour or so in each sitting, in part so MPs can correct what they’ve said, and reporters have a quick record of what was said.
Hansard is by far the grandest, longest-running Canadian publication, its linear space on library shelves since the beginning in the early 1870s running near 500 feet. The contents are indexed thoroughly at intervals and each day’s edition has a full table of contents.
Hansard has several daily companion papers, including Votes & Proceedings (what happened yesterday), a Projected Order of Business, and a pamphlet of from 40-60 pages titled Order Paper and Notice Paper, listing motions, bills, written questions, etc. on the House schedule.
So each day the House itself has more than 120 pages of printed paper to record the work of its 295 members, most of whom don’t spend even a full hour a day in the chamber. A big crowd for a debate is 40-60 MPs.
Few MPs follow debates. Even fewer ever read Hansard. Yet 5,500 copies of Hansard are printed daily, almost all for use by MPs or their staffs.
As for the 20 million Canadians old enough to vote for MPs how many subscribe to the daily Hansard? The answer, 60, yes 60, was given by the Clerk of the House. Surely this huge, costly, well-organized enterprise needs a critical examination. Is it necessary? How useful is it? Why bother with it if only 60 people in all of Canada feel it worth buying?
This week MPs learned from organized Ukrainian Canadians what they want for the unfair internment of many Ukrainian-Canadians in World War I from 1914-18. The cash value today of the money held from the Ukrainian internees is figured at $30 million and their losses in wages, property, etc., at some $300 million.
This means the cost to federal taxpayers of Ukrainian redress is in the ballpark with redress already paid (in dollops of $21,000 each) to some 18,100 Japanese and Japanese Canadians evacuees in World War II of about $380 million.
Months ago the House unanimously agreed there’d been mistreatment of Ukrainians some eight decades ago which abrogated their human rights. Brian Mulroney has said the internments were unfair, as were those of many Italian Canadians in World War II.
Further, on several occasions, the present House has expressed its regrets over the “racist” head tax levied on Chinese immigrants for over half a century.
Chinese Canadian associations after redress haven’t yet put forward the dollar figures for adequate recompense, but given the way interest accrues and the far greater numbers of those who paid head tax than of Japanese evacuated from the West Coast in 1942 the total sum will certainly be as large as the bill from ’42 of more than $30 million.
The Japanese precedent makes inevitable there must be redress for the wronged Ukrainians, Italians, and Chinese. Are there any other groups obviously wronged in our history who might, in themselves or through their progeny, enter the redress game?
There seem to be three groups with historical grievance over mistreatment by the state, although just the first one listed below is likely to go after redress.
First, there are the Metis or half-breeds of the Prairies, badly treated in the period from 1867 to 1905.
Second, there are the Acadians. Uprooted from their original settlements over two centuries ago, including those transplanted to the Mississippi delta.
Third, consider some 175,000 young male Canadians (known colloquially as “zombies” late in World War II) who were drafted and forced into military service away from their homes and families.
Of the third group, more than 100,000 would not volunteer for overseas service despite hard military pressure and harsh community attitudes (at least outside Quebec).
In retrospect, however legal conscription of the zombies was, their treatment was as summary and ruthless as that accorded the Japanese. Many had to leave good jobs or their places in colleges and they were slurred as much or more by their fellow citizens as the Japanese Canadians were.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, April 02, 1993
ID: 12583606
TAG: 199304010113
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It may be hokum to dream there is a way out of our deficit-debt mess through the Ontario government establishing a “social contract” with business, labor, education, and professional associations.
Nonetheless, open talk by Premier Bob Rae and his treasurer, Floyd Laughren, says a contract is needed because we must have rollbacks in governmental salaries, the staying of increases in pensions and welfare payments, and much paring of public service employment.
This week the Business Council on National Issues (BCNI) led by the ubiquitous Tom D’Aquino, put out an 80-page working paper, “Building a new century economy.” Its tone is very optimistic, not doom-struck. Although the deficit-debt monster is well-examined, ideas on mastering it are positive and there’s nothing negative about social issues or needs. For example, this paragraph:
“Canadian business leaders do not favor dismantling the country’s social safety net, the publicly administered health care system, or environmental standards. They recognize that quality public services are a positive social investment.”
Throughout, the BCNI’s emphasis is on (a) co-operation between the federal and provincial governments, notably on budgeting and tax policies to crank down deficits and get at debt reduction; (b) bonding private sector companies, union memberships, and educational and training institutions for programs to raise skills and jack up both productivity and research.
Any reader sees match-ups, not antagonisms, between the BCNI themes and the bruiting of a “social contract” by Rae, perhaps a determined escape from the stock adversarialism of politics and so much cross-blaming for our economic ills.
So the question is: Could a grand exercise in pulling together be led by those we have taken to be on the left and the right of politics and economics?
A few of us do dream that the way ahead for debt-heavy Canada is by fashioning a fresh understanding on co-operation and responsibility, or to use Rae’s phrase, a new social contract.
Unfortunately, there is more familiar and adversarial aspect to the New Democratic Party. One could see it this week in the poisonous tone of “Action Dossier,” a 44-page pamphlet of 26 angry, apocalyptic articles, put out by the Action Canada Network.
In legal terms the Action Canada Network is not the New Democratic Party but most groups and individuals in the network have ties with the party.
The prime focus of the essayists is the Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. (FTA) and its coming corollary, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). They insist our country is being sold out to American political and economic power by toadying Tories and compliant Liberals. It’s a critique idential with that being made in the House of Commons now by Audrey McLaughlin and her crew. They too emphasize the greed and the derelict patriotism of our corporate community, symbolized by the BNCI and Tom D’Aquino, “the unofficial prime minister.”
The first and longest piece by Maude Barlow sets out the crisis: “This is a time of great upheaval in Canada and in the world. The decisions we make now, the foundations we build – for trade, for development, for the environment – will affect generations to come. A nation is made up of the history, customs, traditions and laws of the families of the communities we live in. It is more than an economic unit. Let us not lose sight of this great legacy in the decisive struggle that will decide our country’s future.”
“Action” demands a last grand, concerted effort to save Canadians from the reigning political theology of “neo-conservatism” and its proponents, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Margaret Thatcher, and their lickspittle, Brian Mulroney.
On paper, the membership sustaining Action Canada runs to over four million people. The components include groups long affiliated or close to the NDP.
The calamities they say we verge on are many: Half a million more jobs gone if NAFTA does through; our water resources destined to keep Arizona and California green; medicare crumbling away; the Auto Pact doomed; supply management of many farm products lost, along with control of our energy resources and our intellectual and cultural properties. Our social system affronts free market principles and “the level playing fields” so dear to Americans. So do our environmental policies, so both are doomed.
To state it brutally, Action Canada and the NDP in this guise don’t give a damn about mastering deficits and debts. Saving Canada from the Americans is a far higher priority.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 31, 1993
ID: 12583058
TAG: 199303300088
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Who shall slay the dragon of deficits and debt now terrorizing governments and politicians? Might it be the most unlikely of rescuers, the New Democrats?
The NDP has a chance, improbable though it seems, to rescue us because of its open tie with most public service unions and an earned reputation as friend of underdogs who depend on government pensions, welfare and unemployment insurance.
Granted, it sounds haywire: the NDP wrestling down our huge obligations through rolling back the wages of tens of thousands and reducing transfer payments. Yet talk of mastering the debt by such moves has been coming from the three NDP premiers, most clearly from Bob Rae. And these premiers have eased away from the stock NDP line that the money for better social programs are there in the untaxed profits of the big companies and the high incomes of our wealthy.
It’s hard to think of Bob Rae and his treasurer, Floyd Laughren, as saviors. Through the NDP’s 32 years its elected members have been to the fore in each order of government, always pushing more spending for health, welfare, education, Indianism, children, single women, refugees, wage equity and multiculturalism. Nonetheless, it bears repeating: The NDP cannot be directly blamed in its federal, provincial, or municipal guises for the national monster of deficit-debt.
The NDP has influenced policies legislated by the federal Parliament, notably in the mid-1960s and the early 1970s when its balance-of-power position pushed Liberal governments to let the public service be unionized and to complete the health and welfare systems. But the current $420 billion-plus in federal debt and deficits holding for a decade near $30 billion a year are the work of Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties in power. And any reviewer of the past decade in Ontario and Saskatchewan knows that respective Liberal and Conservative governments spent and spent, driving up deficits and the debt burdens which have their successor governments ready to savage many spending programs and roll back wage settlements with public service unions.
One can turn to various piles of statistics to show where most of the money goes which governments spend. The two biggest chunks go on health care and education, the next biggest go on pension payments by governments to retired employees, senior citizens, and the disabled. This year Ottawa transfers some $50 billion to individuals, some $30 billion to provincial governments. And the municipalities, creatures of provincial governments both in terms of grants and what they are required to do, have huge commitments in education, health, and welfare.
A rough summation of government spending goes like this:
(a) most money governments raise from all their sources go toward health, welfare, pensions, and education;
(b) most of it goes to salaries and wages for those who work in providing health, education, and welfare services;
(c) to stay rises and reduce governmental spending for any specific period, say two years, governments need to legislate against raises built into present settlements and to roll back salaries and pensions by a few points.
One cannot exaggerate the uproar such stays and roll-backs may cause, in particular from the many unions and associations with big memberships in our health, welfare, and educational systems. But the situation is very serious. Why else would Premier Rae be talking cuts in spending and employees?
If any people in office could convince union leaders and their members of the need for moratoriums and roll-backs it should be NDP premiers, Rae in particular.
Such an Ontario program could include all those who work directly for the government and its crown agencies and for those institutions in health, welfare, and education which function under provincial law and are sustained in part by provincial or federal-provincial grants. It might strike a basic 2% roll-back, say for two years, grading up to 5% for those in salary ranges above $60,000 a year. An example by Ontario would certainly spread (whereas the one already made on wage levels in Newfoundland by Premier Wells will not).
Canadian unionism has been overwhelmingly adversarial rather than co-operative – adversarial with employers, public and private! If we are to become a sharing, fairer society, less dominated by the raw forces of the free market forces, we must have the often preached but never achieved liaison between governments and private businesses with union and professional associations based on an equitable sharing of planning, responsibilities, and rewards.
The NDP rose out of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. Roll the phrase around! It’s a good tag for Bob Rae’s program as he seeks to save us from two decades of profligacy.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 28, 1993
ID: 12582549
TAG: 199303280155
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Here are answers to political questions you may be asking.
1) Given the recent freefall in opinion polls on the federal Liberals, is anything moving on replacing or refurbishing Jean Chretien?
No. The unease is widespread, various expedients have been considered both inside and outside Chretien’s circle, but nothing is crystallizing. There’s tacit understanding that there is too little time before the election for a formal change of leaders. No one stands out as the obvious successor – not Paul Martin, not Sheila Copps, not Premier Frank McKenna.
There is little dislike of Chretien in the Liberal caucus and oddly enough, this makes it more frustrating for its members. Why? Because the handle most of them have on public reaction to Chretien is not dislike but disrespect and a pervasive unwillingness to listen to him, let alone take him seriously. If a politician is widely and deeply disliked it means at least he’s taken seriously.
A Liberal MP who privately wrote off the chance for a majority government after Mulroney announced his farewell tells me he and most of his colleagues have been “around the Horn” on whether Chretien should be persuaded to quit politics because of ill health. Their conclusions? First, that he couldn’t be persuaded, and if he were, it would open a deuces’ wild contest which would convince Canadians by the millions that the Grits are not ready to govern.
2) Is gaining Elijah Harper as a Liberal candidate for the Manitoba riding of Churchill (now held by New Democrat Terry Murphy) a plus in the West but a large minus in Quebec where the nay-sayer to the Meech accord is well but not fondly remembered?
It’s really a minus, West and East. Not only do the Quebecois treasure their hurts more than the rest of us, the pleas and whines of the natives get less of an audience and trigger far less guilt than in the rest of Canada.
Sympathetic reporters have made Harper an idealized symbol of simple native fortitude. Up close, the story is far more awkward. He is slow, if not slothful. Beyond a few, now familiar platitudes he has nothing to say and not much vim in saying it. Limned as brave and prescient, Harper seems to see himself as a native leader of great significance but in the bitchy rivalries and backstabbing of First Nations’ politics he’s an innocent.
The Liberals already have two aboriginal MPs with considerable, parliamentary competence in Jack Anawak and Ethel Blondin-Shaw, plus a half-dozen non-native MPs who represent hinterland ridings with substantial proportions of natives. They hardly need Harper as totem figure. As for the New Democrats in Manitoba, they are happy (cautiously, of course) to be rid of Harper. They’ll be even happier if the election rids them of Murphy, their irascible, sour incumbent, because it will hand Chretien and company the running problem of living with Harper.
3) Are the New Democrats as concerned about the failure of their leader to captivate the public as the Liberals are regarding Chretien?
Yes, but there are distinctions. They have known for well over a year that there would not be any surge to public popularity for Audrey McLaughlin. She’s simply blah, Canada-wide. She’s not so much been rejected as not even considered – a marionnette, a zombie, jerking and bobbing in TV snippets. The gender factor hasn’t been worth a hoot.
But the MPs accept she must have one campaign, and no alternative is at hand. The game is to ensure most of the MPs will survive for the rebound under the next leader. The dilemma of the Chretien-led Grits is encouraging. That’s why the NDP MPs are now firing more at the Liberals than at the Tories. If the Tories survive in strength so will a lot of NDP candidates.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, March 26, 1993
ID: 12581817
TAG: 199303250157
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


An odd’s body outsider may enter the contest to become prime minister this June, but the certain choice will be from five Progressive Conservative MPs, none of whom is a scary story.
The heavy favorite is Kim Campbell from Vancouver. There’s a possible, just possible, upsetter from Quebec in young Jean Charest; he’s followed by the Albertan, Jim Edwards, who may not be embarrassed with a vote below 100; then there’s Patrick Boyer from the west side of Metro, a prod for parliamentary and electoral reform; and, lastly, the other Torontonian, Garth Turner, a frenetically pushy MP with a crisis vocabulary.
A few generalizations about each of the five come to mind once one puts aside for the moment the quick, gross distortion in the contest in favor of Campbell. Each candidate has qualities which raise him or her above run-of-the mill MPs. None of them is slow or stupid or living in a personal, political cocoon. Each has at least one exceptional, useful trait.
For example, with Charest the top trait is simply charm. It’s always there, showing in his awareness of others. He is so proven pleasant I’ve yet to hear any member of the House or Senate say anything nasty about him, a rare reverse tribute, and certainly one not accorded Kim Campbell.
As a combatant Campbell is exceptional in her speed of mind, noticeable in counter-fire talk but also in a capacity for wrapping up a topic or an issue succinctly, then getting out and away from it. (Yes, this adroitness and her trademarks of abruptness and brusqueness do remind me of Pierre Trudeau.)
Jim Edwards is straight-arrow direct, explicit and uncomplicated yet somehow thoughtful and usually given to thorough preparation. Although most confident in bearing, Edwards is awkward enough with a plain man’s speech not to seem either slick or trite. A westerner, for sure.
Of the five entrants, Patrick Boyer is a particular problem to objectivity on my part because we’ve been debating politics since 1967. A law student, he had spent that Centennial summer crossing Canada, putting on tape the ideas of his countrymen. It was an experience which shaped more confidence in him than most politicians ever get about regularly bringing into the political process the judgments as they come of citizens in general. Boyer’s trust in citizenship is inordinate and underlies his insistence we must handle more major issues through referendums.
Not to demean Garth Turner, but his run in this race has a droll quality. What a grand antagonism he has unleashed in the people of the media, and to a much lesser degree among MPs of all parties. Even if Turner had not been a bumptious newspaper columnist who crusaded against taxes, his modus operandi as an MP would have exasperated political reporters. He has gall. Gall is a common matter in politicians, but Turner has it supremely, even more than Campbell, even as much or more as such galling characters as Sheila Copps or Svend Robinson.
What makes Turner’s gall most aggravating is his sure-handedness at self-promotion. Any chance for a moment’s attention in the House or a blip for the papers or radio and TV and he’s there in all his certitude. What an antithesis to the archetypal, modest Canadian. He guarantees that all will be not seemly and in nice proportions in the race.
Most attention by far is going to Campbell and my prediction is she’ll weather all of it. To someone who has observed hundreds of MPs as they talk, move, eat and socialize on the Hill she really stood out from my first glimpses of her, whether she was at coffee or talking in the House or riposting reporters. From Day One on the Hill she struck me as a very bright, intensely ambitious politician, rather than another very bright female politician like the late Judy LaMarsh or Pauline Jewett.
Campbell’s confidence is most plain in her unministerial readiness to pop around by herself. Mary Collins, another woman MP from B.C., as a backbencher, was to be seen here, there and everywhere – twittering, sociable, smiling and striving so hard to be with it. Once Mary got the chauffeur, the limousine, etc., she was instantly a higher, distant, lady politician, not to be seen in common places and even in corridors, escorted by aides. Campbell is much less pretentious and more self-contained than Collins or other colleagues like Barbara McDougall, Joe Clark or Perrin Beatty.
I noticed that she chats with anyone who will brace her but she doesn’t shop for attention or responses.
Not quite a loner, but far from gregarious, Campbell neither needs company nor does she relish the cozening given ministerial rank. Becoming prime minister shouldn’t go to her head nor turn her bland. She’s not afraid of being on her own.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, March 19, 1993
ID: 12579993
TAG: 199303180114
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


At month’s end Statistics Canada will issue a detailed report from the ’91 census on aboriginal people. This could be a landmark document simply if it clarifies some demographic and jurisdictional mysteries.
We know from a recent census piece on ethnicity that 700,000 people identified themselves as ethnically aboriginal. Another 400,000 reported they were partly of native stock.
More specific data on where they live, and their educational, occupational, age, language and family profiles is needed for a sensible response to the demands for “First Nations” self-government, for establishing Metis rights, and for a particular status, including distinct policing, educational, and health services, for those of native blood who live off reserves in our cities (as more than half now do.)
The whomping guilt that motivates the self-government train has masked an ignorance of simple facts and the often wayward purposes of both natives and our governments.
Just reflect on the shocks to us from the rejection of the Charlottetown accord. Clamoring for the native people were three vociferous organizations: The Assembly of First Nations (AFN), the Native Council of Canada and the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
Of course, the star figure was Ovide Mercredi. Recall the claim as the referendum campaign heightened that he, the Grand Chief of AFN, spoke for non-Inuit aborigines. It became clear even before the result gave proof that Mercredi didn’t even speak for the AFN constituency – i.e., for 450,000 or more people who have “status” as Indians with Ottawa through listing on the rolls of the 600 bands.
At least the AFN, for all its divisiveness, does bring together those hereditary and elected chiefs for most bands. But who really knows whom the Native Council of Canada represents? Its present leader, Ron George, claims he speaks for over half a million or more “natives” who may or may not be “status” Indians but who do not live on reservations. One might call it the association of the native diaspora.
The gulf between his numerical assertions and reality is wide and may be enormous. It’s doubtful if the Native Council has even 50,000 members who know they belong and partake in council activities. That Ron George and the Native Council speak for all natives but those on reserves is as credible as Judy Rebick and the National Action Committee speaking for all women but those in REAL Women.
As for the Native Women group, somewhat proteges of Rebick and NAC, it was bitter and capable enough to intervene in the courts against the accord. It distrusted a male-dominated AFN and the ideas of some chiefs that native governments would not be bound by the Charter of Rights.
The industry of Indianism is a $6 billion to $7 billion colossus (counting provincial spending). It sustains a swarm of associations, tribal councils, treaty groups and land-claim legalists. Read the many pages in volume 2 of the yearly public accounts that list those getting grants for diverse social, cultural, political, educational and economic purposes. Such profuse endeavors – most stressing grievances and horrors, claims and reclamation – creates a public babble and masks a general ignorance, even a native ignorance, of what native policy is.
The current Royal Commission on Aboriginal Affairs is lost in the familiar maze of blame and claim, whine and demand. It’s busy evading the key issues which hinge not on wrongs but on the future.
It should give over reprising the abuses by all non-natives, stop listing and case-studying the abysmal, endemic living standards and internecine cruelties of native communities. Begin with: Should redress be for ever and ever?
What could be the economic basis for the so-called self-governing “nations,” far from the bustle of regional or national enterprise and without useful natural resources to exploit?
Is something definable as aboriginal citizenship to be “stacked” on plain Canadian citizenship with its rights and responsibilities? That is, a dual citizenship?
What organizational conception might sustain a distinct citizenship and good services for those aborigines who live in cities and towns among non-natives and not on reservations or in specific city ghettos?
Is there an intrinsic strength and unity in aboriginal culture and the way of life to sustain aboriginal communities in perpetuity, in particular if one day, the funding from both Ottawa and the provinces were to end? No independence is genuine if it rests on being kept by others.
The census stuff from StatsCan may help us consider these questions more sensibly.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 17, 1993
ID: 12579461
TAG: 199303160132
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Let’s play with a few of the figures in recent polls and reports.
Item No. 1 touches on answers to a Gallup poll question: “Do you think of yourself as a Liberal, Conservative, New Democratic, Reform or Bloc Quebecois supporter?”
The results would only shock those unaware of the steady drift over the past 50 years away from inherited and lifelong partisanships. Post World War II the trend was first seen markedly in the twinned Diefenbaker miracles of 1957 and 1958. So many “safe” seats weren’t. Before then political buffs considered half the seats in the House to be safe. Of that half of some 130 seats, about two-thirds were safe for Grits, almost a third for Tories, and just a handful for CCFers and Social Crediters. Today veteran MPs consider about 80 seats safe out of the 295.
Today’s Gallup figures shows 33% of those questioned “didn’t know” an answer. This figure for Quebec was 50%. You must appreciate the high scale of “don’t knows” when appraising the breakdown that now gives Liberals 30%, the Conservatives 17, the New Democrats 10, Reform 7 and the BQ 3. The Grits are down 7 points from 1990, the Tories 5 and the NDP 11.
It’s hard to conceive that a party will form a majority government this fall with more than a point or two less than 40% of the vote. Obviously the Liberals are far closer to that than the Tories but the number of voters floating free from partisan loyalty indicates how fluid and volatile the vote may well be by election day. If the Tories’ leadership campaign picks up 5 to 6 points for those who think of themselves as Conservative, probably at the expense of the Liberals, the likelihood is a wide-open election, likely a minority government, and almost certainly a high incidence of “unsafe” seats.
Just six weeks ago this columnist foresaw a handy Liberal win this fall. After considering the Gallup data, along with Brian Mulroney’s retirement, the sudden flowering of Kim Campbell and the rising fractiousness within Jean Chretien’s caucus, the likelihood is shifting to a minority win by the Liberals – and worse for them is possible.
Item No. 2 is from the latest “estimates” of the federal department for multiculturalism and citizenship. The total spending for the fiscal year two weeks away will be $130 million. This puts into grandiose perspective another figure in these estimates – the cost so far of financial redress to the 22,000 Japanese Canadians and Japanese who were evacuated from the B.C. coast in 1942. It’s $367 million. The Mulroney government launched the program in 1988. Some further moneys in grants are going to sustain ethnic activities of the Japanese Canadians, and a federally funded race relations foundation inspired by the Japanese deal will have a basic input of $10 to $12 million.
There isn’t any provision in this year’s estimates for financial redress to other ethnic associations which have demanded such and which as yet has been neither formally denied nor approved by the government. The costliest one would be redressing with interest the head taxes (plus interest) of Chinese immigrants to them or their heirs. Redressing former internees of Italian and Ukrainian stock would come cheaply, compared to the Japanese and Chinese cases.
Item No. 3 is from this year’s estimates for Veterans Affairs. Total spending will run to $2.1 billion of which about a half goes to pensioners with disabilities or to survivors of these killed or of pensioners who have died. Some 92,000 veterans get disability pensions and some 58,000 get survivor benefit pensions. There are some 550,000 living veterans, of whom over 90% are over 64. Only about a third of them get benefits such as pensions, PoW allowances, home help and health care. One in three males over 64 is a veteran, explaining why there is still some sensitivity among politicians on issues which touch veterans. It’s projected that some 390,000 veterans will be alive in the year 2000.
Item No. 4 is from last week’s huge report to the government on transportation policy. The figures for 1990 on the shares of revenues, employment, and passengers of the various modes of transport show why it’s nostalgia, not reality, that stops us from accepting the eclipse of the railways that were so overwhelmingly dominant 40 or so years ago.
Of $42.2 billion in revenue earned, trucking took 42%, air 26%, rail 22%, and water 10%.
Of 302,000 employed in transport, the highway mode had 51%, rail 21%, air 20%, and water 8%.
Of passenger trips, the private car took 91%, air 5%, bus 3% and rail 1%.
Are we bargain-conscious as travellers? Yes, over a five-year period from 1987, data for the second quarter of each year showed the percentage of those air travellers with discount tickets rose from 53% to 66% of all sold.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 14, 1993
ID: 12578750
TAG: 199303140111
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Even for a minimal fan of the CBC it has been hard not to feel sorry for the CBC and those who work in it this week.
Let me sketch some situations and incidents that make you wonder how long before the Mother Corp goes the way of such Crown corporations as Air Canada, Telesat and (now) the CNR.
Remember this: It has always been impossible for the CBC to escape critical attention, however muted or careful, from the politicians. Take my first item. It may seem parochial and irrelevant beyond the capital but it isn’t because its data rouse MPs’ interest, particularly those wary of a government-funded news goliath or fretting over federal deficits.
Item: Both Ottawa English dailies had spreads on recent viewing data in the region, symbolized by the Citizen’s headline: “Local viewers snub Prime Time News.” For comparison: (a) Peter Mansbridge and Pamela Wallin drew 51,000 viewers in the check week; Lloyd Robertson (CTV) drew 130,000; (b) Local CTV station’s early news drew 229,000 viewers; local CBC station equivalent drew 60,000; (c) Of the top 20 programs, CBC had one, and four of the CTV station’s programs in the top 20 were Canadian content.
Item: A CRTC hearing most significant for deciding the shape of Canadian broadcasting has been underway for two weeks, roughly examining three interwoven lines: The technological choices; the financing arrangements; and the requirements in programming for on-air, cable, and (perhaps) satellite licensees.
Aside from the day when broadcast unions appeared, arguing for more money for the CBC and better protection of its noble mandate, there’s been amazingly little on the CBC from either presenters or the commissioners. Yes, these hearings are not specifically about the CBC’s mandate or performance but it’s a shock to those of us for whom broadcasting policies have pivoted around the CBC for 50 years for it not to be front-centre and at best, peripheral. Better be damned than ignored!
Item: Again the antagonistic angers roused by the CBC’s showing early in 1992 of the McKenna brothers’ opus about Canada in World War II, The Valor and the Horror, are raging high again after: (a) Gemini awards to the film and its authors; (b) a raging rebuke in print of this from John Crispo, member of the CBC’s board of directors; (c) a patently livid response to Crispo from Patrick Watson, the CBC chairman; (d) a sorrowing public letter from Barney Danson, a war veteran but a long-time CBC booster, on how the CBC’s bosses have undercut their own ombudsman and further enraged veterans; (e) CBC officials assigned to re-show a revised Valor, followed by a panel discussion which includes critics of the series, have exasperated Cliff Chadderton of War Amps, the leading veterans’ advocate, and he cannot fathom either the managerial disarray or apparent double-dealing.
Item: The issuance of “a report to the staff of the CBC” from President Gerard Veilleux. It’s one of the queerest of the thousands of Mother Corp publications I’ve seen over 30 years.
The oddity of this 8,000 plus of print begins with the print and its layout. It’s the damndest thing to try to read. There’s yellow print on cardinal or purple, blue print on purple, purple on deep blue, scattered with head-images of CBC executives. It’s all laid out on the oddest folding tabloid imaginable.
What about the content, sky-hooked on the theme of “repositioning the CBC?” Read it, if you can. It’s wandering, dour then positive, grim then hopeful, complex then simplifying; blood, sweat, etc. but enobling, bonding French and English (once again) and daily giving the world lessons in ethical journalism.
In cliche terms, are these the last days of a dinosaur?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, March 12, 1993
ID: 12578133
TAG: 199303110127
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Think NDP; think unions – and vice-versa!
The close twinning began three decades ago and soon was an unexamined matter of course. The pairing may be questioned now that the biggest local of the Canadian Auto Workers has rejected ties with the party.
This decision in Oshawa seems sure to be mimicked by other locals. If so, the leaders of both party and unions may have to consider openly the plus and minus factors in the association.
There could be advantages for each in severing the formal relationship, and there may be greater grief to come in ducking an open review of the bond in its entirety?
New Democrats like Audrey McLaughlin, Bob Rae and Mike Harcourt have a lot to lose if many locals rebel. It goes beyond the utility of union money and the muscle of organizers to their prestige as politicians if they are denied by those long behind them. And unionists like Bob White, head of the Canadian Labor Congress or Nancy Riche, a CLC vice president and national president of the NDP, or Leo Gerard, the articulate leader of the Steelworkers, will be diminished as labor’s oracles.
Although union members have never overwhelmingly backed NDP candidates at elections except in a handful of Canada’s 295 ridings, the policy backing the NDP has been there so long in most larger unions in English Canada that it’s become a given in both our political and economic systems. The tie has not been closely or relentlessly examined by the participants or by outsiders, even in 1988 after Bob White ranted at Ed Broadbent and the federal NDP for not seizing and keeping the lead in the fight against the Free Trade Agreement.
The “new party” was forming as the ’60s began to continue the aims of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation or CCF – a socialist movement begun as the ’30s got “dirty.” Labor chiefs and CCF politicians pitched the enterprise as a congress of “liberally minded people,” melding the purposes and resources of unions, organized farmers, co-operatives, and left-wing intellectuals and professionals. It would be more pragmatic and far more broadly based than the CCF. The union leaders pushing the new party were mostly from “international” and “industrial” unions -U.S.-linked and industry centred rather than skill centred or purely Canadian.
The NDP’s origins are familiar to me because I was the only CCF MP not enthusiastic about the scheme. Before it was a fait accompli I wrote and spoke against it. Most of the members of my CCF riding association were against it. As they projected it, the formal liaison of three organized economic movements with a political party would be hard to achieve, hard to sustain and would antagonize many unorganized Canadians. And if the political arm did win office, at once it would be seen as favoring special interests. And, if it didn’t, that would be considered reprehensible by such interests.
Well before the opening convention in 1961 chose T.C. Douglas as leader it was clear many unions were not to join in, nor would organized farmers and the co-ops.
In the short run, say for a dozen years, the union-party link helped the party moderately, notably in new respect from outsiders such as business and media interests. They and the older parties took the NDP more seriously than the CCF. Also, union services and manpower helped many candidates make a better fist in campaigns.
By the late ’60s something major was altering unionism, de-emphasizing the internationals and stressing nationalism. Thousands working for governments and their agencies were joining unions, sharpening the focus of unions on government.
Then what a few of us prefigured happened. When the NDP took office in Manitoba, B.C., Saskatchewan (and in Ontario just two years ago) the basic conflict emerged between the responsibility of government and the demands of union backers, especially those bargaining for units of government workers.
Most union leaders have expected NDP MPs and MPPS, in caucus and individually, to fight for union causes, legislatively and in campaigns. Deficits and debt daunts government. The private economy is altering fast, notably because of technology (see railways or the post office) and unions defending the status quo in jobs and wages have forced NDP politicians to fight against innovative change and reductions in staff. Meanwhile, the core federal vote of the NDP has stalled at a minor party stage below 20%.
Neither side gets much any more from the twinning. Because of caucus funding, tax deductions, and partial recapture of electoral spending the party is very solvent, so union backing is less needed. And, arguably, the union link puts off many voters. In office, NDP governments haven’t satisfied union chiefs.
Surely open debate on splitting is sensible and overdue.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 10, 1993
ID: 12577689
TAG: 199303090105
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


“It is all too easy for you,” said another political gossip, “to list by odds some Tory leadership prospects, but which one do you think would be the best prime minister for Canadians in the next few years?”
My answer was defensive and long-winded, beginning with my appraisal that the winner was likely to be either Kim Campbell or Jean Charest, each of whom at this stage seems as good or better a prospect to wear well in power than any of the post-St. Laurent prime ministers. Then I bumbled along to interesting probable candidates such as Patrick Boyer and Jim Edwards who are unlikely to have a look-in because they have not been in cabinet and to several who have such as Perrin Beatty who seems so genteel and unmemorable over many years, or Barbara McDougall who has been unforthcoming so often, or Tom Hockin who is likable but so unvivid. My companion pushed: “But which one’s your choice?”
Then I allowed that to me the ones with the best shot at beating Jean Chretien and his Liberals this fall are Campbell and Charest. Of course, Charest strikes me as having the better chance of turning back Chretien in Quebec itself whereas Campbell could save many Tory seats in Ontario. There, before Brian Mulroney’s announcement, the Liberals had seemed set to win by a landslide. As for the West, Campbell might seem to have the edge because of her home province of B.C., but on the Prairies Charest had prospects for growth and acceptance, especially in contrast to a Chretien or the NDP’s waxen image.
“You’re fudging. Are you for Campbell or Charest?”
Again I wandered by matching that pair with the three toughest Canadian issues: Jobs; debt; and Quebec.
It seemed to me Charest might better the chances Quebec will stay and not go with a PQ government out of Canada this decade. And it’s my hunch that the longer we have Quebec with us the better chance we will meet the other major problems and save ourselves terrible confusion and poisonous arguments over the structure and role of the residue federal state.
On the other hand, if the Quebec Liberals are swept out in the next provincial election and Jacques Parizeau shapes toward separation the stage may be reached where the prime minister of all the people has to be brutally frank about the terms of separation. It is likely that English Canadians outside Quebec would trust a leader more who was not from that province.
Also Kim Campbell would likely be firmer in facing us towards the spectre of national monetary and fiscal disaster looming from huge debt costs and the inabilities of all our governments to balance their budgets. She is, however, a far more cutting partisan warrior in politics than Charest which may have some good points in projection and defence of an aggressive government’s policies.
Against such worth in Campbell as a nasty, somewhat reminding one of Margaret Thatcher or Pierre Trudeau, I have been balancing the parliamentary and the federal-provincial fractiousness she might well cause against the comparative soft approach which distinguishes Charest.
If my contention is right that more and more Canadians are fed up with the slanging partisan game and the ceaseless blame heaped on the other guys, then Charest, generationally and through personality, is a more positive character.
My companion suggested that I really liked Charest more than Campbell but respected her more as a go-and-get-’em politician. He was right, but then I had to get into qualifying that distinction with a sketch of the imperatives for a workable performance by a prime minister.
Getting and retaining caucus loyalty. Putting lots of the best talents at hand in the cabinet. Striking an able top staff and melding it well with the top mandarins, especially in Finance and Treasury Board. Treating the House of Commons and its committees with respect and considerable attention. Demonstrating there is room for dissent without ostracism in caucuses. Discussing the priority intentions of the government with citizens through regular, televised sessions. Facing up to many of the single interest groups and lobbies which now dominate or protect a diverse host of “status quos.” Emphasizing frugal government, open government, honest government. Acknowledging both mistakes and hard choices. Being prideful of our past and hopeful for our future. Refusing unresolved constitutional issues as reasons for lack of action.
This litany set my friend hooting: “Too long on the Hill! You want too much. May I begin again? Whom do you want as the next prime minister?”
Truthfully? Either Campbell or Charest would do for me. And if either Boyer or Edwards should slide out of the pack as Joe Clark did in 1976 it would shock me but not scare me.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 07, 1993
ID: 13002200
TAG: 199303070155
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Kim Campbell’s zoom reminds me of the Trudeau phenomenon. In a brief fortnight 25 years ago he came from the blue to be the top choice to follow Lester Pearson.
It seemed right after Brian Mulroney said he was leaving that there would be a wide-open race with many aspirants, none close to an even-money wager. Now, with no entries formally filed, there’s been a remarkable shift. Already Campbell is better than 50-50 and second or third favorites like Jean Charest and Michael Wilson merit odds from to 6 to 1 or longer.
Let’s go back to the Trudeau parallel.
In the fall of 1967 the poll points of the governing Liberals led by Pearson plummeted. So did their morale. There was a post-Centennial droop, a surge by the Tories after the exciting convention won by Bob Stanfield, the long series of ministerial scandals, the strains wrought by five years of “minority” Houses, and bitterness within the party, a residue of the ideological tussle, symbolized by Walter Gordon and Mitchell Sharp.
Unofficially, several prominent ministers had been shaping a run to succeed Pearson, e.g., Paul Martin, Sr., Paul Hellyer and Sharp.
Party myths said it was the French Canadians’ turn, but this pointed to Jean Marchand, not to Trudeau who’d been a minister for a mere nine months.
The PM truly surprised everyone a week before Christmas when he called a sudden press conference and after he announced his decision to retire, the party president announced the leadership convention for April.
By Christmas Day it was clear there would be a half dozen candidates, with Martin and Hellyer early favorites. Yet by New Year’s the race was almost over even if most Canadians would never have guessed it.
What happened? Firstly, there wasn’t any overwhelming sentiment for the familiar men and there was no obvious leader-in-waiting.
Secondly, a half a dozen of the busiest, most ambitious MPs from Metro, most of whom had been in the House less than six years, decided Stanfield must be matched with a fresh leader and they’d plumped for Trudeau. The latter had made a grand, first impression as minister of Justice. He had ideas, was smart, mysterious, and like the well-remembered Louis St. Laurent, perfection in English allayed the French Canadian label.
In the holiday period it became clear to me that Trudeau was locked onto by many of the ablest, younger Liberals, and John Turner, the other likely fresher face in the developing race, was not neither as magnetic nor so intriguing to the media.
On the Hill a day after New Year I bumped into the then Speaker of the House, a French-Canadian. He asked: “Who’s going to win?” I said: “Trudeau.” He gasped, then began laughing. Impossible. Crazy. He knew Trudeau very well – fascinating chap but a dilettante; brilliant but hardly dependable. No way!
Three weeks later with early polling giving Martin a lead, Hellyer close, and Trudeau unheralded I got a call from the Speaker. Would I do him a favor? Remember our chat about the leadership? Would I forget it? He’d been wrong. He hadn’t realized what steam Trudeau could raise from Montreal and Toronto Liberals.
And so it was, even before Trudeau openly declared his candidacy he was the next prime minister. Just as Campbell is.
Or did he? Has she?
In hindsight we know Trudeau got and sustained his early margin with a good campaign right onto the convention floor. There were enough votes to beat him but they had no certain pole for too long. He might have been denied if Hellyer and Turner had swung to Bob Winters before the last ballot.
Given a shrewd campaign by Campbell she may only be beaten by alliances on the floor.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, March 05, 1993
ID: 13001949
TAG: 199303050187
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


“Hate” is a short, hard word. If the word truly describes the attitude of most of us toward a single person in the nation’s highest elected office it’s worth pondering.
What has Brian Mulroney done or been that brought millions to celebrate his exit from politics at 53?
Last column I sketched some aspects of the hatred for Brian Mulroney, in part with the lightning rod metaphor, in part by noting those familiar with the prime minister distinguish the private, likable person from the target of public hatred.
Let me be more more specific about the Mulroney who galls so many.
Reflect that Pierre Trudeau was widely reviled but somehow respected or feared. John Diefenbaker was much mocked and derided but he had attracted and kept till death a core of very ordinary, loyal followers across English Canada. Lester Pearson’s scandal-prone gang angered millions but he himself kept his cachet for global wisdom with our mandarinates and the academe. Joe Clark in his brief fling was scoffed at as a bumbler and wimp, ineffective and unsure, but not because he was seen as insincere, phony and selling us out to the Yanks.
Brian Mulroney’s explanation of his unpopularity is facile but not fully convincing. It comes, he says, from tackling major issues which have had to be faced, not fudged. Consider three of those issues.
A country more dependent on export trade than any other had to respond to a world swinging into major trading blocs – thus FTA and now NAFTA.
A federal fiscal regime which overburdened the manufacturing sector with a hidden tax was not raising enough revenue fairly -thus the GST.
An unfinished Constitution, in particular because most Quebecois felt outside it, had to be boldly addressed, and so the Meech accord and then the Charlottetown accord – failures but noble, necessary tries.
One cannot dismiss his argument, but consider one aspect of one particular exercise – going after and getting the FTA. Sure, it would send into frenzy the anti-Americans, the successors of Walter Gordon and Beland Honderich, the union leaderships and the socialists, but did Mulroney have to relish personally his stressed rapport with the Republican presidents? Such gush, such buttering of presidents!
It isn’t in Brian Mulroney’s nature to guard his enthusiasms or deflate his bent to superlatives and smarm. He simply cannot understate or underplay or be tactiturn.
The American factor challenged the most militant, righteous, and articulate interest groups in Canada. It made tangible the myth of a kinder, caring Canada jeopardized by a leader who would have us ape a meaner, less caring, more self-centred society and economy.
What struck many as smarmy, an unseemly fawning round Ronald Reagan and George Bush, made Mulroney despised and led to the repetitious caricature of an untrustworthy man, giving us away. Add to such a cause of seething rancor the Quebec fact as seen in much of English-speaking Canada.
Animosity toward French Canadians has roots running back past Louis Riel and George Brown and the pre-Confederation stalemates which brought forth Canada. Mulroney was so confidently a Quebecer, so at ease depending on his advent to power on Quebec. Recall that many anglos had seen Trudeau, whatever his arrogances, as standing up to Quebec. Mulroney? He became a symbol, not for a man at home in both Canadas, but for all the reputed knavery of Quebec politics – nepotism, toll-gating and spending favors.
The reasons to suspect the courses taken by Brian Mulroney regarding the U.S., the Constitution, and the GST make more understandable the good reasons for opposition but I think pass by the intrinsic nature of the hatred. It’s about character, about insincerity and duplicity, made obvious in exaggeration and guff.
The now indelible impression of insincerity owes much to what Mulroney does superbly. Unfortunately, it’s anachronistic. Though still pervasive in our politics it has become contemptible. It’s playing the partisan game. Mulroney has revelled along the petty partisan track with hyperbolic self-praise and blame-shifting while purporting in a superior guise to be above the Rat Pack stuff, serving all Canadians.
Partisanship, seen by all in the adolescence of question period, doesn’t wash any more. It’s scorned. The PM grew up in it, savors it. He’s practised its pettiness with gusto and skill, and destroyed himself more than he has the Jean Chretiens and Sheila Coppses.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 03, 1993
ID: 13001589
TAG: 199303020075
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


There’s material in the past 60 years for several books on our hatred of prime ministers. Let’s go back 60 years to the Depression and R.B. Bennett – I believe he was detested by more people than the other prime ministers of my time.
In the past 40 years we’ve been able to calculate antipathy through opinion polling. In such opinions, Brian Mulroney has garnered more antagonism than any of Louis St. Laurent, John Diefenbaker, Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau, Joe Clark and John Turner.
Such anathema toward Mulroney has been confirmed from the Rock to Nanaimo, from old and young, great and small, through TV streeters and radio and TV phone-in shows. His abysmal repute is taken as so tangible, those who would explain us to ourselves seek historical comparisons of such sourness or turn to distinctions to soften the ugliness of both the widespread hate and its loathed object.
A few nights ago CBC news felt compelled to give viewers an interview by Wendy Mesley with Mila Mulroney. As an exercise taken as a contest, the interviewer got wrung out, notably on seeming ignorant of the differences between parliamentary and congressional practices. But the clutch of the show was a zeroing-in on the hate-Mulroney matter, and Mila Mulroney was ready. She succinctly made two plausible points.
First, the nature of the PM’s role makes its player the lone lightning rod for every baulked interest or frustrated grievor in the nation. Instant communications and TV’s obsession with stalking leaders ensures a never-closing one-man theatre. Mila Mulroney implied, with precedents on her side, that whoever has been, is, or will be prime minister is cursed.
Second, she stated something you may have heard about from some who know Brian Mulroney personally (e.g., journalists like Dalton Camp, Charles Lynch, Stuart McLeod and Michel Gratton).
His wife says the “private” man is the genuine Mulroney, not the image of prime minister which the public sees and registers. This real person is intelligent, thoughtful, humorous, kind and responsible. Some shading should be given to both concepts, i.e., of the lightning rod and the “real’ person.
There’ve been nine prime ministers since I got into politics in the mid-1930s. My register of their popular opprobrium goes like this: 1) R.B. Bennett; 2) Brian Mulroney; 3) Mackenzie King; 4) Pierre Trudeau; 5) John Diefenbaker; 6) Lester Pearson; 7) Joe Clark; 8) John Turner; 9) Louis St. Laurent.
Others have noted St. Laurent is the rarity – he was liked and respected more than he was disliked, even when he was defeated (narrowly!) by the Chief in 1957. True, but in C.D. Howe the St. Laurent government did have a lightning rod for animus and suspicion. I would slip Howe onto my list between fourth (Trudeau) and fifth (Diefenbaker) in what he engendered in rising malice, notably from 1953 to 1957. As one who ran against Howe in ’57 I came to know both how much he was hated across the country and the gap between the public’s villain and his private charm and courtesy.
In any perspective of these nine PMs, Mulroney may be put alongside King and Trudeau to ask why these unpopular prime ministers won re-elections, in particular, King in 1945, coming out of a war in which most service personnel despised him.
Trudeau was far from beloved when he came back, first in 1972 with a most precarious lead, then in 1974, and again in 1980 after a brief period in opposition. As for Mulroney, his nasty, critical image jelled during his first mandate yet he survived magnificently for another.
Arguably one explains 1988 through: a) a useful major issue; b) an uncherished chief rival; c) the fragmenting campaigns of opposition parties.
Some rationalize this way: Yes, King and Trudeau as PM were widely disliked but there was a lot of respect for them too, King simply for endurance and keeping Canada together through a successful war effort, Trudeau because he was seen as most intelligent and he radiated confidence in the kind of Canada he was pursuing.
A few concede a distinction which seems fair that, unlike Mulroney, neither King nor Trudeau as private persons, was of pleasant or admirable character.
Looking ahead, both our political habits and the system we have guarantee the prime minister as the national lightning rod, even if the next one or two should try erecting other rods through powerful ministers like C.D. Howe.
Their course is most difficult. The gap between the “seen” and the “real” Mulroney may be the best tip for the Jean Chretiens, Kim Campbells and Jean Charests. Make the private person with faults and contradictions be the public person.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 28, 1993
ID: 13001304
TAG: 199302280118
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It’s a fair guess that fewer than 1,000 citizens are sure they’ll be delegates at the PC leadership convention some 100 days ahead. Some 3,000 to 3,600 party members will vote. At the moment few will have made a choice.
The openness at this stage means a race to be won by TV performances before the public and by meeting party groups. Too few votes have gathered to prefigure the last ballot names with certainty (as it was at the last Liberal convention or the PC gathering which chose Brian Mulroney over Joe Clark), but I think the responses of the general public will be very influential. Such impressions will mostly be made through TV, and secondarily be shaped by reporters and commentators who fix on one or two candidates.
(Already such journalistic enthusiasm is running for Kim Campbell, a bit reminiscent of what carried Audrey McLaughlin into the last NDP convention with a lead.)
The Tories had a wide range of choices when Bob Stanfield won the leadership in ’67 and Clark in ’76. To be fair, each triumphed with good performances in the contest, notably at the conventions, but at the start of those races a lot of the first choices were set and those on the last two ballots began better organized than any of this year’s aspirants.
Also, this time both organizational excess and any marked distinctions in policy have limitations. Why? Because the significant candidates are all in the House. It’s imperative Parliament keep functioning well, in part to get vital legislation through – like NAFTA’s ratification – in part to keep a seamless front to persistent opposition attackers.
The Liberals know a barn-burner of a Tory race jeopardizes their certainty for office, and the NDP caucus is already desperate at the party’s drift to the rim of political attention.
My list in Thursday’s Sun with odds on potential candidates drew some scorn.
With the West and much of Ontario antsy over the domination in Ottawa by Quebecers how could I put Jean Charest at the top – a 34-year-old French Canadian from Quebec? What quirkiness, naming wild cards like Jim Edwards, the party whip, and Patrick Boyer, the Etobicoke polymath! And why discount so markedly the three likely luminaries from mighty Ontario – Perrin Beatty, Michael Wilson and Barbara McDougall?
Well, Edwards would make a good Alberta “native son” entry. He looks like a leader, is great on TV, smooth on a platform and canny in committee. Boyer is top notch on television. He’s argumentatively bent and reflects a belief the general good precedes partisanship; and he’s encyclopedically knowledgable, expert on more major issues than most of the cabinet. If they should enter, each will compare well with those certain to be there.
(The caucus has other mere MPs who are as smart or smarter in most aspects of politics than ministers like Wilson, Beatty and McDougall – I think of Jim Hawkes or Bud Bird or Ross Reid. Like the Liberal caucus, and even the NDP group, the government caucus has lots of individuals with talent.)
I made Charest the favorite at 3-1, and Kim Campbell second choice, because I’ve found more caucus members favor him and very few dismiss him.
Why so? First, I think it’s personality; he’s so shrewd, engaging, adroit, diplomatic, positive, energetic and organized. Second, Tories now think as Grits used to, and see Charest mopping up Jean Chretien’s Liberals and Lucien Bouchard’s Bloc Quebecois in Quebec.
Campbell, the media’s darling, has wonderful attributes. She is clever and tough and may have a big lead by convention time. But she’s chippy, cool and dogmatic, and in the caucus she’s won much respect but little cherishing.
Against stiffish, rather colorless rivals like Beatty and Wilson she’ll romp; against the vivacity, charm, and smartness which Charest or even Bernie Valcourt can project, she may not.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, February 26, 1993
ID: 13000985
TAG: 199302250179
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Given their interweaving over 35 years in the Tory party one sees why much has been made of the Joe Clark-Brian Mulroney rivalry in the commentaries on their departures.
An old acquaintance was an aide to a minister in the Diefenbaker government. In the mid-’70s he told me of hiring a student for work in his minister’s office for the summer of ’58. Many names were put forward, he checked and interviewed, bringing the choice to either Joe Clark or Brian Mulroney.
Why did he choose Mulroney? His decision swung on two hunches. Mulroney had “more charm and smarts;” or as he elaborated, more interest in people and more political craftiness.
Both personal charm and craftiness can be dangerous. When widely recognized they become suspect, seen as a glaze over deceit and insincerity. This helps explain why most comparative appraisals have favored Joe Clark.
One veteran writer, Geoffrey Stevens, went so far as to say Clark was the most invaluable minister Mulroney had.
Once cannot argue Clark served Mulroney poorly. On the other hand, what choice did he have? He needed to rescue something of his reputation after a string of disastrous misjudgments.
One might say these began when he became prime minister in 1979 and insisted he would govern as if he had a majority, and they climaxed with his decision to accept a leadership race in 1983 even though he’d carried a confidence vote in convention. The margin was smaller than he felt he needed, but this was because of obvious skullduggery in delegate-packing by the tribunes of Brian Mulroney.
If Clark needed ministerial office in 1984 and got the prime one of External Affairs from Mulroney, did the latter have to have Clark? No!
Could Mulroney have created a united caucus without Clark in the cabinet and in a top post? Yes, although having him in the tent helped.
Clark was taken in because Mulroney has boundless confidence in his own leadership. He could have done without Clark, or given him something busy but lower-profile like Transport. Remember Clark was far from a hero to most of his 210 colleagues of the 1984 caucus.
As for Clark having been the indispensable minister for Mulroney, this is foolishness. Mulroney is crafty. On taking power he knew two MPs were indispensable – Erik Nielsen and Don Mazankowski. In the short run, Nielsen was crucial, first for his image as incorruptible in loyalty to leader (any leader!) and party, second because he’d led the caucus in the bridge time to the leadership convention and handled the House in Mulroney’s brief time in opposition.
Nielsen was a tough as a parliamentarian but he had neither disciples nor pals in the caucus, Mazankowski did. For years he’d been the Dutch uncle, the favorite, first counsellor to his colleagues.
Nielsen was to endanger re-election prospects in the first mandate because he was inflexible in managing the House and without any compensating camaraderie. A string of ministerial scandals, real and imaginary, blew up. These were exacerbated by the most ineffective Speaker in modern memory, John Bosley.
In effect, Nielsen, and through him Mulroney, was buffaloed. The two fumbled away broad popularity and ambitions for for better political behavior. They mishandled both the nasty antics of the Rat Pack and the New Democrats’ desperate response to such Liberal recklessness with every possible device to slow legislation to a crawl.
It was Mazankowski, not Nielsen or Clark, who kept the caucus and the ministry together, particularly as the Western Tories writhed at House embarrassments and the evident stupidity and gross patronage of Quebec colleagues.
Mazankowski was Mulroney’s MacEachen, and even more useful than that wily one was to Trudeau. Why so? Because he’s always at hand, door open, or taking and making calls. He was and is genuinely the No. 2 in the government, not Joe Clark.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Thursday, February 25, 1993
ID: 13000812
TAG: 199302240120
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Mulroney gone!
Well, soon to be gone, gone by July.
Most of us, even the unpolitical, react personally to the prime ministers of our time; and most of the time our personal reactions are negative. That’s being Canadian, and it means there’ll be a widespread welcome to yesterday’s big story in thousands of households.
Off the top of my head I felt an odd regret – at losing a good neighbor. Then a deeper regret that he will not be going to the people, giving the voters a third chance to reject or approve him.
Our cottage at Meech Lake is just a hundred yards from the Harrington Lake gate to the summer home of prime ministers. We often saw him passing; Mila and Mark even more; always a wave and a smile, sometimes a chat.
I first met the PM in 1958 when he was 18. I and three other MPs were guests of university students and he was their main host. He had great grace in making us at home and at ease. Over the years since I’ve often been rough and sometimes nasty about him in print.
Despite these downers about him as politician I’ve liked him, appreciating his good nature, sense of fun and lack of side; and to my knowledge he never took umbrage, directly or otherwise, at my critiques.
A few times during his prime ministership I harangued him at length, one-on-one, for example, over matters on which we agreed (such as silviculture and Trudeau’s anti-nationalism) or on subjects on which we disagreed (such as multiculturalism, immigration and Indians). He was always good-natured.
But let me depart from personal reminiscence. The one-two retirement plans of Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney emphasizes how harsh political life is and the fleeting nature of its fame and failures.
On Tuesday afternoon habitues of Parliament Hill like me were muddling over a topical question: Could Brian Mulroney pull it off, given Jean Chretien’s long fall from public grace?
By Wednesday noon we were making a list with odds, and figuring which of those on the list – Jean Charest, Kim Campbell, Perrin Beatty, Michael Wilson or Jim Edwards – would have the best chance to win the country in September or October.
To put this another way, despite all the reverence from Tories and faint praise from others which roll forth about Mulroney (as about Clark last week) he was almost an anti-climax before he spoke to the noon news conference with such plausibility, for example, on leaving a successor a prime legacy of office, not opposition.
As a viewer of the morning TV’s coverage I went from wondering why he was quitting and the reasons he would give to figuring who would/should replace him.
The difference between would and should is something most of us understand. Sport fans are at this all the time. So often the teams that should win, lose. In politics, the one who may be the best of leadership aspirants in talent and integrity may not win.
For example, in June, 1983 I myself thought Clark both should and would carry the PC leadership convention over John Crosbie, Brian Mulroney (whom I rated third in both chances and capacities), Michael Wilson, David Crombie and Peter Pocklington.
After Mulroney’s victory I wrote that the odds on his becoming PM were poor and used these mean words to describe him: “cunning; shallow; untrustworthy; over-ambitious.”
My prognosis was furthest off, in a forecast he would have no more success than Clark and Bob Stanfield in uniting a fractious caucus, torn with differences in ideology and bitter memories of rivalries in the Diefenbaker era.
As it turned out this latter judgment was one of my worst. The most outstanding achievement of Mulroney as party leader was not so much winning two majority victories in a row but doing it because he was able to knit together a discordant gang and keep them loyal to his leadership through nine difficult years.
In modern, political history only Mackenzie King did better than Mulroney with caucus loyalties, and only Lester Pearson came close. Around the Hill one can find Grits and New Democrats who detest Mulroney as a person and for his work as PM, but you would have a hard time finding one who wouldn’t recognize his great talent in making and keeping loyalties.
Certainly, neither Jean Chretien nor Audrey McLaughlin in their fairly short time as leaders have come close to what Mulroney wrought quickly and then sustained.
How does a leader in a democracy establish this core or base for power? Remember that Mulroney never pretended to have any of the intellectual edge of a Pierre Trudeau in politics or the charisma of a John Diefenbaker. The answer is simple enough: Attentiveness, courtesy, kindnesses, personal recognition, giving trust and accepting it, and, above all, being aware. Aware of everything about caucus and party – matters from birthdays to wedding anniversaries, children’s names, family sicknesses, spousal ambitions, hobbies and fetishes, and in particular, noses out of joint or noses which may be getting out of joint.
One might put it this way: Mulroney has so much self-confidence and ego (sustained by his wife) that he can give a great deal of himself to the small things as well as the larger possibilities in a restless, often seething, group of politicians and their families and staffs.
And so Mulroney unleashes a leadership contest during which his grip on caucus should ensure a fair, exciting race with several excellent contenders but no shoo-in. As he somewhat boasted in his news conference, he bequeaths power, a full party treasury, an economy somewhat recovering, and a main opposition without the time to replace a dubious leader.
Three times yesterday I heard the words “a mess” from TV “streeters” in which the person stopped was asked what he or she thought Mulroney was leaving Canada.
The reality is not so simple. While one could even find Tory MPs who would agree Canada is burdened with unemployment, heavy debts and a basic disunity, neither political journalists nor most opposition politicians put most of the blame for the mess on Mulroney. They know most of us have had a hand in creating it, in large part by wanting governments to do so much.
The PM is not admitting as he prepares to go that he failed ignominiously to bridge the constitutional crevice between Quebec and the rest of Canada. He bridged it twice with an accepted plan, but the first foundered in Newfoundland and Manitoba, and too few voters found the second one palatable.
He did try very hard. He almost made it, and when you reappraise the Charlottetown Accord it is remarkable he had all the provincial governments and the two main opposition parties on line. When it was rejected a lot of high-level politicians were rebuffed, not just Mulroney. Also, recall the rancor Trudeau left behind in the provincial capitals when he quit. Mulroney said he’d seek to reinstate cordiality, and in this realm he did.
My scunner on Mulroney’s leadership in power is that he gave up liberalism of our capital L, soft-centre sort too late. In the past two years he seems to have become a fiscal and monetary conservative but for too long in social and cultural affairs he was liberally-minded, not conservatively-minded. In office, he took up frugality far too late.
The cabinet was (and is) grossly oversized; the senior mandarinate is still grossly overpaid. The House is a stagey farce too much of the time, and he did as little as Trudeau to improve it, in part by putting some time in there.
Mulroney’s concern over big deficits and gross overspending was very latter-day. In effect, he backed away from such concerns in his first year in office when he failed to sustain his own budget policy of de-indexing. He came slowly to the divestiture of commercial Crown corporations.
He never set a good example in either minding dollars or in raising the integrity of our politics by wiping out the coarseness in patronage and the influence-peddling in most lobbying.
There will be quarrels for decades over Mulroney’s most radical achievements – the free trade agreement with the U.S., and the GST. As one who approved the first and detested the second, the most I hazard is that he proved himself both bold and brave in taking up each project and driving them through.
There should be some retribution soon for Mulroney on both, assuming the Liberals gain power, because they’ll have terrible difficulties renegotiating the one and replacing the other.
Yesterday Mulroney revealed he had hoped to retire in 1990 with the Meech accord in effect. Its failure, Oka troubles, and the recession blocked him.
I believe he did have this hope, in large part because of a conversation we had in 1989. He told me that from the beginning of his leadership he was out to ensure there would be excellent leadership candidates at hand when he left. Then he thumbnailed his list at that time of good prospects.
Beyond relative veterans like Mike Wilson and Perrin Beatty he mentioned Jean Charest, Bernie Valcourt, Barbara McDougall and Kim Campbell. Now we shall see if he was a talent scout like Pearson or a talent-douser like Trudeau. His succession takes me to a concluding conspectus, similar I’m sure to one the PM himself will be making.
The possible candidates, all MPs, and the odds on them.

Jean Charest …….. 3-1
Kim Campbell …….. 4-1
Perrin Beatty …… 10-1
Bernard Valcourt … 10-1
Jim Edwards …….. 12-1
Joe Clark ………. 12-1
Mike Wilson …….. 15-1
Barbara McDougall .. 20-1
Patrick Boyer …… 30-1

The caucus favorite, and probably Mulroney’s, is Charest.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 24, 1993
ID: 13000780
TAG: 199302240052
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Recall how you’ve read or heard commentators contrast our obsession with the politics of personalities with our scant concern for issues and policies. Well, into a frenzy of praise and putdown triggered by Joe Clark’s heralded retirement the federal New Democrats released a fresh economic program for the election and beyond – to little notice.
The program is fairly precise, ingenious and somewhat ingenuous. The 16,000 or so words are easy to read. The purposes expressed put the party in the open with items on what would be done and undone by an NDP government.
The undoings begin with firm commitments to eliminate the GST by stages over five years, cancel the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and forget its extension to Mexico (NAFTA.)
The program is more positive than negative. The components and attendant arguments stick close to the title, Strategy for a Full-Employment Economy. There’s little on cherished staples like peace, the abuse of women and children, and more generosity to homosexuals, refugees, artists, etc.
The presentation, handled by the leader, Audrey McLaughlin, wasn’t in the top three items on any telecast I saw. On a scale of one to 10 in print space given, it got one to Clark’s 10. The most notice the program got in the political forum was from Tories like Mulroney and Mazankowski who extolled it as an honest contrast to the deceits floated by the Chretien Liberals.
The program’s aim is to get 500,000 or more Canadians into real jobs over the term of the next Parliament without increasing federal deficits. It would swing the economy toward more technology and research and a far better trained workforce, and resurrect our resource sectors through a stronger emphasis on environmental rescues and fuller processing here.
The three main endeavors for job creation have had both advocates and some legislative attention over my decades in Ottawa but rarely with such projected scope.
First comes “the national infrastructure program.” In concert with the provinces and the cities, it would put in $4.5 billion a year for five years to create or refurbish and extend worn or incomplete facilities – sewage treatment plants, highways, bridges, ports, long-distance and commuter railways, a national electronic data system, etc.
Second, “the national child-care program,” again in concert with the provinces and cities, would create some 300,000 more places for children, almost wholly in public day-care facilities, and give jobs at fair wages to over 70,000 more workers.
Third, “the national investment fund could put some 200,000 people back to work” by aiding the start-up and development of companies, co-operatives and community development corporations. The fund and private investors, unions, etc. would take up equity shares in the enterprises. The first investment would be a $2 billion federal contribution, abetted later by dividends. There would be “a national investment strategy” and the experience and personnel of the present Federal Development Bank and Investment Canada would be detailed to develop and explain it.
The NDP would provide far more money for outfits like the National Research Council and the recruitment of candidates and project funds for science and engineering faculties of universities. There would be the carrot-and-stick of a refundable 2% payroll tax on companies with more than 10 employees to sustain training and skill-upgrading of employees. And naturally, given the NDP’s union ties, there are many provisions for union nominees to be a part of planning councils, plus policies to foster more unionization.
Such a mighty program has high costs. Does it deal with them? Does it touch on the huge debt burden of all our governments, much of it in foreign hands? Where’s the money for these new efforts to come from, particularly given the abolition by stages of the GST, the calculated readiness to be tough with the Americans about problems they create for our imports, and the determination to extend, not limit, the principle of supply management in agriculture, whatever counters this system raises in other countries?
The NDP argues higher revenues to carry their program will come from getting hundreds of thousands back to work, a more aggressive trade policy, a monetary policy that curbs interest rates, and “a fair, progressive tax system” that gets at the wealth of high-income Canadians and the big corporations.
It’s easy to be cynical (as I am) about the practicalities of the NDP’s economic program but it’s in line with both the nationalistic belief of the Canadian left that Ottawa should command the economy and a deep distrust of those who extol the free market economy. The program merits more attention than it’s had.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 21, 1993
ID: 13000430
TAG: 199302210169
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


For weeks I have put off a full review of a fine, new history of the Canadian National by Donald MacKay (Douglas & McIntyre).
Why so? Mostly because it hurts for one from a railroad family and a good railway town to follow MacKay’s clear account of the rise, apogee, and decline of our first great Crown corporation and the fading away of a nationwide work and travel culture.
Forty years ago when my father retired from running an engine on the CNR the company had 132,000 employees.
Today it has around 35,000 (and even more on pension). Its newish chief executive, Paul Tellier, an ex-mandarin from Ottawa, says the payroll numbers must go to the 25,000 range if the railway is to free itself of large, annual deficits.
A fortnight ago the CPR announced plans to get back in the black which included less track, co-ordinated use of more track miles with the CNR, pursuit of lower taxes on fuels, and fewer employees – it has less than the CNR.
In crude figures, there are some 16,000 fewer Canadians working for the CNR and the CPR than in the heyday years during and just after World War II.
As MP for Port Arthur from 1957 to 1965 I had more miles of railway in that huge riding than in any other, and willy-nilly, railway issues were my prime concern and time-consumer.
This despite another riding feature – more native people than any other riding below the Territories.
On the Hill itself railroading got more question period attention than either air transport (Air Canada) or broadcasting (CBC).
By the mid-’70s these passed railroading, which slid away towards nostalgia, allowed to ditch passenger service and trying hard through purchase and ownership to get some of the trucking action which was forcing them towards mostly long-haul, bulk-product carrying and out of express and package freight.
Today, the once famed “railway committee room” under the Peace Tower has a working history of over a hundred years but it was hard to imagine last year during constitutional hearings with cameras and many witnesses that when the CN’s Donald Gordon came for his annual hassle with MPs the great room would be jammed and the press reports would run to 40 or more column inches a day.
MacKay calls back that attentiveness and the national concerns it reflected.
The two most extravagant, fascinating persons in MacKay’s story of the CN’s first 70 years are Sir Henry Thornton, its chief from 1922 to 1932 and Donald Gordon from 1950 to 1966.
In our home Sir Henry was equivalent to a saint. For my father, uncles, and their cousins who came to the CN from its bankrupt antecedents, the Canadian Northern, the Intercontinental, and the Grand Trunk, Thornton was the genius who put the disparate parts together and gave the employees pride and goals.
He also held off the call from Montreal and Toronto financial interests for amalgamation of the CN and the CP. The first slogan I ever learned was the war cry in the Depression that the CN unions took to Ottawa: “Co-operation ever; amalgamation never!”
Donald Gordon and I had many run-ins over CN policies which responded to technological change and its effect on jobs, number of employees, and towns whose well-being rested on the railroad. MacKay sketches some of these encounters.
I tried hard and almost succeeded in getting the Diefenbaker government to fire Gordon in the early ’60s. This was before he became the prime villain in Quebec for asserting he promoted only for talent and would not have an executive merely because he was a French Canadian.
My own hindsight and MacKay’s balanced appraisal of Gordon’s positive achievements tells me I overdid it when I portrayed him as a good banker but a disastrous railroader. On the other hand, he was not ahead of his time.
A fair question after reading MacKay arises from his recurring evidence of crass ministerial interference and ignorance, including patronage pressures, on the CNR. How grave a curse was government ownership? Serious, but not grave unto ruinous.
Does this history demonstrate the truer course and greater efficiency of purely private corporations of great scale? Not really, given both the social duties and the inordinate, inherited debt load which Parliament kept on the CN, almost to the 1980s.
MacKay closes, wondering where the CN will be 70 years hence:
“While it is possible an entirely new technology will appear in the 21st century, it is equally likely that a national railway authority will have replaced both CN and the CPR to haul the bulk freight that has always been, since automobiles stole the passengers, the raison d’etre of railways in this country.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, February 19, 1993
ID: 13000062
TAG: 199302180097
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The title is arresting: Why Jean Chretien will never be PM. So is the article which follows. The harsh, some think savage, portrayal of Jean Chretien as the prime minister in waiting by Peter Newman in the latest Maclean’s has some Liberals pointing to the author as friend to Brian Mulroney. Witness his continuing project as quasi-official biographer of the Mulroney years.
My impression is that Newman makes a good case, not really that Chretien cannot make it to the PMO but that he doesn’t deserve to, and if he does, it will be bleak for the country.
Newman at 63 years is five years older than Chretien and he’s been writing on politics since the early 1950s, some dozen years before Chretien won a seat in the House in 1963. His first best-seller, Flame of Power (1959), focused on the dual topic of power and leadership, an intertwining to which he has come back again and again ever since.
Newman has always been an inveterate talent scout, always alert both to any prospect of a political messiah and to the failings of those who do attain power and botch it. As examples, anyone reading his first masterwork on Diefenbaker (Renegade in Power, 1963) or digesting the harsh indictment of Pierre Trudeau’s leadership in the current Maclean’s piece, might not believe that he heralded each of these famous tribunes with trumpeting fanfare as they began their sweeps to power.
To argue that Newman’s opinion of Chretien is jaundiced by his engagement to write of Mulroney’s times suggests that he’s partisan to the present prime minister and even to his party. This is not the Newman I’ve known and read for 40 years. He believes, as he says in the article, that Mulroney, hate him or not, is a real leader. But much of what Mulroney has championed as prime minister does not comport with Newman’s nationalism. Note where his heart is from this quote from his article:
“What the Liberal party needs is a young Walter Gordon, a revolutionary proponent of change and reform, not afraid to stub his toes on genuinely fresh ideas.”
Surely, that’s neither pro-Mulroney nor anti-Liberal stuff.
Most people may not know or have forgotten how long and hard Newman fought to keep Maclean’s and other Canadian magazines from being swamped by American magazines (e.g., Time, Reader’s Digest) or his devotion, much like Pierre Berton’s, to Canadianism and popularizing what is not a dull history or a society short on creative and positive personalities.
What Newman finds daunting about Chretien as the next prime minister also flummoxes me. His nigh 30 years in electoral politics rarely seems to show in either attractive ideas on what must be done with power or in any accretion of sagacity in commentary which would explain himself or his party or Canadians to Canadians. Chretien is rapid, busy, loquacious, confident and, as I figure him, empty beyond what’s fed him, notably by his long-time handler, Eddie Goldenberg. Newman’s phrase is apt: “The fabric of Chretien’s political commitment is like a veil, translucent but not transparent . . . ”
In part, I thought of Goldenberg at Newman’s concluding paragraph which begins “Unless Chretien can find someone . . .” in his own ranks, and ends “will never become prime minister of Canada.” I think we will get Chretien as prime minister and in effect, have Goldenberg as the brain at the centre of the next federal government. More by indirect routes, not through any face-to-face contact, I think Goldenberg is far from a Marc Lalonde, a Tom Kent or a Jack Pickersgill. And often as I have written that the current Liberal caucus has much fine talent, I don’t see a young Walter Gordon or even a middle-aged Paul Martin, Sr. in it.
Now, still apropos, I offer a few sentences from Larry Glassford’s recent book, Reaction & Reform, about the Conservative party under R.B. Bennett from 1927 to 1938.
At least in my memory Bennett as a prime minister coming to the well-delayed election of 1935 was more detested by Canadians across the country than Brian Mulroney is now or Diefenbaker or Trudeau ever were. And Bennett was swept away in a landslide by the Liberals. The scope of the win was a surprise. Why? The explanation suggests parallels for this year – three veteran parties, and three new to newish ones.
Here’s Glassford: “In hindsight a Liberal cakewalk, the 1935 election was, for contemporaries, fraught with uncertainties. No one knew how the vote would break in an election where most ridings had four candidates or more. The most common prediction was for a minority government, probably but not necessarily headed by the Liberal leader, Mackenzie King.”
It was 22 years later when the Conservative party got in office again.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 17, 1993
ID: 12999904
TAG: 199302170003
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


For two years Premier Bob Rae has been rambling towards economic and social positions unlike those his party held when it won office in Ontario. Rae has so changed his positions that Tom Walkom, a left-wing columnist of the Toronto Star, has warned readers that Rae has become one of those he used to warn us about.
Walkom says Rae has changed from a social democrat with some doubts to an advocate of what Americans call neo-liberalism. Walkom argues that the Rae record is dragging the NDP into ideology its members “never dreamed of entering.”
The federal NDP will have difficulty credibly presenting itself as a left-of-centre alternative and other NDP leaders, from Audrey McLaughlin in Parliament to the premiers of Saskatchewan and B.C., have “little choice except to follow Rae on his voyage towards neo-liberalism.”
Late in 1991 Robert Fulford, now a Star columnist but not a devout left-winger, mocked the “incoherence” of the Rae government. He noted (I think astutely): “NDP principles haven’t been able to withstand even one year of bad economic times and media hostility. Perhaps that’s because the principles were never articulated or understood in the first place; perhaps they weren’t principles at all, just vague feelings of goodwill on the one hand and hostility on the other.”
Let me sketch a record which shows the NDP and its predecessor, the CCF, have always had doubts and arguments within over “principles” and direction.
A tussle in the party between radicals and mere reformers began literally with the issuance of the Regina Manifesto in 1933. There were socialist purists versus social democratic pragmatists. The most recent example with a high level of intellectualism occurred in 1984. It pitted professors Mel Watkins and Jim Laxer against each other.
A decade before, the two had been colleague creators of the radical Waffle movement within the bosom of the NDP. Their successful agitations led David Lewis and son Stephen, backed by many union leaders, to outlaw the Wafflers.
Watkins remained more the socialist purist (and still is, judging from his new book Madness and Ruin: Politics and the Economy in the Neoconservative Age) but Laxer began to ramble, somewhat as Rae has recently. In a stint in the early ’80s as research director for Ed Broadbent and his caucus, Laxer wrote a book accusing the NDP of living in the past, notably on Keynesian economics. Although Broadbent took part with Watkins in the rebuttals to Laxer, at first he had seemed to agree new economic proposals were needed to meet a rapidly changing global economy.
Since 1984, in articles and books Laxer has gone on theorizing, working up the need for a party of “the centre-left.” Note how closely this suggestion in a Laxer article fits with what Rae’s been saying. “In the longer term, the centre-left must strive to promote the creation of a new economic culture, one in which government, business and labor work together to target areas for Canadian success in the global economy.”
Internally, every Canadian party and caucus has tended to have some internal contests between those relatively to the right or left, even the Reform party. My point today is that the economic program of the CCF-NDP has never been monolithic and set in cement.
CCF conventions from 1935 to 1960 when the NDP was being shaped for launch were usually enlivened by jousts between those who rallied with Colin Cameron, a certain socialist, and a larger, more moderate band behind David Lewis. And NDP conventions featured the same rivalry until the ’70s when the Waffle took over from the Cameronites.
Old CCFers will recall a decade of debate within the party from the end of World War II to 1956 when the Winnipeg Declaration replaced the Regina Manifesto as the doctrinal core with overt Marxist language and the concept of class warfare excised. The declaration ended the CCF as a movement to eradicate capitalism in favor of a party advocating Keynesian management of the economy and the completion of the welfare state.
What Rae has been doing, openly and by himself, has antecedents but usually such edging to the centre within a third party out of office got little public attention. But Ontario is our economic heartland. Rae’s ad hoc responses to recession, deficits and debt burden might help him survive in 1994 but this is 1993, a federal election year.
McLaughlin is pressing an economic program largely bypassed by Rae’s ideas like tripartite co-operation and limiting health and welfare entitlements. The contrasts drawn by partisan Grits and Tories will be grievous.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 14, 1993
ID: 12999583
TAG: 199302140173
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Most conspiracy theories within politics are nutty. Certainly that’s the word for the one bruited in Toronto’s print media of a scheme to destroy the CBC, masterminded by Brian Mulroney and his appointees who head the Crown corporation, Gerard Veilleux and Patrick Watson. The disaster of the 9 p.m. Prime Time News is given as prime evidence.
It’s easy enough to figure this federal government (and likely the next one) would relish escaping from the annual billion or so from the treasury which sustains the CBC. Further, anyone vetting public reactions is aware how little outcry there was when Brian Mulroney privatized Air Canada and PetroCan, Crown agencies once much cherished as symbols of Canadianism and needed instruments of national policies.
I would add five further perceptions affecting the CBC which even dull MPs and journalists might reach:
1) The long-proclaimed role of the CBC as essential bonding between “the two founding peoples” has been made silly by constitutional events and the scant interchange in content and personnel between Radio-Canada and the English side of the CBC.
2) The relative diminution in “shares” won by CBC programming has many reasons – in particular many more alternatives, specialty channels, videotapes, etc.
3) The imminence of even more techniques from the skies or through discs which will buffet network TV.
4) An intangible but significant fading in viewers’ fondness for the CBC’s on-air personnel and long-cherished programs.
5) The cheerless dominance of adversarial and advocacy-bent producers, reporters, and anchors on CBC who paint politicians as negligent and callous through a daily litany of harrowing tales and demands that social engineering by governments correct rampant wrong-doing in Canada – racism, the abuse of children, women, the aged, aboriginal peoples, visible minorities, homosexuals, immigrants, refugees, etc.
Such an array makes one wonder why there haven’t been open calls from many people and organizations to privatize the CBC or reduce it either to a distribution system or a production agency, a kind of NFB-Plus. Have you heard such calls? Not I.
Our governments at all three levels are hamstrung by massive debt charges, and one would think some politicians or parties, even the Tories, would wonder openly why taxpayers sustain what is now by far the grandest operation in news-gathering and opinion-making in the country, far larger in reporting and editorializing resources than our two largest newspaper chains. But not even Preston Manning so wonders.
No matter how long one is around and close to politicians one shouldn’t be absolute and declare some scheme or design has not been hatched. On the other hand, if the odd trio of Mulroney-Veilleux-Watson had a design set and unfolding to trash the CBC I swear it would have been out by now – either leaked or put as a trial balloon by a Mulroney minion. When I probe Tories about this conspiracy I just get occasional wistfulness. Not even the NDP MPs accept such a conspiracy.
Mulroney has pre-electoral problems enough without entering such a dicey endeavor. Imagine the fear and anger such a scheme would raise among his Montreal and Metro ministers and MPs. Aside from the odd one such as Don Blenkarn and Felix Holtmann, Tory MPs still creep quietly on cultural issues. Last year when the Valor and the Horror controversy exploded Perrin Beatty muffled the pro-veteran voices in the caucus. Why? Too dangerous to take on the cultural gang in the CBC and those supported by it in some way.
Before Prime Time began I predicted it would be a disaster – bad time, confusing format, no demand, and the overweening rectitude of its producers. Cool, incompatible, and patronizing anchors have compounded what was most unpromising. But stupidity is not conspiracy.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, February 12, 1993
ID: 12999239
TAG: 199302110158
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


For two decades a dark cloud has been deepening over all of us. Debt, debt, debt! Most of us, in particular those who govern, have become aware of it but as yet we have little agreement on how to reduce it. A few quotes from recent reports show how grave the debt has become.
The auditor-general has said: “Information on the country’s financial position is too important to be left only to technical experts. Now that the federal debt amounts to more than $400 billion, and annual interest costs more than $40 billion, we need to understand much better the implications of debt and deficit and related policy choices such as the role of government in society.”
On Feb. 1 StatsCan’s annual report on the finances of provincial and territorial governments showed that the gross debt of such governments reached $210 billion in 1991, an increase of 8.5% over the previous year.
Let us take a modest estimate of a total municipal government debt load of $50 billion. We wear three hats as taxpayers. Why not lump the three debts? As we head through 1993 the sum is at least $650 billion.
The latest data from a Department of Finance quarterly project the deficit for the year ending in March at $35 billion, some $5 billion above the budget forecast. This miss, blamed on the recession, makes it doubtful the deficit for 1993-94 will be close to the budget projection of $27 billion.
Continuing deficits guarantee larger debt. So obvious.
In January, Burns Fry Ltd., an investment firm which places many bond issues, reported that Canada recently became the world’s No. 1 debtor, with external governmental debt as distinct from governmental debt owed to Canadians now over the $300 billion mark.
And our governments need to borrow almost $60 billion more this coming year, most of which will come from abroad. This means that even more of the interest our governments are paying flows out of the country and is likely to produce even more drops in the foreign currency ratings of our governments.
A few months ago a bulky joint federal-provincial report titled “Federal-provincial study on the cost of government and expenditure management” came out. It’s complex and jargon-ridden but it sets out (a) the evolution and structure of government spending, (b) the pressures or “drivers” of more expensive programs and new ones, (c) the current and possible spending controls, and (d) comparisons with the drivers and cost-containment experiences of foreign countries.
One heavy paragraph in the report gets at the choice which frightens politicians and should deepen our gloom:
“People are increasingly concerned about the overall level of high taxation and the links between spending and taxation. Despite a significant slowdown in trend economic growth, governments have been under constant pressure in the last two decades to provide more services. This was due to a certain degree of fiscal illusion with respect to the consequences of growing spending. Experience has now shown that large and growing fiscal imbalances have tangible impact on debt burdens and taxation.”
Do they ever. The choices for governments are: Raise more revenue through taxes and/or reduce program spending and abolish some programs.
Gilles Paquet, a veteran professor of economics at Carleton, who has always impressed me as sound and positive, not a perennial crepe-hanger, has put the choices for Canadians in another way: “There are only three solutions: (1) increase dramatically our productivity; (2) reduce dramatically our standard of living; (3) develop a mix of both (1) and (2).”
Paquet goes on: “As the federal debt drifts toward the $500 billion level, nothing less than a dramatic full-decade fast (i.e., doing without) can ever enable Canada to recover from the present debt crisis. This would amount to a crusade to extract some $50 billion each year (or close to 40% of federal tax receipts) and allocate it to the debt reduction job.”
The professor believes: “Such a crusade is politically unthinkable at this time. So it will have to be imposed from outside the country because we have had neither the capacity to face reality nor the courage to take action on our own.”
No solutions from within us? Well, perhaps. Some premiers at a recent economic conference in Switzerland agreed with Bob Rae’s avowal there that they would commit to specific reduction targets if the federal government works with them.
“A new national deal is just waiting to be pulled together,” said Rae.
We’re waiting.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 10, 1993
ID: 12999002
TAG: 199302090154
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Aside from the familiar personality and busy, busy antics which Jean Chretien would bring to the Prime Minister’s Office what may we foresee on the nature of a Chretien government? The answer is a lot, none of it surprising.
Journalists and interest group leaders assume from opinion polls that a Liberal government headed by Chretien is only nine months away. This has sparked demands for the Liberals’ policy plans. Chretien has begun sketching some intentions but even rivals can understand his caution and vagueness.
Two prime examples of his problem are his assurances a Liberal government would end the goods and services tax (GST) in favor of some less maddening tax and would notify the U.S. the free trade agreement (FTA) must be renegotiated. Both undertakings need so much elaboration, certainly before the election. For a year a policy group under Paul Martin, Jr. and Chaviva Hosek has been working up a thorough program for the Liberals to take into the election campaign and on into office. Such work unfolded will give us the next government’s priorities but be sure these will be related to and openly cautioned by the inescapable and dour limits defined by an annual debt burden which is nearing 40% of all federal spending.
Most Liberal MPs of my acquaintance know their government will be very circumscribed by the debt burden and that the reactions which Canadians will have to it will swing on their leader, then on the style of his cabinet and the behavior of the ministers and the Liberal caucus within the next Parliament.
Most of these MPs have worries about their leader, over his unpopularity in Quebec and the fade-away of the cherishing he once evoked beyond it. However, there will be neither open carping about their leader nor undercover undercutting of him before the election or in the first year or so in office. Once a Liberal government is postulated one wonders what it will be like. Will it be in great contrast to the Tory government of the past nine years or the last Liberal government?
First, once mere differences in the cast are taken into account we will not have a radically different government in policy orientation. It won’t turn leftwards far, forsaking a neo-conservatism in the Mulroney government that has been more imaginary than real. It won’t pursue beyond rhetoric the anti-American heritage which the late Walter Gordon and the Toronto Star implanted in the party. Most measures of an activist government require much money. Ottawa is strapped and shall be for years. Further, Chretien himself is no social democrat nor are those few intimates who handle him.
Chretien’s present caucus is both sizable and well-experienced, the core of the next caucus. I read its bent from both House speeches and the array of members’ motions and public bills its MPs have put on the House agenda. On a left-to-right spectrum the Grit caucus is very central. Its MPs have filed far fewer motions and bills than the less numerous and far more interventionist New Democrats. What has been put forward, believe me, is no rich mine of propositions for a radical, active government. When the Liberals scan the long-dreary point totals of the NDP they know Canadians have been rejecting more than Audrey McLaughlin.
Chretien will get a fair fraction of his cabinet from nine ex-ministers now MPs who seem certain to win re-election – Lloyd Axworthy, Herb Gray, Ralph Ferguson, John Caccia, Roy McLaren, Warren Allmand, Andre Ouellet, Bill Rompkey, and Roger Simmons. For the few radically minded ex-ministers like Lloyd Axworthy and Warren Allmand there are counters in business-oriented ones like Roy McLaren and Andre Ouellet.
At least 10 of another dozen other incumbent MPs who seem to have safe seats are also likely to be ministers. Why? Because of current caucus posts held or stature gained as partisan performers or through riding location or particular expertise or gender and ethnic representation.
To list them is to de-emphasize the prospect of radicalism in the next cabinet – Sheila Copps, Paul Martin, David Dingwall, Brian Tobin, Don Boudria, Doug Young, Sergio Marchi, Peter Milliken, David Kilgour, Mary Clancy, Diane Marleau, and David Walker. And it seems some significant ministries must go to three MPs to come: Doug Peters, the loquacious bank economist; leader-picked Art Eggleton, an ex-mayor of Toronto, and Gen. Lew MacKenzie, the blunt peacekeeper.
What will a fresh government be like that has much experience in power to draw on, is very short of money, and is without radical ideology?
It shall free us from the Mulroney demon, erect a new lightening rod for our discontent in Chretien, change ministerial faces and voices (notably for TV), fuss a lot about low-cost social and cultural matters, and mark time on major economic issues.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 07, 1993
ID: 12998693
TAG: 199302070149
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Would it not be constructive if we took a longer range view of the difficulties in native affairs faced by the federal and provincial governments?
Such a pompous question came to me as, once again, our heartstrings were plucked by grievous tales on TV of Indian children harming themselves, this time (as often before) at the Innu settlement on Davis Inlet in Newfoundland.
A humane person has to be moved by the hurt of such children. Many want to know how it could happen, and what Ottawa is doing about it.
A capsule on CBC-TV showed the frustrations. A sardonic Peter Mansbridge belabored the decent, rather inarticulate minister for Indian Affairs, Tom Siddon, about the Innu kids.
My reading is that neither the federal government and the political parties nor the native leaders have any coherent plans which will put native people up to scratch with the hopes and living standards of most other Canadians.
The core dilemmas are not being solved by massive spending. Money has ameliorated many situations but not dealt with the gut issues of isolation and separation.
The spending has soared far faster than any other governmental commitments. It has cut down mortality. Natives have a far higher birth rate than the norm and are far more numerous than when Cartier came. A growing proportion are getting into high school and university.
An awareness of politics has flowered among native leaders; so has a growing adroitness in public affairs. Hardly a news day passes without stories of their grievances and demands. The Indian Act is reviled. Racism charges fly and embarrass us.
It’s obvious that a sense of guilt regarding natives pervades the psyche of most non-native Canadians. The guilt supports the spending sprees and remedial programs such as the recent, massive recapture of Indian status and the willingness to give constitutional recognition and generous land settlements.
What’s lacking, as I see it, is enough realism about what is possible. Answer the question: Have natives the economic and cultural resources to go on separate tracks from the rest of Canadians?
Start with where the natives are and how they are organized – in over 600 bands and on even more reservations, scattered all across Canada, mostly in the bush and prairie hinterlands.
There is remarkably little job-creating and wage-paying where most native enclaves are, and slight hopes of such, even if most bands were given larger chunks of wilderness.
In our wildernesses, mining is random; forestry is in eclipse and not labor-intensive in the bush. Few natives work in mining or logging. Game, fur, and fish resources are far too little to sustain more than a handful of tiny communities.
In short, there isn’t any economic future for most bands and reservations other than being sustained by welfare and the staffing of their own bureaucracies in health, education, etc. The prospects in tourism, guiding, carving, rice-nurture, bingo, cigarette selling, etc. are piffling.
Socially, more and more of the young people in the bands cannot abide life on reservations.
It’s not widely known but more than half the membership of bands with reservations are rarely on them. They’re drawn to towns and cities.
All the drums, dancing and sweetgrass-burning in the world cannot match what a highly technical civilization presents. There isn’t enough strength or lure in native “culture” and the way of life of their elders and predecessors to satisfy Indian youth or to keep life pleasant and positive on the reservations. Not one native community is the size of a small city.
Natives have no common language of their own and no prospect of developing one.
Put these bleak prospects and the turning towards the cities alongside the lack of a “critical mass” of natives anywhere which would generate the resources for a genuine “nation.”
All such reality is ignored. The assumptions go unchallenged that policies must rest on the bands, the reservations, and a unique, separate status and citizenship based on and perpetuated by blood.
The assumptions are so inadequate. Present and future separation of natives from other Canadians may seem fair and attractive but it isn’t working and won’t work.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, February 05, 1993
ID: 12998454
TAG: 199302050053
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


MPs have some rituals which show politicians in a decent light. My reference is to: (a) oral obituaries, invariably eulogistic; (b) commendations for great performances in fields like sport and music, usually by constituency-proud MPs. Last week we had such rites, the eulogies coming about Jeanne Sauve, a Liberal MP from 1972 to 1984, Charlie Turner, a Liberal MP from 1968 to 1984, and Harold Winch, a CCF-NDP MP from 1953 to 1972.
Despite the weightiness of the contributors and the load of credits given the former minister and Speaker, this was the obligatory exercise. Neither in caucus nor the House had Jeanne Sauve left many fond memories.
From the remarks you wouldn’t know it was different with Turner and with Winch. Turner was “Engine Charlie,” due to his tales of trips galore as a locomotive engineer and fireman. Charlie loved the chamber. He was gregarious, genial, humorous, and a shrewd counsel on the art of handling constituents. His frailty was such a hero worship of Pierre Trudeau that he’d literally cry over criticism of “the greatest prime minister we’ve ever had.”
Harold Winch’s been gone from the House for 22 years but in the ’50s he symbolized the fierce spirit of B.C. socialism. Oh, he was a vivid one. His personal curse was drinking, his triumph an emergence from it into long, serene years in retirement. B.C. MPs of his party like Dave Barrett and David Stupich conjured up Harold for present MPs. Once he missed being premier of B.C. by less than a score of votes. Veterans of older parties related (truthfully) his compelling oratory. Like Turner, Harold doted on duty in the chamber. Now such MPs are rare.
Any notice given to great achievers usually gets past the Speaker’s checks against frivolity and partisanship when packaged in brief remarks or the “statements” made early each day by a dozen or so MPs.
Once in a long while an MP tries to get unanimous consent for a motion. This happened last Monday. Ross Harvey, the lone NDP MP from Alberta and a yuk-yuk humorist moved “to congratulate Consort, Alberta’s own k.d. lang for being named the best new adult contemporary artist by the American Music Awards . . . ” Harvey said beforehand he had sought agreement from the House leaders of the parties; the Liberal and NDP leaders confirmed this and the motion carried, its last sentence being “Well done, k.d.”
You may recall the prelude to this ploy of a motion. The week before the Alberta legislature, dominated by Tories, had refused support of congratulations to this noted singer, ostensibly because of her controversial put-down of beef, a major product of Alberta farms, and perhaps, because many members disapprove of her well-publicized lesbianism.
Like the Clinton Democrats, the New Democrats have become the quasi-official party for Canadian homosexuals and ever-ready to castigate homophobes, particularly Tory ones. Later in the day a Liberal MP, “the dean” of backbenchers, raised a point of order over the putting and passing of the k.d. lang motion. He noted that a few yars ago the practice of allowing members to move for unanimous consent out of the blue and without formal notice and agreement beforehand had created some embarrassments for governments. A single MP’s dissent could block a “noble” motion, say commending a friendly nation. One reason for introducing the device of “statements by members” was to snuff out such embarrassing negativism.
A 10-minute debate ensued, a fairly amicable one, closed by the Speaker on the dangers in such motions and the suggestion the matter be reviewed again by the House management committee.
The Tories were smart enough not to object to the motion when it was first put or later. They knew it was designed to guy them as party colleagues of the legislature’s “dinosaurs.” But two days later Arnold Malone, a veteran Tory whose riding includes k.d. lang’s hometown of Consort, enlarged the subject during “statements” by citing an array of small places in his riding and the worthies they’ve given Canada and the world. He concluded with a hymn of praise to the inordinate contribution of small-town Canada to international sport, education, music.
May I anticipate that you will see the tributes and the ploys and plays over Ms Lang as inconsequential or worse. Probably they are but I find them a blessed relief from most of the bluster and bluff which prevailed this past week in the House: the Grits become demandingly arrogant in their partisan certitude; the New Democrats turning their hallowed righteousness on the Grits, taking the Tories as soon to be gone; and the latter a present or future fine face on federal undertakings. Ugh!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 03, 1993
ID: 12781649
TAG: 199302030035
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


There are 34 ministers in the current federal cabinet, the lowest since John Turner cut the number to 29 in his weeks as prime minister. What chance Brian Mulroney will stabilize at 34 or cut down more?
The short answer is “not much.” And the new parliamentary reforms promised by Jean Chretien do nothing about the size or efficacy of cabinets.
The general inertia about cabinet reduction is largely because the public in general and the politicians in Parliament and the provincial legislatures in particular have not seized on the merits of small cabinets – say like President Clinton’s 15.
The case has been neither developed nor pushed by a major interest group which argues a sharp reduction in ministers would cut costs, improve efficiency in cabinet and the senior mandarinate, refocus the daily oral question period and enable more responsibility for policy development and scrutiny of spending to shift to House committees.
On paper the cabinet is the decision-making body. Just the image of 30-plus characters around a huge table mocks this executive role; so has the fiddling since Dief’s days with “inner-” and “super-” cabinet committees. The reality of executive politics is that as many as 15 federal ministers are supernumeraries or unneeded cargo, at least for decision-making.
Few have ever canvassed how in recent times a profusion of embarrassments to prime ministers and premiers has come from having a profusion of ministers. Just think of Bob Rae’s dilemmas over dozy ministers or federal troubles from Yvon Dupuis to Francis Fox to Roger Simmons to Suzanne Blais-Grenier to Alan Redway. Cutting quantity could cut risks.
When Brian Mulroney began in 1984 with 40 ministers (the highest ever) he said such a bloat was temporary. It would give many green politicians a chance to prove themselves. In the long interval since then he’s mentioned reduction as an aim, even referring to the obvious ministers to cut – i.e., the many “ministers of state for . . . ” which Trudeau began to manufacture. (Mulroney still has 10 of these.) Last month he said a “major restructuring of the cabinet system” was on the way, including a much reduced cabinet. This fit with many leaks last fall that Bob de Cotret (later retired) had shepherded recommendations to cabinet to streamline it.
One conjures several reasons why Mulroney won’t reduce his cabinet drastically, including the shock such bleak news would give ambitious backbench MPs bound for the election road and the wry commentary it would be on much self-importance of so many “honorables” through two long Parliaments.
And Chretien, obviously the alternative PM, has never shown interest in cabinet size, unlike his predecessor, Turner. The latter believed the ministerial horde gave even more power to an already powerful PMO and weakened the authority of the small group of ministers with huge responsibilities (such as Finance, External Affairs, Justice, and Trade and Commerce). Already Chretien has at least two score MPs thinking they have ministerial prospects. To form a government he needs at least 70 more MPs, many of whom will have like hopes.
If Mulroney does move on cabinet reduction before he either departs or calls the election it will resemble the recent cut of five. Probably four or five more ministers will choose not to run again – perhaps Frank Oberle (Forestry), Elmer MacKay (Public Works), Joe Clark (External Affairs), Tom Siddon (Indians) or Gerry Weiner (Multiculturalism).
A four-pronged argument for a huge ministry goes like this: It ensures someone is in the House to answer questions capably for a particular department or political theme; it gives an advocate at the centre for economic, social, and cultural interests of significance; it guarantees both symbolic and practical representation within government for each province and from within the major provinces for their regions; and it gives both a reachable goal to backbenchers and another stage for honing talents and displaying leadership potential.
The profusion of ministers both masks and sustains the now immense override of the prime minister. We might well trim such power or recognize the dominance, perhaps with a national vote for prime minister. Certainly the charade of question period is a dubious test of ministerial responsibility or competence. Even so, the “of state” ministers are rarely braced, whereas about a dozen ministers do figure large – from the PM to Finance to Trade, Justice, Foreign Affairs, Employment and Immigration, Health, Transport, Energy, Agriculture, Indians and Environment. A score of others do not.
Would we miss the score? Hardly!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 31, 1993
ID: 12781292
TAG: 199301310112
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


At last Jean Chretien and the Liberals are offering some tangibles if they get power this year.
Some proposals were contained in a mid-week speech by the leader and in a paper a fortnight ago on reforming the House of Commons and the electoral system. Let’s put in background for programs by a party-in-waiting.
Since World War II when the CCF, the NDP’s antecedent party, flowered with its fetish for “social and economic planning” the federal parties and their leaders when in opposition have issued manifold statements of intentions and principles.
Most such declarations are read, understood, and remembered by few. This is particularly so for stuff not put forward in the formal election campaign. Such neglect has been increasing because of two developments, one within, the other outside, the political parties.
Within parties – even for the NDP – the year-to-year themes and programs are now mostly crystallized in leaders’ offices and the caucus; that is, by those with an everyday responsibility to take part in the work of scrutinizing and responding to the government’s legislation, rather than beyond in the party and its processes such as riding associations and national conventions.
Externally, more and more policy ideas and demands for programs come from ongoing groups and associations, gathered around and advancing or protecting specific interests and demands.
Many of these outfits have been financed, at least in part, by federal funding. They cluster around the ministries and agencies of their interest; they lobby, stage dog and pony shows for TV by marches, debates, and briefs. They respond with praise or blame to what partisan politicians advance.
While they may pressure senior persons in caucuses toward their interests, government and public opinion are more their targets. This framework makes for harsh treatment of party propositions, and for the parties not to open themselves to attack. Of course, the interests are often in rivalry – say the Canadian Labor Congress against the Business Council or the NAC against REAL Women.
And so responses were quick, mostly critical, and wanting specifics as soon as Chretien said his government will axe the GST, cancel the helicopter contract and free Liberal backbenchers from the party whip on many House votes.
What new tax measures will he bring in to cover the revenue loss from busting the GST?
What alternatives, if any, will there be to the 20-year plan for helicopters, given the aged, technically backward state of the present fleet?
Who will decide what should be a free vote? What will be the consequence for the parliamentary principle of “confidence” – i.e., that a prime minister’s right to office is always being determined in whether he has a majority of the votes of MPs?
To give him more credit than he usually gets, Chretien is trying to create a common sense context for some policy undertakings he gave and will be giving this election year. He said: “Our principles for governing in the 1990s are clear, and so are our policies that put them into action.”
Then he set forth 10 “principles.” Most may seem banal and at a Grade 8 civics level … but he’s trying.
Judge for yourself. Here are two of Chretien’s principles, the first and the fourth.
“To build a better society, it is no longer possible for government simply to establish new programs. Rather, it is the responsibility of government to help identify and establish national goals and targets. Governments must facilitate their achievement. But while government can help, it cannot do it alone.”
“Because of a wrong mix of fiscal and monetary policies, the Conservative government will leave an unacceptably high deficit and debt. Therefore, a fourth principle of governing in the 1990s is imposed by the realities of the deficit. It must be understood that if any new spending programs are absolutely required, they must be directly related to the promotion of economic growth and jobs.”
The temptation for Chretien has been the near certainty that he will gain power because Canadians want Mulroney out, not because they want him in.
The temptation has become dangerous, notably because there is so little respect for his party and even less for him, and there are choices other than Mulroney, particularly for Quebecers and westerners.
So Chretien’s had to move, to offer, to define.
To be fair to Chretien, although one can easily savage his principles and many of his propositions, the likeliest by far of the alternatives to Mulroney has moved toward some substance in intentions.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, January 29, 1993
ID: 12781060
TAG: 199301290070
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It did not surprise me that Jeanne Sauve only survived Maurice, her husband, by less than a year. They were a two-become-one.
This may seem an odd emphasis when the obituaries are so appreciative of her careers as journalist, cabinet minister, Speaker of the House, and governor-general.
Pros and cons on Jeanne Sauve’s achievements can be drawn from the public record but this hardly shows the rapport, humor and caring within her marriage. Outside it she and Maurice could be brusque and sometimes mean to those who served them, but not with each other.
Politics strains marriages. Stress is amplified if both partners are intent on partisan politics, but this wasn’t so with the Sauves.
As one who thought Jeanne Sauve pedestrian as a journalist, at most merely competent as a minister, a disaster as Speaker, and more formal than the Queen herself as the Crown’s representative, it seemed a marvel she lived so happily for 44 years with an egocentric, arrogant man, one who never put her down, publicly or otherwise, nor she him.
Some pieces I wrote in the mid-’60s made me persona non grata with the Sauves. He threatened libel actions. I criticized mindless decisions as a minister of forestry in the Pearson government; then on electoral shenanigans in his riding of Iles de Madeleine (which he held from 1962 to 1968 and lost through redistribution); then his blundering search in 1968 for a Liberal nomination elsewhere. (He got one in Saint-Hyacinthe riding, then failed to carry it as Trudeau swept in.)
The losses of two ridings in a row were brutal for one with titanic ambition. He had first streaked as a political comet in 1960, heralded by Peter Newman as the mastermind behind the victory of Jean Lesage in Quebec over the Union Nationale.
When Sauve ran and won a federal seat in 1962 reporters began to see him as a future prime minister. A bear of a man physically, Sauve was not bashful in Ottawa. He mixed with Anglos and was busy in the House and on committees.
Despite much promotion by and of Sauve, including his emphasized rapport with the Toronto Star’s top Grit, Walter Gordon, and his amanuensis in the PMO, Tom Kent, Maurice was side-swiped from the key post as the Quebec minister in Ottawa during the internal struggle to get this role away from veteran Lionel Chevrier.
Instead of Sauve, Pearson anointed an unlucky Guy Favreau. After Favreau’s sad resignation from both the post and the House early in 1967, Jean Marchand was chosen by the Liberals’ Quebec caucus as their leader.
Sauve had helped set up this second eclipse of himself by working to get Marchand, Trudeau, and Gerard Pelletier into the House in 1965. When he failed to get a seat in 1968 his career as politician vanished. He went into business (forestry!) and turned to helping his wife get a safe seat in the 1972 election.
It was in 1970, after the husband’s lost career in Ottawa and before the wife’s new one there that I had close contact with Jeanne Sauve. It came in a tour of American cities, sponsored by our neighbor’s Foreign Affairs Society, to explain the October crisis.
Jeanne Sauve and I were the two political journalists on the trip with half a dozen MPs. We visited campuses, editorial offices and debating societies from Hartford to Atlanta, from Milwaukee to Philadelphia.
From the start it was clear the widest gap among the touring talkers about the crisis was between Sauve and me. It became unpleasant for both of us. She never gave an inch. By the tour’s close her presentation had become a most compelling approbation of Pierre Trudeau for saving Quebec within Canada from a few, atypical radicals.
Our group found out how much toughminded certainty there was in this poised, resolute woman. In discussion, she neither asked nor gave quarter.
Although Maurice Sauve was not with us on any day we had witness of him. How? In flowers for Jeanne at each resting place; in special delivery letters or telegrams each day; in phone calls which found her each morning and night.
She made no show of such attention. She spoke of him only when prompted, yet he was in touch in several ways each day, after 22 years of marriage and one child, 11.
What went on with them on the long trip continued, even into and through the grim period when she messed up the speakership (surely one of Trudeau’s worst moves) and through the vice-regal rounds and the rages over access to Rideau Hall grounds. She could relish an agonizingly formal life, I think because he was there.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 27, 1993
ID: 12780798
TAG: 199301270014
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Windy charm, gall and egalitarian candor have distinguished Hugh Segal since he burst on Ottawa at the 1972 election as near winner for the Tories in a local riding. At 42 Segal has lost none of the gall as he functions now as surrogate to Brian Mulroney.
The charm and frankness are rather slick through so much use, or am I alone in choking at the unelected Segal as a top boss of the federal governing party?
As samples, consider Segal’s well-leaked admonitions last week to some leadership aspirants they must cease organizing, or his peek-a-boo dialogue Sunday with CBC-TV’s Wendy Mesley about the PM’s determination to face the electorate.
What’s befallen the democratic idea that elected persons are paramount over hired officials and that a party in office is an association with a leader, ministers, and backbench MPs?
Along with Gerald Caplan, Pythias to Ambassador Stephen Lewis, and Sen. Michael Kirby, once a Pierre Trudeau wunderkind, Segal burnished his role as interpreter or “spin doctor” for his party as a regular performer on CTV’s Canada AM.
Whether or not they did it well, they found a cutesy camaradarie which made cosy TV and gained them wide recognition as “insiders” qualified to speak on anything to do with their respective leaders and parties.
Segal is bright, though no more so than Caplan and Kirby. Lord knows all three are genuine party loyalists. Segal’s edges are more sprightliness as a talker. He has no reason to be bashful over what he does so long as his sponsor, Brian Mulroney, backs him and the ministers and other MPs of the PC caucus accept him as the prime surrogate to the prime minister.
One wonders why Don Mazankowski doesn’t do such things as warning pushy persons like Kim Campbell and Mike Wilson or informing Canadians through the CBC of Mulroney’s intentions. Is it presidential emulation which has Mulroney preferring an employee over his own glibness or caucus chairmen?
We’ve had arrogant or bumptious chiefs of staff to prime ministers before, beginning with the first, Marc Lalonde.
If the prime minister chooses to carry on it might be reassuring to some voters to know whether surrogate Segal will be with him all the way.

There’s been little in Catherine Callbeck’s work on the Hill over the past four years to stimulate either warm anticipation or dread of her as premier of Prince Edward Island.
She’s made a goodly number of formal House speeches each session, worked on a House finance committee, raised issues on agriculture, business needs and Maritime problems of unemployment, transfer payments and fisheries.
She’s not crassly partisan, say like fellow Maritimer Mary Clancy. There’s nothing fancy or smarmy or indirect in her arguments. She never wings it off the top of her head. Obviously, she’s studious and well-read, and her bearing is confident, almost contradicting her very slow, overly full cadences as a speechmaker. In 10 minutes she can empty the chamber below a quorum. Islanders are getting a total contrast in form and flair to Joe Ghiz.

You probably missed the most improbable interview I’ve seen in years. It was a one-on-one of Charlotte Gobeil with Bernard Ostry in a series called Political Memoirs, half-hour chats sponsored by CHRO-TV in Pembroke.
Ostry, recently out as chief of TVOntario, first surfaced in Ottawa in the mid-1950s as junior co-author of a book on Mac- kenzie King. He became a consort of ministers during the Diefenbaker regime. Ever since, his career has had coruscating variety and much media attention – as a CBC executive, a task force star, a senior mandarin for cultural affairs in Ottawa and Queen’s Park, and as social co-host of the great with his illustrious mate, Sylvia.
Gobeil, a veteran of local television, talks with present and former politicos of note like Mitchell Sharp, Jack Pickersgill, Keith Davey and Stephen Lewis. Her dolly blonde persona and girlish giggle mask a quick, very forward mind. One of her ploys is praise so lavish a guest is forced into modesty.
The oddity of this interview was that it hardly touched on any of Ostry’s many public chores or the various conceptions he’s promoted, particularly in communications. And it was his choice. He dawdled along about his Jewishness, his hovel roots as a child of poor immigrants in the west, the racism he transcended in Winnipeg, some background on the book about King, and little else except a few sardonic remarks about leaving TVO. Most strange. He was killing time.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 24, 1993
ID: 12780461
TAG: 199301240144
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The percentages in the latest Gallup poll show that our pre-election bents are more complex than the summaries from the figures which emphasize the wide lead of the Liberals over Conservatives, the New Democrats and Preston Manning’s Reformers.
The national percentages were: Lib. 49%; PC 19%; NDP 17%; Reform 10%; Others 6%.
Before looking for the complexity, remember that most party leaders get far more polling data than the public polls which Gallup and Angus Reid produce for papers and networks.
Brian Mulroney has always revelled in his party’s pollings. These ask more detailed questions about leaders and issues and incumbents, often riding by riding. In the early summer of 1988 when broad polls like Gallup were rather bleak for the Tories, the prime minister summed up some of these riding polls for me to show me why he was sure many PC candidates would do well in the coming election.
It’s unlikely he now has at hand such encouraging polls but something like them may be at their advent, and would be a boost to his confidence in his own campaign prowess and a genuine relish for getting one-on-one with Jean Chretien, particularly in Quebec.
It should be thought-provoking to more than the PM that a fairly substantial 31% of those polled were undecided. Thus the 49% of voters ready to vote Liberal represent 49% of 69%. The figures indicate good prospects of elasticity and many voters who will swing, either from being undecided or from the 33% (of 69%) who prefer the NDP or Reform or the BQ or COR at this time.
Late in election campaigns there is usually a flow of intentions from the smaller parties to the two larger ones with the best chances to form a government. That’s why a Tory scanning Gallup might conclude not all is lost for his party or his present leader.
A few contacts I have across Ontario have been telling me of something I’ve been sensing. In recent months the fortunes of both the provincial and federal Tories began to lift a bit from a prolonged nadir.
Over the New Year, Gallup shows the Grits sliding from 62 to 52 points and the Tories edged up five from 17 to 22. In Ontario the federal Tories are seven up on the NDP (whose provincial brethren are in power).
The probable causes of these still slight comebacks are Premier Bob Rae’s many problems and the failure so far of the Ontario Liberal leader to make her mark but other attitudes may be in play; in particular, Ontario voters in the main are not in a strong, left-of-centre mood.
They’re most aware of the huge debt and high deficits. They seem leery of those who promise more spending and more intervention through direction, regulation and investment in the economy.
Such inclinations may not augur many Ontario ridings for Mulroney in Ontario. The animosity to him has become common but it is also apparent that it isn’t so-called neo-conservatism most voters are rejecting in favor of reformist liberalism or social democracy.
This week there’s been the StatsCan declaration the recession is over, to go with the mild encouragement in the Gallup to the Tories. Both suggest a rebound, still slight, for Mulroney and his party. There’s roughly six to seven months for better economic news and for the choosing of a fresh leader if Mulroney reveals he’s leaving in the next three weeks.
The Liberals have announced they shall thoroughly review all patronage appointments when they take power, weeding out the incompetents and the crassly partisan. Although this wasn’t said, this means replacement with their choices. To telegraph this now mirrors over-confidence, and more of the same.

Note: A week ago in comments about Brian McKenna, mastermind of the controversial CBC series The Valor and the Horror, I wrote that a CBC insider had told me McKenna had almost wrapped up a deal with the CBC to do another World War II epic, this on the Royal Canadian Navy.
Not so, a CBC official tells me. There were discussions about this well over a year ago but these were with CBC executives such as Trina McQueen, since moved.
CBC management doesn’t plan to resurrect the proposition, although it is firm on re-running The Valor series soon, along with some debate on its worth.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, January 22, 1993
ID: 12780197
TAG: 199301220019
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The Clinton accession has many Canadians envious, and busy making contrasts. A new book suggested one contrast to me – in political punditry.
America has much of it. Surprisingly, when you get to particulars, we do not.
In short, there are few, if any, print or TV people here whose analyses set the pace of our politics and crystallize the opinions of citizens.
The book by Eric Alterman, titled Sound and Fury: The Washington Punditocracy and the Collapse of American Politics, argues that sensible public dialogue has been destroyed by the political pundits, in particular syndicated journalists whose main base may be print (like George Will, David Broder or William Safire) but who also appear on TV.
Here’s an Alterman synopsis:
“It is not the pundits’ fault that it has fallen to them to define the parameters of our public debate. But given what has, for better or worse, become the pundits’ preeminence in setting the tone of Washington’s public discourse, they do a lousy job. The longer, moreover, we listen to them, the longer we are likely to procrastinate in the urgent task of beginning the nation’s economic, environmental and social reconstruction.”
It’s hard to name readily a genuine Ottawa “pundit,” let alone three or a dozen. Who has ideas or sponsorships or antagonisms with consequences anything like what Alterman alleges?
My closeness to Ottawa journalism began in the late 1950s, the closing days of one historian called Ottawa’s Golden Age.
Yes, then there were several writers who bestrode political interpretation. Their eclipse came with John Diefenbaker as prime minister.
Old-timers like Mitchell Sharp and Jack Pickersgill still glow over the wisdom and perspicacity of the late Blair Fraser (Maclean’s), Grant Dexter and Bruce Hutchison (Winnipeg Free Press).
Research, even unto doctoral theses, shows clearly what was fairly obvious then – the mutuality of these three with the senior Liberals, including prime ministers Mackenzie King, Louis St. Laurent and Lester Pearson. Thus they knew so much of the gist and the timing of legislation and budget-making.
Authoritative, and a great influence on the general understanding but too close to the Liberal government to be either independent or truly synoptic. Their memorialists might argue that this troika of pundits civilized the political leaders, even shaped their work.
The eclipse of Fraser-Dexter-Hutchison with big jumps in the form and intensity of political journalism was symbolized best by two men, Norman Depoe, the CBC’s first and probably last authority in Ottawa politics (who is not a producer), and Peter Newman, first with Maclean’s, then more significantly, for the Toronto Star.
No television figure since Depoe has really shaped the Ottawa dialogue or been truly judgmental of its politicians.
It’s not to slight them that I recall TV’s Ottawa people like Ron Collister, Ken Mason, David Halton, Joe Schlesinger and Craig Oliver or anchor-interviewers like Peter Mansbridge, Pamela Wallin, Bill Morgan, Lloyd Robertson, Bruce Phillips, Peter Trueman and the late Barbara Frum.
Have any of them set agendas or made or destroyed political careers? No. Capable as most of them were – or are – however far their writ ran, they didn’t intrude strongly on politics.
Of course, if one shifts from such possible pundits to the role of TV in our politics, one is onto important matters. For example, the simplifying, common-denominator needs of TV tends to trivialize issues, and confound a broad debate on complex matters.
As for the George Wills of the U.S. who play both columnist and TV wise person, no one in Canada has sustained the TV side for long. Charles Lynch, a Southam columnist, was big for a time in the ’60s on CBC; so was Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe two years ago.
Peter Newman, George Bain, Tony Westell, Geoffrey Stevens and Richard Gwyn, the political columnists whom most politicians read, never had much TV showing to complement their print work. Both Newman and Gwyn for a time were must-reads on the Hill but because of information they brought forth from inside contacts, not for their views.
Even aside from the greater numbers and more specialization in Washington, one must downplay the power of punditry in Ottawa. It’s another column or two to sketch who has inordinate influence on Canadian politics. This takes one into collective mind-sets of papers and networks, publishers, editors and producers, not pundits.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 20, 1993
ID: 12779866
TAG: 199301190081
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Conventional wisdom is usually the opinion of some majority. The current wisdom among most of those who cover federal politics is that Brian Mulroney will not lead the Conservatives in the election so near at hand. Not all who make their way as commentators agree with this wisdom.
My caveats on the matter of “will he, or won’t he?” begin with the answers to the question about ducking a certain defeat. Also, why fret about quitting? We’ll soon know.
My question is more vital and it gets addressed only peripherally through reiterations of the clobbering coming for Mulroney and his party if he carries on.
Should Mulroney quit?
This piece argues that he should go to the people again. And the argument is made by one who thinks the Tories will be rejected handily by voters in most of Canada outside Quebec.
If I begin by pointing out to Tories how fruitless the Trudeau-Turner transition was in 1984 in saving the Liberal party from a vicious mauling at the polls, someone of experience will counter with the huge success in electoral terms of the Pearson-Trudeau transition in 1968. He or she might even add the glimmering point about that transition: When Lester Pearson announced his decision pre-Christmas, 1967, almost no one, in or out of politics, had Pierre Trudeau in mind as a successor. Surely a Tory leadership contest might produce such an unheralded marvel.
Someone might also remind me that Mulroney in 1984 was fresh and new as an electoral politician, and that he faced John Turner, a new prime minister, but very much a retread from the past. This leads straight to the case which Tories from the PM to MPs in the last row of the House have been pushing for two years: Jean Chretien, the rival chief, is even more worn a retread than Turner was in 1984 and runs well behind his party in polling choices. And everyone knows that party leaders are prime in voters’ minds.
Reappraisals of leadership changes and their consequences take me from my plain argument that all of us as voters deserve a chance to pass judgment on the leadership of Mulroney and the main policies of his government. If he is the catalyst for the deep dislike most of us have for him, let’s get it out of our heads and our politics with ballots, not a resignation.
Let me make much of Mulroney’s age – 53!
Trudeau was 65 when he quit office and electoral politics, Lester Pearson was 70, Louis St. Laurent 76, and Mackenzie King 74. On the Conservative side, Bob Stanfield was 62 when he quit; John Diefenbaker was 68 when he lost office as PM and 72 when he lost the party leadership; George Drew was 62 when he resigned as leader, John Bracken was 65, and R.B. Bennett was 68. Yes, Joe Clark was just 40 when he lost office and only 44 when he lost the leadership but he carried on as an MP, strengthening the party and its caucus.
Figuratively, Mulroney is still in his prime. If he leaves Parliament he takes away much he has to offer it, and far more than 10 years ago. He knows so much more. Even in opposition, even a scanty opposition, he’d be useful to the country.
Although it took Mulroney a long time to enter electoral politics he was the most politically obsessed youth I’ve met. His absorption in partisan politics and issues of public policy is as deep now and much wider than it was 10 or 30 years ago.
It would be out of character and a default on all his involvements for Mulroney to walk away, say, to some corporate niche. Quitting won’t become him. Quitting denies his interests and his nature. And a leader lashed with the recriminations he has had in the past five years would hardly find a trouncing at the polls any worse.
Just by leading a country a prime minister creates a continuing onus on himself. Consider the responsibility on Mulroney for the policy initiatives of significance for which he gets credit or blame. I would synopsize these as: The free trade agreement with the U.S. and its North American corollary now in process; the goods and services tax; the failed constitutional accords -Meech and Charlottetown; and an incomplete (to say the least) assay at reducing annual federal deficits and beginning to master the awesome federal debt burden.
It’s likely neither the trade treaties nor the GST will be cancelled after a Liberal victory in the next election. Nonetheless, none of the Mulroney initiatives is played out or wrapped up, in particular the deficit-debt one. The constitutional issue is stayed, but no one in sight has more cautionary advice to bring to this deathless issue than Mulroney.
A last “should run!” To go with Mulroney’s hunch he can beat Chretien, his caucus remains loyal and many, perhaps most, think he’s their best bet.
He should run.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 17, 1993
ID: 12779647
TAG: 199301170149
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Two bits of information regarding Brian McKenna, the undaunted mastermind of the celebrated The Valor and the Horror, set me pondering the reactions to come from the multitude engaged in controversies over programs the CBC co-sponsored with the National Film Board.
An insider within the Mother Corp has told me it is true:
a) There are plans to rebroadcast the series later this winter, with the critics being assuaged by a planned post-presentation discussing the worth of the series, including face-to-face arguments between apostles who either approve of the series or denounce it, with a benign neutral of great respectability on hand as balancer;
b) McKenna has almost completed negotiations with the NFB, the CBC, and Telefilm Canada to produce a filmed, true story of the Royal Canadian Navy in World War II.
(The RCN was the one of our three services not illuminated in the Valor series.)
My insider added on the first point that the readiness of the summit duo of Gerard Veilleux and Patrick Watson to approve another CBC broadcast is largely a response to the surge of anger against them among the production people of the CBC and the criticism of the series by the CBC’s ombudsman. Figuratively, the staff is demanding praise, not just martyrdom, for the McKennas.
The CRTC response’s touchy-feely support for The Valor and its elements of docudrama was shaped by the charismatic chief of the agency, Keith Spicer. It has further ennobled him among the artists and has aided McKenna backers and increased the boldness of the top CBC executives; thus a readiness to let the McKennas loose on the RCN.
I doubt the following about any televised, post-show debate:
Among those who have taken the series apart, even one of the dozen historians well-versed in Bomber Command or the Hong Kong affair or the Battle of Normandy, who would be foolish enough to take part in a colloquium on air which would by its nature overwhelmingly favor the McKennas?
A fair presentation would take hours to be meaningful because it would require a pattern of show, stop, discuss, show, stop, discuss, at each significant falsehood and misinterpretation.
When I heard about the re-run possibility I realized that neither the protagonists for the McKennas and for artistic freedom nor the chiefs of the CBC and the NFB have yet appreciated the scale of the anger the series has caused.
One in three Canadian men over 65 is a war veteran. In my estimate, literally tens of thousands among the half million will not forgive or keep quiet if another showing misinforms their fellow citizens.
One attribute of the RCN of World War II will fit wonderfully with one of the McKenna themes.
The brothers are very anti-British and both the witnesses I gathered at the time and examples in some excellent histories (say by G.N. Tucker, Joseph Schull, Tony German, Marc Milner, James Lamb and Hal Lawrence) or fiction (say by Hugh Garner and William Pugsley) have evidence of the strong bias in the upper ranks of the RCN which greatly respected British form and RN models.
Ordinary Canadian seamen were often hostile to “the Limeys” and fed up with the Britishness fashionable among their officers.
There were several crises in the RCN during World War II, including some ill-advised leadership by the naval minister and at the high mandarinate level of Ottawa. Ah, what can be done with such donkeys.
And for too long there were tragic inadequacies in the anti-submarine equipment of RCN ships and the training of Canadian seamen, at least as the British gauged them.
There was also a high-level decision taken as the German submarine threat was at its worst that the Canadians were botching convoy protection in their sphere of the Western Atlantic. This brought in British help in ships, leadership and tactics.
Just imagine the docudrama prospects to hand for the McKennas in the enemy submarines which skulked around the Gaspe and the north shore of the St. Lawrence. And what a melodramatic closer for revision and depiction in the wild riots which exploded in Halifax as VE Day came.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, January 15, 1993
ID: 12779395
TAG: 199301150014
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Let’s touch on three topical matters.
The Hibernia Project: Political recall of the Arrow cancellation three decades ago is hardly to the fore as the government chooses whether to keep the great Hibernia project going. The Diefenbaker government’s decision may have been necessary but it hurt the Tories and was a spur to nationalist resentment.
The decision had not come from out of the blue. What was most notable in partisan politics then has its parallel in the Hibernia affair. Neither then nor in the last few years did opposition leaders demanded cancellation.
Could Canada afford the Arrow? How much production; how many versions; how long the plane’s life? What would cancellation do to our aircraft industry and the technical expertise bought at such a high cost?
Before the cancellation, neither the Liberals nor the peace-loving CCF asked such questions. Nor has the opposition asked them of Hibernia. Most negativism on Hibernia (much as with the Arrow) has come from outside politics – some business interests; editorialists edgy about federal debt-burden; and academic economists and environmentalists.
For half a century most Canadians have accepted that a project which means jobs for any province or distinct community merits government funding. Politicians rarely oppose it.
Think about this flaw in our politics: The lack of candid appraisals of costly governmental commitments.
The Leadership Exercises: John Warren, columnist in the Hill Times, has made a shrewd point about the journalistic frenzy over the quality of leaders: The Kim Campbell ramp, the Grits and NDP stewing over Jean Chretien and Audrey McLaughlin. Who in the three caucuses might be good leaders?
Warren spoofs the implicit assumption that the new leaders will come from the House caucuses. He recalls that neither Louis St. Laurent nor Lester Pearson made their names in Parliament. Pierre Trudeau was chosen ahead of a half dozen MPs with far more House experience. Both John Turner and Chretien were out of the House when chosen. So were Brian Mulroney, Bob Stanfield, George Drew, John Bracken and Bob Manion.
Warren’s jolt made me look beyond the caucuses for luminous names – in business, the universities, journalism, or fronting an interest group, or a leader of a province. Someone to replace the laggard trio of incumbents.
I noted the recruiting scramble after the peacekeeper, Maj.-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie. He’s green in politics but isn’t he as credible as a leader as Brian Mulroney was in 1976 or 1983?
Who are attractive, present or recent, Liberal or Tory or NDP premiers? Peter Lougheed? Frank McKenna? Joe Ghiz? Bill Davis? Bring back Ed Broadbent, only 56? Resurrect Ed Schreyer, only 57? Draft one of a charismatic trio – Stephen Lewis or Bob White or Judy Rebick? Look to business, say to Tom D’Aquino of the Business Council or Tim Reid, director of the Chamber of Commerce and once a Rhodes scholar, or the ubiquitous Maurice Strong?
I decided the dearth of great leadership bets in Parliament has its match outside it.
Canada’s Linguistic State: This week’s release of ’91 census data on language highlighted the rise in usage of Chinese (No. 3!). Much notice was taken of the fact that bilingualism (English-French) “increased in almost every province” and that Quebecers were “turning more and more toward French than in the past.”
One highlight should not be much puffed. Twenty years of pushing bilingualism at a cost in billions has only raised the percentage of bilingual Canadians from 13.4% to 16.3%.
More sobering for Quebecois are figures which show bilingualism in their province has risen from 27.6% to 35.3 % since 1971 but only from 9.3% to 11.7% in Ontario. Worse, between ’86 and ’91 the rate of increase in Ontario’s bilingualism actually dropped .3%. Outside Quebec and N.B. the rate’s rise was infinitesimal. The percentage in Canada with French as “home” language is at 23.3%. It’s still sliding.
The data were dour news for the First Nations. Native leaders claim a million or more Canadians are of aboriginal stock and they herald a renaissance of native culture, mores and languages. Census data do not reflect this.
No native language is in the top 10 languages (after English and French) used at home. Even Vietnamese has more users.
The only native language in the top 20 “common languages of Canada” is Cree. Some 94,000 could speak it. For 82,000 it was the mother tongue, for 60,855 it was home language. Cree is far and away the most used of some 50 native languages.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 13, 1993
ID: 12779137
TAG: 199301130007
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The biggest swatch of bleak tales about federal spending comes once a year with the report to Parliament of the auditor general. How does an AG try to follow up his revelations? A department he has criticized is called before the House committee on public accounts.
I’ve lifted from the record of the committee last Dec. 3 an encounter between Dan Goodleaf, the new deputy minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) and Auditor General Denis Desautels.
First, some basic data. Last year there were some 466,000 “status” Indians in some 600 bands with 70-odd tribal councils. This year on a per capita basis each Indian will cost Ottawa $12,412. DIAND has 4,000 employees. Last year there were 1,760 different agreements with the bands and councils regarding transfers to them of sums totalling $2.26 billion.
Of course, the total cost is far higher for all federal programs directed to all natives – $5.04 billion this year. Some $3.46 billion of this will be spent by DIAND, $706 million by Health & Welfare, $271 million by Canada Mortgage and Housing, $200 million by Employment & Immigration, through 12 less expensive programs down to $4.3 million for “northern rangers.”
(Aboriginal peoples are also entitled to old age security and disabled pensions and children’s benefits.)
Here’s the gist of the AG’s critique to MPs, beginning with the line: “This is not a new issue.”
Repeatedly over a dozen years the AG has noted that although DIAND retains ultimate responsibility to Parliament for the way its funds are spent, it “does not know how well the bands” are doing at handling the money or about the quality and quantity of services delivered to band members.
Desautels has had many grievances brought by Indians in various bands. Often they have no formal redress or appeal system for challenging the behavior of those in charge of the spending. He believes each band and council should report to its own constituents and to DIAND on the results of spending.
In response, Goodleaf said it was unfortunate “the accountability issue had received significant exposure in the media.” This has left the “misconception” that bands are not required to account for the funds they get from Ottawa. This is wrong. DIAND has “a very complex accountability framework.” It is federal policy, however, to devolve operation of programs (and so funding) from DIAND to bands. Devolution has been speeding up. This year bands delivered about 77% of the components in DIAND programs for Indians. The good results are tangible and DIAND is focused on results as never before.
Although some bands encounter problems in financial accountability, Goodleaf insisted their weaknesses do not “distort the department’s representations to Parliament.” Further. DIAND has been developing far better reporting guides for the bands and a new automated system soon to be installed will enable checks at any time on the status of obligations under any band’s transfer payment agreement.
Goodleaf insisted DIAND must not “intervene unnecessarily in local affairs. First nation governments should be allowed to make their own decisions . . . develop their own business relationships . . . and questions or disputes about expenditures should be dealt with at the community level.”
He told the MPS that two years ago 76% of the 600 bands had “unqualified band auditors’ opinions.” Such opinions do not examine results but should show that a band has kept records and is complying with the funding agreements. Although DIAND is keen on the results in quality and quantity, an unqualified audit doesn’t do this. However, if DIAND gets evidence of abuses of funds or refusals to comply with terms of agreements it can call in the RCMP or install a “receiver.”
Goodleaf is a tough backchecker. In part, he got through a long inquisition by the MPs because he is the first aboriginal deputy minister. A few MPs did suggest they expected progress reports on meeting the AG’s criticisms.
The AG was not impressed. He was aware “the message we are sending is at odds with the department’s message.” Goodleaf’s comments “underestimate in quite a serious fashion . . . the problem we are still facing in accountability . . . ” He did not know how Goodleaf could say devolution to the bands was going well. “We have no information enabling us to judge if results have been achieved.”
Goodleaf said he realizes “much more needs to be done,” then reiterated the excuses – a shrinking department, spending restraints, the pace of devolution, and the demands and pride of the first nations.
Desautels fired back and said DIAND has failed “at collective measures to put appropriate accounting mechanisms in place.” In short, DIAND has been, and still is, pretty haywire.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 10, 1993
ID: 12778804
TAG: 199301100130
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


This past year a cascade of stories has hurt the personal repute of Alan Eagleson, founder and longtime chief executive of the NHL Players’ Association. Allegations of chicanery have been rolling since a series two years ago on Eagleson in a Lowell, Mass., newspaper. The most damning item in what remains a murky case is an FBI inquiry into the NHLPA, including interviews of Canadians in Canada.
Before Christmas, questions were put to Mulroney ministers by Grit House Leader Dave Dingwall which hinted wrong-doing between Eagleson and Hockey Canada, a public corporation formed in 1969.
(In ’69 the Trudeau government wanted all elements in our hockey pulling together for better teams and results against the Russians. Hockey Canada is not and never was a Crown corporation.)
Dingwall demanded the government make Hockey Canada open its books and explain why it had concealed the RCMP’s role in the case for so long.
On Dec. 18 from Toronto, The Canadian Press said Hockey Canada “was co-operating with the RCMP to help them provide information for the U.S. Justice Department . . . looking into the dealings of Alan Eagleson, former executive director of the NHLPA.”
On the Dec. 21 the Globe’s star investigator, Stevie Cameron, had a piece headed “Hockey probe may shock Canadians.” The probe was after Hockey Canada for whom Eagleson has been chief negotiator for major series since 1972. The Mounties were examining “whether any criminal acts were committed in Canada, specifically with the pension funds.”
Cameron noted “friends” of Eagleson like Brian Mulroney, John Turner and Justice John Sopinka. Skulduggery . . . in high places!
Cameron limned as heroes Rich Winter, a fearless Alberta lawyer and players’ agent, and Carl Brewer, a former NHL star. For some years both have been after Eagleson’s “conflicts of interest” and his handling of the NHLPA’s pension funds.
I believe the nasty imputations about Eagleson, vis-a-vis Hockey Canada, are haywire. I was an executive of Hockey Canada from shortly after its founding through to 1979. In that period two famous series were carried out with the USSR (1972 and 1974) and the first Canada Cup series (an idea of mine) was held in 1976.
Although Eagleson was hardly the A to Z in all such competitions and their deals, I know he was the crucial catalyst for the international series as enterprises. I believe he seized such a role to give his NHLPA leverage with the NHL owners which they could not evade.
I chaired the board of Hockey Canada for seven years. There were directors from the CAHA, the universities, Canadian teams in the NHL and for a time the WHA, the NHLPA, and two federal appointees (of whom I was one). In my time it was not a crew uncritical or mum about Eagleson and his works.
I followed Hockey Canada’s financial affairs closely. In 1972 and 1976 I worked with Eagleson in bargaining with NHL owners and the Europeans. I have boxes of Hockey Canada’s documents and accounts. The recent mongering asserts that reporters have been denied such data by Hockey Canada. To this day no one has asked me one question, for example, on splits to players’ pensions and to the NHL itself, issues in which I had a part.
After each of the big series I held press briefings in Toronto with our treasurer to account for money spent and made and the disposal of surpluses. These were hollow. Reporters had zero interest in the money which went to the NHL or the NHLPA or to Eagleson for the services his employees provided both Team Canada and Hockey Canada in the execution of arrangements for transport, hotels, tickets and press relations. At the board there were often challenges of the spending, usually led by CAHA executives. A rancorous issue after 1976 was Eagleson’s investment of $1 million we put aside for minor hockey coaching.
I can’t foresee how the Eagleson story will conclude, legally speaking, but he’s been maligned; so has Hockey Canada. What went on within the NHLPA is beyond me, but not the work of Eagleson for Hockey Canada in what those scourging him cite as the key years. To repeat: Without Eagleson and the association we would not have had such series, the victories – and the profits.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, January 08, 1993
ID: 12778600
TAG: 199301080010
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Bill Clinton’s tantrum at the “math” test used on his swatch of big appointments by feminist groups brought Washington columnists out with pro or con (mostly con) opinions on interest group representation in the executive and on how political correctness may afflict the new government. Comparisons with ministerial representativeness here are interesting.
Canadian cabinets are double and more the size of American ones. For far longer prime ministers have accepted that they must pick ministers to cover the factors of geography, religion, ethnicity, education, age and (since 1958) the female gender.
Since 1867 it has been taken for granted each province should have at least one minister if an MP is available (with P.E.I. sometimes an exception). No president has ever felt he had to consider covering states. Of course, state geography is prime in the U.S. Senate.
After geography comes ethnicity, in line with our basic dilemma of “deux nations.” Quebec specifically and French Canada in general have been seen to require a third of cabinet places. (Until Pearson and Trudeau, French Canadians never got put in key economic posts like Finance and Trade.)
In Canada religion used to be almost as important as ethnicity but Mackenzie King was probably the last PM to worry about having Presbyterians and Irish Catholics in his cabinet. In the 1940s King wouldn’t have dared to have 16 Roman Catholic ministers whereas Trudeau did and few noticed.
Religion has tobogganned away as a factor in cabinet-making but not ethnicity. While not quite as necessary as having women ministers (which began with Ellen Fairclough in 1957) an ethnic tag hasn’t been a drawback since Diefenbaker’s readiness for ministers from other than the founding ethnicities.
Now multiculturalism has to have a part in our cabinets but both particularity and urgency are eased because we have such a wide, vivid rainbow of ethnicities. It’s also obvious from recent immigration that by 2010 our cabinets will need members of Chinese and African and aboriginal stock, and probably Sikhs and a few lesbians and gays who are “out.”
Until Jack Kennedy became the first Catholic president, Protestantism was a usual attribute though not a sine qua non for a U.S. cabinet post. The religious expectation still extant in the U.S. is that the president give open respect to Christian values. An intrinsically modern secularist like Ronald Reagan was marvellous at it. Also, many tend to identify the American way as God’s way even if the founders made sure to separate church and state.
In neither country has there ever been much concern about the age of cabinet members or their educational attainment. It is a good guess the average age of ministers in both countries has slid from the high to the low 50s since the Flower Child decade.
One can count Canadian ministers since 1945 without university degrees on two hands, and so it’s been in the U.S. Both political systems, and so cabinets, have always had a surfeit of lawyers. The change coming is simply more women lawyers.
What’s been more critically appraised than education, particularly in the U.S., is the adult experience of an appointee – i.e., the professional experience or particular expertise or significant posts held in government or business. And here one does get into “interests.”
Business associations in both countries have always wanted strong representation in cabinets and have usually got it. And more and more each country has developed a rather academic vetting of ministers with opinions on proven acumen or past bumbles.
Our many ministers and the relative American few helps explain why our ministers range over far more interests and pressure groups. Of course, American ministers do not belong in Congress, not even the president. They face no oral question period nor need continuing “confidence” of the Senate or the House.
Further, because of the much greater powers U.S. congressmen have (over MPs) in authoring legislation and spending, an American minister and the cabinet (as distinct from the Hhite House) are less significant targets for lobbyists and journalists than is the case in Canada.
The columnists’ counter to Clinton’s cabinet as a reflection of American diversity through his female, black, and Hispanic appointees seems twofold. It doesn’t fit Clinton’s aim of turning the Democratic Party from a grab bag of grievance groups to one with the broad public interest. And – a point obvious in Canada – to emphasize diversity in the cabinet makes sheer competence less imperative than representativeness. The U.S. electoral system does provide the latter; the president need not.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1993, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 06, 1993
ID: 12778380
TAG: 199301060008
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Let us evade the themes most forward in the media after Monday’s modest cabinet shuffle: What the shift in ministries signifies for a) Kim Campbell’s future stock; b) the early or distant departure from office by by Brian Mulroney.
Instead, let us appraise the five men who have left the cabinet – Jake Epp, Bob de Cotret, Marcel Masse, Gerry Merrithew and Bill Winegard.
The departures of Epp and de Cotret cut from eight to six those ministers who were in Joe Clark’s cabinet in 1979. The remnants are Clark himself, Don Mazankowski, Mike Wilson, John Crosbie, Elmer MacKay and Perrin Beatty. Why add this dollop? It underlines how well the Clark nucleus has worn for Mulroney although only one (MacKay) backed Mulroney when he pursued the Tory leadership.
In solid contributions to the Mulroney ministry, the party caucus, and even to the House in competent performance, Jake Epp and Bob de Cotret have been good ministers, and each has been shadowed by particular critical demons.
Epp is an evangelical Christian who has been over-scrutinized and mocked by reporters and opponents for his beliefs and his willingness to relate them to policies and legislative intentions. He did this candidly and openly, but his expressed distaste for abortion or sanctioning of homosexual practices were not politically correct. Organized feminists, homosexuals, and libertarians of the media have long been sarcastic and negative about Epp. He has ridden out the epithet of “Mr. Clean” through 20 years as an MP without trying to exploit the fundamentalist constituency or to be taken as a godly person haloed in a dark, political universe. Epp has been steady, industrious, pleasant, courteous and accessible as a politician. I can’t recall when he ever knocked a colleague or disparaged a rival politician. His built-in sense of fun reminds me of the late Paul Martin, Sr. Much of the humor spoofs the constant contradiction in politics between what one wants and what one must accept. Even some who’ve mocked his personal beliefs regret his leaving.
Bob de Cotret, an economist by trade, has reminded me of two ministers (now dead) who served Pierre Trudeau well for years – Bob Andras and Bud Drury. None of the three had any hustings flair or flare or showed to great advantage in the House. At best they got by on their feet with a stolid bluntness which whenever they were strongly attacked became awkward stonewalling. Their forte was publicly unseen – departmental administration; covering cabinet committee affairs; meshing with the mandarinate; and bringing informed, cautious views to cabinet talk. Unsung workhorses in a system burdened with meetings and papers.
In a way de Cotret was somewhat like Liberal minister Jean-Luc Pepin, in being so strong for federalism and Ottawa and capable in English that he was suspect to many Quebecois.
There has been much mean gossiping about de Cotret’s alleged “ill health.” Whenever I pressed a cabinet colleague or a mandarin who had to work with de Cotret about his affliction the answer was always that he was reliable and worked long hours on very heavy stuff. Any PM needs a de Cotret or two.
Neither Gerry Merrithew in eight cabinet years nor Bill Winegard in three were “impact” ministers in the House or the Tory caucus or on policies but they were not boobs or accident-prone. Winegard, a commanding figure with a good voice is one of the four World War II veterans in the House. His talents are many and it’s sad he came to politics from engineering and the academe so late in life. (The other war vets are Tory Bill Kempling and NDPers Les Benjamin and Dave Stupich.)
Merrithew is friendly and affable but very cautious and quite limited in ambitions. The busy Bernard Valcourt overshadowed him as a New Brunswick minister. This is probably the last minister there will be who has had the responsibility for Veteran Affairs alone. It will be a chore of the defence minister and her (or his) associate minister. After some open grouching the various veterans’ associations should accept the loss.
I saved for last my comment on Marcel Masse because I tend to run on and on about him. His linguistic chauvinism and postures similar to Keith Spicer’s as an erudite guru of philosophy, history and the arts had me seething long before he came to Ottawa in the ’84 sweep. Oddly, he’s triumphed. How? By rippling along, being himself for eight years in a milieu which he largely scorns and where so many of us have mocked him. Masse has cruised by it all, never seeming to notice. And despite doing what he wanted to do in his own fashion he usually did one basic, ministerial chore – keeping and extending his department’s funding.
The Toronto Sun
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