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Doug’s Columns 1994 « Douglas Fisher



Doug’s Columns 1994

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 30, 1994
ID: 12277066
TAG: 199412290178
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


In politics it’s been a good year for Canada; the best one, I think, since 1984 when we shucked the Liberals, the Trudeau era and a swarm of animosities, so many pivoting on personalities.
Reflecting on those years, 1984 and 1994, makes it easier to credit Jean Chretien with a more dexterous assumption of office than Brian Mulroney achieved in 1984 and far more astute reading of the likes and dislikes of Canadians, most notably in what we call The Rest of Canada.
Nine months into his first mandate, by the spring of 1985, Mulroney was pinching the patience of many; whereas, 14 months into his, Chretien has our patience and our sense he knows what he’s doing.
Huge troubles may emerge for Chretien in 1995. He put off some cruel decisions on financial and social security measures for a long prelude of discussions, hearings, consultations, studies and reports. Some very harsh work, even more taxation in February’s budget, may not dim his lustre or gut his poll ratings, assuming the referendum in Quebec goes the way it stacks up at this time – a smashing rejection of sovereignty or separatism.
Most evaluations of a year in the life of a country are subjective. This is so here, and politically a lot occurred or began to develop in Canada which suited me. Just take one rather small thing: choking off cash redress for those groups who blame previous generations.
Another matter in 1994 was good to me as a war veteran: the modest return in print and through a televised galaxy of recall and actuality of this most shaping period of our times and the roles Canadians took in World War II. And so younger generations get news of time when their elders did great things together. It’s likely, given our affinities with the Dutch, that we may revisit those days and their themes even more on the 50th anniversary of victory than we did in 1994 with D-Day and the Normandy invasion.
But closer, at least in place, 1994 began in the House of Commons with the newest, freshest roster of MPs in modern times. They began to perform and blossom with personalities and partisan flavors.
In casting back over the 13 renewed Commons I’ve observed closely, this is not the most exciting. To me that tag’s a toss-up between ’58 and ’68, between the crew with the Chief’s “vision” and the one with Pierre’s “Just Society.” Neither of those Houses, however, had such a range of strong, partisan opinion as the present House nor so many talented and aggressive MPs. The latter aspect is especially remarkable with the Liberal caucus. Don’t be fooled by the very modest Chretien cabinet. Behind it the PM has more capable and promising MPs than any of his pre-decessors had since Lester Pearson’s able crew in 1963.
But more satisfying to one who sees a healthy House as basic for a healthy Canada, the opposition MPs came on very well, both the BQ and the Reform. One may detest separatism; one may detest the often simplified righteousness of Reformers. All right, but what I’m underlining is plain satisfaction at the chance to see several score of assiduous, serious BQ and Reform MPs at work day by day.
For those who regret the near eclipse of the NDP, the BQ more than took up the ideological slack with its social democratic stances on most issues. (The small NDP caucus has been simply ineffective.) As for the Tories – the truly disappeared – their absence hasn’t left a void.
A better measure of the House in 1994 than its question period or its debates, many of which have been unusually candid and searching, has been the good work of MPs in almost a score of committees.
Aside from the committees’ canvassing of literally thousands of viewpoints and making hundreds of recommendations, it has seemed to me that for the first time in four decades the vitality in ideas and purposes of both MPs and of many interests in the country have gotten through to the hidden or screened base of knowledgable power which has dominated Ottawa and Canadian policies in my adult years – the federal mandarinate. A heavy hierarchy, much inertia! At least I hope this is so.
Soon, surely after February’s budget, we’ll know whether the reassessments of our values and purposes underway among a lot of us in the past decades, and to which the PM seems attuned, will crystallize in acts and regulations and a smaller, more practical public service.
The auguries for it as 1994 ends are excellent.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 28, 1994
ID: 12276532
TAG: 199412270139
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


When I review politicians I’ve observed none merits the adjective “canny” ahead of Allan J. MacEachen, at 73 a Liberal senator and before that an MP for 27 years and in Liberal cabinets for 21 of them.
Despite such exposure MacEachen has been a rather mysterious politician. And so I was surprised at recent remarks he made in the Senate which drew attention to a sub-rosa item of gossip that’s been around the Hill a long time. It centres on this: Why, and to where, does Allan MacEachen disappear or “flake out” from the open political stage?
Ten days before Christmas, the senator (since 1984) rose in his place and rebutted what has been recently written on his disappearances, firstly in a book review by Robert Sheppard, a Globe columnist, secondly, in the source book for Sheppard’s review, volume 2 of Trudeau and Our Times: The Heroic Delusion, a reigning best-seller by Christina McCall and Stephen Clarkson.
The Cape Bretoner noted what Sheppard had said of him, after he had noted some idiosyncracies of Pierre Trudeau:
“Close runners-up include Allan MacEachen, the moody high prince of the welfare state, going AWOL for six weeks (he even skipped the meetings of the inner cabinet) because he couldn’t face his colleagues after the fiasco of his 1981 budget.”
The senator went on: “The references to mood and priesthood are beside the point, but the facts about attendance are quite another matter. All I have to say is that Mr. Sheppard’s comments are totally false, and the sources relied on in the volume are also totally false.”
MacEachen then cited official records of attendance which showed he had been in the House for each of the sitting days in the cited six weeks. There he had answered some 156 oral questions in some 17 question periods. Then he turned to the cabinet committee meetings referred to and cited records showing he had been present at each of its meetings in a three-month period from pre-budget to post-budget. He concluded:
“Any reader of political biography in these days must be on the alert to determine what is the historical record, what is fiction and what is defamation.”
One cannot josh about the records cited but I will admit that when I read the references in McCall-Clarkson to the Grit wheel-horse I never thought to check the data in Hansard which would have shown them awry. Why didn’t I? Because tales of MacEachen’s bouts of absenteeism were extant when I first came to the Hill in 1957. He was pointed out to me as “the coming young Liberal” if – the if was emphasized – he buckled down and stayed around.
Before Trudeau’s Ottawa advent, MacEachen was a cherished protege of Prime Minister Lester Pearson whom he served first as labor minister, then as health minister. In 1965 as an MP I was an agent of sorts in a sudden railway strike. A solution had to come from the PM. In my crucial encounter with Pearson he produced it – a judicial inquiry! At this meeting he had his labor minister by his side. MacEachen was subdued about this wildcat strike in his bailiwick.
In my presence Pearson asked his minister if he’d known this grievance was coming to a boil. He said he had not. Then the PM turned to me. Had I really tried to bring the issue to his ministers’ attention? I told him the minister of transport had been sick and away from work. I’d apprised the acting minister a crisis was at hand a week before, and he’d just shrugged me off.
What of the minister of labor? I told the PM I’d had no response from him. The truth I didn’t want to hammer on about with the minister present was that I’d been unable to talk with MacEachen though not for want of trying. After I spoke, Pearson looked at his protege with strained forbearance but all he said was: “Ah, Allan!”
Later, over the years, other instances rippled through Hill chat of a MacEachen in seclusion or hard to track.
I often spoke with two men who much admired him, one a neigboring MP, the other a House official. I asked each about the occasional fugitive times of MacEachen as minister and as the chief Liberal caucus schemer after Jack Pickersgill took his patronage plum in 1968.
Each man stressed what a very private person Allan was – not gregarious, never needing the day-to-day chat or speculations so intrinsic with politicians. He was, they said, thoughtful in a canny way, and he’d brood by himself.
Probably he still does, but his response to the Trudeau book tells us he wants judgments of his parts in political events to square with available facts. Fair enough.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Monday, December 26, 1994
ID: 12276194
TAG: 199412250033
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Boris Yeltsin is in a bad spot.
Opposed by hardliners of many political shades, and now abandoned by his last few moderate supporters because of his sudden, unexpected bellicosity in Chechnya, the Russian president finds himself beholden to the three security ministries – defence, intelligence and interior – whose notions of democracy and liberty are not at all in keeping with the times.
What the leaders of these three branches of the government and the security council which they dominate have wrought in Yeltsin’s name in Chechnya is an expensive mess (estimates run into the trillions of rubles) that could unravel the last vestiges of the far flung empire that Russia inherited from the Soviet Union and Imperial Russia.
A common theory in Moscow is that the crisis in Chechnya has been cleverly arranged to create a pretext for a return to Soviet-style authoritarianism.
The idea is to create so much trouble in Chechnya and uncertainty elsewhere that the security services will have to be given carte blanche to sort things out.
A convenient byproduct of this tempest would be martial law and the delay or cancellation of presidential elections in 1996 that Yeltsin can’t possibly win.
These conspiracy theorists see the dark hand of the security forces in the thousands of police and army checks of civilians now taking place in Moscow. They say one of the harbingers of the dark days ahead is the tight control the Kremlin has tried to impose on foreign and especially on Russian journalists trying to follow the Russian Army around Chechnya.
This line of reasoning was debunked last week by Sergei Parkhomenko, a columnist with the Moscow daily, Segodnya.
“There are no serious grounds to suspect the Kremlin of refined perfidy: Among Yeltsin’s inner circle there is simply no one capable of carrying out such a complex and risky man- oeuvre,” Parkomenko wrote.
Rather, Parkomenko believes those in power are reacting to Chechen taunts, convinced despite the humiliation suffered by the Russian army in Afghanistan and the problems it is now encountering in Tajikistan and Abkhazia, that it is still capable of imposing Moscow’s will.
Gen. Pavel Grachev, the defence minister, certainly thought so. In November he boasted that all he needed was one parachute regiment and the Chechen separatists could be licked in 24 hours. Those who work for what used to be called the KGB also concluded the Chechen rebellion could be quickly crushed.
Sadly for Boris Yeltsin, it hasn’t worked out that way.
As Chechen warriors take their rifles and their ferocious pride into the Caucasian hills, elements of three Russian armored divisions and interior ministry troops are hunkering down for the winter among hostile civilians in the icy valleys below.
The offensive in Chechnya has revealed just what a wretched, divided and, by more than one Russian media account, drunken collective the Russian armed forces have become.
What Tass insists on calling “precision air strikes” have killed hundreds of civilians and wrecked dozens of homes in the Chechen capital, Grozny. Despite ruling the skies and facing little ground fire, air force bombs and missiles repeatedly missed all the important government buildings in the city.
The warplanes fared no better with Chechnya’s sole television transmitter, although it was a large, isolated target. In their first four cracks at it all they managed to hit were a few pylons.
It’s anybody’s guess how many troops and air force squadrons are involved in the Chechnya operation. The estimates coming out of Moscow vary from 10,000 to 40,000. Of these troops it seems as if perhaps more than half are refusing to actively participate in the invasion.
There was a report from Tass – quickly retracted – that four generals had been sacked because they wouldn’t send their units to Chechnya. But one mutinous general was seen and heard by millions of Russian television viewers as he announced his division would not fight.
Having been rejected by liberals, Yeltsin has placed his faith in the old-style leaders of Russia’s security service. Alas, they can’t deliver any more.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Saturday, December 24, 1994
ID: 12275867
TAG: 199412220051
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa
MEMO: Editor’s note: We call Doug dean of the press gallery for many reasons, particularly his insight and work in politics, history, sport, the media and public service. He is a treat, inspiration and guide because of his decades of encyclopedic observation and omnivorous reading. We could also call him the Sun’s renaissance man.



This season is a good chance for a columnist to be personal.
May I wish a good Christmas week to readers, and then explain something I’ve been finding awkward.
My embarrassment is from an unsought tag of identity. Recently, in Sun newspapers and in several other places, I’ve been tagged as “the dean of the Ottawa press gallery” or “the dean of the parliamentary press gallery.”
The word “dean” is used in the sense of the most senior or longest-running member of the association which Parliament long ago gave the right to accredit journalists for access and publications.
Last summer Charles Lynch, then a freelance columnist but a longtime star for Southam, died, figuratively at work. He and I were of the year 1919. Since the death a year before of Victor Mackie, a veteran Winnipeg Free Press writer, Charles was much referred to as the dean of the gallery. He merited this after more than three active decades on the Hill.
Lynch got into newspapers, had an exciting stint from D-Day to V-E day as a war reporter and from the early ’60s was the leading spirit of the press gallery’s long-famous dinners and entertainments. He had been on its executive, and was usually on his feet at general meetings.
For what it was worth – and Charles would have scoffed it meant much – he was a splendid “dean” of the gallery.
There are two journalists still around the Hill who were gallery members before I became one in the fall of 1965 (after retiring as an MP who’d also been doing a political column since 1961). They are Tom Earle, the first CBC radio reporter in the gallery, and Don McGillivray, long a columnist for Southam. A third writer, Thomson columnist Stewart MacLeod, became a gallery member the same year I did.
Earle, only semi-retired and doing taped interviews of retired politicians, is a “life” member of the gallery, an honor awarded a dozen or so men and women over the years. Why so few? The turnover in the gallery has been high since the early ’60s when the membership boomed from around 80 to over 200. Not many are gallery members for over a decade and it’s most uncommon to last more than two decades. So the life membership is rare, and for those with long service who have cut away from day to day work.
McGillivray first came to the gallery in 1962 but his membership was interrupted for some years by assignment abroad. He’s very learned in his craft and much used as a teacher of journalism. He and Tom Earle and Stewart MacLeod, like Charles Lynch, have been very active in association affairs, often as members of its executive.
The end of this roundabout is that either McGillivray, Earle or MacLeod deserves the tag far more than I do, in part because I never sought or got office in the association and rarely even got to the annual dinner. Also, I came to political journalism and a regular column without any apprenticeship, never having worked a day in a newsroom or ever filed a story.
Perhaps more telling, I’ve thought of myself more often as a librarian or a teacher or even as a politician than as a journalist. Even now I chum more with librarians, teachers and politicians than with journalists.
So, Fisher as dean of the Ottawa gallery is … well … a phony.
Now to recent critical interpretations by phone and letter of several columns. Many readers objected to my rating of Lucien Bouchard as best parliamentarian of the year, and almost as many objected to Allan Rock as my pick for best performer in the cabinet.
Bouchard is a separatist who’d tear Canada apart, so how could I pick him? Of course I’m not for separatism but Bouchard is an exceptional parliamentarian. It’s somewhat like hockey. As an aficionado I have to rate Gordie Howe the ablest, most effective in my lifetime even though I disliked his crudeness and meanness and doted on the swift braininess of Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr.
Similarly with Allan Rock. I think his gun control plans are bootless and his plays to homosexual rights wrongheaded. But he is a gifted minister in presenting and sustaining an argument both in and outside the House.
And no, dear readers, I’m only a fan of Roseanne Skoke in the same way I have been of Svend Robinson. Rare birds! Each has been brave and purposeful in the open, advocating views too long suppressed. Real choices need real debate.
And may we have much of both, after the holidays.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 23, 1994
ID: 12275573
TAG: 199412220186
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Two general observations emerge from my daily notes on the passing political parade. When put side by side they suggest we as citizens may be over-served, not under-served, with food for thought.
First, the notes show what I consider an extraordinary amount of printed stuff on our politics. Many annual reports are blockbusters in size (e.g., the auditor general’s); special reports and briefs have come from hundreds of often contending groups; and printed parliamentary committee proceedings run to thousands of pages.
There’s also been a welter of books, from plain gossip to academic essays. Several steady readers working six days a week could barely monitor it all.
Second, almost every day my notes refer to some talk, commentary, interview or panel heard or seen on TV that has dealt with something political. A lot of such programming is seen on channels found only on cable systems, such as Newsworld and CPAC. Daily a channel switcher can vet a score of speeches or inquiries or conferences, and hear views from a large cadre of elected politicians, print journalists, experts and spokesmen for interest groups.
The access most of us have to American local channels (say Rochester) or specialty channels (say PBS or CNN or TNN) makes for comparisons. It seems clear to me we have as many and probably more choices of opinions and commentators on more subjects than our neighbors have.
For all its repetitiousness Newsworld’s long agenda has much that’s political. The service has introduced a fine, fresh talent in Ann Petrie and has resurrected sound, commonplace interviewers and commentators like Norm Perry, Henry Champ and Don Newman.
TVOntario’s into political values with a credible, topical, daily, current affairs hour. My cable system’s home channel has much each day on local and regional politics and consumer issues. The House is available as it happens and in late replays; so are the Quebec and Ontario assemblies. And hearings of federal and provincial committees are being taped and replayed, sometimes days later but nonetheless seen and heard.
Yes, a lot of this TV material comes cheap and may seem a throw-away. It is often unheralded and very dull.
Yes, mere availability of mounds of print and hours and hours of political news, commentary, interviews and speeches at the press of the channel changer doesn’t translate into an informed public, ready for sensible criticism and decisions.
But my point is that politicians and those who report on them have been agonizing for a few years over a widening gulf between the governors and the governed, and a distrust unto hatred of politicians, and a cynicism unto scorn of the media for its bent for the shallow and the sensational.
The reality is that when we consider most issues across politics’ diversity-from taxation to deficits to unemployment to medicare to communications to transport to crime to justice to immigration to culture to education to trade to dealing with the U.S. to Quebec and the constitution-there is much published or shown which is easily available to most citizens.
Recent data shows Canada spends more on formal education than any other country. Relatively, we have more cabled homes and we’ve led the world for years in telephone usage. A few European countries spend relatively more than we do on a public library system but our marvel is widespread and handy for access in most of our cities and towns.
Year by year relatively more of us than other nationalities make extended visits to a foreign country, giving us contrasts and comparisons with our political and social ways and means.
Given such profusion of data and outlets it’s a rare Canadian who is overtly political or intent on an issue or for a cause who hasn’t chances to be read or heard and seen.
Of course, it’s not all for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Depending on your interests or biases you will have complaints, say about the dominance of political correctness or the insipidness of our national feelings or the dearth of civility or the rising approval for governmental meanness with the unfortunate.
But if you really want to know, if you do want to hear and see the chief political actors and their interpreters, there’s a great deal available. The citizen who wants to form opinions or confirm his beliefs or back up his interests has few excuses.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 21, 1994
ID: 12275040
TAG: 199412200132
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Over decades few gossips on Parliament Hill politics are more familiar than those about cabinet shuffles. There’s been some recently, much of it cruelly focused on who should be dropped from this first Chretien cabinet of 23 (which includes the PM and Joyce Fairbairn, the stock senator).
The guff on cabinet usually notes the surfeit of exceptional talent on the Grit backbench, notably from Ontario, and the need to uncover ministers with popular impact to share the load largely borne by the PM and his ministers for justice and finance, Allan Rock and Paul Martin.
A common view among reporters has three of the ministers so inept and shaky in public they ought to be turfed soon. The three are: David Anderson (national revenue) B.C.’s lone cabinet member; Dianne Marleau (health) one of four women in the cabinet and one of two ministers from Northern Ontario;(the other, Ron Irwin (Indian and northern affairs); and Michel Dupuy (Canadian heritage) one of five ministers from Quebec.
This trio has had the worst press, much of it for seeming either lame-brained or fuzzy when up on their feet in the House during question period.
This is a bit unfair to Anderson. He has a confident bearing, a sonorous voice and fair grammar, but he got off to a bad start (by suing the government over a previous job) and by seeming out of sync with lower mainland anxieties and co-ordination with the provincial government.
Marleau’s high, discomfiting voice exaggerates her lack of incisiveness and her capacity for forgetting briefings.
Dupuy is a butt because of a wispy, hesitant over-cultured delicacy that’s too fine for a mere politician.
But this threesome is not alone in being mugged by the press and to a considerable degree by the opposition. Four high partisans, seen as favorites of Chretien, have been less than steady and often clumsy and absolutely without finesse or subtlety.
Sheila Copps (environment) sets her backbench shuddering when she deputizes for the PM.
Sergio Marchi (citizenship and immigration) continues to be vain and windy, getting by in the House on bafflegab but obviously no master of a very dicey portfolio.
Ron Irwin, the aforementioned minister for Indian affairs, has quietened and become careful after a crude, bumptious beginning.
Douglas Young (transport) is far meaner a tongue than is acceptable over the long run of the House.
This latter quartet of negatively seen ministers is less criticized than the first three, in part because they’ve been such Chretien loyalists, also because they are veterans in partisan House antics.
Copps is no longer worth much within the cabinet or caucus. She may be outside, at least symbolically, but her crudeness clashes more and more with Chretien’s dexterities.
Last week gossip reached print that the PMO gang was categorizing one cabinet member as very “dumb,” setting off a canvass of who it was. The speculators would weigh in with Marleau and Dupuy and then get to Copps and Marchi.
After a year in office it’s hard to argue against the much smaller cabinet we have or that its present membership, duds and all, has much hurt the government. But, metaphorically, the seas are rising, the winds getting stronger. The testing months are in early and mid-1995.
In these months Paul Martin must carry off a tough budget. Lloyd Axworthy must establish a new social system plan for legislation – a task he’s been blowing. And Marcel Masse as the “detail” minister for the so-called program review, must unveil fewer programs and fewer officials or there’ll be derisive scorn for the Liberals as national managers.
Like most cabinets of Ottawa memory this one is seen as having both a left wing and a right wing. But the leader now is a pragmatic, fast talking but slow acting man. He’ll be as conservative or right wing as is practical on economic and social issues and he will never delegate a final, major decision to any member or nucleus of members in his cabinet.
The left wing is very much in eclipse in the cabinet, far more than in the whole caucus. The right wing is strong for the PM in cabinet and in caucus as a tackler of deficits and debt, although in caucus it’s a bit restive over moves on gun control and homosexual rights.
But it’s all so obvious it’s banal: in cabinet or caucus or the whole party, the PM dominates.
We cabinet flaw-pickers know there’s little pressure on Chretien for a shuffle, even if he has so much more ability behind him than beside him.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 18, 1994
ID: 12274225
TAG: 199412160172
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


This is about four new books, good for a serious reader. Two are perfect for those who wonder about the intertwine of lawyers and partisan politics. The other two have much on my line of work – the media’s role in partisan politics.
The books with the legal emphasis are biographies of dead but still remembered lawyers, J.C. McRuer (1890-1985) and Arthur Maloney (1919-1984).
The first is A Passion for Justice; the Legacy of James Chalmers McRuer, by Patrick Boyer.
The second is The Life and Times of Arthur Maloney: the Last of the Tribunes, by Charles Pullen. Both books are in the series by the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History.
The books for the media wise are by veteran journalists: George Bain has written Gotcha! How the Media Distort the News (Key Porter); Knowlton Nash has a huge effort, titled The Microphone Wars; a History of Triumph and Betrayal at the CBC (M&S).
So far the Nash book has had the most reviews, with few of them nasty. Bain’s Gotcha! has had far fewer. The word drifting in is that seniors in journalism, even its professors, have been ducking Gotcha! One hears it’s because Bain focuses on the Big Three (the CBC, Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star). His relentless exegesis of their tactics and values are nigh sacrilege, and a hard book to savage in detail.
Nash has been well appreciated, noticeable for his running accounts of the CBC’s top men from Alphonse Ouimet through to Pierre Juneau, Gerard Veilleux, and today’s Tony Manera. Nash believes his employer is a vital Canadian cause, more than reason for the short shrift he gives those who would curb governmental funding or want more objectivity in CBC news.
A sentence in Bain’s book catches the tenor of CBC zealots like Nash.
“As the story goes (and goes and goes) the Tories, deep, deep down, have always wanted the public broadcaster dead, but hesitating in assassination, they have made do with meanness, denying it all the public money it would like, and exerting underhand pressure on news and public affairs departments to produce programs more to their liking.”
Bain largely scuppers this Nash theme with incidents. Often his argument is so close and logical I wished for slower unfolding and more discursiveness, particularly on the three pack leaders and trend setters of Canadian journalism in English. Despite this caveat, after reading Gotcha! you will understand better why we have come to hate or distrust politicians and see and hear so damned much from interest groups.
Nash’s narrative for the CBC in the ’60s when I was close to it is very fair and accurate. Despite proprietorial pride, his CBC book’s a keeper.
It has one bothersome gap, however, in his tracing of the CBC’s developing difficulties as our super-show in broadcasting. Consider two famous thinkers in our past, Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan. They made the world aware that the fundamental changes wrought in societies through the ages came from changing technology in communications, not new ideas or great heroes.
Technology keeps rolling, and opening an ever greater variety of unblockable choices for viewers and listeners. The decline in the CBC’s ratings, and so its increasing marginality as an essential institution, stems more from technology (cable and satellite dishes) than Tory cuts or the greed-driven animus of private interests.
Now to the splendid lawyers, McRuer and Maloney – though McRuer was also a great judge, often a royal commissioner, and a law reformer across the board, from the Constitution to monopoly-busting to crime and the police.
Patrick Boyer as McRuer’s biographer had so much on his plate: more than half a century’s accomplishments by a marvel of brain power, energy, and dedication. The image of a shy, austere, puritanical, busy, incisive polymath does break through the long train of deeds.
McRuer was so capable that time and again Tory politicians gave him big jobs though he was a keen, open Liberal. It’s unlikely any other Canadian lawyer has ever done so much so well, and so often for public good. So Boyer, a prolific legal author and a recent MP, has had much to chop and compress. One gets almost a synopsis of legal issues from the 1920s to the 1980s.
In contrast, Charles Pullen, also a lawyer but even more a professor of literature, has far less material in print or diaries from Arthur Maloney’s shorter, narrower career as a criminal lawyer and (briefly) as a Tory MP. In the latter role I saw Arthur up close, above all as a fellow MP intent on ending capital punishment. I rate him among the best six speakers I’ve heard in the House (with John Diefenbaker, Tommy Douglas, David Lewis, Allan MacEachen, and Lucien Bouchard).
There’s too much in McRuer for a major movie but not for Maloney, almost legendary now as charming, lovable, somewhat wayward, and convivial. A trial lawyer with many triumphs in defence.
In tandem these biographies are most revealing of our courts, our judges, and the law as a fascinating and very political panorama.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 16, 1994
ID: 12273558
TAG: 199412150243
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Reaction to the new white paper on defence has been muted, though generally positive. The proposals closely follow the points made by the joint committee on defence and surprised neither opposition parties nor the media. We need a peace “dividend” given our debt load and the end of the Cold War, so defence spending should be slashed.
Paradoxically, in the white paper this recognition of the need for frugality is paralleled with an expansive attitude on the roles Canada is to play, notably in peacekeeping and in the fast-burgeoning Pacific.
The government squares an odd circle by taking the advice of many witnesses at committee hearings: cut the air force radically; divert some savings to the army; keep the navy at or near its present strength. If any single criticism of the paper has emerged it is that this is not tough enough. Canada needs to shed some familiar defence obligations if she is to play a significant UN role.
The Globe and Mail noted the need for even more resources than the air force cuts provide. Its editorials suggested our allies accept that through our peacekeeping work we contribute to the NATO and NORAD partnerships in a new way, and in recognition for this we should be relieved of the most obligations of alliance membership. The Globe wrote:
“Instead of measuring respect and influence in terms of warriors, for example, we might ask that our contribution to international security be assessed on our peacekeepers … In a global division of military labor, Canada might offer to assume more of this responsibility and less of others, shouldered more efficiently by allied nations.”
Now that’s gall! We’ve used precisely this line for years to excuse our minor contributions to these organizations. Why would our allies accept such a proposal, given some like Denmark and Holland are far smaller than Canada but contribute to both NATO and UN operations?
An irony most of us are unaware of lies in the small heed we pay to what our allies think, given we depend upon alliances for our defence and our influence in world affairs.
Since the hurried release of the white paper nary a word’s been heard on how the Americans and Europeans feel about a further withdrawal from our defence relationships. Some of their reticence is mere diplomatic nicety. It’s bad form to chastise a shirking partner. But unofficial sources are uneasy, as in the recent past, over our penny-pinching ways.
Consider what the bible of the aerospace fraternity, Aviation Week, said about our defence review report in an editorial: “Does Canada really want an air force?”
“At the end of the Second World War this strategically positioned polar nation had the world’s fourth largest air force and still had 1,000 fighters in 31 squadrons a decade later.”
Now with only 125 CF-18s left, we propose to keep just 48 to 60 operational. The editorial says the fleet is “already depleted to the point where there may not be enough left on active duty to cover the nation’s far-reaching defence commitments.”
Given the need for air surveillance over the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic “this means one deployable squadron of CF-18s to cover commitments ranging from NATO to the Pacific Rim. This is a defence strategy? Canada would almost be better off disbanding its CF-18 force entirely.”
The editorial didn’t address our elimination of the whole CF-5 fleet, 36 of which are having expensive upgrading at Bristol Aereospece in Winnipeg. The whole flight training program for fighter pilots will have be be redrawn for pilots having to make the transition from 1960 vintage Tudors to the remaining hi-tech CF-18s.
The pious unreality in much defence deliberation here seems clear to others but not to us. We seem returning to the 1930s. Then Canada, pleading poverty, maintained a “force in being” which lacked any military worth and was only a base on which a capability could be built if one should be needed. This is now the case for the air force.
As for our vaunted, expanded, peacekeeping force, it may be useful but it’s a small component in any future operation the size of those in Cambodia, Somalia and Bosnia. And such missions will continue to count on American logistical support, and when things go wrong, on American arms for rescue. So much for an independent military role for Canada.
Despite all the cuts we will still spend over $100 billion in the next decade for a military so small there’ll be almost no deployable forces. The defence committee report did pose a rhetorical question: If we did not already have a military, would we need to invent it? Given our concerns over both costs and appearing to be real warriors the question should have been: Do Canadians really want a military at all?”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 14, 1994
ID: 12272881
TAG: 199412130116
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


They say today’s generations see Canada as a nation of peacekeepers. Take a Globe & Mail editorial before Remembrance Day. It did homage to those Canadian generations who fought in two world wars but stressed their successors see things differently.
This chap of the past generation doubts the practical worth of this image of Canadians standing for peace, ready to aid less fortunate states through a military wearing the UN’s blue berets.
Later editorials in the “national” paper elaborated the peacemaker theme in dealing with: 1) the report of the defence review committee; 2) the report of the foreign affairs review committee; 3) the new white paper on defence. And Richard Gwyn, the Star pundit, thinks we have become a nation of Mounties, bringing peace and order, if not yet good government, to troubled countries. Of course, the varied incarnations of CBC News uses the same hymn book.
If our self-image now is of international Dudley Do-Rights, one would think it was built up through soul-searching, say as Americans did after Vietnam. That conflict was the figurative Waterloo for the Pax Americana. Very recently there have been comparable debacles in our international raison d’etre, peacekeeping, but with few signs of public concern, let alone anger. Consider our quick sweep past the Somalia images.
Remember them? The bodies of crew from U.S. helicopters being dragged through the streets. The humiliating withdrawal of the Americans soon after, and our own withdrawal not much later. The now infamous trophy photos of Canadian boys hammering a bound, gagged Somali lad.
Recall Cambodia. Before Somalia and Rwanda it was the locale of the most expensive, ambitious UN operation of all – to help rebuild a country ravaged by war, revolution and state terror. A billion dollars later the blue berets came home. Cambodia is sliding again into the black pit. The Khmer Rouge of Killing Fields notoriety still wars from bases along the Thai border. The new government installed with fanfare after UN-sponsored elections has gone its predecessors’ way, so intent on spoils it cannot handle the guerrillas in the bush.
And there’s Bosnia, the UN’s black hole. The humiliations are endless: relief convoys blocked or robbed at gunpoint; air strikes threatened, called off, blocked by the Serbs’ use of our blue helmets as hostages or by complaints from nations with ground troops (most notably Canada). Even in their own compounds our troops are little more than hostages.
Our zealots for peacekeeping criticize the British for threatening to pull out of Bosnia one day, then the next day praise the French for asking the UN to prepare withdrawal plans if this should be necessary.
When overseas, our prime minister says he won’t dodge it: our troops are being held hostage. At home his defence minister takes pains to explain why the “h” word isn’t right.
Our leaders keep calling the various UN ops in former Yugoslavia “peacekeeping.” A former commander tries valiantly to explain Bosnia is not and never has been a “peacekeeping” operation. It is a relief effort. Larry Eagleberger, a former U.S. secretary of state says in Bosnia there’s enough blame to go around. That includes pious Canada.
Even with this dismal record hardly a murmur of dissent has risen from the learned dons or the Canada 21 group or in the defence committee report or the white paper, which all call for putting more of Canadians and money into UN operations.
The refrain also says: By doing our international/humanitarian duty we secure “a place at the table.”
What table? Canada isn’t at the tables. It’s not at the “contact group” table of nations working for a peaceful settlement in the Balkans. Germany, with no troops at risk, is there.
Has such a failure to recognize our contribution caused a furious debate here? No. Frankly, our ministers don’t push for it because they have neither the confidence nor the ideas to put into the divisive day-to-day chorus of the contact group.
It’s doubtful most politicians here, or those who report on them, know who is at the contact group table or could say what the current plan offers or what the costs are thus far in Canadians killed and wounded.
Yet they say peacekeeping is central to our self-image.
Ordinary Canadians may be more realistic. A recent poll found 56% saying we should get out of Bosnia. Before we restructure our military to better serve the UN we should reappraise the wonders of our choice of peacekeeping. It’s petty to blame others for the failures in the field which we claim the credit for creating.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 11, 1994
ID: 12674867
TAG: 199412090121
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


One way to get a fix on the referendum campaign in Quebec is to compare its features, certain or probable, with what’s happened before, particularly in 1980, when 85% of eligible Quebecers voted on a conception called “sovereignty association” and 59.5% rejected it.
It’s a fine bet there will be a repetition; nonetheless, that’s not guaranteed.
Quebec gets to almost all of us, that is, the 20 million or so Canadians who don’t live there. We must put up with a situation, drifted into three decades ago without a national uproar, in which all our political parties and their leaders accepted that Canada was divisible and that by themselves those who live in Quebec could vote to pull the province out of Confederation and make it an independent state.
In the late 20th century world the phrase “self-determination” had become a basic and there was no Abraham Lincoln here to say nay, to insist that this federation of ours was indivisible.
God knows, the foregoing paragraph reiterates the obvious. But it needs reiteration. Why? To point out to the many who will snarl and rage at the gall of Premier Jacques Parizeau and his crude procedures for a referendum vote next year that what’s under way has the cachet of the huge precedence of 1980 and, long before that, to the creation of the fundamental problem of governance when a French colony became British after 1759.
And the problem is almost certain to be around for succeeding generations into the late decades of the 21st century if the next referendum on Quebec’s independence fails (and the next and the next).
Let’s note the similarities and the contrasts between the 1995 scenario and the 1980 one: the time-frames; the substantive questions for the voters; the cast of main characters; the opinion-polling, then and now; the Chretien strategy; and external factors – the U.S. and free trade, and GATT.
First, the campaign particulars will differ more than the time-frames – around six months!
Only a brutal, mid-winter collapse in the support for sovereignty, revealed by the opinion polling, is likely to make Parizeau delay the vote past June.
Last time it was held on May 20 after a campaign that had really begun in 1979 when Rene Levesque published a paper setting out his vision of a different association for Quebec with Canada. This was followed in late December by the PQ’s release of the official wording of the referendum question and the opposition’s response in early January with its “beige” paper, masterminded by Liberal leader Claude Ryan and titled Towards a New Canadian Federation.
And this time it should all be over in six months – no more than a month or so longer.
Of course, Parizeau’s draft bill of last week doesn’t set out the question. The question will be for or against the bill when it is completed through a process of province-wide commissions to develop the gist of “sovereignty” for inclusion in the bill.
The bill will almost certainly be debated and passed in the National Assembly before mid-April and the official referendum campaign set for 30-35 days.
In 1980, through January and part of February, Canada was convulsed with a federal election campaign and the triumphant return to power in Ottawa of Pierre Trudeau. In 1995 the only sure convulsion, Paul Martin’s budget in February, is far less apocalyptic.
In hindsight, even more than in the immediate aftermath of Trudeau’s victory, we can see how the result drastically altered the balances in the referendum situation, not least by putting a player on the stage whose impact in Quebec was greater than that of Claude Ryan, the formal head of the “no” campaign. This time no federal election; even a significant provincial election, say in Ontario, is likely before the referendum.
Now for the substantive question. It’s phrasing will be simpler this time – merely approving the bill as passed – but that’s largely irrelevant. It offers a Quebec disengaged from the federation but with residual economic ties of currency and trade to be negotiated with the provinces left behind. We will have immense puffing and blowing over how the question is arrived at and what it says but this will mean little. If the question is affirmed, Quebec will be moving out.
Now the cast of main characters.
In Quebec, Parizeau and Daniel Johnson are poised against each other, as Rene Levesque and Claude Ryan were in 1980 when the campaign began. Levesque had far more MNAs than Ryan but he was into the fifth year of his mandate.
Parizeau has a far narrower margin but it’s very recent. Johnson has many more MNAs than Ryan had and even though his attendant colleagues seem less vivid than Parizeau’s, his party organization is stronger and readier than was Ryan’s.
There are unlikely to be interventions of grave import within Quebec from non-politicians. Undoubtedly, a possible intervenor late in the campaign is Pierre Trudeau if federalism seems to be losing ground.
Last time in most imaginations, inside and outside Quebec, the contest was symbolized by Levesque vs. Trudeau rather than Levesque vs. Ryan, with Jean Chretien skirmishing around as designated federal cheerleader. This time it seems likely to be Parizeau vs. Johnson, and neither is a fool nor a barn-burner. This time Chretien as prime minister has no useful lieutenant to serve as he did in 1980 but, more significantly, he set out his strategy months ago and holds to it.
This strategy might be called an ultra-confident pragmatism, paraphrased as: “Don’t worry. Federalism will win – without promises. Win without our massive intrusion in the referendum campaign.” At least that’s where Chretien is now, during the early skirmishes over legality and democracy. Opinion polls have made the Liberal federalists confident, and with the 1980 result as a grand precedent, why not?
In 1980 several premiers were much heard and seen in the campaign, not just through the national media but in forays to Quebec – in particular, Bill Davis of Ontario, Peter Lougheed of Alberta, and Allan Blakeney of Saskatchewan. This time several will be eager – notably Bob Rae of Ontario and Frank McKenna of New Brunswick – but none seems a grand addition to the federalist cast.
In cast terms, the really colorful characters with unusual roles unmatched in 1980 are obvious: Lucien Bouchard, in particular, but also Preston Manning.
If separatism has a potential Pied Piper it’s the passionate, brilliant, persuasive Bouchard, out of action for most of the campaign but almost sure to be unleashed and flying before it’s over. His able caucus mates will be ceaselessly agitating against federalism and promoting their cause every day the House sits in 1995 until the vote is taken. Last time the MPs of all parties hung together as devout federalists.
And if a substantial vein of feeling in the rest of Canada about Quebec’s future in Canada and how to deal with it went without leadership and substance in 1980, Manning and the Reformers will provide it this time. Already their line is the sheer illegality of what Parizeau has under way and, beyond that, the unconstitutionality of any separation from the federation.
In essence, Reform is almost declaring Canada still is what we let slip away without a whimper in the 1960s under Mike Pearson as prime minister – that it is indivisible. Oddly, Reform’s more of a challenge to Chretien’s strategy than the BQ, not so much because the Reform line may be hurtful in Quebec but because it could win such resonance outside it, forcing the PM to a tougher line than he wants to follow.
Well before and often through the 1980 campaign the opinion polls published the sway toward and away from so-called sovereignty. Already we have a marked difference. In late ’79 well into the winter the “yes” share was higher than it has been in 1994. Even up to the last few polls in 1980 it seemed touch and go, not the 18 points it became. This time the polls indicate a very handy plus 10 share or more for “no.”
One cannot imagine any interventions, internally or internationally, which will turn the current running bias toward “yes.”
Frankly, the rest of the world, including our big neighbor, cannot get excited about us. But we do have a contest. Fair odds would be at least 10-1. But the “yes” folk are true believers, numerous enough for a strong campaign. And they do have one personality who, with a few breaks and federalist overconfidence, could make it close, even squeeze a win.
To vault back to my opening, win, even lose, the primeval Canadian issue will not disappear – at least for long.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 09, 1994
ID: 12674577
TAG: 199412080245
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Next week the first year of sittings of the House of Commons ends. This column is inspired by the annual awards in Britain, sponsored by The Spectator and now in their 11th year, for the parliamentarian of the year, the backbencher of the year, the member to watch, the minister to watch and the campaigner of the year.
Over there, reporters of seven different papers review possible choices and then list them. This is a one-man review and pick, with more categories than in the U.K.
This has been the most stimulating and unusual House in my observation (since 1957) in terms of its personnel. Over two-thirds of the MPs are fresh to this first House under the Chretien Liberals, and with an opposition split by and large between two almost brand-new parties, the Bloc Quebecois and the Reform Party.
No previous House and its committees has ever had French used so much. And none in my memory has heard so many arguments and ideas which have been outside the pale of the three parties that have monopolized House affairs for 30 years – the Liberals, Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats.
So a new government, new faces galore, different propositions, two sizable opposition groups, largely with regional bases, and four moderately competent “chairs.”
Now to the women and men whom I rate as “the best” in six different categories.
A caution: much vital work of MPs is done secretly – in cabinet and in caucuses – but for any MP there are four open fields for performances. First, speaking in the chamber; second, taking part in parliamentary committees; third – and harder – playing personally and directly to the nation, usually through TV but sometimes with briefs, pamphlets, picketing, or travels with a purpose; fourth, tending the constituency.
The Best Parliamentarian this first year has been Lucien Bouchard, leader of the BQ. His role as leader of the Official Opposition gave him the chances, and he took them with flare and good content and, more than any party leader in recent memory, with a respect for parliamentary rules and the chair. He’s rarely petty and has an electricity and quickness like a Tommy Douglas and informed lingo for many issues that’s reminiscent of Jack Pickersgill or (yes!) Pierre Trudeau. He more than leads, he inspires the other BQ MPs.
The Best Minister was as quick and certain a choice as the best parliamentarian: a new MP and the minister of justice, Allan Rock. He’s easy on his feet, using good prose and less legalese than one might expect. He’s just partisan enough for his backbenchers and just clever enough in argument to impress without being cruel.
The Best MP (who is neither a minister nor a leader nor a parliamentary secretary) is a difficult choice, really between two women: Suzanne Tremblay of the Bloc and Deborah Grey of Reform. Strong, smart, argumentative, sometimes fiercely so, each has wit and a sense of irony. As Tremblay does more heavy-duty work in House committees, I’d award her the best MP tag this year.
The other MPs I was considering are promising young men: Jim Silye and Ian McClelland of Reform; Yvan Loubier of the Bloc; and two Grit self-starters; Tom Wappel and John Bryden.
Jean Chretien has 22 members with him at the cabinet table, and nine secretaries of state (ministers, but not in the cabinet). My canvass of the 22, assigning one, two, or three stars or no stars (i.e. zero or minus) left Allan Rock far out in front and only six other cabinet members with stars (David Collenette; Ralph Goodale; Andre Ouellet; Paul Martin; Roy MacLaren; and Paul Tobin).
The most impressive of the nine mere ministers in the last appointment is Alfonso Gagliano, the deputy House leader, an adroit, crafty parliamentarian. In quite low profile slots, Christine Stewart and Douglas Peters seem able and promising ministers. The other six are mostly decorative.
The Best Parliamentary Secretary in a very strong field of 23 is David Walker (finance) but five others are also exceptional – Dennis Mills, Jesse Flis, Hedy Fry, Fred Mifflin, and Russ MacLellan.
The Best Committee Chairman is John Godfrey (Canadian heritage) but Bob Nault (natural resources) is close, and Jim Peterson (finance) and Peter Milliken (procedure and House affairs) have been very able and fair.
So, in ’94 the best of the House: Lucien Bouchard; Allan Rock; Suzanne Tremblay; Alfonso Gagliano; David Walker; John Godfrey.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 07, 1994
ID: 12674266
TAG: 199412060117
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


The march of bureaucracy is relentless. Ever more, ever more. Consider the plan this week from the most articulate federal minister.
Of course, bureaucracy is as banal as my observation. It’s routine and records, fees and those who collect them. Soon several millions of us are to have more of this when the regime described in two brief documents, The Government’s Action Plan on Firearms Control, and Background Information on Firearms Control becomes law.
The plan will be fully in place by 2003. By then each gun in the country will be registered and tagged to an owner.
The key to the system will be a computer-based registry managed by a senior appointee of the RCMP. He and those who handle the guns’ network – registering, checking, transferring – will run a continuing register of all guns in Canada.
To abet control many kinds of guns (mostly small pistols) will be banned. There will be close monitoring and control of ammunition sales and a nation-wide system of local checks of gunowners and their weapons.
One may keep almost all the guns one may have now but each must be registered. The owner will face “vetting” by local gun control officers (usually police). He or she must be ready to demonstrate sound provenance of the weapon and to re-register it every five years.
Yes, one may continue to own or to acquire a gun of a kind not forbidden for use in target shooting, hunting (or for what is called “for sustenance”) or as a piece in a collection of guns.
The plan’s proponent, Allan Rock, Minister of Justice, is sure to get backing of the House and Senate, ensuring the system of close control. The system doesn’t ensure – and here I’m a doubter – that it will get good results in fewer homicides, suicides, and robberies in which guns provide the violence or its threat.
Those who speak for the police of the country do not doubt. They back the measures. So do the provincial attorneys general. And despite substantial, organized resistance from many firearms’ owners, particularly those living in our vast rural and hinterland areas, I think a majority of adult Canadians would and will support the tougher controls. We have many hunters and target-shooters but far from enough to stop the legislation through lobbying. There is a prospect (I think minor) of such persistent resistance and evasion of the register, the fees, the licensing, and the re-checks that the system will never become thorough and whole.
In my estimate a referendum for, or against, gun ownership would turn up not just a goodly majority for the Rock plan. If the question were asked, as much as a third would vote for abolition of gun ownership.
Most of us know the happenings which have built the public “downer” on guns and those who have them. Some of the response has been shaped and led by the feminist movement and subsequent awareness of the violence suffered by women and children. Some has come from vicious crimes, accentuated by both TV’s news coverage and dramas of robbery and gang warfare over drugs.
To a marked degree, we’re reacting to Americana. We as voyeurs of the far greater violence among our neighbors have been deciding we must not have this here. Within this reaction is scepticism, often deepening to scorn, about the continuing grip on the American imagination of “the right to bear arms.”
Most of us, including many who own the estimated eight million guns, do not believe that personally owned guns are a general necessity, let alone a citizen’s right in order to guarantee democracy against its enemies or to defend life and property.
To many gunowners my passivity before the majority march to tight gun controls will seem supine. Why give way to more links in the bureaucratic chains of control? The short answer for me is a changing society and altered public values in my lifetime.
My acceptance follows personal retrospect. From nine to my late 20s I owned and often toted and used guns – rifles, shotguns, and pistols – for target-shooting and for killing deer, moose, wolves, ducks, geese, partridge, etc. And in war our crew often used machine-gun fire and directed artillery fire against German soldiers and airmen.
In looking back no sense of shame or guilt overtakes me, and I recall times of excitement and pleasure. But there are a lot more of us now, a far wider variety of both firearms and bad models. Crime is more pervasive and destructive. Finally, Canadian nature is still with us, and those who’d go beyond watching and filming birds and beasts may do it despite the tighter, bureaucratic system.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 04, 1994
ID: 12673862
TAG: 199412020161
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


This column’s train of thought began with the phrase “sexual orientation.” Its use in a bill before Par-liament is the sort of political dodge we get when the state works figuratively as “our brothers’ keeper.”
Often there’s less than common sense in life and politics. We know we are likely to be hurt by something we do but we keep doing it. How far should the state intrude with laws against those who ignore common sense?
Health has long been a matter for the modern state and so for politics. Aside from individual and family agonies from disease there is a high cost to the state for medical treatment, hospitals, research, etc., which taxes cover.
It took almost four centuries from the time Sir Walter Raleigh brought tobacco to Europe before the harm to individual health of its personal use became clear and proven, and led to campaigns of warning and, in recent years, to many legislated restrictions on smoking tobacco. In my lifetime smoking has gone from being taken as a rather benign, widely shared habit to its definition by law as a dangerous addiction and a cause of cancer, emphysema, bronchitis, etc.
Smoking is so bad for us, as individuals and as a community, its use has to be made difficult, and must be publicized by the state as stupid, harmful and an avoidable burden on the health system.
It’s also been known since classic times that steady or heavy drinking of alcoholic beverages could lead to a gripping addiction and ruinous afflictions of the body and mind.
Facing up to the perils of alcoholism through temperance movements and “dry” laws got rolling in the politics of North America over a century ago. Along with it there eventually emerged a broad realization that moderation was a sensible watchword for those who “drank.”
Even more widespread in an economic sense than the tobacco industry, the industry producing and selling alcoholic products has continued and diversified – though cribbed almost everywhere by regulations, taxes, and criminal laws against those who become wayward or dangerous through drunkenness.
Historically, venereal diseases have concerned societies for as long as alcoholism, and been seen as an even more serious abomination. Sexual licence such as adultery or any fornication outside wedlock was forbidden, in part because of venereal diseases. And also under the sexual canon, from time immemorial, homosexual practices had the most serious religious sanctions and were outlawed almost everywhere in the Christian world as unnatural and a threat to the family and society.
So responses which would prevent or reduce diseases or health breakdowns caused by the use of tobacco and alcohol or by sexual promiscuity have a long history and, when you reflect on it, limited success – at least in curbing smoking, drinking and adultery. But as collectivities dealing with disease we have more or less kept trying. One should note that the usually harsh punishment and suppression of homosexuality was because it was unnatural rather than a harbinger of disease.
Those mindful of history know the limitations on what democratic governments can do with laws and propaganda to stamp out smoking, drinking, and sexual promiscuity. Some of us will continue to smoke and drink and fornicate promiscuously despite risks and often harsh consequences.
Since the menace known as AIDS burst over the world such a short time ago it’s become clear that anal intercourse practised by male homosexuals and bisexuals is a prime factor in the epidemic.
What flummoxes one, given the legal binds and the assiduous anti-propaganda we accept on smoking and drinking, is the hesitation of our law-makers and health authorities in going after the AIDS-causing practices. They tippytoe on matters homosexual.
For example, the federal minister of justice uses the coy euphemism of “sexual orientation” in his Criminal Code amendment to increase punishments for violence against homosexuals. And thus far, as I read affairs, there’s been far more official compassion for those who get AIDS, mostly through anal sex, than for smokers and boozers.
As I see it, campaigns by governments against health perils should not loop around the largest cause of spreading AIDS. And there should be an equality of each citizen before the laws, whether he or she is male or female, homosexual or heterosexual, “visible” or white, aboriginal or not.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 02, 1994
ID: 12673573
TAG: 199412010144
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


This week Broadcast News asked readers of its bulletin on cable whether or not they agreed with John Bryden, a Liberal MP, who wants Ottawa to stop funding special interest groups. Seventy percent of those who called in agreed.
The percentage is heartening, but not surprising. Many citizens either don’t belong to a funded interest group or are unaware that they do. Bryden shows that many interest groups bluff their backing. He also shows that some which don’t get direct dollars raise money through their status as a non-partisan, charitable cause.
Most interest groups speak for, or claim to speak for and re-present, more real people than they do. All the more reason why Bryden thinks they should get their backing from those they represent.
One overlooked consequence of manifold, funded interest groups is the hundreds of little leaks of public revenues. Taken separately each leak isn’t shocking and usually the cause seems worthy. But the collective total is high for a country already weighted with high governmental deficits and debt.
You may imagine all this is a rather arcane subject that doesn’t really affect you much, either as a taxpayer or as a citizen who wants both an open, honest public process of debate and some independence in our politicians.
Overall there are several thousand interest groups in the three troughs – federal, provincial and municipal. They often dominate access to the media and public debate in the field of their interests. No one anywhere has any useful list of them. Their scale and reach becomes apparent when one notes the interest groups which have made representations to the committees of just this Parliament. There’ve been hundreds and many are the funded sort.
If you’re skeptical, scan the witness lists this year of parliamentary committees on citizenship, foreign affairs, defence policy, social policy and budgetary review. Again and again those making such representations are members, often permanent employees, of interest groups sustained in large part by annual grants and charitable status. Most advocate more spending or different spending and usually more bureaucracy to serve their interests.
Consider, as the Bryden paper does, the Canadian Ethnocultural Council (CEC) or the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) or the National Anti-Poverty Organization or Canadian Parents for French or the Canadian Labor Congress (CLC) or the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Each has been pressing its views on one or more of such committees. More and more the political process counts on them to keep a continuing show going of criticism of policies and programs and suggestions for more of them or better ones (and almost never for less).
Some of such funded groups, usually through affiliated or supporting organizations, claim to speak for several million people (see NAC or the CEC or the CLC). In fact, in terms of citizens who even know they’re represented, or the even fewer who know what the lobbying is about, these numbers are gross exaggerations.
Such funded groups are present in almost every field of interest. Historically, the first ones were religious. Now each field has its cluster – the professions, unions, medicine, diseases, sports, science, ethnics, the military, peace, single mothers, lesbians, youth, veterans, seniors, natives, artists … on and on.
There’s almost no oversight of the funded interest groups, or anyone anywhere in politics interested before Bryden surfaced with informed clues on their number and utility. Almost all are beyond the reviews of auditor generals and legislative committees.
Most mandarins like such interest groups because they usually promote a continuance or increase in both their spending and ranks. In some cases – e.g. the John Howard Society and the Elizabeth Fry Society – they’ve provided volunteers and services for the unfortunate.
A lot of politicians cater to such interest groups. Despite any criticisms they may make they seem a credible, sounding board and reinforce a government’s activities.
By himself Bryden has initiated a process that should be taken up by Parliament, legislatures and municipal councils. Challenge each funded interest group to justify annually what it gets with clear accounting on where its money goes.
The MP is on to a matter too long neglected. Surely no other country has per capita such a costly cacophony of organized interests which are financed by those they holler at.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 30, 1994
ID: 12673295
TAG: 199411290051
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Too rarely for my satisfaction as a columnist does a series of happenings almost overflow the cup of my causes. But in recent weeks things have been flowing well. Consider these six examples.
1) At last the policy of multiculturalism, first officially floated (and bloated) with a federal ministry and regular funding in 1974, is under strong attack as divisive and undermining Canadian national sentiment. The criticisms, increasingly fierce, are rising in both the arena of party politics and within what seems almost a majority in editorial viewpoints of our dailies. And although most critics note the dollar costs of multiculturalism, most of their concern is on the gradual degradation of a common vital centre of shared values and citizenship.
2) At last steps have been taken toward major shifts in the immigration policies which developed in the late ’60s and exalted the virtues of “the rainbow.” The Canada it postulated was to be a model of global diversity in harmony to other nations. In its orgies of approval for every ethnicity, the policies have erased an image of our history as an account of achievements and progress through exemplars from our British and French heritages, particularly of parliamentary government.
3) At last some critical candor of MPs, mostly Reformers, and some serious negative appreciations are bobbing up in almost every region over the vaulting costs and numerous failures of programs for aboriginal people. A sharper focus is going to the relatively few land settlements made or well into negotiation. If what’s done becomes the pattern, generations of Canadian taxpayers will be funding scores and scores of “first nations.” And these, because of their scatter, geographical isolation, dearth of natural resources and very high fertility rates, have no hope of anything better than a future as tiny welfare states.
The latest report of the auditor general details the unbridled, unsupervised welfare spending by the Indian Affairs Department to sustain the reserve enclaves. Surely the Chretien government must tackle such unaccountable extravagance by working toward realistic futures for natives and not a guarantee of multiple apartheid based on blood forever and ever.
4) Despite antagonism from the PM, enough resistance in the massive Liberal caucus has meant Allan Rock, the minister of justice, will delay until February his intention to include a heavier sentencing provision within the Criminal Code for those convicted of harming a person who is a homosexual.
My hesitations at this proposition are because it adds another particular division or group in a community whose goal should always be the equality of each of us under the law, whether as accused or victim. The resistance in the Grit caucus is most heartening, given Chretien’s backing of an articulate minister, and the host in journalism who champion homosexual rights and protections. Many MPs have not been cowed. It may seem quixotic in later retrospects, but the resistance has ensured a fuller public discussion of a difficult issue.
5) For more than 20 years the oral question period of the House of Commons has been mostly farce – not fair, thoughtful politics – but certainly a cheap, ready staple for TV news. Question period as is has been so ingrained it may not be reformable. But a fair swatch of MPs, including aggressive Grits, are after experiments to make the procedure more open, fairer and not orchestrated by the lords of the caucuses.
6) Best of all, a lone Liberal from last year’s crop has boldly gone after the funding nexus of Ottawa with an array of national groups which both lobby and counsel governments. This is far from politically correctness.
John Bryden, an historian and MP for Hamilton-Wentworth, has just issued two booklets under the title Special Interest Group Funding. the first thumbnails 14 organizations which, by and large, are typical of 40 interest groups he has examined. He recommends an end of both federal grants and the entitlement to charitable status for most of them.
Bryden takes after such sacred cows as the Canadian Labor Congress, the Canadian Ethnocultural Council, Canadian Parents for French, and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
His second booklet summarizes what financial data his research elicited from these interest lobbies, vindicating his insistence on Ottawa’s failure of oversight of its spending.
Let me praise Bryden. I hope hundreds of you will write for his booklets and encourage him to keep on his course, whatever nastiness he evokes from the special interest groups.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 27, 1994
ID: 12672921
TAG: 199411250121
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


Dispassionately, of course, what should we make of one parliamentary challenge last week and the response to it?
Preston Manning and his Reformers used several appointments by Jean Chretien to express a puritanical critique of patronage appointments, a feature of federal practices since Confederation. Why was it continuing under this prime minister, as it had under Brian Mulroney, Pierre Trudeau, Lester Pearson, etc., etc.?
Such sermonizing drew scornful jeers from the huge claque of Liberal backbenchers and rude, rather crude, dismissals from Jean Chretien.
Would the prime minister acknowledge, demanded the Reformers, that the old game continued, despite all the Liberal campaign vouchsafes of higher ethics and honest administration?
The question was so wrong-headed Chretien wouldn’t even address it directly. His counter extolled the public lives and contributions to the nation of fine men like Romeo LeBlanc, the next Governor General, and Jean-Robert Gauthier, long a Liberal MP for Ottawa-Vanier and now a senator for the next decade.
The Reformers were dismissed as mean, petty and unworthy of Parliament; their criticism an affront to the hard work and decency of his appointees. And the prime minister used the same argument as Brian Mulroney in his salad days (and Pierre Trudeau before him). Any exclusion of his party’s personnel from federal appointments, large or small, would deprive the country of its major pool of talent.
Chretien was chortling as he cited the figures of opinion polls which are showing a majority of Canadians backs the Liberal party and he couldn’t fail to note, modest though he is, a far larger majority was behind him. The conclusion should be clear. Canadians backed the way he was leading them. They accept his probity and the wisdom in his appointments.
The Reformers reiterated the imperative of clean politics and Manning characterized the Chretien responses as “silly,” but at this stage of the Chretien mandate he’s unlikely to work up much outrage in the country. Handy winners of office can do as they want for a long time in filling the some 2,000 posts beyond civil service auspices.
A CBC reporter put a particular spin on last week’s appointments and a few previous ones. They were proof of Chretien’s loyalty to those who stood with him in past aspirations. This seems the case with the LeBlanc appointment and most of the Senate choices. One may take it further by noting some of his cabinet choices hardly reflected a careful weighing of talents. The clear argument for Sergio Marchi and Ron Irwin as ministers, given their work as mere MPs, was their early, strong backing of Chretien for leader.
But there’s somewhat more to Chretien appointments than rewards for past loyalties to him. Like it or not – and I guess I’m indifferent because I expected nothing else – this federal administration will carry on with the familiar stuff of patronage. Nothing’s changed in this regard.
Take Marchi, chosen minister for citizenship and immigration. At once he began filling posts at his command with his own backers and then from recommended Liberals beyond Toronto whose names and qualities made the list of thousands of patronage prospects kept by Penelope Collenette. The defence minister’s wife runs the same book that Margery LeBreton kept for Brian Mulroney and Jean Pigott kept for Joe Clark.
Take another example, the longest-running of all patronage in our political history. Several Liberal MPs have told me the list of lawyers in their ridings who are to receive work from the department of justice and the solicitor general are new. The Tory lists are gone. The new list is of known Liberals.
Have the Liberals returned to toll-gating – i.e., nicking winners of federal contracts for contributions to the party? This practice made much in the Mulroney years distasteful, particularly in Quebec. The Liberals are not yet as crass as the Tories were, or the Grits of the Trudeau years, but I believe the Liberal-related lobbyist who told me: “Of course, their bagmen check those who get contracts.” Nothing much in partisan patronage changed with the last election. It’s far too soon for Reformers to get public kudos for emphasizing this. Their line comes with their ethical emphasis but it won’t resonate until the Liberals chosen come in hundreds and the polls put Jean Chretien in the 30-40 points range. That’s a long way off, probably 1996 or later.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, November 25, 1994
ID: 12672610
TAG: 199411240149
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Outsiders will say it displays why they are cynical about politicians and those who cover them. No sooner had Jean Chretien lifted Jean-Robert Gauthier from Canada’s safest Liberal seat to the Senate than the Hill speculation turned to “Who could be Jim Coutts II, and might this be another Spadina?”
It was quickly elicited that Eddie Goldenberg, Chretien’s longtime handler, would not be Coutts II, and Vanier, a Franco-Ontarian riding by and large, is no place for Chaviva Hosek of the PM’s small braintrust. Whomever the choice, my bet’s on a female of some renown, and already whoever’s been anointed faces problems because a most energetic Ottawa councillor, Richard Cannings, has said he’ll go for the nomination and he’s a Grit of medium vintage, once serving as aide in the ’70s to a cabinet member, the late Bud Drury.

In the past month there’s been the heaviest blizzard of paper on the Hill in a year, even though the previous production was high, particularly in the thousands of pages taken by parliamentary committee proceedings and reports. The latest flush culminated in the massive compendium of items embodied in the annual report of the auditor general.
This huge undertaking made the smallest blip of any such report in recent memory. Two days after its release it was gone as a source of major news. Why so? In part because this government is only responsible in small part for what the report covers, in part because of its sheer size and scope, including several unusually abstract pitches about innovation and good management, in part because of the general overload of printed stuff on diverse, complex matters such as taxation, unemployment insurance and reducing the deficit.

If taxation is your bag, a new, small pamphlet will interest you. For a copy phone 613-992-7771 or 416-462-3250, the offices of Dennis Mills, MP for Broadview Greenwood, and author in consort with half a dozen tax experts of The Single Tax System; a Proposal for Tax Reform. It’s brief and clear, and particularly good on what’s haywire with our current tax system.

The spate of pre-Christmas books parallels the gush of print from Parliament and government. Let me tip you to a few, beginning with two biographies.
The first, by Ezra Schabas, is Sir Ernest MacMillan; the Importance of Being Canadian, published by U of T Press. In passing through the career of the composer and orchestra leader one gets an unusual insight into the development of Toronto and Canada from World War I through to the 1960s.
The other biography is by Patrick Boyer, lawyer, scholar and former Tory MP. It’s also from U of T Press, titled A Passion for Justice; the Legacy of James Chalmers McRuer. for years I knew only that McRuer was an exceptionally able lawyer and judge, and fixed on fair play for the underdog. Now I know much of his thinking on rights and the constitution prefigured that of Pierre Trudeau.
Another U of T book, edited by R.C. MacLeod and David Schneiderman, is very topical on several counts. Police Powers In Canada: The Evolution and Practice of Authority has 13 essays, including such contemporary topics as aboriginal policing, getting visible minorities into the forces and the hitherto rather unexamined state of how police use their powers. A chapter that surprised me was two Quebecois who set out how and why the Quebec Surete or provincial police was so ineffective and irresponsible in the Oka affair.
Finally, let me suggest a short sleeper of a book which might, like A Lament for a Nation by George Grant, The Vertical Mosaic by John Porter and So Little for the Mind, by Hilda Neatby, stir the whole Canadian community to thought and responses. It’s by John O’Neill, a writer unknown to me before this. The title is unwieldy: The Missing Child In Liberal Theory; Towards a Covenant Theory of Family, Community, Welfare and the Civic State.
Don’t let that frighten you off. It’s delightfully argumentative and for plain folks, not just mandarins and highbrows. O’Neill doesn’t set out to do this, in fact he doesn’t touch on political parties, but I kept thinking: Why, he’s bridging what’s intrinsic to the NDP and, on the other hand, to the Reform Party.
O’Neill’s course of discovery links the imperative that the individual be responsible for his or her family with the other imperative that the whole Canadian community should see there’s a modicum of economic well-being for all children and families.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 23, 1994
ID: 12672391
TAG: 199411220169
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Somebody has to be Governor General of Canada. But should it be a very senior and most uncommunicative Liberal politician?
Gosh, Ed Schreyer was a geyser, Jeanne Sauve a volatile flame and Ray Hnatyshyn a sunny Larry King live, when compared to this stone-faced Acadian, Romeo Leblanc. But never mind. For 35 years he’s been a good Grit and a master of the Maritime pork barrel. He’ll fit well at funerals and he was an authority on cod long before Brian Tobin.
Don’t take from this that Leblanc is stupid or without ideas and craftiness. But he’s taciturn and dour as a public person. He had reached such a high income as senator and ex-minister that few of us thought he needed more emoluments.

Don’t let me deter you from reading Sydney Sharpe’s book, The Gilded Ghetto: Women and Political Power in Canada. It has an interesting, though rather whiny, roundup of accounts by women of their tribulations as politicians.
A strand in the book, implied rather than trumpeted, is that the Hill – the House, the caucus, the committees, the press gallery, even the cabinet – is far harder on women MPs than men MPs. The Hill ethos downplays and undervalues the contributions which women try to make. A woman MP has something feminist and not masculine to offer governing which should be worthwhile, even precious.
My experience contradicts some of this. I’ve noticed little difference between male and female MPs in the quality of performance, values and attitudes. I would welcome it if women made up over half the House. By and large they’re as able, and often abler, than most male MPs. After a year of this House a talent scout would have to put at least three women at the very top of any rating of new MPs.
After three decades of noting women in a dozen Parliaments I still hold an opinion I developed first as a teacher on the relative merits of male and female students. There was nothing between them in intelligence, imagination, energy, assiduity, and getting things done. Certainly this holds true in several features of parliamentary politics.
Take partisanship and a readiness, figuratively, to cut rival throats. Take publicity-seeking. Or take the ploys of the upwardly mobile in the caucus and the party.
The archetype of mean, hard-headed partisans in Parliament have been warriors like Jack Pickersgill and the late Tom Cossitt. Today you must rate Mary Clancy, Sheila Copps and Ethel Blondin-Andrew of the Grits in such company ahead of their caucus fellows, and put with them the witty Suzanne Tremblay of the Bloc and the ultra-confident and wordy Reformers, Deborah Gray and Jan Brown.
And I’ve no calculation of it, but women MPs in this and recent Parliaments have had more than their proportionate share of news coverage, despite their shyness or the lack of focus on them. They troll well through the cameras.
Much caucus activity is screened from us. The word out of the three caucuses, however, reminds me of that from the NDP caucus in the last Parliament. Its component of women was not just a force in the caucus but the force.

Almost a fortnight ago a colleague in political journalism died. He was known as W.A. Wilson through long years as Ottawa columnist for the Montreal Star. We called him Bill and respected him for his seriousness and depth in analyzing national politics, particularly policies.
In the late ’60s and early ’70s a common assessment among print journalists was that Bill had the best job in the business: Just three columns a week, read by most in high places; a month each year on the international fly-paths; a goodly expense account and many cabinet ministers and deputy ministers as lunching companions. This valuation was wiped away in a day in 1979 when the Montreal Star foundered, but Bill made his way another 10 years through freelancing and a newsletter.
I worked with him in TV for a decade and cherished his common sense and knowledge.
Although they were miles apart in personality, behavior, and reactions to the political parade, Bill and Charles Lynch, another longtime columnist in his mid-’70s who died last summer, had several parallels. They liked most politicians and spent lots of time with them. In World War II both were correspondents for international news services in Europe. And, as Anglicans, each was to have a thorough, formal, funeral service of the faith in a fine, large church.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 20, 1994
ID: 12671949
TAG: 199411180193
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


Are we into a real change in immigration? Or will the majority of entrants continue to be of the so-called family class and from Asia?
I put these questions to Kim Abbott, a man more openly critical of our immigration policies and their attendant programs for longer than anyone else. His protests began soon after he left a senior post in the immigration service in the late 1960s because he disagreed with the decision to alter our traditional intake in favor of global openness and evenness in order to replicate here the richness of all the world’s ethnicities and heritages.
Abbott and a few other former federal employees formed the Immigration Association of Canada (IAC) and set out against the flood of emotional highmindness in favor of openness and the end of policies which made entry hard for those from non-European countries.
Year in, year out, as the consensus for openness crystallized and hardened in all political parties, gaining particular favor in English Canada, Abbott and the IAC were marginalized by the conventional wisdom, and tagged as “racist” and “reactionary” – throwbacks to a vanished time of the Empire and white superiority.
This tag of racism for the IAC got added currency from one warning theme of the organization: that the major changes in immigration policy instituted in the Pearson-Trudeau years, largely pushed by the late Jean Marchand and guided by Tom Kent, would fracture the monolith in language and social conservatism of English Canada.
Despite the slurs of racism the IAC is still going, its members analyzing and publicizing immigration data and lobbying politicians of all three orders of government. The IAC has long warned of the rising pressures on our social systems and the strains on the absorptive abilities of our communities, especially the major cities, from reckless immigration and refugee programs, a foundering administration, and the inadequate public debate because it has been dominated by those who batten on the movements and the reign of ultra-liberal attitudes in the media, particularly in television and in the CBC.
Figuratively speaking, Kim Abbott has never shouted or lost his temper over the slurs. He’s been sure since he resigned from the government that most Canadians wanted a more temperate immigration which kept a respect for its historical bases. And he was sure that in time the extravagant costs, notably to provincial and municipal programs in education and welfare, plus massive foul-ups in the immigration bureaucracy would create such anger over “the rainbow” that politicians would return to common sense.
In World War II Abbot was an RCAF bomber pilot who survived tours in action against German coastal shipping and severe injuries to return to Canada. Here he worked his way up through the ’50s, a period of burgeoning immigration, to become the inspector of immigration services abroad.
The IAC, a non-profit, non-partisan association, is wholly manned by volunteers and not a mass membership affair. Rather, it’s for those with a serious, continuing belief Canada needs immigrants and should have an intelligent national policy for their selection and reception. The membership is $25 ($15 for seniors) and applications should go to The IAC, Box 1515, Station B, Ottawa, K1P 5R5.
Kim Abbott knew something different was brewing when he was asked to address the last of Sergio Marchi’s consultation conference and found a receptive, courteous audience. He says it’s too soon to know if the changes announced are significant. His optimism is guarded.
Proof of real change will be a quick rebuilding of a system in Europe to seek and screen “independent” applicants: As for the family program, so much used by immigrants from Asia, it may be somewhat curbed but sheer numbers already here mean that henceforth, as now, the bulk of our immigrants will be from Asia, and increasingly of Chinese stock.
Also, the changes were hardly stale news before the minister announced drastic moves to end the refugee backlog, a cave-in to pressure and problems, not a return to rationality in immigration as a whole.
But Abbott is grateful public discussion at last is more open. Those who’ve run the immigration and multicultural industries no longer have it all their way. And he and the IAC will continue their watch and analysis and lobbying.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, November 18, 1994
ID: 12671661
TAG: 199411170229
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


My last piece was on Allan Rock as an artful dodger and the minister of justice. It was hardly on the street before I had two protests.
The first from a Liberal MP was blunt. A “surmise” of mine was wrong. Rock and his aides didn’t anticipate the potential for uproar in his discussion paper on the Criminal Code. But several Liberal MPs did when they saw Sunday’s headlines about cultural distinctions becoming a defence for some criminal charges. They’ve troubles enough on the ethnic front with Sergio Marchi’s stupidities without Rock swamping them with more.
As an MP told me: “Rock and his crew aren’t that sensitive. He was told to get out from under those suggestions, or else. He did, but he’s got a lot to learn about public attitudes.”
The next call came from a classmate at U of T 45 years ago: “Why are you building up Allan Rock?”
Surely I could see the menace in this radical minister – on gun controls, on homosexuality, and so on. Rock’s the latest darling of the politically correct who dominate our media, yet you rate this fellow as the prime minister-to-come. Fisher, get sensible!
In reply I asked if my many references to the well-spoken Rock had ever extolled the policies he’s advancing as minister of justice.
What is highly unusual about Rock is his mastery of political prose and speech. This is not based on florid words or partisan guff. To hear him and read him is to find an unusually skilled talker. Has he common sense? Patience? A readiness to compromise? Above all does he appreciate his Toronto does not equate with all Canada?
Let’s follow Rock’s learning curve.
In a letter to the editor last month Patrick Gagnon, a Liberal MP from eastern Quebec and parliamentary secretary to Solicitor General Herb Gray protested that I’d dismissed him “with trite platitudes” and criticized his style without giving specifics – rather unfair given I’m several generations older than he is.
Well, Gagnon is 32. He’s manly, handsome and energetic. So far he’s spoken more in the House than all the plain Grit MPs from Quebec put together, and he’s been very busy as a minister’s secretary in committees, notably in justice affairs. He’s fluent in both English and French. (Not quite in Rock’s class but close). He radiates assurance when on his feet, using hands and body like an old-style elocutionist. And he’s an MP in a region dominated by the Bloc.
A year ago Gagnon was touted to me by Liberal insiders as a sure-fire star (as was Rock). Now I know why, having followed his work. Nonetheless, I describe him again as an over-partisan smart aleck. Those who might think this rather severe should scan the print of a debate on railways in Hansard for Nov. 15. Gagnon was hyperactive in it. Note his slight arguments but repetitious cheap shots, particularly at Lucien Bouchard.
A recent column on homosexual rights, tied to the divisions in the Liberal party arising from the anti-homosexual views of MP Rosanne Skoke, brought me a wad of mail, much of it touching on my remark that a majority of Canadians find homosexual acts “repugnant.”
Next week I’ll come back to this subject with a precis of a paper on “sexual orientation” written by Liberal MP Tom Wappel (for a copy call 613-995-0284 or 416-261-8613). The paper is succinct and direct, and sure to be a factor in the House debate.
Let me end today with an excerpt from the wittiest letter I got, from Philip McLeod of Toronto.
“As a life-long gay, I can empathize with the `repugnance’ some straights might feel about gay sexual practices. I have long felt a reciprocal, albeit non-vociferous, repugnance for theirs.
“Half a century ago war service … opened my young eyes to unfettered heterosexual male lubricity. Somewhat of a prude at the time, I recall my response was of unfeigned `repugnance.’ Since then I’ve contrived to be more understanding of heterosexuality and its manifold aims. There have been impressive advances over the years.
“Abortions – 100,000 a year; increased numbers of unwed teen-age mothers; wife-beating; spousal homicide; rape; child abuse; deadbeat dads; divorce wrangling.
“All or some of the above, many lesbians and gays might reasonably describe as `repugnant.’ ”
McLeod went on from satire to extended arguments about Christianity and homosexuality, and about heterosexuals and the practices of masturbating and buggery. Pungent stuff!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 16, 1994
ID: 12671354
TAG: 199411150186
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


What a plus for Jean Chretien that Allan Rock is such a swift dodger and has such a promising future. In Hill conjecture of the moment he’s the best bet as next prime minister, well ahead of the more familiar prospects, Sheila Copps, Paul Martin and Lloyd Axworthy.
In the brief span of this Parliament, the justice minister and new MP for Etobicoke-Centre has stood out from the rest of the cabinet as a performer in the House, and outside it in speeches and colloquiums. And although he’s been pushing some dicey issues he’s unwounded thus far.
Rock’s agility was evident in the House question period Monday, in contrast to sluggish colleagues, Marcel Masse and Sergio Marchi, each of whom bumbled and misspoke – Masse on questions about the military college issue; Marchi on the stupidities of Michael Schelew, the prize he put on the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).
Monday the Bloc opened questions by picking at the refusal to keep the French-language college going. The Reformers’ strategists decided Marchi’s antics should have priority over the paper on criminal law just issued by Rock. They would roast Marchi for releasing names of those on the IRB whose criticism of Schelew had led to his suspension. Their choice had hurtful potential but the questioners fudged their bite with ponderous preambles.
My point is that the respective BQ and Reform questions enabled Rock to slip onto the stage. Sue Barnes, a Grit backbencher, got recognized for a question, a most unusual chance so relatively early in the period. She asked:
“The department of justice released a discussion paper on the weekend raising the possibility that cultural defences might be permitted to criminal charges. Would the minister clarify what this might mean if introduced?”
Not government policy
How quickly Rock was off the mark, explaining “what this discussion paper was about” and above all to make it clear the cultural defence segment was not government policy and not his idea.
“My own personal view,” he stressed, “is that I am very much opposed to any general defence based on culture.”
Rock had hoped the paper would reflect his own perspective and he was taken back at the idea he and the government would advance something so outrageous, for example that cultural values might be a defence for female circumcision. He underlined the serious intent in the reforms to the criminal law he’d be marshalling in an open process. The aim was to make “people more accountable, not less.”
The “plant” and its tight response robbed the Reformer’s questions which followed of their impact, and it let Rock go beyond the cultural issue to more assurances that intoxication as a defence, made current by recent judicial rulings by judges, wouldn’t stand. Just last Saturday he had told criminal lawyers “a discount for drunkenness is not acceptable as a matter of principle.”
The House skirmish showed an adroit Rock but it also revealed he’s neither omniscient nor perfect. If he were, he’d have signed a more careful, covering letter to the released paper.
His letter said the paper “identifies options for developing a new General Part of the Criminal Code.” This new General Part “should reflect the values of today’s Canada.” And surely he meant Canada of the mulitcultural “rainbow.”
Culture as a defence
The paper’s segment on “Culture as a defence,” some 500 words long, is neither obtuse nor hesitant in getting into “the fundamental question” of whether the criminal law should be amended to accommodate cultural and religious practices and better reflect the reality of modern Canada … ” It sets out crisply arguments for and against and closes with the suggestion that specific cultural practices like the bearing of ceremonial knives should be exempt from the clause which forbids bearing concealed weapons.
If Rock knew a significant part of this paper did not reflect his “perspective” he should have said so in the letter. Now we don’t know what other parts of the extensive document do that.
My surmise is that Rock and his aides missed the sharp hook in the cultural defence section. Someone, perhaps the minister, caught on when reading the headlines in Sunday’s papers, By Monday afternoon the minister was geared both for defence and to show how positively he reacts to what develops day to day. He’s very slick, but neither oily nor preening.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Monday, November 14, 1994
ID: 12671066
TAG: 199411130164
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Globetrotting


Whenever I return to my home in one of Moscow’s many bleak, featureless suburbs, I always look up an old friend who has become my touchstone on the state of contemporary Russia. The man is a fairly senior bureaucrat in one of the more important ministries. A proud Russian and a believer in state service, he has no interest in emigrating or in getting a job in Russia’s private sector, although with his excellent English, a very good education and lots of contacts, he could easily earn 10, 20 or 100 times more if he did.
My friend paints a very dark picture of Russia’s present – and its future. Whatever he warns me about usually comes to pass within a few weeks or months. When we met over lunch last week he was more pessimistic than ever.
“People believe in no one and nothing today. They are so tired they cannot even express their hatred,” my friend said, almost spitting out his words. “I don’t know anyone anymore who isn’t afraid to open his door. They know that for 10 years, at least, things will only get worse and worse.”
My friend explained why he was in an especially black mood. Just the day before he had attended the funeral of the manager of the modest little restaurant which provided lunch to employees at his branch of the ministry. The manager’s throat had been slit in an elevator only a few metres from his front door. He apparently refused to pay protection money to a gang in return for the right to keep operating his restaurant.
“It was two years ago that the ministry decided to privatize the restaurant. It wasn’t a very big or lucrative business but from my own visits there I thought the owner-manager was doing a good job. He was cheerful and friendly and tried to make our lunches a little more pleasant. He put fresh flowers on the tables,” my friend remembered. “And because he managed to make a little money from this and wouldn’t share it with criminals, he was killed.”
During what many Muscovites now fondly remember as Brezhnev’s Golden Age of Stagnation, there used to only be one or two murders every night in the capital. Alcohol was almost always involved in these deadly quarrels. The perpetrators and the victims were almost always from the extreme margins of society. No one got too upset.
It’s impossible to keep track of violent crime in Moscow today. Except to say that crime rates are way, way up, the police won’t talk about it. Newspapers don’t even bother to report most murders.
“Killing. Killing. Killing. It happens here every night now,” my friend said. “It used to be you knew which policemen patrolled your neighborhood. We’ve got more policemen now than ever before, but we don’t know them any more because they’re too afraid to go out on patrol.
“I’ve recently heard the Mafia is now forcing the GAI (Moscow’s famously corrupt traffic police) to pay a share of their (illegal) earnings in order to keep their places on street corners. That’s almost impossible to believe, but I’ve been assured twice now that it’s true.
“Corruption is everywhere now including the highest levels of government,” my friend said, fixing me with a baleful stare. “Yeltsin now has 3,500 workers in his personal administration. None of them is elected. Most of them do exactly as they please and what pleases them is to help themselves.
“When Solzhenitsyn spoke to the parliament last week about crime and corruption in government he never once mentioned Yeltsin’s name. He didn’t have to.”
Although there is almost two years left in Yeltsin’s presidential term, my friend’s view, and one that is gaining currency here, is that Yeltsin is already a transitional figure whose regime is winding down. Much more originally, he said it was almost certain that Yeltsin’s successor would bring serious charges against the president, if not for corruption, then for signing deals which abandoned large Russian minorities in other former Soviet republics. As for who gets to rule Russia next, my friend said the West was worrying far too much about a military putsch, the election of an unreconstructed communist or of the erratic fascist, Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
“The army is badly split three ways and can’t agree on anything,” my friend said. “There are hardliners, officers who seek privileges for themselves and those who have been left with absolutely nothing and resent the hardliners and those officers who are becoming rich. Zhirinovsky gets attention but only has the support of a tiny part of the population. The communists can get 30% of the vote but they can never get more than that because too many people hate what they represent. Most people still understand that the only way to save Russia is through radical reform. People are so despairing they are ready to elect an unknown who seems honest.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 13, 1994
ID: 12958340
TAG: 199411110178
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


The politicians coming back to the Hill from their short break for the run to Christmas should note several shifts in the federal scenario, one most worrisome for the long run. The others are more short-run and in need of highly assured leadership from a prime minister surely buoyed by the Asian sales safari.
The loss of control of Congress by the Democratic Party has several implications for Canada, the most dangerous ones almost sure to affect negatively our colossal (for us) export trade with the U.S.
It now seems a small mercy that since taking power the prime minister has never emphasized in remarks or initiatives any great rapport or joint enthusiasms with this American president, say as Brian Mulroney did with Messrs. Reagan and Bush. Not only is Clinton much weakened, the next presidential campaign will be mean and it’s more than figuratively under way, presaging a lot of “America First!” politics from congressional aspirants like Dole and Gramm. Inevitably the next two years will bristle with challenges to imports that take jobs from Americans and sales from American farmers and forest-products workers.
Although aggressive work with Congress by recent ambassadors to Washington like Allan Gotlieb and Derek Burney ended a long tradition of handling almost all country-to-country affairs through the executive arm in Washington, Canada doesn’t have a large cadre of experienced lobbyists for dealing with senators and congressmen to help defend our trading interests.
And on the less specific but still significant level of political ideology, the triumph at the polls of a conservatism that is more fundamentalist and demands less government and taxation and tougher crime laws should remind us that the word most used to define the enemy to be routed is `liberal’, the name of our governing party. The victors are not much like the familiar Republicans of the old eastern establishment.
As a wry Washington pundit told a CBC interviewer, Canadians should understand the biases now moving into control of both the House and the Senate. Our Reform Party has many of them.
Two years ago when the articulate Clinton won the presidency, sided by a woman with a brilliant mind, the liberally inclined critics who dominate commentary in our media and from our academe tended to see the victory as an end to Reaganism, Thatcherism, and neo-conservatism. Canadians seemed to confirm this a year later in totally rejecting the Conservative Party and any shades of Brian Mulroney. To such interpreters, the surge of Reform from the plains to the House of Commons was just another familiar blip of regional disaffection.
However distinct we remain, and however much we pull back from being directly imitative of America, the influences that come to bear on our political attitudes from their society and its economy are always in play and, frankly, we are into several years in which almost nothing will come to us from the U.S. that supports the kinder, caring Canada so popular in our folklore. Rather, the emphasis will be on slashing governmental bureaucracy and spending less and taxing less.
The other matters that got clearer focus during the parliamentary break were:
(i) The open concession by Premier Parizeau that the short-run prospects of winning a referendum on sovereignty are poor, and if this means postponement (as seems sensible, despite previous undertakings) it also means Chretien must consider some moves on respective rights and powers of Ottawa and the provinces beyond mere marking time.
(ii) Evidence grew from the “consultations” undertaken last week by both Paul Martin Jr. and the House finance committee, chaired by Jim Peterson, of a rising, emotional, organized antagonism to major changes in the social-security system and any increases in personal or corporate taxation – and along with this, no consensus in sight on how to fix or replace the GST.
(iii) More evidence that the comparatively moderate intentions of Allan Rock, the minister of Justice, regarding young offenders are not popular, nor are his plans to extend rights and protections to homosexuals, and the debates coming up will be divisive and rarely high-minded.
Our politics grind through the major stages from election to election, with the budget usually the major focus of each year. February is remarkably close, given the government’s imprecisions and hesitations, most evident in the vagueness so far from both Lloyd Axworthy and Paul Martin. In three months, vagueness won’t do.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, November 11, 1994
ID: 12958028
TAG: 199411100202
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Most Canadians now are without memorable ties to those remembered today for their service and sacrifices in our wars. But ripples from those times still run. Let me give a few examples.
This week six letters came to me as a columnist and war veteran. First, Doris Forth of Bracebridge is pursuing a “lost trail” of one Andre Piche of Flin Flon who probably took part in the disastrous Dieppe raid of 1942.
Before this action, Piche was often guest at the home of Forth’s uncle, Alf Sage, in West Byfleet. He left his fishing boots and rod and reel there. A cousin of Forth’s has fretted over what happened to this wonderful lad she’d known as a child.
Is there a Dieppe association or an archives service which might tell her what happened to Andre Piche?
Second, Owen Quillinan, an active member of the Royal Canadian Legion in the border village of Stanstead, Que., asks me to look into the serious withering in strength and activities of Legion branches in small places distant from cities.
Aside from deaths or the aging of most World War II veterans into their 70’s, the little communities are slowly losing numbers, notably, he says “of the young people including mine who have gone off to get good paying positions and on with their lives.” He thinks the Legion in convention should pass a motion that ends the rules that keep “so-called social members with no say, no clout, no uniform, no vote, just a privilege to come through the door and pay dues.” Would I help change the rules?
Third, Werner Bachmann of Toronto is critical of my recent references to a German soldier’s reminiscences, Oath of Allegiance by Robert Dietz. After the war Dietz came to Canada and has won respect and prominence in musical and art circles of Nova Scotia. I regretted the lack of analysis in his book of the devotion the Germans gave to Hitler and the Nazis.
Why, said Bachmann, don’t you write about “the crimes visited on the Germans,” for example, the starving of thousands of German POWs by the Western allies after the war?
Fourth, John Hishon of Windsor, once a soldier in the Royal Regiment is disturbed at accusations of cowardice in the regiment during the Dieppe raid. This was a word used by Brereton Greenhous, a historian employed by the federal government, which was drawn to my attention by Dennis Whitaker (the most senior officer to return from Dieppe).
Hishon wants to read a full account of what Greenhous said about cowardice. “It’s a hell of a charge,” he said. “Sure the troops were scared, who the hell wouldn’t be. But cowards?”
Fifth, Bern Hawley of Vancouver sent clippings from U.S. papers on a controversy rising over an American decision in World War II. The Smithsonian’s aviation museum in Washington is to memorialize the 50th anniversary next year of Japan’s defeat.
Its plan was to display around a portion of the Enola Gay, the plane which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, many photos and testimonials of the victims of the explosion. The curator planning the exhibit now contested is a Canadian.
The draft explanation for the display emphasized the racism in, and cruelty of, the bombing. It dismissed Truman’s fear of high casualties from a seaborne invasion of the home islands, and posited that Truman used the bomb to let Stalin know the U.S. would be the post-war’s top dog.
Hishon sees in this a similar ideology at work to that of the McKenna brothers and their CBC-NFB production, The Valor, etc.
Sixth, Frank Smith of Lethbridge forwards a thick file of 13 letters, each with documentation, he’s sent this year to Michel Dupuy, the minister for Canadian heritage.
Each letter sets out and demolishes a particular lie or twist in chronology and editing of documents in the NFB film of a decade ago which was produced by Paul Cowan and portrayed Billy Bishop, V.C. as a liar and a cheater, the docudrama The Kid Who Couldn’t Miss.
Smith, very learned on military aviation history, is still angry that taxpayers’ money went into this anti-military propaganda. Why do federal ministers keep refusing to order it out of circulation.
Frank Smith ranks the denigration of Billy Bishop, left undisciplined, as the forerunner of both The Valor and the Horror and the scorn for Bomber Command’s achievements to be found in the recent volume three of the RCAF history. I’d agree. Those demeaned are those whose deaths are remembered today, in the main, one hopes, with respect.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 09, 1994
ID: 12957833
TAG: 199411090025
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


A lot of veterans of World War II, looking back through the past few years from this year’s Remembrance Day, have much grist to chew, some of it satisfying, some not. Not all of the grist came from the well-sponsored celebration on TV of D-Day’s 50th anniversary.
Our population today is just about 29 million. As the big war ended it was just about 12 million. Some 1.1 million Canadians were in the military at some time during World War II, the split by percentages being about 60% army, 30% airforce, and 10% navy. In this half-century year, some 500,000 of the 1.1 million are still living.
Let me emphasize, 500,000 veterans of World War II are alive. The number indicates why the department of Veterans Affairs still exists (with 3,500 employees and a budget of just over $2 billion and some 3,500 employees). It’s also why a Senate subcommittee, chaired by Jack Marshall, a Tory and a D-Day veteran, has just issued a report with 52 recommendations under a title of Keeping Faith: Into the Future. The senators want DVA to continue and have its own minister. Their suggestions ranged over such matters as commemoration, post-traumatic stress syndrome, prisoner-of-war status, survivors’ benefits, Vietnam veterans, and pension adjudication and appeal processes.
This month, age forces Marshall from the senate. In his 26 years on the Hill, he persisted beyond other parliamentarians in pursuing the needs of veterans. Sometimes his committee went ahead without ministerial approval, for example, with hearings two years ago on the CBC-NFB film, The Valor and the Horror, and recently on “the future direction of DVA”, completed now with the Keeping Faith report.
This House of Commons is the first since the 1940s without any World War II veterans. The senate has some half-dozen, and has become a more certain forum for commemoration and practical measures for veterans and their kin.
Most veterans are at or around 75, give or take a few years. They and their spouses are a substantial portion of the country’s so-called seniors. Most are retired from jobs and thus have had more time to reflect and remember, read and to travel. There’s been a step up in renewals of past comradeship in war-time regiments and squadrons and ships. Thousands have been returning to Britain and continental Europe as tourists with a special interest. For some time several thousand ex-service men and their families have visited Holland, the most favored and favoring country. Next spring marks the 50th anniversary of Dutch liberation and 5,000 or more Canadians will be there for what is likely to be the largest of all remembrances abroad.
It’s ironical that a heightened awareness in news and commentary about Canadians at war which has gone far beyond veterans has been generated by the critical and often angry responses of veterans and their groups to some films, docudramas, and books about the war by much younger people, in particular The Valor films produced by Brian and Terence McKenna, several TV productions on the Dieppe raid, and the third book in the history of the RCAF, The Crucible of War (which has antagonized former Bomber Command crews as much as The Valor series).
Also, this year strongly held attitudes in the membership of the Royal Canadian Legion that back an exclusion of those wearing headdress from the clubrooms of Legion branches have been condemned as unfair and incorrect by many, particularly in the media, the clergy, and the “rights” mandarinates.
Some opinion polling I’ve seen indicates more Canadians agree with those Legion members who support a continuance of the ban than see it as an invidious, racist exclusion. Whatever may ensue at future national conventions of the Legion the issue won’t be forgotten. My hunch is that branch by branch, permission to wear a religious headdress will be approved by most branches within a few years. Some Legion leaders and many rights’ advocates think the issue has permanently lowered Canadians’ appreciation of the Legion’s worth. Perhaps so; certainly there’s been both a push and a pull.
A lot of curiosity, much of it scathing or dismissive and usually patronizing, has focused on war veterans and their time warp. But the issue and the criticism has also got more veterans on the prod over contemporary misunderstandings of their roles and recent immigration and multicultural policies than at any time since the end of World War II.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 06, 1994
ID: 12957307
TAG: 199411040125
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


Politicians are not full-centre in what is the political book of the year for me. In it one is ushered into the ways and means we learn about politics. Gotcha!, by George Bain from Key Porter Books, is built on close scrutiny of a dozen or so specific cases of coverage by those who report or comment on our public affairs. The subtitle is apt and graphic: “How the media distort the news.”
If you admire the method and quality of writing about Canadian politics this is not the book for you. It’s sinewy and closely, clearly argued. Each example has a beginning, a middle and an end that doesn’t fade into blah.
The preface of the book sketches five stages in the course of media coverage of politics since the mid-1930s, and throughout there’s much shrewdness on what TV and the CBC in particular have wrought. Bain is too skeptical to hurrah for the CBC’s highminded mission of informing us so well we can make intelligent decisions. His closing, headed “Whither are we drifting?” is an acidulous reflection on the standards and methods of the major providers of political coverage and interpretation.
In particular Bain examines the “pack” of the parliamentary press gallery in Ottawa, CBC English TV news and public affairs, and the self-styled “national newspaper, the Globe and Mail. There is much on specific work of many, including publishers, editors, and anchors. The interpretations are often harsh about attitudes and practices, but this is not a get-even book of one by hate possessed. It is harsh, however, on the over-importance and self-serving of journalists, for example in prating about the choking consequences for truth and freedom in “libel chill.”
A young George Bain was a reporter in Toronto even before he went overseas in World War II to pilot a bomber in aerial combat over Western Europe and Sicily. After his return he worked variously, for the Telegram, the Globe and Mail, and the Star, gaining eminence as a political columnist and humorist. He capped nearly five decades in journalism with several years of teaching it and with a critical column about the media for Maclean’s.
Long before the author took up the “media” column he had thought “about the nature of journalism … but sporadically and in no concentrated way, and with a natural tilt towards the belief that journalists were almost always right.
“I am less sure than I once was, which is a restrained way of putting it, of our essential rightness in all circumstances, or even, at times of the purity of our motives.”
The main criticism of Gotcha! will come out of a very large grouping, numerous in the media itself and swarming across the country, i.e., those who detested the federal Progressive Conservative Party and disliked Brian Mulroney. Bain proves up the prevailing, reportorial antagonism to the Tories and the tilt toward the Liberals and the NDP, beginning with the course taken of coverage in the Kim Campbell campaign and the distortion of her words on unemployment and job prospects, begun by a Star reporter, Edison Stewart, that became an instant myth of callous unpreparedness.
Among other “scandals” of the federal Tories, Bain re-examines the development of the tainted-tuna case that brought John Fraser’s resignation from cabinet and the inquiry by Judge Parker into allegations of conflicts of interest by Sinclair Stevens, which led to his resignation.
The most pungent critiques in the book for me were:
(i) a first chapter, “The political laboratory,” about the hammy course of a CBC-created forum, The Prime Time Election Town Hall, a week before the ’93 vote, orchestrated by an omniscient, judgmental Pamela Wallin, that subjected party representatives to an audience of voters from across the land who were “frustrated, angry, and fed up with politics.”
(ii) the mean, petty pursuit of then Alberta premier, Don Getty, over his personal finances by two Globe reporters, directed by managing editor, William Thorsell – a pithy synopsis of pretentious righteousness that would shame Pontius Pilate
(iii) the rally to the cause of freedom of expression that spread out from the CBC and won massive, editorial backing for the McKenna brothers and their film series, The Valour and the Horror, and belittled both military historians and the thousands who were there and who protested against the lies and screwy reasoning in the films, particularly about uninformed bomber crews – with pilots like George Bain.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, November 04, 1994
ID: 12957065
TAG: 199411030194
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Many of the lawyers and agents in the immigration industry attack the changes sponsored by Immigration Minister Sergio Marchi, as tough, mean-spirited and a betrayal of Liberal promises.
Others, for example in the Reform party, castigate the changes as cosmetic and far short in curning the volume and altering the nature and country of origin of immigrants.
Before I’d read the four papers on immigration issued last Tuesday my bent was to the “cosmetic” line. In part, this was my quick rejection of the “racist” tag put on the changes by several people interviewed on CBC-TV. They charged the proposals meant a return to a Canada-for-whites and a blow against the present and future roles here of black, brown, and yellow people. This interpretation seems poppycock until “family” immigration is much constrained or abolished. Instead, such immigration’s ratio of the whole into the next century is projected as falling from 51% to 44%.
Now, after digesting the documents, I say without hesitation that here begins a marked change of course. Why without hesitation?
Because the arguments and their data throughout the papers are more deterministic than the relatively small changes in numbers and program emphasis.
Let me give an example I find supportive of a deliberate change in course that in time will much alter the composition and lower the intake. It has to do with multiculturalism.
In the mid-’60s multiculturalism flowered as a Liberal, federal policy. It was created to solidify Metro for the Grits and to complement the new immigration programs of the Pearson government which were much elaborated in the Trudeau years.
Henceforth, Canada should be and would be open to anyone from anywhere. To go with this “rainbow” of physiognomies the Liberals, with instant backing by leaders of other parties, declared that Canada was to be a federation of very conscious equality – indeed of legislated equality – in the rights- and worth-accorded ethnicities and their heritage in languages and religions.
This was neatly embodied in official multiculturalism and given status through mention in the Charter of Rights.
I want to list Marchi’s four documents. This is the former librarian in me showing up, ever pointing out that a citizen really can study what our governors say and plan to do.
The starting point is Facts and Figures; An Overview of Immigration (56 pages). It’s handy as background for Immigration Consultations Report (78 pages). The latter has a neat garnering at its close of “key messages” from public opinion. Then comes A Broader Vision: Immigration and Citizenship; Plan 1995-2000. This “annual report to Parliament” runs to 36 pages.
But the clincher document which merits the most attention is the longest one: Into the 21st Century: A Strategy for Immigration and Citizenship. Its narrative, particularly by side-bars, is more firm and muscular than the stock banalities about the country immigrants built and on the richness in multticulturalism.
Know what? In the four documents I’ve found only one reference to multiculturalism. This is in the “consultations”, with a quote from a written brief that Canada must be “a multicultural nation that doesn’t need to declare freedom in slogans or statements.”
I believe such a near complete eclipse of multiculturalism is deliberate: deliberate, by the mandarins and by the minister who, short months ago, spewed multicultural platitudes.
Although the Liberal government hasn’t booted multiculturalism formally I believe the cabinet concurs on the following points as it turns away from it:
(a) The policy and its promotion has been very divisive, particularly in the so-called Rest of Canada.
(b) In exalting a diversity in ethnicities and equal worth for the culture and heritage of each, multiculturalism confused both recent newcomers and our young people about the principles and merit in the liberties, traditions and parliamentary institutions gained by past generations.
(c) In a world where far more people would come to Canada than we can take it is sensible and necessary, given our economic debts, that we be pragmatic and cost-conscious, vetting volume closely and seeking newcomers who bring the most in language and occupational skills and need the least in education.
At the least, we have a turn towards a realistic immigration policy.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 02, 1994
ID: 12956799
TAG: 199411010078
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


The pity of the Michel Dupuy case is not that Jean Chretien has refused to fire him for his letter on ministerial paper to the CRTC, an agency within his authority. More power to Chretien for emphasizing his is the ultimate decision in government.
More credit for his patience in reiterating his responsibility as PM throughout a repetitious assault over many question periods by nitpickers in both of the big opposition parties. This being said, after one year in office it’s fairly clear that several ministers are not really cut out for such prominence in active, partisan politics, and Michel Dupuy, a nice, thoughtful man is one of them. (Another nice person out of place on the front-bench firing-line is Diane Marleau, health minister).
Dupuy is confused; his pace and his attitudes are those of a life-time bureaucrat from a family line of bureaucrats. The heritage portfolio is too diverse and too complex for him. He should be our ambassador to UNESCO or in charge of protocol at Foreign Affairs. The pity is that his misjudgment with the CRTC seems certain to postpone his derricking or switching.

Chretien insists the ethical guidelines must be clarified to recognize that ministers cannot be eunuchs as MPs with regard to their responsibilities for, and duties toward, their constituents and regional interests. They should be able to demonstrate they support good groups and works in their bailiwicks.
Simple! Let them use plain MPs’ letterhead. Have them file copies of all such interventions with the ethics commissioner. Also, Chretien should ask those he wants to join in discussing this problem also to consider the unusual position regarding interventions on behalf of riding and region by the speaker of the house.
I recall the confident, private assurances I had from one of the ablest of all speakers that his success ratio was very high at getting his way in his many “confidential” interventions. As he said, “no minister likes to disappoint the speaker.” And such stuff doesn’t conform to the correctness of these years.

First impressions of many people have been favorable on the report on defence policy from the joint parliamentary committee. They suit me. But my prejudice as an ex-soldier is pro-army.
Clearly, the parliamentarians want a better land force with state-of-the art equipment and weapons for more effective and safer peacekeeping and peacemaking. And this fits with the recent lectures to and on the United Nations, which both the prime minister and Andre Ouellet, the foreign affairs minister, have given about a major reorganization and improvement in supporting and financing UN interventions in troubled regions of the world.
Of course, it’s the air force arm of the services from which the blood money must come for transfusing the army, and anyone familiar with relative spending on the three arms – air, land and sea – knows that the “blue yonder” boys have consistently edged the sailors and the grunts since the Korean war.
One top-line jet fighter’s costs would pay, feed, and equip an infantry battalion for a year.

Let me forecast that outside of Toronto and the Lower Mainland of B.C. there will be little negative furor over the shifting of emphases in immigration that were announced yesterday.
At last a shift, a very modest shift, toward pragmatism and lower-cost immigration and refugee affairs management. May one pray, it is accompanied by much less ministerial and official piety over our wonderful global leadership in heterogeneity and multiculturalism, and some quick installations of officers in European countries, particularly Ukraine, Poland, Germany, and Italy.
Let’s get back to the “points” system and make it work. As for assigning credit for the change, a lot must go to the Reform Party for providing open, sensible criticism of an immigration-refugee policy whose programs are largely in shambles. Plainly put, the three largest parties developed over the previous three parliaments (from ’80 to ’93) both a consensus of approbation for “the rainbow” and condemnations as racist for anyone who attacked our policies as too generous.
Reform MPs bust open the issues. They ignored the slurs of red-neck and racism which came from the lawyers, clergy, and sociologists of the immigration-refugee industry. Also a swatch of Liberal MPs in the Metro region have been pushing a neighbor, Immigration Minister Sergio Marchi, to smarten up, not least because they’ve been far more aware than other MPs of the shambles.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 30, 1994
ID: 12956463
TAG: 199410280120
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


Let’s amble through the politics of the Hill at this time and consider why the Chretien government has chosen to move so slowly with a legislative program.
Sometimes the parliamentary results are so scanty one wonders whether going slow is a sound choice, particularly so as the PM and his followers are still flaunting their Red Book as their undertakings to come.
First, one admits that a full year into governance no one disputes the popularity of the leader and ministry even though not one piece of truly major legislation has been put through Parliament, unless one ranked as such the “infrastructure” initiative of $3 billion.
Second, one concedes that the many minor items on the parliamentary agenda such as the “reorgs” and elisions of departments or the land settlements with Yukon natives or the scheduled debating times of the House for want-of-confidence motions have provided ample scope for the opposition to sound off.
Third, there’s been such immense variety in committee proceedings one is hard put to think of anything in the federal domain except the constitution that hasn’t been getting some scrutiny by MPs and witnesses. Almost everywhere one turns committees are reviewing programs and policies: of foreign policy, defence policy, cultural policy, citizenship, immigration, the CBC, airport administration, the St. Lawrence Seaway, tourism, small business, agriculture, of “contracting out”, even of changing House rules to give backbenchers more chances to question. In short, there’s been a considerable, even an onerous, parliamentary work load.
This has been giving the host of green MPs, especially in BQ and Reform ranks, excellent chances to find their way in a complicated and highly mannered institution. And a fair judge would grant their seriousness and assiduity have been high.
The big stuff is still to come, nonetheless it’s been busy on the Hill. And so far neither the BQ nor Reform has shown a bent to delaying and filibustering bills, an art developed and honed by past NDP caucuses and also often used by previous official oppositions.
Chretien stresses his many years in government, and 17 of his ministers have substantial parliamentary experience. Fair enough! And it’s neither gratuitous nor petty to remark that by and large the senior mandarinate welcomed the Liberals back, and in the federal service generally there was almost unbounded joy at the Tories’ exit.
To recapitulate we have:
A government with a strong mandate and a widely split opposition (which is not yet dilatory) has succeeded a most unpopular PM and administration.
The most ministerially experienced new PM in our history, with a cabinet that’s far from green, and an eager, receptive bureaucracy.
Plus a program of plans and undertakings which has been reiterated as thorough and designed to address with urgency (i) the scale of the deficits and the rise of the debt burden; (ii) the wiping away of the GST; (iii) and the reform of the social security system, including a reappraisal of the health part of it.
Polling shows that going slow has not been hurting Chretien & Co. with the public. One may even guess that such a pace, linked with his modesty and shunning of the grandiose, is what a lot of people wanted, longed for – to cool down; to ease off politics. To get to like, even respect, federal politicians.
So go-slow has worked or hasn’t hurt our rulers.
Now let’s notice one cause for the caution. It was much mentioned a few months ago to explain why Lloyd Axworthy was taking so long to propose the social-security reforms, and it was mentioned again by some critics after his “paper” proved to be so tentative, not prescriptive. My hunch is it is one of three reasons which bundle together to indicate the slow pace will continue. The other two are considerable: the cabinet’s mind is far from certain on either what will replace the GST or how deep they dare cut spending and personnel.
But the big reason, in a word, is Quebec.
Ottawa’s marking time for the PQ’s referendum. Give Parizeau and Bouchard as few propositions to mock or refuse to co-operate with until the votes are in.
A difficulty is: that may be a year away, and in three months there must be a federal budget with some real substance.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 28, 1994
ID: 12956165
TAG: 199410270162
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Some comments on others’ comment.
First. Some two years ago a nationwide barrage of criticism rolled over a Tory senator, Jack Marshall, a soldier in World War II, as he set a committee he chaired on veterans’ affairs to work examining the controversial film series, The Valor and the Horror, largely financed and displayed by the federal companies, the CBC and the NFB.
The Liberal senators shunned the hearings. No witchhunt for them; no impingement on or censoring of creative people. Editorial comment and protests from those who felt they spoke for culture agreed and overwhelmingly condemned Marshall and his small committee as censorious and reactionary. (Of course, veterans’ groups felt differently.)
No senator was wordier and more scornful of Marshall’s mission than Philippe Gigantes, once a speechwriter for Pierre Trudeau. He spoke out for creative freedom and the right of any later generations to examine and revise past evaluations of a previous one. No newspaper was more withering about Marshall and his dinosaurs than the Ottawa Citizen.
Later on, those who read Senate Hansard began to notice criticism of another film enterprise by Senator Gigantes. It was not the next one by Valor’s Brian McKenna about Trudeau’s career. No, it was a film planned by a Quebecois producer. Gigantes was angry that taxpayers’ money would go to portray the October crisis in 1970, as experienced by the kidnappers and murderers of Pierre Laporte.
Over the senator’s protests the production went ahead. A few weeks ago October was released and much reviewed. Like The Valor, it is a creative exercise, a “docudrama.” And would you believe, the Ottawa Citizen, editorially and through a columnist, was critical, arguing like Senator Gigantes that “taxpayers should not pay for propaganda.”
Should they not? For Senator Gigantes and many others who scoffed at Senator Marshall’s review of historicity and balance of The Valor, the answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no. Belittle soldiers and airmen and their leaders, yes! Present a crisis caused by kidnapping through the eyes and minds of the kidnappers, no!
Second. Not long ago I wrote that the views on homosexualists of Roseanne Skoke, a Liberal MP, were held by many others in the government caucus. She was not alone against family status for homosexual couples. A few days ago Jane Tabor, the Citizen’s ranking columnist, using an interview with Mary Clancy, a Liberal MP for Halifax and a fierce advocate of homosexual rights, wrote there is much concern among Liberal MPs because the PM had not been hard enough on Skoke.
The columnist sketched the hard row ahead for Skoke if she persists in her “homophobic” talk when the government’s bill is debated and voted on. It seems there are “dark mumblings” in the Grit caucus on “what the leader and party can do to an MP who doesn’t toe the line. …no favors … in terms of grants or jobs.” Skoke may lose the nomination next time. She must be discouraged, otherwise other Liberal MPs may follow her into “homophobia.”
In this comment, what is archetypal of political correctness among media sophisticates is a failure to appreciate the aversion to homosexual practices is strong and deeply seated in Canada. A multitude have concerns over homosexuals as role models. Most MPs would be incompetent if unaware and insensitive to such attitudes in their constituencies.
Of course, many MPs think as these constituents do. At this point I wouldn’t guess how the debates and votes on the homosexual legislation will go in Parliament but Skoke is far from alone in the Liberal caucus. A free vote on the intentions Justice Minister Allan Rock has sketched on this subject would likely pass but I’d say a third of all MPs would be against it.
Third. Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe and Mail has just done a fair, fine critique of our immigration programs and policy but I’d argue over this statement:
“Policy, which must remain blind to race, ethnicity or religion, especially needs to fit Canada’s straitened fiscal circumstances and a changing economy with its requirements for higher skills.”
I’d argue that if our immigration policy remains blind to factors of race, ethnicity, and religion we’ll never get a handle on immigration’s costs for language- and skill-training. And there’ll be more and more foment over cultural behavior and attitudes that isolate groups, perpetuate animosities here from the old heart lands, and continue anti-female values.
A sensible immigration program demands choices.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 26, 1994
ID: 12955898
TAG: 199410250095
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


CBC-TV’s Town Hall compered by brassy Pam Wallin, our Barbara Walters, is too staged and arch for comfortable, let alone fascinating, viewing; no matter, the focus of Monday’s event. Jean Chretien was at ease all the way, and plain and succinct in his talk. No false modesty hid his assurance.
Clearly, this federal administration and its governing party has firm leadership that’s in full charge. Not even Pierre Trudeau in power used the prime-ministerial “I” more confidently.
A second impression Chretien made was of being unhurried, of having time – years of it! A third was that he has no particular partisan devils to exorcise, not even the PQ and the BQ.
Who knows how Quebecois viewers would have reacted to this Town Hall show, but I wager it went over well in English-speaking Canada. (Have you noticed, how improved is the PM’s English usage – slower-paced; better pronounced?)
In my opinion, the Chretien government is losing time it will regret with so many reviews, studies, and consultations in train, but it has worked so far for the PM. I have to rate him as more satisfying and smooth in his first year than any since Louis St. Laurent. The reckoning for going slow may shake his aplomb, but maybe not. He’s cool. So we await, perhaps for another year, the tough spending cuts, the big changes in the social system, a GST replacement, and new or retreaded policies and programs in health, culture, defence, and foreign affairs.
In assaying the Grits’ first year several writers have been unkind about the Chretien cabinet (e.g. Allan Fotheringham) as a group and harsh on many ministers including the Big Three of Paul Martin, Lloyd Axworthy, and Andre Ouellet.
It’s certainly not a scintillating clutch of honorables. The obvious gap’s in the Quebec contingent which faces many vivid personalties with public flair in the BQ ranks. The two “catches” lured from bureaucracy into politics – Marcel Masse (governmental affairs) and Michel Dupuy (heritage) are diffident and unsure in the open as politicians. No matter how able each is as administrator (and my sources say Masse is very good) neither man is a great positive in the House or on public platforms.
None of the Quebec ministers has the charm and warmth of Mulroney’s Quebecers like Jean Charest and Benny Bouchard. And the backbench francophone Grits from Quebec are few in number. One, Patrick Gagnon, was heralded for eminence but serving as parliamentary secretary to the solicitor-general he’s been both gauche and foolish in the House.
Canvass backbenchers of any party and one finds more constituency work stems from Immigration (under Sergio Marchi); followed by Transport (Doug Young); Unemployment Insurance and vocational training (Lloyd Axworthy); Native Affairs (Ron Irwin); and criminal matters (in part, under Allan Rock, in part under Herb Gray). On the Prairies the farmers are rarely without ills, but the present minister, Ralph Goodale, is a good nurse.
Only Marchi in this lot seems an irretrievable disaster but he’s in retreat from his early bravado. Allan Rock’s still skipping neatly and Herb Gray’s too careful for either much trouble or strong applause. Doug Young’s a slashing shark in the House but more than a wicked edge will be needed to put across in every region what is a massive federal retreat from transport management and programs.
Put bluntly Axworthy is far from rolling on a stupendous task but as yet who’d discount him? Not me.
Irwin’s still floating above a mass of troubles, worse and costlier than the immigration swamp but the public hasn’t yet got to it. I think the once-bumptious Irwin has, and some Reform and BQ MPs are, through the fence of mythical guilt. They are beginning to chew over the huge waste and boondoggling in native programs and divining the disasters looming in land settlement costs and native leaders’ plans for tax-free industrial and gambling havens.
By nature and in past work, the noisiest politicians in the cabinet are Sheila Copps, Brian Tobin, and David Dingwall. The marvels are how innocuous Copps is, and how unobtrusive Dingwall has been. “Unobtrusive” is also a good adjective for David Collenette at Defence and Ann McLellan at Natural Resources. Brian Tobin has been surprisingly mature and forceful as Fisheries’ minister.
Three ministers in economic portfolios – Roy MacLaren, John Manley, and Art Eggleton – seem innocuous place-fillers, neither assets nor debits for Jean Chretien, who doesn’t need and almost certainly doesn’t want a host of stars.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 23, 1994
ID: 12955496
TAG: 199410210125
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


October 18th was Pierre Trudeau’s 75th birthday. A former aide, Dennis Mills (Broadview-Greenwood), drew the attention of the House to it and the contributions this “political scientist” had made to Canada. There was moderate applause. In the evening Romeo Leblanc, Speaker of the Senate, hosted a dinner in his chambers for the man he served as press secretary, then as a minister. The 10 or so guests had been on Trudeau’s PMO staff. Second-hand word is that “It was a wonderful, thoughtful occasion.”
It happens that some new books have much to say, “pro” and “con,” about PET as prime minister. The most positive, often glowing, stuff is in the romp through our prime ministers by historian Michael Bliss and in vol. 2 of Trudeau and Our Times, by Christina McCall and Stephen Clarkson.
The negative, very critical insights on Trudeau are in Derailed, by historian David Bercuson and philospher Barry Cooper, who see Trudeau as a disaster in economics, and in Seeing Canada Whole; A Memoir, by Jack Pickersgill, now 89, who served Liberal prime ministers and governments from 1935 forward in a host of roles, and who cannot forgive Trudeau for his part in destroying the Meech Lake Accord.
In this particular week on the Hill it seemed fair to reconnoitre the praise of Trudeau, particularly that by McCall and Clarkson. In this volume, as in their first one on Trudeau’s times, they posit that “He haunts us still.”
Ah yes, he does. And will our children’s children ever shuck his most obvious legacy?
Consider that his 75th birthday week coincided with the heaviest critical display of the national peril that all Canadians must face from because of two decades of high annual deficits and a debt burden whose annual interest payments will soon bust over the $50 billion mark.
In the passel of figures and graphs produced by Paul Martin to hammer home the peril, there is parade of often forgotten evidence that the high deficits (e.g., the first to boom over $10 billion a year) and the zoom of the debt burden above $100 billion began in the 1975-79 years under Trudeau. The deficits broke over the $25 billion mark annually in his last-stand years in office, 1980-84.
Dennis Mills chose to describe his old boss to fellow MPs as a political scientist. Fair enough. The man won top office of this difficult federation and held for 16 years. Electorally, and arguably in constitutional issues (the referendum, the repatriation, the Charter) Pierre Trudeau was a success. But on economic issues ?
Well – in my observation of the Trudeau years and their commentary I cannot recall any enthusiasm for Trudeau as economist. Rather, an assumption flowered quickly and lasted through his years in office that his interest in economics was small, random, and lacking in stamina. That’s why the debt juggernaut took shape and began its inexorable roll in his time. His ministries threw money at so many problem and interest groups. Several of the prime endeavors were failures at high costs. Think of the National Energy Program or his pathetic wrestling of inflation to the ground with the “6 and 5” program.
Since their most readable, first volume on Trudeau, the McCall-Clarkson team have found more material on their hero’s “intellectual brilliance” and his education at Harvard, London, and Paris, and on his period in the PCO in the early 1950s under the great Keynesian, Bob Bryce. The consequence is a word portrait of Trudeau as the most cerebral and knowledgable authority on economic theories and history Canada has had as prime minister. However, as the authors put it: “… he was neiher interested in nor ignorant of the economy. It was just not his main concern.”
The recent success of the Trudeau “memoirs” in both book and film form is evidence for McCall and Clarkson that “the Trudeau era has taken on the glow of a golden age …?” Proof their hero is “still a live political force in Canada, dangerous, provocative and unpredictable.”
They conclude with a grandeur which may be solace in this week of warning and foreboding from Messrs Martin, Chretien, and Axworthy about the desperate straits we face in debt and deficits.
They say: “At the age of 75, he continued to daunt his enemies, inspire his allies, and enliven the public discourse he had dominated for so long as the most compelling and controversial Canadian of his times.”
Yes! But shouldn’t there be a third adjective to that string?
“… the most compelling, controversial, and costly Canadian of his times.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 21, 1994
ID: 12955245
TAG: 199410200179
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Despite spates of ministerial warnings through two decades of growing federal deficits and debt, what to do about it still befuddles those in power. The current minister of finance preaches well about it all but not with specific remedies, as yet.
As a figure, 6.3, is about a mere twenty-fifth of 157.
What are those figures?
The Chretien government wants to cut $6.3 billion over the next two years from federal spending. In the last fiscal year, total federal spending was $157 billion (and the debt burden was nearing $500 billion).
Those larger numbers dwarf $6.3 billion. Yet for all its handwringing, the Chretien government is still pussyfooting around the deficit-debt dilemma, unwilling to state how it will trim a mere 25th of federal spending.
Pussyfooting? Yes. Neither Paul Martin nor Lloyd Axworthy is in a rush. They’re waiting to hear from “us.” What do we want the government to cut? What changes do we want in the social system? And there’s much more that the government, given a big mandate a year ago, wants to know.
Help them find a GST replacement. And take part in the many reviews. They’ve begun to get new policies for foreign affairs, defence, health, agriculture, and culture and heritage.
The leisurely pace may stem in part from the Liberals’ faith in their Red Book. A year after it proved electorally worthy, they still revere it. See such devotion in speeches of the week by Chretien and his ministers. They reiterated its target of getting the deficit to 3% of the GDP by 1996/97.
Sooner or later the Liberals will probably act on the deficit issues and some of these other matters but what excuses are there for the incredibly slow first year? Quebec and the PQ? Maybe! A reluctance to turn away from their past? A fear of facing those who claim to speak for a kind and caring Canada?
Last December when Martin issued his first statement he was concerned at the scale of the deficit and the surging debt load. And he announced a wide-ranging scout by a committee of MPs for an alternative to the GST. Why not? Aside from its unpopularity, three years into its application it was bringing in $2 billion less than the sales tax it replaced.
Martin in his budget last February had much on deficits and debt and warnings that action must be taken to check them by reducing spending. Early on, the PM announced other House committees would study the changes needed in the social-welfare system, and appraise for changes in both our foreign policy and defence policy. All these committees have had many meetings, their print record running to thousands of pages. And few self-respecting interest group in these varied policy fields have not had their say in briefs and/or as witnesses. So have many individuals.
Reviews. Hearings. Briefs. Conferences. Witnesses. Studies. What a year it’s been for such stuff.
But a year ago voters gave a big mandate to a popular leader with much cabinet experience. He chose a leaner cabinet, has the backing of a keen, fresh numerous backbench, and faces only a bifurcated and very green opposition. A sure-handed, expeditious government seemed our lot, not this loaf-along, talk-it-over, tell-us-what-you-think outfit.
Just before Axworthy revealed at length he was far from ready to legislate changes in the social system, Martin released a sketchy paper on a proposed federal-provincial sales tax to replace the GST. This was for discussion. And Martin pushed the deadline for a definitive alternative to the GST to Jan. 1, 1966.
The Axworthy enterprise, in print, is a circumlocutory affair with portentous but vague alternatives to be considered, and without the dollar prospects from cuts and changes. After more committee hearings there may be specifics on the social system’s changes for revelation in Martin’s next budget. A legislative push with them is unlikely before next fall.
In his two committee addresses this week, and in his purple and grey papers about his agenda, Martin was discursive, engaging and not as doom-struck as Axworthy. He spoke urgently with a crisp case for a collective facing-up to deficits and debt burden. He was superior in prating about debt than predecessors like Mazankowski, Wilson, and Lalonde. But when he was done and his data pile distributed, what did we have on what his government is to do?
Nothing. Some forecasts. Some possible choices. But no deeds. No urgency. More talk.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 19, 1994
ID: 12954998
TAG: 199410180146
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


By most neutral measures the Reform Party’s four-day convention was a success, its climax a rouser of an address by its leader and a huge vote of approval for his stewardship.
You might not have known this convention went as well as any party’s has in decades because of so much sneering and sniffy media coverage, especially by CBC and CTV reporters and in CBC Radio news and commentary.
But consider the attentive 1,500 who came (more than 400 from Ontario ridings) and their assiduity and earnestness.
They passed resolutions with relative dispatch and good order, often after lively debate. And they made clear, as knowingly populist delegates should, that their leader and MPs must never forget in Ottawa that they owe their seats to their voters and their policy stances to what party members decided in convention.
Begin appreciating the healthiness and positive state of the Reform party by noting it is barely old enough to have fought two elections, and into the last one a year ago it took just one MP, Deborah Gray, and came out of it with 51 more, including its leader, Preston Manning.
Think back to the far more heralded start of the NDP in the early ’60s with a monster convention which fused organized labour with a moderate socialist party (the CCF) which had had small caucuses but a lot of parliamentary experience since 1935. The “new” party chose Tommy Douglas as leader, a premier and one of the finest public performers of the century.
Within two years of its birth the “new” party fought two federal elections which in foresight – and even in hindsight – seemed propitious, given the low popularity ratings of John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson, the leaders of the governing party and the official opposition,
Yet the NDP came out of the first one with only 19 MPs and a defeated leader, and then out of the second with only 17 seats. In both elections, the showing made the NDP only the 4th party in the House.
The large crew of green MPs under Preston Manning came to Parliament with a pledge not to oppose for the sake of opposing and to behave responsibly and courteously in the House and its committees.
And by and large they did, and for it earned the contempt of a press gallery gang used to rat-pack tactics and adversarial denigration from day to
day. The Reform caucus also decided to share responsibilities for subject areas among groups of MPs, and their leader chose to take a second-row seat and often, in the question period forum, which gives TV its readiest and best bytes, he’d let a colleague have first run.
Such modesties, given the BQ under Lucien Bouchard had the first two questioners, made them seem well back and not a combative opposition.
Despite the self-chosen dearth of focus in the House time that gets keen media notice, in my opinion the Reform pack performed well.
They were somewhat older, less extrovertish, and more various in their work experience than the new crush of Liberal and BQ MPs. One might say Preston and his 51 began from a handicapped scratch.
No matter, in the first year a dozen or more Reform MPs showed outstanding progress in powers of analysis and parliamentary form – e.g., Ms Grey, Jim Silye, Ian McClelland, Jack Frazer, Bob Ringma, Ray Speaker, Stephen Harper, Myron Thompson, Ted White, Ms Brown, Ms Meredith, and Art Hanger. And yet the media dirge, complemented by the unsurprising putdowns from the Liberal benches, was of an awkward leader and caucus, with reactionary ideas foreign to “caring” Canada.
In my experience, the NDP as a third party in the House never had such withering notice; neither did the 1962 Social Credit gang featuring Real
Caouette. This antagonism of most reporters was matched by the scorn for “the media” of so many delegates; and expecting this, the leader and most of his MPs were edgy and so decent and fair about and with the press, ready to intervene if nastiness developed. Manning might remember that scorn for the political press helped sustain Pierre Trudeau, rather than hurt him.
Of the 30-odd resolutions the delegates passed, I would have been against five or six. For most of the rest I think a majority of voters in English Canada would approve them (i.e., one by one).
In short, Reform is not in decline, and if the PQ doesn’t blow Quebec out of Canada, it will go onward and upward.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 16, 1994
ID: 12954585
TAG: 199410140156
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


This Parliament is to deal with the status of homosexuals in law and in our social system. The controversies implicit in this are symbolized by Roseanne Skoke, a Liberal MP from Nova Scotia, speaking for “the family” and Svend Robinson, the veteran NDP MP from B.C., speaking for gays and as one. Some results of a recent American project on sexual behavior give some help in understanding this adversarial scenario.
As I read MPs as a group about their thinking on the intentions of Allan Rock, the minister of Justice, to legislate homosexual rights and protections, there is an immense uneasiness. A lot of them, liberally-inclined and permissive on social behaviour and individual rights, are hung up. I think this is because so many of them know their constituents are not enthusiastic; indeed there’s a widespread though as yet unfocused hostility to gay rights. Even those MPs with ridings in our half-dozen big cities where homosexual issues from AIDS to same-sex benefits are highly profiled know the potential ahead for divisiveness and intolerance. They fear a repitition in the House of the bitter debates and divisive votes in several provincial legislatures and in the councils of the United Church.
The New York Times of Oct. 8 had a long piece on a study conducted in 1992 by the National Opinion Centre at the University of Chicago on sexual behavior which was based on responses of 3,432 men and women from 18 to 59. The range was wide in fascinating topics, for example in revealing the remarkable difference between men and women on what is “consent” or indicating infidelity in American marriages is less than its popular myth.
What seems most significant in the study’s results for public health policy on AIDS in both the U.S. and Canada is that most people seek and get sexual partners “who resemble them in race, age, socioeconomic level and education. AIDS is likely to remaim concentrated within the groups which are currently most affected, and AIDS prevention should focus on those groups.”
Put succinctly, there is far less random heterosexual intercourse than the condom blitzes, sponsored by our health ministries, project. The campaigns to reduce the spread of AIDS should fix far more on the high risks of homosexual
The data on the ratio of adults who acknowledge they are homosexuals or who have engaged in homosexual acts confirms there are fewer homosexuals than most gay activists say. Only 2.8% of men and 1.4% of women defined themselves as homosexual or bisexual. Only 5.3% of men and 3.5% of women had ever had same-sex intercourse.
The Times story emphasizes how homosexuals have tended to concentrate in big cities. This has exaggerated an impression of their number and its growth. Figures for the 12 largest cities showed that 9% of men and 3% of women said they were homosexual or bisexual. The percentages dropped in suburbs and smaller cities, and it was a mere 1% for men and 0% for women in rural areas.
A post-war British novel about a unit in World War II had the title, From the City; From the Plough, its story’s tensions and their resolutions based on the wide differnces in values and behaviours – the sophisticate versus the simple. Or as those with Svend Robinson and against Roseanne Skoke put it, modernity and fairness versus bigotry and discrimination.
It may be cowardly but like so many MPs I’m leery of the nastiness towards the Skokes among homosexuals and their sympathizers, and the near certainty of an earthquake of antagonism from a far larger group.
In a column two years ago I suggested the prime minister and cabinet should openly discuss the repulsion of so many to what they know or have heard about homosexual practices, particularly anal intercourse and promiscuity. Get the acts and antagonisms out in the open and discussed.
One correspondent, “a gay male”, said that “bringing gay issues into the public does us all a favor” but he didn’t accept my assertion “that the majority of Canadians find the thought of sex between consenting males to be
Another gay man wrote that open discussion was unlikely to make his lifestyle “an acceptable alternative, not even if science eventually proves gayness a genetic quality.” Then he said: “Clenched-fist activism from the gay community and tight-lipped reactions from straight communities do nothing to further us as a society or as individuals.” That’s sensible, but few politicians eager to bridge the attitudes are in sight on Parliament Hill.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 14, 1994
ID: 13010358
TAG: 199410130215
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Once again I discover one should check what one finds in the papers. Above all, a son does not deserve the repute of his father.
My piece steamed at news the Liberals had made Bernard Ostry, a well-known communicator, the head of Sport Canada, a federal group that deals with sports. My sketch of Ostry’s career was harsh.
My mistake was basic – the wrong Ostry!
Early Tuesday I saw a news report on Bernard Ostry’s appointment in weekend issues of two papers, the Montreal Gazette and the Toronto Star. Each had it wrong. The appointee was Adam Ostry, Bernard’s son. He’s in his early ’40s and has been a “director” of federal cultural affairs.
Immediately, in sequence I called three men active in sports associations. Each was out, “at a meeting.” I left my number. After several hours without a return call I tried again. In each case I was told, “He’s still in the meeting.” I asked whether the meeting was about the new boss at Sport Canada. The answers were affirmative, one secretary saying: “Yes, Mr. Ostry.” So after I phoned and found several jock friends as flummoxed as I was at Bernard Ostry’s new job, I wrote the piece.
I must apologize for my scorn of the Liberals, wish Adam Ostry well in a difficult job, and regret any hurtful notice the column drew on Barnard Ostry.

Margarite Ritchie, Q.C., president of the Human Rights Institute of Canada, has shown me letters sent to Ron Irwin, the minister of Indian Afairs and Northern Development, about the current Royal Commission on aboriginal people and its interim report that condemned the relocation of Inuit to the High Arctic in the 1950s.
(Since the report, one commissioner, Bertha Wilson, the ex-justice, has demanded the government apologize and pay redress. Wilson is immensely affected by the sufferings of aboriginal people from white discrimination and actions by governments.)
“The Commission,” Dr. Ritchie argues, “did not deal fairly with evidence at its hearings that the 1955 and 1957 relocations were successful.”
She asked the minister to withhold any decision with respect to an apology or compensation. This would create a costly precedent and not fit with the facts about these particular relocations. She thinks a new book, Arctic Smoke and Mirrors, by Gerard Kennedy, will contribute to a fair context for appraising both the relocations and bogus evidence given the Commission.
Dr. Ritchie argues bias in the conduct of the commissioners at hearings on the relocations. She draws attentions to Allan Blakely, the former premier of Saskatchewan, who resigned from the Commission. He felt “that the way the commission was setting about to do its work would not produce the results we hoped to achieve.”
Mr. Blakely did not wish to be more specific than that on why he quit but in this paragraph to Dr. Ritchie he gets to the centrality of political correctness in Canada. He wrote:
“I have noted in the work of the Commission and elsewhere that on occasion there are instances of what I call presentism. By this I mean the interpretation of acts and circumstances in the past by applying the standards prevailing today. This frequently results in an analysis which is incomplete and out of context.” Yes, and in astronomical redress to assuage well-massaged national guilts.

Some Hill journalists see a resolution to abolish the Charter of Rights before the Reform Party convention as reactionary and a public outrage. In this they’re most correct and in tune with the “presentism” noted by Mr.
Blakely. Before, during, and since the Charter was put in our constitution over a decade ago there were dissenters, and still are. Even some judges believed in Parliamentary supremacy. Not just a few of us were sure the Charter would accelerate litigiousness and our Americanization. It has. Increasingly, the courts make political choices and reject the work of Parliament and legislatures.
Recently a retired judge sent me a long critique of a Charter decision which has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions and made our immigration and refugee regime wretched. A decade ago a Supreme Court decision written by Bertha Wilson gave any would-be immigrant or refugee who reached our territory the protection of Charter rights. This ultra-humane ruling brought on the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada – expensive, loose, and dilatory.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 12, 1994
ID: 13010096
TAG: 199410110149
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


They’re sliding. Yes, the Liberals.
Most new federal governments begin on a high plateau of public favor. The Chretien government has remained on the plateau longer than any since the apogee years of the Diefenbaker crew from mid-’57 to late ’59.
In the last fortnight the Liberals’ fortunes have begun to falter. The incident – an appointment – which I emphasize here is hardly major like some recent stupidities but it’s the one that convinced me that once again we have a government like all the others. Roll out the old line: “The way of all flesh.”
The official appointment was announced by the office of Michel Dupuy, the minister for Canadian heritage. Bernard Ostry was to be the new head of Sports Canada, a choice that has triggered moaning in some quarters, belly laughs in others.
Most of the moaning is from those holding office in scores of national sports assocations who leaped almost at once from asking “Who is he?” to “But why? Why this guy?”
The belly laughs come from political buffs who relish irony and paradox; in this case, the images of lusty jocks and muscular prose, say of Don Cherrys and Bobbie Clarkes, in contrast to Mr. Ostry’s high style and cultural cant. Athough long ago the new federal master for sport came out of Flin Flon he’s a polar extreme from the Flin FlonBombers.
Over the past 40 years Bernard Ostry became almost a metaphor of the exotic effete in the capital. He has always oozed cultural awareness while establishing himself as a Brahmin of the Ottawa bureaucracy. And for taxpayers, there’s been a high cost.
For example, as a Trudolator of inner-sanctum status Ostry was central in, if not the fount of, such costly exercises and reorganizations as:
(i) Discovering in the late 1960s the need for Information Canada, seeing it created and then, shortly, dismantled.
(ii) The creation in 1972 of our first minister for multiculturalism, with the complementary grants and patronage in such a nation-defining endeavor.
(iii) A reorganization in 1972 that brought all the national museums under a secretary-general and deputy-minister (Ostry himself).
(iv) The build-up with enormous PR ballyhoo of Telidon, mooted as a telecommunications marvel, but which eventually faded into limbo after costing tens of millions;
When the Mulroney government arrived in 1984, Ostry exchanged his rank of deputy-minister in Ottawa for its equivalent at Queen’s Park (for citizenship and culture). Then in 1985 the authority he was alleged to possess as a TV expert brought him the leadership of TV Ontario, a post he gave a far higher profile in English Canada’s cultural capital than any predecessor had. His reign closed with the advent of the Rae government. He was replaced by Peter Herrndorf after much media notice was given his costly tastes, notably for multiple monitors.
Admire or not the career of Bernard Ostry, now 67, it has been improbably wondrous in panache and self-promotion. Both he and his wife, Dr. Sylvia Ostry, rose quickly and high in the Canadian bureaucracy soon after they created a salon on the banks of the Ottawa in the early ’60s.
To it came the political “ton” of all parties but the Creditistes, Liberals most of all.
Recently I heard a Bay Street analyst jeer the Chretien government as Mulroney-Wilson II because that government also talked about but didn’t deliver a program of deficit reduction and debt control. And there’s been a year of snail’s progress in wiping away the GST. And last week its hesitant, hazy discussion paper on reforming the social system revealed an unconvincing minister who shouted down all critics. And even his top fans on the Hill think Jean Chretien gave gifts to the PQ-BQ propaganda with his antics over paying for the Charlottetown referendum and in forbidding Jacques Parizeau to send a substitute on the Team Canada junket to China.
These errors or misjudgments are more serious than the dozy patronage of placing an exquisite waffler on high culture upon the sports associations of Canada. But what a stupid affront, what an example of governmental arrogance. People already seething at delays in federal decisions on policies and funding and over losing both a federal minister for sport and a top bureaucrat who knew their field now have access through a bureaucratic dilettante.
Yes, just a few years ago the Liberals roared at the affront to cultural Canada when a hog-raising Tory MP was made chairman of the House committee handling cultural affairs.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 09, 1994
ID: 13009719
TAG: 199410070130
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


A heavy season of books on politics is on us. It’s unseemly, but before making notes on a few of them, may I rant at the absence in serious books of an index?
A publisher of many political books like Key Porter shouldn’t issue so many of them without indexes. A good index has always cost money, but computers make them cheaper and more easily and quickly done.
On hand are three books from Key Porter. Neither Joe Clark’s A Nation Too Good to Lose nor Derailed; The Betrayal of the National Dream, by David Bercuson and Barry Cooper, has an index whereas a third one (and the most flawed of the three) has one, i.e., Class Warfare; The Assault on Canada’s Schools, by Maude Barlow and Heather-Jane Robertson.
Another Key Porter author, George Bain, has Gotcha!, a book on our political media due soon. Last month he let me see a draft. After finding two of the above books were index-less and really needed one, I phoned Bain. Would Gotcha! have an index, a key feature given his work’s complexity and erudition? He seemed glum. He’d just learned there would not be an index. This is particularly retrograde because some of Bain’s case histories are sure to be texts at journalism schools.
I’ll review Joe Clark’s book later, only observing that it’s authentic Clark – decent and high-minded.
The Barlow-Robertson book in defence of teachers and our public schools is vivid if lopsided when teacher Robertson’s voice comes through on the working situations of teachers with hordes of undisciplined kids, but vapid and strange when Barlow, the anti-American lobbyist is rolling on the penetration of diabolical international corporations and the evangelical right, out to sunder the universality and common cause of tax-supported grade schooling or to enforce an Americanized business ideology on the system.
Derailed, by historian Bercuson and philosopher Cooper, both at the University of Calgary, is a tour de force. I rate it the frankest, sharpest, sustained critique of federal political leadership from Diefenbaker to Chretien I’ve ever read. Most notably, it savages the main works and legacies of Pierre Trudeau. In comparison, Brian Mulroney shows well in terms of policies and program intentions though not for style and truth-saying.
The chapters on “One Canada” and on how our welfare system and the attendant debt burden symbolize our national identity are myth-smashers. The conclusions hammer at this point: we simply cannot sustain or try to recreate the myth of “one Canada” – and not just because of the Quebecois.
If you want a clear, fair account of Canada’s roles in international affairs I recommend a new paperback from Copp Clark Longman, written by historians Norman Hillmer and Jack Granatstein, and titled Empire to Umpire; Canada and the World to the 1990s.
Though neither author is a Mulroney fan, his government’s international record, especially regarding the U.S., gets a more positive appraisal than Trudeau’s. For example, they write:
“Somehow, after 16 years in power, after countless NATO meetings, G-7 summits, Commonwealth meetings, and UN sessions, Trudeau really did not seem to understand how great power relations worked.”
Those New Democrats for whom feminism isn’t a prime premise should read the autobiography of Kay Macpherson, When in Doubt: The Times of my Life, a new paperback from the U of T Press. Her public career as a devotee of peace and feminism came in middle age and brought her into the NDP as a federal candidate. Her interests and enthusiasms as a New Democrat were particular and her disinterest obvious regarding economic policies or the ideas of T.C. Douglas and David Lewis. We can understand how the NDP became a shambling group of interests – feminists, unionists, homosexualists, aborigines and pacifists. At 81, Macpherson is often candid on personal and family matters, sketching both her distancing from her children and how her appreciation of why her husband, Brough, a political scientist, was a genius and a beloved teacher came after he died.
Finally, if you wish to read a considered review of the faults and merits of the controversial films produced by the McKenna brothers, Brian and Terry, for the CBC, try a new paperback from McGill-Queen’s, edited by historians Bercuson and S.F. Wise, and titled The Valor and the Horror Revisited. It’s fairly done.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 07, 1994
ID: 13009480
TAG: 199410060176
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Oh, Lloyd Axworthy, what a let-down. And in saying that I reveal one who has dallied with a hope the Winnipegger’s reform program would galvanize a cautious government.
The Liberals won handsome backing a year ago that gave Jean Chretien control of the House, and given the confidence and details of the Red Book I expected a forthright government with the will to tackle a looming, national deficit-debt crisis and an uneven, often ineffective system of social security. No more expectations! We have the “discussion paper”: Improving Social Security in Canada, and what gets under way is remarkably similar to the prelude antics to the Charlottetown Accord that confused and angered both our nations.
A “mark time, rear files cover” government is in place in Ottawa if this paper is the first of its mighty, strategic initiatives.
One should have divined the timidity when it took so many months to prepare this mouse of a paper.
Leaks galore of the paper’s content to reporters began last weekend making ridiculous the announcement of a “media lock-up” prior to the paper’s release on Wednesday. This indicated a fearful ministry, trying to get an early edge.
It’s apparent this cabinet cannot make up its mind on a clear set of actions and it fears harsh reactions from some provinces, notably Quebec, and the interest groups that swarm around every federal spending program, each determined to keep its respective share.
The paper itself has 89 wide-margined pages and a printface so small and thin it’s hard to read. By and large its argument is tentative and its prose woolly. The chosen dominant themes – Working, Learning, Security – are as vague as the substance of each.
Most of the paper is so banal and circumlocutory that its contents can be trudged through only by critics seeking their particular apprehensions. The gist of the paper, such as there is, is in the last five pages of “key issues for discussion.” In it and some alternatives, one gets somewhat close to what the government thinks wrong or ineffective and that should be changed in unemployment insurance, training, and welfare.
The preceding 84 pages have much roundabout bumpf somewhat glossed by some uninspired charts and graphs. Amazingly, there are no clear depictions of the swatch of programs in place, for example for job training. Costs get little analysis and there’s little on anticipated savings or the savings from some suggestions.
In a word, this document is feeble. Its content, in itself, cannot give a basis to a national discussion. The content in large part is hazy, without a coherent narrative or a cogent analysis of the past or a crisp presentation of the future. Here’s a sample of its guff:
“Opportunity must be the watchword of our redesigned social security system. Our aspiration is to build a social-security system that enables all Canadians, children and adults alike, to obtain a fair and equal opportunity to exploit their talents, lead fulfilling lives, and experience the dignity of work.”
The conclusion declares: “The previous chapters have described the current system and why it no longer fills the bill. The case is made that we need a comprehensive reshaping of our social programs so that they help people get and keep jobs as well as protecting the vulnerable.”
Well, the description is inadequate, almost shapeless, and believe me, there’s little comprehensive on “reshaping” the social system.
Listening to the opinions that pitted TV programs later Wednesday – the affront taken by the “cons” and the smugness of the “pros” (mostly Grit MPs) – I wondered whether I had picked up and read a ghost paper, missing one in which others found pith and plans to reject.
Let me reiterate that Improving Social Security in Canada is vague and intangible because the Chretien cabinet is split or unready or afraid to be bold and direct about the whole social system and its lock on the deficit-debt situation.
One reason this is pitiable to me is the informed, current analysis on the social system and the debt crisis that is at hand from the academic industry. See Social Canada In The Millenium; Reform Imperatives and Restructuring Principles, by Thomas Courchene (C.D. Howe Institute) or The Future of Fiscal Federalism, edited by Banting, Brown, and Courchene (School of Policy Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston). What might be done, indeed what should be done, is there in both books. Better “the discussion” was based on one or the other.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 05, 1994
ID: 13009228
TAG: 199410040100
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Prediction 1.
By the time of the budget in February, the government will know that most of the ideas in its discussion paper on social reform unveiled today won’t stand legislating because of the rage and range of criticism from the interest groups that think the changes will gore them.
Prediction 2.
The most rational, but least tested, proposition in the Axworthy paper is a change in federal support for universities from cash to the provinces through the Established Programs Financing (EPF) to a voucher system that deals directly with students and provides each with a voucher covering tuition costs to the university of choice, and this will draw immense opposition from more than the PQ government. The most persuasive negatives will come from prospective students who will back off, scared by the big dollar burden of debt for them that the vouchers entail.
Prediction 3.
The unemployment insurance aspects of the paper should lead to legislation that will probably include the establishment of a uniform qualifying period, perhaps of 30 weeks’ work, but the protests will be fierce and the ones giving the Liberals most concern will be regional, i.e., from the Atlantic provinces and the hinterland ridings, most of which, from Manitoba eastwards are held by Liberal MPs.
Prediction 4.
The heart-rending proposals by Lloyd Axworthy are those to deliver more cash for poor children or much more effective help to their parent or parents through the tax system, and while these will be eventually pushed through after much argument with some provincial governments they won’t be ready by the February budget.
Prediction 5.
The links between welfare entitlement and an imperative or requirement that job training be undertaken, are publicly appealing, but welfare provisions and training are essentially provincial-municipal matters, and the challenge to Ottawa to devise means to establish and sustain a program with a national reach and standards is not so much to sustain it – that just needs federal money – as to attain agreement for it, particularly from Quebec.
So it’s predictable this will be achieved only through a continuing, stable, cash contract between Ottawa and each province which leaves initiatives and details to the provinces.
Prediction 6.
The so-called Team Canada tour of China, featuringChretien and premiers, is already marred by Premier Parizeau’s decision he cannot go, and the Ottawa ruling that he cannot name a substitute, but the extravaganza will have many more detriments ahead than the presence or absence of Parizeau.
Each evening the coverage will project homeward the glitches and the costliness of the venture. Canadians’ appreciation of the junket will cool and congeal as the puffing b– s– of daily receptions, greetings, platitudes, airports, ships, rivers, factories, farms, and housing projects come through, including the homilies from abroad of humble premiers like Clyde Wells, Bob Rae, Frank McKenna, and Catherine Callbeck of PEI.
Prediction 7.
By the New Year, whatever points the Gallups give Jean Chretien and the Liberals, two conditions or attitudes within the government’s parliamentary caucus that have been muffled by the immense favor for the PM will be out in the open and raising demands for changes in both the cabinet and Chretien’s inner circle.
Bluntly put these attitudes are: (a) A pervading belief the troika of Chretien handlers – i.e., Ed “Goldfinger” Goldenberg, Jean Pelletier, and Chaviva Hosek – has too much power in yea-saying and nay-saying cabinet strategies and decisions. (b) A hardening appreciation in Ontario’s horde of backbenchers that the province has too many lightweights in its cabinet’s 10, given the troika’s power and heavyweights from elsewhere. (The eight men and two women from Ontario in the cabinet are Sergio Marchi, Art Eggleton, David Collenette, Roy MacLaren, and Allan Rock from Metro, and Herb Gray, Sheila Copps, Ron Irwin, Diane Marleau, and John Manley from beyond.)
Prediction 8.
Before his bills go to a House vote, Justice Minister Allan Rock will realize his chances for the highest post will be crimped by animus rising from disagreement in his own caucus over tighter gun controls and particular protections for homosexuals that goes far beyond a scatter of bush MPs or Roseanne Skoke and Tom Wappel.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 02, 1994
ID: 13008842
TAG: 199409300147
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


Neither a national fascination nor much head-to-head controversy between individuals and groups has been worked up about the almost concluded, twin, massive reviews by parliamentary committees of Canada’s foreign and defence policies.
Report preparations are underway and within five weeks we (i.e., the public) should have them both.
The sponsors of Colin Gray’s visit and essay, the Atlantic Council of Canada, are concerned over the continuing reign among opinion leaders in our public affairs of a zest for peacekeeping.
Add such enthusiasm to Ottawa’s obsession with getting the deficit down and the Chretien government may be prompted to alter drastically the scope and roles of our defence forces.
In particular, the Council thinks too much attention may be paid to policies well-flogged for almost a year by CANADA 21, a group of ex-diplomats, retired mandarins, some academics, and a few businessmen.
Although CANADA 21 believes our country still needs an army, a navy, and an air force, its members argue that for the first time in 50 years we can choose what kind of army we need and are willing to pay for.
This line doesn’t seem to defy common sense but CANADA 21 goes on to posit that: “There is no obvious need to maintain the wide range of air, ground, and anti-submarine conventional forces needed to repel a military attack, because it is difficult to conceive of any military power with the desire and the ability to attack Canada.”
The most scathing part of Dr. Gray’s paper – indeed, the only vinegary prose in it – comes in “notes” at its end that spread ironic disbelief over “the strange choice” in foreign and defence policy that CANADA 21 has been advocating.
The choice is: “On the one hand, making the decisions that will allow Canada to play a leading role in the new era of common security, and on the other, continuing with the present policies which both make that option increasingly difficult, and at the same time, maintain an assortment of military capabilities too limited to be effective for any meaningful purpose.”
Gray believes that playing such “a leading role” is “a hope dressed up as a fact, if there ever was one.”
In brief, CANADA 21 advocates a lightly armed military establishment, one that would be incapable of combat against any but the most tawdry opposition although it would have expertise in communications and infrastructures to succour the suffering.
The Atlantic Council of Canada and Colin Gray think this vision for our military is unrealistic, an implausible way for Canada to contribute to its own and global security.
And so their messages to the committees and the government are to go slowly in creating a much different military and in assuming that beyond securing our domestic realm and our borders and air-space our military should be primarily geared for service abroad as peacekeepers under the auspices of the United Nations.
My reactions to sharp changes in our military are those of one who’s been to war and has respect for the quality and the work done abroad by our military in NATO and for the UN.
I worry over the conception such idealists have worked up on the military Canada needs. On one basic element in any armed force Colin Gray spoke for me in writing:
“Soldiering is different from all other professions, trades, or jobs. In the last resort, a Canadian soldier may be required to place his or her body between an enemy and a Canadian vital interest.
Also, Canadian soldiers have to be trained to be ready to kill for Canada. These are extraordinary requirements. The Canadian military is not a kind of police force with fancy equipment.”
Amen to that. Further, I agree with Dr. Gray from my own study that “The Canadian armed forces are perilously close to the zone wherein they are not really combat-capable any more.” (See Croatia!)
This has developed because of too many assignments abroad, outmoded equipment, slow procurement, and not enough resources put into our reserve forces or militia.
Pray with me that neither of our review committees goes overboard for Canada the peacekeeper and peacemaker.
In particular, they should reject the idea we can have a useful military with soldiers who have not been trained and equipped to kill and to do all possible not to be killed.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, September 30, 1994
ID: 13008600
TAG: 199409290127
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Thirty years ago a roar would have risen in Parliament over any serious bid to merge the CNR and the CPR, in whole or in parts. Railroading’s no longer a priority for most MPs, and the likelihood a takeover will erase Canada’s first and mightiest Crown corporation has not seemed a hard choice for the Chretien government. It yet may, however, thinks Joe Comuzzi, MP, a Grit from Thunder Bay. Of course, he has much track of both railroads in his riding that could be abandoned by the railroad left in being.
Comuzzi speculated somewhat after noting two attributes of the main lines across the huge stretch of Northern Ontario. First, the CN route from Sudbury to the Prairies is shorter, has easier grades, and needs less maintenance than the southerly CP route that skirts Lake Superior. Second, each line taps adjacent and substantial tonnages in timber, pulp, paper, ores and metals.
“Of course, as an MP I want these factors considered before any amalgamation deal goes ahead,” said Comuzzi. Meantime he prefers to follow a railway union slogan of the Dirty Thirties: “Co-operation ever; amalgamation never!”
Then he speculated on near certain corollaries from the current proposals, given the current Quebec scenario.
“Both the CN and the CP have their HQ offices in Montreal. In particular, the CN has a numerous staff. So, CP takes over the whole CN, and Montreal loses a swatch of jobs. And if CP only takes CN’s eastern lines, it makes the Crown corporation almost wholly a Western operation, and ordains a move of CN HQs to Calgary or Winnipeg. Also, the CP, with the CN’s eastern lines and U.S. tracks to go with its own U.S. track will be overwhelmingly an Ontario-U.S. operation with almost token or minute service in Quebec or the Maritimes. Surely Toronto, even Chicago, would make more sense as its HQ than Montreal.
“As yet,” mused the Liberal MP, “I think neither Mr. Chretien nor Mr. Young, our transport minister who is from New Brunswick, has thought much on what’s ahead for Montreal.” Nor, do I think, has Lucien Bouchard or Jacques Parizeau.

George Bain’s coming book Gotcha! examines our political media and the strong tilt against small “c” and large “C” conservatism of many reporters. His best stuff is drawn largely from CBC-TV news and the Globe and Mail. Mr. Bain, a former columnist and humorist, had excellent examples this week for this thesis, given treatment given some conservatively minded people, first by CBC Prime Time in a preposterous lead story on Monday which revealed resolutions, wondrous-to-the-CBC, that had been drafted for circulation within the Reform Party, and second, by Globe editorialists in chastening tiny Roseanne Skoke and then demanding her banishment from the Liberal caucus for thinking and saying homosexuality is immoral.
Peter Mansbridge was stern but revealing on the resolutions of the Reform Party. It was as though they symbolized an incipient fascism. And so a CBC scoop, given rightist proposals simmering up in the Reform Party.
The CBC’s affront to judgment came in the gist of the resolutions. Each of them, to my knowledge, has been scouted by some Reformers, including the one that Mansbridge and the reporter hinted as sacrilegious – the abolition of the Charter of Rights (and so a return to Parliamentary supremacy).
A few weeks ago, Prime Time screwed up with a scoop on dirty deeds by CSIS at Canada Post that was quickly refuted. One might excuse this as a silly mistake in reading a document. But the puffing top item on Reform last Monday was hogwash all the way. And showed bias!
Thursday’s Globe editorial first denigrated most backbenchers who “shuffle silently through public life” before reaching the infamous Skoke woman who’s “been denouncing homosexuality since she was elected a year ago as immoral and unnatural.”
The Globe proclaimed: “Homosexuality is natural for that estimated 10% whose identity includes it.” Ah, that statistic! Not long ago, a Globe writer, queezy over his paper’s proselytizing for homosexuality, insisted to me that 10% is a large exaggeration. The percentage is between one and three.
The Globe chastized Chretien. He should have “disassociated himself from Ms Skoke and declared her views out of place in his concept of Canada.” Wee Skoke should be isolated, and ruined as a Liberal, just as Svend Robinson demands, the Globe said.
Poor woman, ruined as a Liberal MP, even though a lot more than 10% of Canadians are just as conservative on this matter.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 28, 1994
ID: 13008366
TAG: 199409270084
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Is the lack of notice in Canada for the new book by David Frum another example of the domination in our media of anti-conservative feeling.?
A few weeks ago the Washington Post carried the most favorable review of a non-fiction book by a Canadian that I’ve seen in a decade in any American publication of high repute. (To add “non-fiction” was necessary because authors Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood earn much rapturous acclaim in the U.S..)
The book I refer to is Frum’s Dead Right, (New Republic/Basic Books). He is described by the Post reviewer, an avowed liberal and Democrat, as having “an incandescent political intelligence – one that holds nothing back, censures nothing, leaves nothing unexpressed. David Frum is … a conservative who subjects his creed to a sometimes blisteringly principled critique.”
It’s possible the Frum book has won much notice in Canada that I’ve missed, but the only references I’ve seen have been in Sun papers and by Peter Worthington, a relative by marriage of Frum.
If reaction to the book here is sparse, one may wonder whether any copies have been available in Canada, but usually such a lack doesn’t inhibit notice. Lots of editors and producers here read the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Post, each of which has had high praise for Dead Right. Usually such paens to Canadian talent get quick attention, notably by the nationalist Toronto Star and from the ubiquitous CBC.
One mentions the CBC, of course, because for two decades Frum’s mother almost symbolized the Mother Corp. Her cachet hasn’t lasted for her son, maybe because he’s such a small “c” conservative and a Sun columnist.
No American praise of Frum’s mind and work that I’ve read makes anything of a foreigner criticizing America’s political behavior and ideologies. Dead Right should have interest for the many Canadian voyeurs of Anerican politics because many politicians and ideas he weighs will be large in the presidential campaign less than two years away.

Last Monday a Globe and Mail columnist, Andrew Coyne, analysed the predicament of the CBC in terms of its dwindling viewers and its shortage of money. The title given the piece caught the technological skyhook in the CBC’s dilemmas: In a 500-channel mily way, the CBC becomes a mere speck on the dial.
The columnist’s conclusion is: “If we want to spend public money on television programming … there is a more effective and less costly way to do it than the CBC.” He suggests that “Those who value a program or type of programming particularly highly can perfectly well pay for it themselves.
Mr. Coyne beat me into print with this acuity on what advancing technology has done to ruin, first the CBC’s national near-monopoly, then its audience shares. The same point hit me when reading Knowlton Nash’s new book Microphone Wars: A Hisotry of Triumph and Betrayal at the CBC.
I kept expacting that Nash’s account would be informed by the renowed insights of Harold Innis and Marshall McCluhan on how societies are revolutionized more by changing technology than by philosophical ideas.
Nash, the well-known newsreader, cherishes the CBC and considers its continuance vital to a worthwhile Canada. His long, honest biography of the post-World War II CBC lays out the travails of the leaders of the corporation with its paymaster government and parliamentarians.
Naturally the Tories, especially Mulroney Tories, get tagged with insensitivity and worse to the CBC’s needs to fulfil its missions.
Viewership of the CBC in English-speaking Canada is now down near a puny 10% share. Why? Largely because there are so many choices, in contrast to none or a few when microwave transmission in the mid-’50s put CBC-TV into most Canadian homes.
Although one long-time CBC leader, Alphonse Ouiment, was a technical virtuoso the CBC’s best minds never seemed to study, let alone find remedies, to the inevitability of wider viewers’ choice. A democratic government can’t block for long reception of signals in the air from beyond its borders.
Canadians didn’t figuratively walk away from the CBC, they just found lots of alternatives through new technology and services – cable, VCRs, CDs, and dishes. The CBC’s certain allegiances have both faded and narrowed, and more choices are coming.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 25, 1994
ID: 13008016
TAG: 199409230143
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


On Oct. 6, 1943, Albert Speer, the German minister for munitions, spoke to senior members of the Nazi Party about “the problem of war production.”
Most military leaders and academics who have appraised the war in Europe grant Speer’s genius as an organizer. He did wonders in producing weaponry, planes, tanks, etc.
More on Speer below and his connection with The Valor and the Horror, the three-part film produced by the McKenna brothers, Brian and Terence, for the CBC and the NFB. Recall that its showing several years ago brought a storm of critiques and defences, both of which roll on.
The McKennas’ triple-header – on Canadians at Hong Kong in 1941; Bomber Command’s area bombing of Fortress Europa; and the Normandy beachhead – was shown on British TV last month to little favor and some critical scorn. Now books by two of our senior journalists are soon to be released and almost sure to get much attention. In each The Valor looms large.
In the book by Knowlton Nash Microphone Wars: A History of Tri-umph and Betrayal at the CBC the film is somewhat de-fended, at least for good intentions and as a creation that sparked an immense retrospect and discussion. It also united artistic and production personnel of the CBC against unsupportive corporate leaders.
The other book, Gotcha!, by George Bain, long-time columnist, award-winning humorist, and an RCAF veteran of Bomber Command aircrew, takes apart the recent and current condition and biases of Canadian news and commentary. The Valor gives Bain a classic case of the reigning dominance of opinionated prejudice over facts and fairness in the purveying of news and interpretation, particularly by the CBC.
Of course, a third book, The Crucible of War, Vol. 3 of the official history of the RCAF, produced for the Dept. of National Defence, came out this year and instantly became an element in controversial revisions of Canadians’ parts in World War II.
The McKennas claimed this “official” book shows how “bullet-proof” their research had been and supports Valor’s criticism of Bomber Command’s leader, Arthur Harris – the slaughter of German civilians didn’t much harm the Nazi war effort.
However, several of our military historians think The Crucible grossly inadequate in its range and distorted by an anti-bomber bias, and some associations of veterans want the book withdrawn.
Back to Speer: In most scholarly autopsies of Nazi Germany’s death much respectful note has been taken of his role, certainly enhanced by his candid autobiography. So, given more ripples from The Valor I was taken with a translation of Speer’s speech in ’43 sent me by a friend at work on a book on Nazi-Czech relations.
My friend has had a personal interest in the bombing because he was there as a Czech conscripted for forced labor in Germany. He was put in firefighting forces and was a witness to the firestorm that devastated Hamburg in July 1943. He believes the area bombing of German cities was a fundamental factor in Germany’s defeat and sees the McKennas as pious fools.
So here is Speer to his peers on Allied bombing (found in film 175 of German documents in the National Library, Washington):
“I organized a series of lectures for your benefit on the problem of war production so you will understand the seriousness of the situation and to take away from anybody the excuse that he did not know. …
“We have to ensure that the workforce after the air raids returns faster to their enterprises. We may appreciate that the worker after an air raid has to look first to his family and that he stays away. We have to take measures, however, to force the worker back as soon as possible. Among such measures are certificates of rations … which the worker can fetch only at his factory …
“We have to be clear about one thing, namely that the method of the English and the Americans of bombing the inner city and its civilian population, a lesson they likely learned from our attacks against the English cities, in the long run affects production more than an attack against the factory itself. We have to counter this stubborn English strategy by trying to do our utmost to reduce such absenteeism. Often, even eight days after an air raid, only 20% to 30% of the employees are reporting for work.”
At least its enemy knew Bomber Command was hurtful and effective.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, September 23, 1994
ID: 13007734
TAG: 199409220168
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


These are impressions, not verities, of the newly returned House of Commons. Lucien Bouchard and the Bloc MPs seem less confident and vivacious than they were through their first six months of work in the House.
The electoral figures from the Quebec election may explain this relative muting of what was a lively, confident caucus. Perhaps they now know they face a full term as MPs with poor prospects for a joint resignation from the House after a smashing referendum victory. The BQ MPs seem shy of their early undertaking to resign after the referendum on sovereignty, win or lose.
In some contrast, the Reform MPs seem more concerted and confident in their floor work as critics and less concerned than before the recess over the scornful and often demeaning comment about them by most of the press gallery’s pack.
As for the Liberals, some of the more aggressive or reform-minded backbenchers are concluding that high favor in opinion polls is bad for their governing party. They feel the government is just diddling along, riding on Chretien’s back, and more in continuity with its predecessors’ programs than with its own. As yet, despite much “reviewing” and much flaunting of the Red Book’s wisdoms there hasn’t been a major legislative initiative of truly national significance. No, there’s no likelihood of bolts or an insurrection in the Grit ranks but the radiancy of victory is much faded though not yet all gone.
There have been some changes over the summer in the critical profile of the cabinet put together from the attitudes of MPs from all the parties to the various ministers.
The wait continues – anxiously on the Liberal side – for Lloyd Axworthy to unveil the reform program for the social system. At the moment the Liberals are more worried than optimistic about his program.
Meanwhile, more and more one hears that of all the cabinet Marcel Masse has the “balls”. He’s the mastermind of the drastic shakeout plans under way for federal programs and personnel. Masse, the MP for Hull, is suddenly the capital region’s ogre after announcing huge cuts in the Public Service Commission and praising cuts above 40% planned for Transport Canada.
The wallop to capital confidence from such plans was not eased when David Dingwall, Allan MacEachen’s protege and successor as Mr. Grit in Nova Scotia, revealed plans to divest some administered programs and their employees from the capital for transfer east to the Maritimes. While it’s likely most citizens from east or west of Ottawa-Hull-Gatineau would welcome, rather than oppose such transfers, no other region with a dozen or so MPS has been more fiercely Liberal nor was more transparently hostile to the Mulroney government. The projected downsizing – either through Masse’s plans or Dingwall’s transplanting – will nurture a very uncomfortable milieu for the Liberals on and around the Hill.
As for other cabinet ministers, Michel Dupuy in Heritage seems to have replaced David Anderson, “The” B.C. minister, as the butt for most slurs as a cabinet maladroit; Allan Rock in Justice is still high, high, on almost everyone’s ratings, whereas the top economic ministers, Paul Martin and John Manley, continue as not proven (rather than failed); and none of the women ministers has been setting the political heather on fire. But overall none of these downs, ups, or steadies, mean much so long as Jean Chretien’s walks on water.
Finally, this week Svend Robinson misjudged public opinion. He seems to think “the national newspaper” speaks for Canada on homosexuals. He was so outraged by Roseanne Skoke’s attack on any plans to award family rights to homosexuals that he demanded Chretien drum her from the Liberal caucus. Better he had expressed hurt and regret that the governing party, committed to fair play for homosexuals, should have to harbor such a reactionary.
From opinion polling, letters to editors, and my own mail and calls, it seems clear a large majority of Canadians are either antagonistic to the legislative aims of homosexuals as expressed by Robinson, or if quiet about the matter, willing to let homosexuals be, they are almost sure to see Skoke as a brave and honest MP.
This week the NDP MPs are digesting early copies of Ian McLeod’s book from Lorimer, Under Siege, The Federal NDP in the Nineties, and seem to be finding it fair and accurate.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 21, 1994
ID: 13007493
TAG: 199409200082
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


In yet another speech, this time to a reassembled Parliament, Sergio Marchi has shown what a empty-head he is as minister for citizenship and immigration. He’s had almost a year at the job but the sum of his recent remarks shows a confused bombastic, cringing before the winds of criticism in Metropolitan Toronto over criminals’ abuse of our immigration system.
The minister’s seat is in Toronto. If Jean Chretien must have a minister from the locale that magnifies most of our immigration difficulties, he has many choices better than Sergio Marchi. Take the most knowledgable MP on immigration matters, Tom Wappel, and consider his prescient 1992 discussion paper. Or try one of the many new, ambitious MPs from Metro like John Godfrey or Bill Graham or Barry Campbell.
While introducing some amendments to the Immigration Act, Mr. Marchi spoke as though the dominant problem in immigration policy has to do with criminals who have made their way into Canada, often illegally, and who must be found and expelled.
After conceding, in effect, that the department has been far from effective and that screening must be tougher and more efficient, Mr. Marchi sailed by the obvious changes needed in our immigration programs and the critical opinions of them held by so many citizens. (Opinion poll after opinion poll shows Canadians want less immigration in total and much fewer of some immigrants.)
In terms of evasions, Mr. Marchi chose not to talk to MPs about the proposals he recently learned his officials had made through a story the Toronto Star blazoned on Sept. 15th.
Of course immediately it broke the story, the Star chased to the lawyers and clergy of the immigration-refugee industry for their denuncations of such proposals. The minister (what a cretin!) both denied that he’d read the reported proposals and swore he wouldn’t finalize any of them until he’d checked them with his Liberal colleagues and the views from public consulations on immigration issues.
In my opinion, enacting the proposals would go a long way to meet much of the broad, countrywide criticism on immigration-refugee matters. Here is a synopsis of them:
(a) Cut immigration levels at once by a fifth (i.e., down 50,000 a year). (b) Restrict “family class” entitlements to close relatives – less grandparents! (c) Take immigration and refugee board appointments out of politics and open them to career public servants. (d) Clearly separate and administer separately the immigration and the refugee programs. (e) Stop automatic citizenship for children born here to those claiming refugee status. (f) Empower judges to order the deportation of convicted criminals after they’ve complete their sentences. (g) End the “nannies” program. (h) Change the “points” system for independent immigrants (especially helpful to applicants from the U.K. and Western Europe) to enhance entry of those with a good education, language facility, and years ahead in the labor force, whatever the current occupational needs are in Canada. (i) Limit the immediate access by new immigrants to the health system.
Mr. Marchi told the Star these proposals may seem good to his bureaucrats but “you can’t sell them on the streets anywhere.”
The reality is he cannot get them by the Barbara Jackmans and Mendel Greens of Metro’s immigration-refugeee industry. A lot of Marchi’s MP colleagues could tell him their constitutents would heartily approve most of those proposals, particularly on levels and on limiting the family class and on changing the points system to put the emphasis back on Europe and away from Somalia, Sri Lanka, and the Caribbean.
After praising his own tough intentions against criminal abuse of the system Mr. Marchi got right back to those (I’m sure like me) “who would appeal to the darker side of our character and use the exuse of public safety to cloak a racist agenda aimed at shutting off all immigration.”
Now this is stupid bosh.
Most Canadians are not against all immigration. Most know Canada has been made by immigrants, that Canada needs immigrants now, and will need them year by year for a long time.
Most Canadians are fed up with the correctness enforced – as Marchi seeks to do with such statements – on our country by the propaganda of multiculturalism. The touters exalt every ethnicity on the globe and proclaim a place for each and its culture in Canada.
And so they diminish and demean what our predecessors and current Canadians have developed in institutions and a wonderful country.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 18, 1994
ID: 13007153
TAG: 199409160153
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: Backgrounder


Carefully, reasonably, fairly.
That seems the tone of Ottawa’s strategy for Quebec.
If it does not hold, which way might it turn?
Towards wooing and promises is more likely than towards intimidation through positing the agonies in secession itself, and its harsh consequences.
It does seem unlikely and strange that the issue of Quebec’s choosing to leave Canada could be kept in a lower-key through the next year until the alternative “state” offered by Jacques Parizeau is voted on. And yet the early wisdom from the leaders of our various political casts have downplayed tensions and potential bitterness as if it’s hardly different than business as usual.
Parizeau says he will offer the referendum when promised. He has emphasized his government represents all Quebecers and his readiness to deal with the prime minister and other premiers on affairs affecting Quebec through the period before the vote.
Daniel Johnson wants the vote on a fair, clear question done quickly, as promised. He insists he and his party are not interested in constitutional propositions to deal with Quebec’s concerns and needs within the federal system until the referendum is out of the way.
Bob Rae has been archetypal of the other premiers. He’s for speed and simplicity without “constitutionalizing” or any offers from the prime minister or premiers of a fresh deal with Quebec.
Premiers and ex-premiers have their importance at this time, but the most important politician for the rest of Canada is Jean Chretien.
In this week of the PQ victory Chretien has not been mute or without open purposes and opinion but he continues to neglect the politics of grandeur and muscular nation-building.
Recall that this subdued, modest stance of Chretien was adopted well before he came to power.
He became many Canadians’ favorite chauvinist in the ’80s with his theme: “I love Canada; you must too.” But he realized when he became leader, as did his close advisers, that his earned, pro-Canada reputation was not a positive perception for many Quebecois. And so it’s hard to imagine he will revert to the Canada theme so long as the “cool” Chretien goes over well in the rest of Canada and overlies that old vendu label in Quebec.
Chretien has cautioned his ministers, particularly the raucous ones like Sheila Copps and Brian Tobin to bridle their tongues on Quebec. Andre Ouellet is one minister he can hardly shut up, given his longevity in high places and his role running campaigns in the province, but Ouellet has much to engage him as foreign affairs minister and, bulldog partisan though he’s been, he knows the choler he raises in separatists.
Three other federal ministers from Quebec have big portfolios, each of which affects Quebec and its policies a lot, i.e., Paul Martin in finance, Michel Dupuy in cultural affairs, and Marcel Masse in intergovernmental relations. It’s fair to say none of them has yet a big following or a wide credibility in Quebec. One remarks this largely to emphasize how much falls to Chretien. Beyond setting the strategy and defining the tactics for repulsing the referendum bid, he must express the federalist proposition. And his test comes early – next week when the House reconvenes.
If Lucien Bouchard and his doughty sovereignists do not behave provocatively I’m in the wrong line, and although Preston Manning and Reform will agitate less, he and his MPs will also be baited by the Bloc if they press the prime minister not to let Quebec’s scenario get in the way of tackling the deficit and social-system reform.
If Chretien’s strategy of quietness and uncombative assurance can be held to and works up to and through the day of decision – great!
On the other hand – surely a huge other hand – one must regret that no federalist in the rest of Canada has been ready to thrust into the referendum scenario with some hard questions and sustained arguments.
What questions and arguments?
First, let me emphasize the total absence of any process for secession and the scanty record of substantial debate about it.
The assumptions that elected federal and provincial politicians have either accepted or have not rejected are given below. Most of the assumptions are stupid or unreal. They have not been well-examined because doing so would antagonize the separatists. It may be time for that.
Here are the assumptions:
(a) That Canada is divisible.
(b) That the right of self-determination by a provincial electorate has been sanctioned both by the precedent of 1980 and some recognition of the legitimacy of self-determination by the UN.
(c) That following a positive vote, even by a tiny majority, say 50.1%, an independent state of Quebec comes into existence which embraces all its present territory and population.
(d) Then negotiations begin with the rest of Canada to work out the details of the severance, including the splits – lands, plant, canals, airports, marine, Crown corporations, federal pensions, the debt burden, etc. – and one supposes arrangements for aiding those to stay Canadian and leave Quebec or even some scheme through which organized groups in definite locales – say the Crees of northern Quebec or the strong federalist majority in the Outaouais – might have their own vote on self-determination.
(e) A victorious Parizeau would negotiate with the premiers or maybe with them and a surrogate leader of the rest of Canada who has the confidence of the Parliament after its loss of the 75 MPs and 24 senators from Quebec, including Chretien.
(f) These negotiations would be amicable and positive because the rest of Canada would badly need a sound, positive relationship for economic and strategic reasons with the Quebec state.
(g) The rest of Canada, led perhaps by its premiers, perhaps by a constitutional assembly elected for the purpose, would fashion a new federal constitution for the provinces, territories, and 21 million Canadians left in the reduced Canada.
Will Jean Chretien roust most or any of these stupid or unreal asssumptions? Will Preston Manning insist he do so? Will premiers like Ontario’s Rae or the Atlantic ones with so much to lose?
Not if it’s to be a low-key Chretien and low-key federalism all the way on the premise a “no” vote is in the bag.
Aside from my total disbelief that negotiating the secession would be amicable, there is a compelling case to be made of terrible dislocation and a collapse in jobs and living standards in an independent Quebec.
These should be months of frankness. The advantages Quebec has had from a federal system of remarkable flexibility and one more responsive to Quebec’s interests than those of any other province is the gist of the case Chretien should make. And that the alternative will be more of a disaster for Quebecers than for the rest of us.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, September 16, 1994
ID: 13006861
TAG: 199409150194
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Some readers write, some phone. Here are some notes on some recent messages. There were more responses than expected to my hymn of praise for William Johnson’s new book, A Canadian Myth: Quebec Between Canada and the Illusion of Utopia.
Most wanted more on Johnson’s anlysis of the persistent, organized anglophobia through the centuries since the Conquest. Several wondered where they might get The Gazette columnist’s 1992 book, Anglophobie: Made in Quebec.
Robert Crozier of Nepean said that two years ago, even with his imperfect French, he was mesmerized by this book. He had written out this thematic quote:
“The hatred of the English is, since 1840, the driving force of French Canadian nationalism, of Quebec nationalism. It is also the basis for contemporary separation. Each generation has rediscovered the hatred of the English, and has given it a contemporary visage.”
Crozier thinks the book “enormously significant in explaining the true roots of Quebec’s anger and hostility and often bewildering behaviour.” He’s puzzled why there wasn’t an English edition of the book, and why it had so little notice outside Quebec.
“One senses,” wrote Crozier, “an unseemly silence where a little truth-speaking would have been wonderfully refreshing. We won’t save Canada by averting our eyes, revising history or promulgating comfortable myths.”
Since the Liberals in power confirmed their Red Book’s undertaking of a quarter-million immigrants annually, I’ve had many angry letters and phone calls about our immigration policy and its current commander, Sergio Marchi.
Most square with an unattributable remark to me by a Toronto backbencher that “ministerially speaking, Sergio’s my heaviest cross.”
Mike Neilly of Burligton writes: “My blood boils when I listen to Marchi – patriarchal, condescending Sergio Marchi – implying that intelligent people who can count and who wonder how you can run a $45 billion deficit each year … and import millions of people wth minimal background checks into a moribund economy without consequences, must be chided and called `ignorant’ and `uneducated.’ ”
P. Patrick of Mississauga says “the anger in Canada today is not racist but a reaction to being abused. Newcomers are encouraged to keep their culture, traditions and languages and Canadians must give way on their traditions and culture. We do have our pride and feelings.”
The antics of fans, particularly in Toronto, in backing national teams of other countries in the world championships of soccer and basketball bothered several correspondents. S.G. Moyle of Rexdale says “It finally brought home the folly of the mosaic policy adapted by our short-sighted immigration department. Anyone who dares question the mosaic is fair game for the vested multicultural groups which feed off the political gravy train. Well, whatever harvest of votes the politicians get they’ve garnered disunity in the bargain.”
Alick Little of Nobel, Ont., said my down-side to the CBC’s grandeur as our mightiest gatherer and interpreter of news hit home with him. “For years,” he says, “I have agonized over the Pravda-like effect of the CBC on Canada. … To save Canada let’s cut the CBC’s umbilical cord to the federal treasury. If the CBC wants to call itself a public broadcasting company – which I think a misrepresentation – then it should live on donations directly from the public.”
Bruno MacDonald, president of the National Prisoners of War Association recently received the new Dieppe decoration at a ceremony in Ottawa. After a close examination of it at home he wants the government and the public to know the design and the data it bears are a botch-up. The medal must be withdrawn and redesigned. This is sad, after it took 53 years to be recognized.
Two long, erudite letters have come in response to columns on (a) The large, unfunded liabilities of workers’ compensation boards (from Michael Webster of Toronto); and (b) The unfairness of public funding of Roman Catholic activities through the right of the faithful, recognized by Revenue Canada, to receipts as charitable donors (from John Clubine of Etobicoke, an advocate of complete separation of church and state.) Each writer’s arguments merit a full column, but I should note what Webster insists: it is untrue that the unfunded liabilities of the boards are a part of either provincial or federal debt.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 14, 1994
ID: 13006649
TAG: 199409130172
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


A chortling neighbor caught the scene I did from the Quebec election: “They gave Parizeau the pot but he can’t pee in it.”
Crude imagery but it summed up impressions from the night’s telecasts.
Take Lucien Bouchard’s failure to set the PQ victory party afire. Or the pondering by so many pundits – alone or on panels – without either joy or apocalypticism at this pitifully finite PQ victory in terms of the popular vote.
And why is the split of the total vote significant, given that new governments often control Parliament or legislatures with as many as three-quarters of the seats, but well below 45% of the votes?
Ah, well, you know the answer, but it feels good to give it. Because the next vote – the vote in Quebec so crucial for more than Quebec – is a straight choice of yes or no to sovereignty (or separation or independence).
As Monday’s results unfolded, it became obvious that those who’ll campaign for Quebec in Canada some time next year have such an overwhelming edge it will take stupidities in Ottawa or several provincial capitals to lose it.
What Quebecers got themselves is a left-of-centre or social-democratic premier and government, for what that will be worth to them. Quebec’s new ministry has social aims and economic views on the role of government close to those of Premiers Rae, Harcourt, and Romanow. Each of the latter has been severely limited in policy and program scope by deficits and debt charges, and a majoritarian antipathy across the continent to interventionist governments that throw bureaucracies and money at problems.
Even without the difficulties of launching a credible referendum effort, Parizeau and the PQ have a rough row to hoe. A hefty majority of Quebecers are against engineering the division of Canada. For several years, probably into the 21st century, social-democratic ministries will have little money for their larger aims and grim prospects for raising more by big borrowing or increased taxation.
It struck me even while enjoying the election evening as caught through four channels (two in each language) that this had not been an election in which TV performances were crucial or determining. Neither major leader is really excellent nor truly awful through the medium. And although the Liberals obviously had more spots, this neither amounted to a deluge nor fashioned any golden aura around Daniel Johnson or his team.
Let me insert here an appreciation of the four TV channels. Poor TVA was flattened by the glitches which left them without results for so long. Radio Canada with Bernard Derome in charge was impressive and almost too smooth. CBC-English was good when Denis Trudeau was sided by three quick but not over-verbose oracles but it went slow and academic with Peter Mansbridge as mastermind and Pamela Wallin ranging her gaggle of opinionated know-somethings.
After the seat count stabilized in the 70-40 range I got more into CFCF, the Montreal CTV station, because it had less punditry, more data on people and regions, and a quite muscular anglophone presence.
The late, short, low-key stand-up by Jean Chretien was counterpoint to the rambling Premier Johnson as he turned concession into repetitious praise for the Liberals and their near victory. Jacques Parizeau spoke hundreds of words less than Johnson, but his pauses, grimaces, and gestures took so long and told me he knew he had to radiate triumph for the cause but neither the numbers nor the enthusiasm on scene were there touting the referendum crusade.
Maybe Chretien’s address in Quebec this week will show whether he will continue downplaying his role against the threat embodied in the promised referendum. He might be thinking the Quebec voters by and large will handle it. Certainly his sober caution on election night would not aggravate many people. Preston Manning in several on-air cameos was modest in demands and spare in argument. The Reform want to know the Chretien strategy for keeping Canada whole but this seems no priority for them over social policy and the deficits.
If Jean Chretien was not sounding off election night, no other federal Liberal, past or present, scintillated as a strong personality or dexterous advocate. And the glimpses of likable Jean Charest and the stagy electricity of Lucien Bouchard reminds one that the prime minister hasn’t an exciting Quebec team with him for the campaign of 1995.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 11, 1994
ID: 12569266
TAG: 199409090162
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


I spent five days last week in the Charlevoix and Saguenay regions, confirming again what I first realized in the ’60s after a few years on Parliament Hill. They are different. What the Quebecois have is almost all theirs. It can never mean much to us. Further, they and their way of life are not in danger of fading away. Their insularity is remarkable and comfortable. So is their standard of living.
And so it seems common sense that if the Canadian federation is to go onward we must accept that most people in Quebec are not much interested in what the rest of Canada is doing.
Consider Premier Daniel Johnson’s remarks last week. Under prodding he said he couldn’t conceive of himself as a Canadian without regarding himself first a Quebecer. Was he out of line from more notable Quebec federalists? Not at all.
The crunch question on who you are is where you feel you must live.
Do you recall that federalists like Gerard Pelletier, Jean Marchand, Marc Lalonde, yes even Pierre Elliott Trudeau, made it obvious when the separatist sentiment was at its highest under Rene Levesque, that if the split they were fighting against were to come, they would still live in Quebec. Such reactions did not demean their federalism.
For years, but most notably in the debating wars over the two accords – Meech and Charlottetown – much argument was raised over a descriptive phrase for Quebec in a reformed constitution. Quebec as a “distinct society.”
The phrase angered many in the rest of Canada, particularly in the West.
For Quebecers it followed that the government of Quebec had distinct responsibiities to ensure the well-being of this society. Whether or not any other province did or did not constitute a distict society, Quebec did, and it must have the powers and resources to ensure it did.
All this wordiness about Quebec’s distinctiveness needs some reportage of what I have just seen in Charlevoix, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence, amd along its tributary fjord of the Saguenay.
It is a grand, rolling countryside with most villages scattered along the shoreline and inlets. And the people seemed so at ease and content.
Not much more than 100,000 Quebecers live in the villages and towns of these linked regions. Over my visiting I noted but two Ontario license plates and just four American ones. We never overheard a conversation in English. Only in the swank Manoir Richelieu could we get an English-language paper. A unilingual doorman at the nearby casino wasn’t aware that Murray Bay was once the name of the place but he did say anglophones were few in the thousands of gamblers each day.
This is such a comfortable, workable French-language domain, and as visibly prosperous as any Canadian regions I have seen. In the sweep of contours and magnificent vistas, one divines both a cherished countryside and proud towns. The homes are so individual and diverse. Pride and good quality in structure, paint, design, decorations, and gardens are everywhere.
Electioneering seemed subdued. Hardly a candidate’s sign appeared on a lawn, just a few road signs for Parizeau and Johnson, and the PQ and Liberal committee rooms in each town were quiet.
Charlevoix and the Saguenay are only two of a dozen or so regions in Quebec beyond Montreal where the French fact and sense of community are so paramount and durable. Once again as once before Quebecers may vote to keep Quebec within Canada. If so, it will be for prosperity and stability, not for love of Canada.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, September 09, 1994
ID: 12568781
TAG: 199409080228
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Listen to this wisdom uttered in the Senate of Canada 17 years ago by a new appointee.
“I cannot understand,” said Senator Royce Frith, “why voluntary political activity is often held in disrepute, and why it should be surprising when politicians are appointed to a political institution. We appoint scientists to scientific institutions; we appoint lawyers to legal institutions.”
And on and on went the new senator (then 54) on the worthiness of those who worked for political parties. Now Frith is giving up the senate with four years left of its emoluments. He’s our latest High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.
Do you think the senator, back in 1977, would have said: “We appoint diplomats to diplomatic posts.”?
Not on your life. To a True Grit, any appointment, including ambassadorships, can be a reward for past endeavors on behalf of their party.
The puzzle for someone outside the Liberal party is appreciating what in Frith’s performances have merited his years in the federal trough. He’s been in it for almost half his life.
Some have told me Frith’s elevations owe much to his fine appearance, his excellent barber and tailor. He’s far more handsome and stylish than the run of senators. Paradoxically, the style and suavity in looks belies the rhetoric of the man as politician. His core is well-found in the title of his only book: Hoods on the Hill: How Mulroney and His Gang Rammed the GST Past Parliament and Down our Throats.
Although the senator in appearance is unlike any of the famous Rat Pack (Copps, Nunziata, Tobin, etc.) in the senate he has behaved much like them, his only equal as blusterer there being Jacques Hebert, the hunger-striker.
Royce Frith came to my ken in 1962. I heard a new Liberal MP from the Windsor region raging about him.
Eugene Whelan, the tomato-grower, was angry because Frith, once a singer and a Toronto whiz on CBC radio’s game shows, was after a licence to operate a radio station at Leamington.
Later Gene drew my attention to a memorable phrase by Frith to the Board of Broadcast Governors: all his life had been a preparation for this responsibility.
In 1954 Frith was an unsuccesful candidate for the Ontario Liberals, and turning into the 1960s he was president of the Ontario Liberal Federation.
Such partisan relations did not hurt him with the BBG. He got the licence, and as Whelan expected, disposed of it shortly, He had a wondrous explanation.
The prime minister, Mr. Pearson, had called him to serve as his nominee from Ontario on the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.
The B&B commission was to surpass all previous inquiries in costs, commissioned studies, and travel by its members. It was not a chintzy operation.
Several years into the commission’s great task, an employee of the commission told me bets were abroad in the staff on which commissioner would run up the top expense account.
It would fit nicely here to report it was Frith, but it wasn’t. Despite insightful times he spent studying matters of language in such countries as Belgium and Switzerland, Frith was edged by a great bon vivant from Montreal, Jean-Louis Gagnon, a connoisseur of haute cuisine, wines, and royal suites. (Also True Grit.)
Post-B&B, Frith stayed at the trough, becoming legal adviser to the Commission on Official Languages. (So did Gagnon).
He was much mentioned in Toronto circles as a key Grit strategist with the likes of Senator Keith Davey.
Despite such activity, it was 1977 before Pierre Trudeau gave Frith his due as a party worker.
As a senator he did not keep a law practice going like many senators from Toronto and Montreal. He became a full-time senator, though given the paucity of sittings this is rather a contradiction.
Frith’s availability on the Hill led to his choice as deputy leader of the Liberals in the Senate in 1980. He carried on in the post under the leadership of Senator Allan MacEachen when Mulroney came to power.
His blatantly partisan antics made a rugged contrast to the craft of MacEachen. Crude as it was, Frith’s Liberal line never flagged. And it has paid off again.
He’s off to London.
Yes, this appointment does show the insignificance of British affairs to the Chretien government. Yes, we may wince at this but we do tend to ride with such patronage. Usually, however, we divine some modicum of qualifications or “smarts.” Royce Frith hasn’t much of either.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 07, 1994
ID: 12568280
TAG: 199409060130
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


This piece was to be about William Johnson, a Montreal Gazette columnist, even before he came by with his new book, A Canadian Myth; Quebec, Between Canada and the Illusion of Utopia, published by Robert Davies.
Despite his name, Johnson’s home language was French and most of his long schooling was in Quebec, including post-graduate study of French-Canadian literature. His 1991 book, Anglophobie Made in Quebec, was largely on that literature’s anglophobia until 1960.
With separatist tigers again on the prowl, Johnson is seen clawing them and fellow-travelling cats, the most resolute attacker in English-language journalism.
Any fair appraisal of anglophones’ reactions to the separatist-sovereignist lines since the 1960s finds all federal parties, pre-Reform, amd most of us in English-language commentary, have been oh so careful to be fair and understanding.
We’ve taken separatist dogma with its naivete and repetititous harangues of wrongs and short shrift from Ottawa and the rest of Canada more seriously than it merits.
Not so Johnson.
In particular, federal politicians and journalists outside Quebec have chosen to ignore the interests and feelings of English-speaking people in Quebec, a large “remnant” of near a million, as it suffered from such stuff as the sign laws and limits on school choice.
The largest English media operations in Quebec, those of the Montreal Gazette and the federal outfits, the CBC and the NFB, have responded softly to the separatists and been easy on the provincial Liberals of Robert Bourassa and Claude Ryan despite their legislative acts hurtful to Anglos.
Not Johnson.
Symbolically, outside Quebec we’ve shrugged as this Anglo community has been so demeaned in the cause of francophone “survival” that many of its people, particularly the young ones, have left, mostly heading west or south.
A voice of Anglo Quebecers I hear, which never backs off tough criticism of both the provincial Liberals and the PQ has been Dialogue, a monthly tabloid put out in Huntingdon, Que. Its last issue reprinted a Gazette column by Johnson in praise of an Anglo warrior, Maurice King, a man often featured in Dialogue.
King engineered the taking of Bourassa’s sign law to the UN Human Rights Committee, which in time embarrassed Canada by declaring that the law repressed freedom of expression in Quebec and Canada.
Johnson noted these words of King:
“In truth, we stand alone. We are deserted by the federal politicians and betrayed by the provincial ones.”
And Johnson featured King’s harsh opinions on the news media, including this about his own paper:
“The Gazette has abdicated its role as the voice of anglophone Quebec and has betrayed the community that fostered it and that should have been able to look to it for the truth.”
The Gazette, editorially and on its news side. has ignored Maurice King as an unprintable agitator. This is much like its editorial treatment of the Reform party and Preston Manning. In this book, Johnson is critical but positive on Manning’s worth on the federal scene, despite this note which he included:
“The Gazette described him in an editorial as `peddling some poisonous snake-oil’ and added that `the man’s callousness is stupefying’.”
I salute Johnson for his outspoken courage in his new book.
His interpretation of Quebec’s affairs since Duplessis died makes sense to me. And he is right: pussyfootng must end if Canada is to be whole.
(In passing, unlike me, Johnson is still robust for Pierre Trudeau and his stance that Quebec is merely a province like the others, and the Official Languages Act was and is imperative.)
Near the close, Johnson warns:
“There is a gulf between the reassuring propaganda of leaders in Quebec that secession by referendum is normal and simple and the contrary views of leaders in the rest of Canada.
“In the gulf of misunderstanding lies the possibility of tragic miscalculation.
“Ultimately, the myth of the Quebec ethnic state arises from the long tradition of anglophobia which urges French-speaking Quebecers to reject a civic partnership with English-speaking Canada. … The true liberation that Quebecers still await is liberation from reactionary anglophobia and the reactionary ethnic state.”
Johnson would not give in to the separatist, not even concede that a referendum means Quebec can walk away.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 04, 1994
ID: 12567605
TAG: 199409020118
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


Summer’s over, and the Ottawa year begins.
The federal election campaign last summer and the referendum on the Charlottetown accord the year before shifted the Parliament Hill mob from the usual pattern in which Labor Day and the kids heading back to school opened the political year. We’re on track again.
Last week a few MPs, restless in their ridings, were showing up. The traffic in and around Parliament was shifting from tourists to aides and secretaries. And the first opinion I gleaned from the MPs, even opposition ones, is that it’s been a long, sweet summer for the most unobtrusive prime minister since Mike Pearson.
Since June when the House rose the headline hassles on federal stuff like criminal immigrants, gun control, wheat exports, salmon stocks, and CSIS malfunctions have hardly scratched the government, nor have opposition persons made much time in English Canada, whatever Lucien Bouchard’s gained in Quebec.
Of course, the Quebec election campaign somewhat livened August’s politics, in large measure because the English-language media gang chose to slang so hard after Messrs. Parizeau and Bouchard. There’s hardly a vestige left of the tilt to the PQ that Anglo reporters had in Rene Levesque’s times.
Now (this month!) the Liberals must get into the crucial stuff of their mandate. They cannot coast much longer on a likable leader and such completed undertakings as cancelling helicopter orders and Pearson airport III or down-sizing ministerial splendors and amenities for MPs.
Here is the Liberal’s situation report as I would sketch it for their second year with power.
1. Rarely does a most acceptable prime minister to all Canada get so far into a mandate with so little erosion of his standing as a good guy and without a single minister destroyed.
2. The economy and Canadian confidence, by and large, have both brightened through the recess – more jobs, consumer spending, and productivity, although a national sensitivity on governmental deficits and debt burden has merely eased, not faded out.
3. The government now must tackle three hard-nut matters that will take much parliamentary time, and the first of which will shock the most, particularly in Ottawa: that is, more slashes of program spending and employee rolls seems set for open exposition in early October, probably to be explained by Marcel Masse, minister for public-service renewal. His recent talk in the Maritimes indicate the goal of $15 billion worth of cuts in spending for the next fiscal year that was promised late in June is still on, and with it a cut of from five to eight thousand federal employees.
4. The second matter of high priority plays back to Jean Chretien’s prime electoral promise: to abolish the GST and replace it with another less offensive but substantial revenue-raiser. The government has to move firmly on the GST, surely by budget time early in 1995. And we haven’t a clue how!
5. The third hard-nut matter was really opened after last fall’s election and the new cabinet’s cast-round of economic prospects and what the debt burden charges were doing to narrow choices and innovative change. From this came the proposition of radical reform for the social system. This had preliminary soundings in the winter by a parliamentary committee but largely it was entrusted to the veteran “lefty” of the ministry, Lloyd Axworthy. Of course, all three tough nuts – program cuts, killing GST, and social reform – will affect and bother provincial governments, especialy social reform.
6. Finally, the prime minister and his government must produce a clear and not over-clever strategy for dealing with Quebec if, as seems likely, the PQ wins the province and Bouchard and his Bloc flow back to the House, even more feisty than before as the official opposition.
If Mr. Chretien knows (as I’m sure he does) how wearied but worn most Canadians outside Quebec are with sovereignists, separatists, even with equivocating federalists like Robert Bourassa, then he understands why a plain, firm strategy is essential. Neither he nor the rest of us can bank on Parizeau’s aims being knocked down by a referendum vote, even though the opinion polls point to this.
My hunch is that another year of Parizeau and Bouchard in pursuit of the grail of independence will enlarge the numbers and heighten the temper of those ready to see Quebec go.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, September 02, 1994
ID: 12567076
TAG: 199409010174
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


This columm is sacrilegious given the lustre around Allan Rock, the tidy, articulate minister of justice.
But I find a recent letter of his to Mike Scott, the Reform MP for Skeena, on natives and our constitution, to be twisty and disturbing.
Further, Mr. Rock’s line fits with the use of natives by the Chretien government as a stick through the spokes of the PQ and BQ as they try to wheel an intact Quebec out of Canada.
To take the last point first, the impetuousness of the Chretien government on native rights is most apparent in the antics of Ron Irwin, the Indian Affairs minister.
He’s on a crash course of many negotiations across Canada between “nations” and the federal government for land settlements and agreements on the form, operation, and funding of native governments, all deals to be done without any definition of the “inherent right of self-government” or its reach.
Have you heard the cry from Ovide Mercredi, recently re-electedgrand chief of the First Nations?
He’s rough on Mr.Irwin. Why? One reason is because Irwin is in such a rush to get settlements and nation governments going he hasn’t the patience for Mercredi’s big picture.
I explain the haste after years of dawdling as a quick enhancement of natives’ right to self-determination, including their right to take themselves and their lands out of a sovereign Quebec.
Are the scores and scores of aboriginal governments to be quasi-provincial or somewhat municipal, or are they to be close to or actually nation states?
How is entitlement as a citizen of such a government to be determined? Simply by genes? And is it to pass by blood in perpetuity? If so, how does it work for Metis and non-status natives not on band registers? And how will the latter get lands to govern?
But back to MP Scott and minister Rock.
In April Mr. Scott wrote Mr. Rock about “his government’s intention to negotiate self-government with Aboriginals” and its declaration “that the inherent right of self-government is an existing Aboriginal and Treaty right.”
The Reformer noted this declaration had no foundation in law, and two years ago Canadians had rejected the Charlottetown accord which had provisions for aboriginal self-government. He thought this Liberal recognition of “the inherent right” was just an opinion of the Chretien government.
He also asked the minister to consider applying for a judicial declaration on the relevance of section 35 of the 1982 Constitution Act.
This section merely states “the existing aboriginal and treaty right of aboriginal people of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed” and that Indians, Metis and Inuit are aborigines.
Mr. Rock replied to Scott’s requests in late June, just after Parliament over strong Reform objections had passed two bills which lay a frame for 14 settlements and treaties in the Yukon, most of them not yet negotiated, all without any definitions of the governments so created.
The gist of Mr. Rock is that recognizing “the inherent right” is more than the government’s opinion. It was in the Grits’ electoral Red Book.
The book stated the Liberals “will act on the premise that the inherent right … is an existing aboriginal and treaty right” even though the Supreme Court has not “pronounced definitively” on it.
It’s time, said Rock, “to put aside legalistic debates about the inherent right in favor of reaching mutual understandings of what aboriginal self-government means in practice.”
Thus “the wide-ranging discussions with First Nations, provinces, territories and other third parties on how an inherent right might best be implemented.”
In short, creating governments without specifying the form, tax powers, funding, and relationships with provincial, municipal, or regional governments.
“The government,” Rock stated, “is particularly mindful the Charlottetown accord was rejected.” That’s why Canadians “do not have the heart for another round of legalistic constitutional debates” and why his government has chosen “practical, meaningful aboriginal government arrangements worked out through processes of negotiations” without the need for constitutional amendment.”
As for the Supreme Court ruling on the meaning of the existing inherent right, Mr. Rock thinks this an “interesting” idea but the government prefers practical negotiations with the aborigines, the provinces, and “other Canadians who may be affected directly.”
What a formula for chaos. And infinite debt!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 31, 1994
ID: 12566466
TAG: 199408300063
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


The federal Tories and New Democrats, smashed in numbers, pride, and credibility last fall are struggling towards recoveries that won’t come easily or without recrimination. Those who’ve written them off or as negligible forces for several elections are too apocalyptic.
The first NDP “renewal” gathering last week showed, as will the coming rally of federal Tories out West, that each party still has a substantial, country-wide cadre of loyalists that includes ideologues, apparatchiks, union leaders, and lots of former and future candidates.
Few in these two cadres are ready to politick under another banner, even if many ex-Tories are in the Reform fold, and even if the Grits have welcomed CCF and NDP people as just “Liberals in a hurry.”
Jean Charest should do nicely as leader of a party on a comeback, and the New Democrats ought to find far better than Audrey McLaughlin from current MPs like Bill Blaikie, Svend Robinson, and Chris Axworthy, or national luminaries of the left like Bob White, Stephen Lewis, and Gerrry Caplan.
Although the high importance of a good party leader cannot be discounted, it seems obvious that getting or keeping one with positive qualities won’t be as difficult for Tories and New Democrats as will the policy elements intrinsic for a major comeback.
What each party needs first is to muster and present an on-going, intelligent critique of the Canadian scene, with an empahsis on hard but fair appraisals of the governing party and the present Parliament.
Of course, for the critique to be believable, it must be consistent with succinct, understandable program intentions.
An intelligent critique! Clear, understandable program plans!
Neither will be easy for either Tories or New Democrats, for roughly the same reason.
Largely, this is because the Reform Party, well-organized and led, has such a wide stage in the House, giving it such an edge in media notice of the running commentary on government which displays the party’s intentions and policies.
It’s not just Reform’s media kicks that overshadow both Tories and New Democrats. It’s how each is to respond to or comepnsate for some very populist attractions in Reform’s platform.
Do the Tories become a more genuine conservative party? Or are they to be the familiar Red Tory sort of outfit, not far from the Grits on most policies?
Although largely unearned the Mulroney Tories were tagged with the neo-conservative label. Academics said they aped Thatcherism and Reaganism.
Jean Charest may be more in the Joe Clark than the Ralph Klein mould but he’s shrewd enough to sense the current attractions of less government and deficits and debt.
Charest also has an edge on any leader of an NDP comeback through having both a personal base in Quebec and a broader core vote, say about 11-12% to 5-6%.
Do the New Democrats go right OR muddle along as has been, by and large a scatter-gun of interests like public service unions, natives, homosexuals, single mothers, environmentalists, abortionists, anti-Americans, and peace advocates, or go left?
If they go left and become vigorously socialistic again through an economic policy calling for thorough control and direction of the economy and much public enterprise, it may well influence other parties to their right to firmer policy positions, but it forfeits any foreseeable chance of winning power or even seeming to have a chance at it.
For those historically minded, going left means going back to CCF attitudes of the ’30s, back when being openly socialist meant more to many members than winning seats.
At the “renewal” last weekend, a wide range of opinions from the far left, the left, the left-centre, and the centre of our political spectrum were heard. Some were even frank that Reform’s pre-emption of frugality and honesty in government as the prime issues has won many blue-collar voters who should be voting NDP.
Some were candid that being taken as the unions’ party was a downer. A few thought that in practical public relations the NDP-union tie was bad for both.
But no one at the conference seems to have openly taken up Bob Rae’s concept of the social contract, either to define it or advocate it. Yet it’s with it, or something like it the NDP recovery would seem to have its best chance.
It could spell out formally the priorities that social reponsibility should have over both individual aspirations and corporate or inherited wealth.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 28, 1994
ID: 12565841
TAG: 199408260112
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


Several recent books and two to come are stirring controversy in and beyond federal politics.
Those to come in October are by Knowlton Nash and Stevie Cameron. His is about the CBC and its problems; apparently hers details the venality of Brian Mulroney and his government.
Of the two books in hand that are roiling waters, the author of part of one is Ben Greenhous, a military historian in the employ of the department of National Defence. He wrote the most contentious segment of The Crucible of War, 1939-45: The Official History of the RCAF, vol. III, a mammoth work by several historians.
Greenhous is also responsible for the recent coffee table book Dieppe, Dieppe, and what is really a companion article to it in the spring issue of this year’s Canadian Infantry Journal. Reverberations from Greenhous on Dieppe will continue among ex-soldiers for some time but are unlikely to be as noisy or focused as the critical reactions to The Crucible.
Denis Whitaker, was in command of an infantry company that got past the beach at Dieppe. He made it back to Britain and much subsequent fighting in NW Europe in ’44-’45. He and his wife have published a study of Dieppe. Although the Royal Regiment of Canada was not his regiment, he defends its personnel at Dieppe from Greenhous’s claim that they displayed a lack of courage at the beach.
Whitaker also has a fierce rebuttal for Greenhous on the Royals in the next issue of the Infantry Journal, using his “I was there and back” experiences to ridicule the source of Greenhous’s story – a Royal Navy officer who said the balls-up of the Royals’ landing was a result of their cowardice, some of them having to be forced at pistol point out of the landing craft.
The Whitaker response is rough but not as ferocious as a review article, titled “Revising the revisionists” to appear in the next issue of Air Force, the magazine of the Air Force Association of Canada. Dave McIntosh, the Mosquito navigator who once wrote the graphic Terror in the Starboard Seat, takes apart the DND historians for sloth, extravagance, inaccuracy and gratuitous cheap shots at Canadians and pious concern about the Germans. And they fail to recount the parts played by those who flew in RAF squadrons, those in ground-crew work, and the women of the RCAF.
For several decades after World War II, McIntosh was a top reporter on defence matters, earning a high reputation among Canadian veterans. His attack on The Crucible will further the campaign to have the federal government withdraw the book from sale and apologize to the RCAF veterans for the publication and for the employees who wrote it.
On the other books in the news, the busting of an embargo by the Toronto Star has tipped forward argument over Knowlton Nash’s insider account of CBC matters over the past quarter century. The book is to be a fat one. McClelland & Stewart last week sent galley proofs to various papers. The publication date, October, was five weeks away. Ignoring this, a Star reporter scalped the book for a stock Star story that suggested wicked Mulroneyites had set out to destroy the Crown corporation.
The Star story fingered as villains such Tory backroom boys as Bill Neville and Roy Faibish even though Nash’s narrative contradicts such malice on their part.
A publisher’s spokesman assured me the galleys were sent to enable reviewers to take a thorough look through a big book, not to titillate interest in the public well before the book is available.
Nash’s book is tales-told-by-a-partisan staff. And the Star story has him trumpeting familiar eliminary blasts as though from Grit and NDP trumpets.
Last month there was a swatch of news stories pumped out from author Stevie Cameron and her publisher on the sensations to come this fall of systematic Tory toll-gating sanctioned by Brian Mulroney.
This was even cheaper and more abusive of defenceless people than the preliminary blurt on Nash’s book. At least he’s credible as a journalist. Her forte is hating Tories and Mulroney in particular. In previous books she got me into her narrative several times, and in each case her facts were wrong and her interpretations silly. May her publishers have good lawyers even though they may not deserve them.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, August 26, 1994
ID: 12565284
TAG: 199408250185
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


The main memory of those of us who were ever “on compensation” is of the hurts or ailments that put us there and maybe some appreciation that such a system existed to meet our income needs at such a time.
But people generally, certainly as voters, have never been widely concerned over workers’ compensation.
A system existed and it worked. In a news sense it has largely been a local or a personal matter. But a legislative drama under way in Ontario may change this.
The sound operation of the system has a national aspect even though compensation for injuries to people when they are “on the job” is a provincial responsibility. Why so? Because in most provinces the systems are running debts and these are truly a part of the growing billions in governments’ debt load.
The issue in Ontario will be nastier than elsewhere because the Rae government with an election to be faced needs to regain, not further erode its backing from unions, riled by its wage-freezing social contract.
Of course, the stakes on the resolution of the issues are higher and broader than any party’s survival in power.
We cannot do without a system in each province of compensation for injuries sustained at work. And it’s too late to privatize it or to throw the whole matter back to individual litigation for compensation.
Ours are compulsory systems, created and regulated by provincial governments. The systems contrapose organized labor and organized employers.
The employers fund the system and the unions monitor it closely, vigilant for better benefits and broader medical standards.
The WCB issues being fought over in Ontario because of a bill are simmering elsewhere because most of the provincial boards have not been levying high enough contributions from employers to cover their spending, in particular to fund the rising pension liabilities.
The picture is very familiar. Overspending and insufficient revenues year after year.
This leads to a debt load that ultimately all of us as taxpayers must bear.
At least this is so if one agrees that employers in the future shouldn’t have to make much higher contributions to cover liabilities acquired in the past. But how to get workmens’ compensation back to pay-as-you-go, as it was meant to be.
To put it gently the business and financial interests in Ontario do not like the NDP government and they are figuratively up in arms over the bill.
Yet the liabilities and the debt load rising from either an over-generosity in payouts or too meagre contributions or both began years ago under Tory governments and grew under a Liberal government. Further, the pattern has been the same in jurisdictions other than B.C. and Saskatchewan.
The liabilities of the Ontario board are now over the $13 billion mark, and the total liabilities of all boards in Canada are over $26 billion.
Those figures do remind us of the half a trillion or more we now have in more direct governmental debt burden.
Because the compensation systems are funded by contributions or payroll taxes required by law they are of continuing interest to the Canadian Taxation Foundation, the main neutral authority on taxation.
The authority comes from continuing analysis and research; the neutrality has been earned through care in putting choices before the public and politicians.
Last month the Foundation issued tax paper No. 98, by Francois Vaillancourt, titled The Financing of Workers’ Compensation Boards in Canada, 1960-1990. It’s loaded with data on injuries, revenues, spending, assessments, assets, liabilities, and deficits but the conclusions are most succinct. Here’s my digest of them.
Although workplace accidents have not been increasing, the costs to the economy have been escalating.
A major share of this rise in most provinces is being passed on to future employers because of the increases in unfunded liabiliites. Most of the rise in costs stems from retroactive changes in benefits but also from higher charges for the treatment of some illnesses.
The heavier liabilities stemming from such higher costs ought to be financed in part from the general budgets of governments. And consideration should be given to making workers responsible for part of the costs.
Brief advice but very hard to follow – politically! But paper No. 98 argues there should be a mutuality in concern by unions and employers in getting this system back to fiscal soundness.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 24, 1994
ID: 12564683
TAG: 199408230057
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


The first startler about current MPs in the Toronto region is that all were elected as Liberals. Every one! But so were all but one other Ontario MP. (Later Jag Bhaduria, MP – Markham-Whitchurch-Stouffville) was bounced from caucus for personal deceits.)
In 1969, a year after Pierre Trudeau’s romp into office, The Toronto Star was carping with names and issues to show Toronto’s “weak voice” in Trudeau’s Ottawa, compared with Montreal’s. One Star feature, headed “Toronto’s voice in Commons is pretty much a whisper,” was buttressed with a “form” chart on all the Toronto MPs.
That year, Bob Kaplan, newish as MP for Don Valley, told the Star much of the problem came beause there were so many Liberal MPs from Metro competing with each other. And the three “first-rate” ministers, Paul Hellyer, Mitchell Sharp, and Donald MacDonald, were both very busy and put the good of all Canada first. The carping continued, even increased as an ex-mayor, Phil Givens, now MP for York West, ranted inside and outside caucus on the short shrift Toronto was getting. His line got added credence when Paul Hellyer jumped the cabinet (and later the party) over Trudeau’s stance on housing policy.
A decade later the theme of a Toronto bereft in Ottawa, was raised strongly again in the media, In this vein, Jeffrey Simpson in the Globe and Mail wrote: “Toronto, with all its economic and cultural clout, lacks influence with the Trudeau government.”
Despite this extended indifference by Trudeau, Simpson did note (as we should 16 years later) that Toronto “has been gaining in economic and cultural strength.” He also thought a lot of Toronto’s wants from Ottawa were parochial, e.g., suburban housing needs, Harbourfront, and the airports (Downsview. The Island, Malton, and Pickering or Orangeville?).
And he added that neither Tories nor New Democrats from Toronto and their parties, had much to say in Parliament or in their platforms on Metro matters.
There was a distinction of sorts between Star and Globe critiques. The Globe judged the Torontonians on their power and influence on the course of politics and national programs. The Star was heavier on regional and Ontario issues within the federal bailiwick.
In the early ’80s I made a submission to the weekly Toronto Liberal caucus on behalf of a national sport group and was captivated at the high attendance and the forcefulness of debate, notably by several senators, like the late Dave Croll.
Later, when Mulroney swept in with lots of Metro MPs behind him I found the PC Toronto caucus was also a busy, argumentative one, with circus characters like Don Blenkarn and Alan Redway. In short, the Toronto Tories were not very different from the Grits in this caucus work. An exception, I gathered, was that the Tories had fiercer arguments over immigration and ethnic patronage. A lot of the time in both parties’ Toronto caucuses went to considering the building or rebuilding of partisan fences and to countering or working up municipal leaders and the ministers at Queen’s Park.
For three decades It seems that whether all towards one side or as split in three, there have been too many Toronto MPs for welding into a continuing, effective group force on the Hill on national matters. It’s been easier, but not easy, to band together on specific local matters, as both the Pearson Airport III deal and the future of the Downsview acreage illustrate. As for co-ordination across party lines on federal matters, Toronto region isn’t the place for it. Why not? Firstly, the many changes in ridings and the steady increase in MPs make it hard for constituents to know who their MP is, let alone cherish him or her. Safe seas are almost gone, and a Charles Caccia, now in for 26 years, is a rare bird.
But most of all, the divider or scrambler, as I see it, has been and is the competition between the MPs, especially within a caucus but also outside it, above all for notice or “a reputation.” More particularly for current Grits, the goals are promotion, say to a secretaryship or to chair a major committee, or best of all, to the ministry.
Well, Metro has six ministers, five secretaries, and five House committee chairmen, i.e. half of the 32 Metro-Torontonians have places. That’s why Grits from elsewhere think Chretien loves Toronto.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 21, 1994
ID: 12563963
TAG: 199408190128
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


The topic of Toronto’s weight on Parliament Hill came to me while reviewing the im-pression a minister from Toronto has been making there.
Of all Jean Chretien’s ministers, Allan Rock’s had the most favorable appraisals. He’s now seen as the best potential successor to the prime minister, ahead of such as Paul Martin, Lloyd Axworthy, Sergio Marchi and Brian Tobin, each with some fans in the media.
Rock, 47, a Toronto lawyer, last year won the seat of Etobicoke Centre, formerly held by Tory minister, Mike Wilson. He was made Justice minister, and in and beyond the House he’s scored with critics for his fluent, precise and concise remarks.
His mien and skills remind me of Mitchell Sharp but he’s less righteousness and has more grace.
The Justice portfolio seems the best place to get positive entries in the political news. Justice sponsors a lot of legislation that seems progressive. Certainly Rock’s been getting fine play in the role, as did Pierre Trudeau, John Turner, John Crosbie and Kim Campbell.
But has Rock, because he represents a Toronto riding, another advantage in getting prominence? It may be, but it’s not quintessential. Mackenzie King, as prime minister, and his successor, Louis St. Laurent, went for years without a Torontonian as minister.
Let’s scan the cast of Toronto MPs and ministers since early 1957, when St. Laurent made Paul Hellyer a minister, just before he lost to John Diefenbaker (who didn’t ignore Toronto; nor did his successor PMs).
By my count the Toronto region had 17 ridings in 1957; today it has 32 if one one ropes in all the Yorks and goes west to Brampton. This is almost a third of Ontario’s ridings and an 11th of all ridings.
At present, six Toronto MPs are ministers (and four are parliamentary secretaries) in Chretien’s cabinet of 31. More than a fair share!
Since 1957, there’ve been eight prime ministers – Diefenbaker, Pearson, Trudeau, Clark, Turner, Mulroney, Campbell and Chretien. None from Toronto. And since 1957, 38 MPs from Toronto have been federal ministers.
(Just two were women, Pauline Browes and Barbara McDougall.)
From 1957 through 1993, there’ve been 13 federal elections. Toronto ridings usually swing more than the rest of Ontario – lots of turnovers and few safe seats. So by my count, about 130 different persons have represented Toronto ridings in Parliament over some 37 years, on a ratio of about 7-5-1 for Liberal-PC-NDP.
Here’s a list in three sections of ministers from Toronto: First, those who – in Ottawa – were or are ministers of prominence; second, the journeymen place-fillers; third, those who now seem just blips.
The Prominent: first, those who held the Finance portfolio: Donald Fleming, Walter Gordon, Mitchell Sharp, Donald MacDonald and Michael Wilson; then Paul Hellyer, George Hees (when MP for Broadview), Robert Winters, Sinclair Stevens and, now it would seem, Allan Rock and Roy MacLaren.
The Place-filling Journeymen: David Collenette, Barnett Danson, Charles Caccia, Art Eggleton, Alastair Gillespie, Otto Jelinek, Bob Kaplan, Sergio Marchi, Barbara McDougall, Martin O’Connell, Doug Peters, John Roberts and David Walker.
The “Blips”: Tony Abbott, Ron Atkey, David Crombie, Jim Fleming, Pauline Browes, Paul Cosgrove, Stanley Haidasz, John McDermid, Frank McGee, J. M. Macdonnell, Alan Redway, David Smith, Robert Stanbury, Garth Turner.
Representing Toronto as an MP doesn’t discourage greater ambitions. Although the late Walter Gordon arguably had the most influence as a minister on Can-ada’s policies in this period, he wasn’t out to be prime minister.
But many others were, most as candidates at party conventions, others almost so: Donald Fleming, George Hees, Mitchell Sharp, Bob Winters, Paul Hellyer, Sinclair Stevens, John Roberts, Donald MacDonald, Mike Wilson, David Crombie, Barbara McDougall and Garth Turner.
As ministers, all those real or near aspirants for leadership (except Garth Turner) got much attention, most of it favorable from the Toronto media – in the case of the Liberals, largely from the Toronto Star, especially for “Thumper” MacDonald and earlier for Paul Hellyer.
But anyone recalling the deflation of two Toronto mayors who came to Ottawa – Phil Givens and David Crombie – appreciates that Toronto hype alone will neither put nor keep Allan Rock at the top in Ottawa.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, August 19, 1994
ID: 12563472
TAG: 199408180186
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Some who worry around our debt-ridden state are aghast that $163 million of the Chretien government’s celebrated “infrastructure” program is going to sport facilities – e.g., arena spruce-ups in Alberta.
Some are enraged at Jacques Parizeau’s claim that Ottawa’s on the hook for $200 million to back a Quebec City bid to host the Olympics – even if Quebec separates.
Yes, sports cost governments a lot. The road leading to this was begun by Ottawa and quickly added to by the provinces and cities. The first to pinpoint sport as deserving of taxpayers’ support was the Trudeau government’s Task Force on Sport, 1969.
Funding sport interested me then and still does. I helped prepare the report and launch several organizations which drew – and draw – from the federal pot.
It didn’t seem possible in 1969 that spending on sport by all orders of government would take off as it has.
This fiscal year Ottawa has budgeted to spend about $75 million on specific sport activities. The total provincial spending would almost double that. And guessing somewhat, all Canadian municipalities will probably spend about $200 million this year on sports and facilities for them.
Before 1969, spending by Ottawa that can be directly traced to sport or recreation was of a piffling proportion, mostly for grants of less than $1 million to prepare and despatch Canadian teams to the Olympics, the British Empire (or Commonwealth) Games and the Pan-American Games.
It seems fairly certain that from Confederation in 1867 to 1967 and the Centennial the federal government spent less than $20 million in all on sport. Even the post-war boom in building memorial arenas in Ontario owed little to Ottawa’s backing.
The legal basis for Ottawa’s spending on sport came in the early ’60s, seven years or so before the task force report. The Diefenbaker government got a national sport and fitness act into place but it set an annual ceiling of $5 million on spending, which was never reached before 1969.
After 1969 and the task force, the zoom in federal spending began. Of course, the blockbuster was the Montreal Olympic Games of 1976. This eventually cost Ottawa about $1 billion in cash and property, with much going to policing, protecting and hosting world luminaries and in setting up coins, stamps and lottery operations to help Mayor Jean Drapeau’s funding for the Games.
Of course, Quebec’s provincial and Montreal’s municipal taxpayers are still paying off the Games, whose bill now seems well over the $3-billion mark. All this for a fortnight’s extravaganza and a heritage of heralded facilities which have proven to be most dubious – e.g., the Big Owe and the velodrome.
Before non-Quebecers feel superior, think of the huge sums Ontario taxpayers have put into the SkyDome.
How do politicians turn off or cut down the now-engrained spending on sport and recreation by government? It is nigh impossible.
Sport has become an integral sector of Canadian business and commerce since the ’60s, and distinctions between professional and amateur endeavours have almost vanished.
Sports and the crowds and their spending (both at the venues or through television) litter and color our calendar. They include such “amateur” activities as skiing and figure-skating. The whole bag has become a recognized, worthy element in commerce. Governments are for commerce, and entrepreneurs know fans and participants will help them press governments for backing.
Second, and so obvious, it’s a rare municipal politician who doesn’t see credits and glory for his community in hosting games or backing high-profile teams and competitions.
Watch while Axworthy, Filmon and the mayor of Winnipeg find public dollars to keep the Jets going in the NHL. The Canada Games, pushed by the ’69 report, and provincial games (such as Ontario’s) are recurring institutions. These Games must have governmental backing. And they have produced a country-wide stock of pools, stadiums, courses, gyms, ski-hills, etc. that few countries can match.
Finally, organized sports now have a substantial bureaucracy, paid in whole or in part by government money. Facilities need operators as well as upkeep, and provincial and national associations are no longer organized at kitchen tables. Bureaucracies rarely fade away.
And have you noticed Ralph Klein, skinflint of premiers, hasn’t blown the whistle on the raid by his two big cities on federal funds to abet the Oilers and the Flames?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 17, 1994
ID: 12562919
TAG: 199408160104
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Shocking news reports from the Toronto front keep sending the message that it’s a breeze for foreigners to get into Canada and a long wheeze of hearings and lawyers if their entry has been improper or their conduct here criminal.
While public antagonism to our immigration and refugee programs seems to be rising, the responsible federal minister assures us he has the problems in hand.
“This minister does not condone immigrant wrongdoing,” he intones, and he has counsel from those who best know the problems – immigration lawyers! Also, he’s going “to consult” Canadians on the immigration programs they want.
Meantime, two aspects of present immigration really bother the citizens I hear from, most of whom were born here or arrived here a long time ago. One is the annual intake goal of 250,000. The other is the now-majority proportion of newcomers, legal and illegal, coming from regions like Somalia and China and the drastic decline in immigrants from Europe.
The cumulative effect of all the scary stories, particularly on gangs, “posses” and welfare frauds, is to portray our border points and airports as holes in a sieve for any bold outsider.
Canada is not a sieve, however, if a would-be Canadian is law-abiding and neither a refugee claimant nor a “family” relation of someone here. Here are sketches of two simple cases that show how hard it can be to come in legally and how choked the departmental processes are:
First, a small British family in the Midlands of very modest means has wanted to emigrate to Canada for many years, in part urged on by former neighbors who made it here over a decade ago and love it.
They have been boning up for years on Canada and its affairs. Friends sent them a recent column of mine attacking the calculated policy of our federal government that has so altered the composition of our immigration and made it hard for most “independent” aspirants in Britain and Europe to come here. So the wife (and mother) wrote me of her family’s frustrations.
The initial hurdle to acceptance as an immigrants was the head of the family’s “points.” The minimum, they were told, is 70. To reach the magic number, the husband took courses for four years to acquire points for skills and proven qualifications.
And after getting them, the family asked the London office for a fresh immigration form and got two. The first is the formal application. It must be accompanied by the equivalent of $600. The second, requiring a processing fee of $100, is to be sent to Ottawa for a check of the husband’s qualifications against Canadian standards in Canada and the current demand for workers with such skills.
Now they have been waiting months. Given the systemic slowness they’ve experienced and the non-enthusiasm of our officials in Britain, they are pessimistic.
The second case came to me with a bulky file, proof of efforts over four years by an Ottawa man to get a Filipino woman (whom he married last spring) a visa to come to Canada. What a trail of lost papers, redirections and fudging!
My correspondent is a good bet as a citizen – French-Canadian, born here, his father a WWII veteran, himself a former naval seaman. For years he was a security official in a federal agency. As he told me: “Aside from being law-abiding, my job means there could be no hanky-panky in getting my fiance, now my wife, into Canada.”
So he went through channels. It’s cost him many thousands in trips to Manila and in phone calls. The help of his MP has been useless. When his application for a visa for his fiance was first refused it took seven months for notice of it to reach him.
He and she had no quarrel with reasons for the refusal, but having grounds for an appeal they did so. Many months later he found the appeal had not even gone from Ottawa to the appeal centre. He filed a fresh visa application last March, with a cheque for $450. His cheque was cashed but the department “lost” the application.
His letter to the minister about his application brought a reply identical to one from a Tory minister two years before. This week he is still waiting. Here’s how he sums the experience:
“What’s disturbing in my four years of trouble is that I get from officials `off the record’ that I was an idiot not to bring her in illegally. All officers tell me they are backlogged. If the pot’s full, why take on more new applicants? Get the backlog cleared first, and make the process more efficient and fair.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Saturday, August 13, 1994
ID: 12561936
TAG: 199408120176
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 12


At last. Finally some firm indication there is a semblance of order in the confused Canadian firmament.
The news that we have our own Nancy Reagan at 24 Sussex Dr. makes the summer more bearable, the Quebec situation more forgettable.
Jojo the Psychic is palsy with Aline Chretien. We all feel better for it, knowing that the occult is taking over the management of our affairs since, God knows, the politicians have mucked it up.
Madame Jocelyne Savard, proprietor of Jojo’s Psychic Alliance, is on the boobtube every night, plugging her star-gazing gifts and brandishing an endorsement from the wife of the prime minister, complete with official 24 Sussex letterhead.
There are those naive taxpayers in the land who have been puzzled of late, wondering what happened to the invisible PM while Quebec is threatening to saw itself off and float out to sea.
All is now clear. The prime minister of almost all the voters is sitting in the shed beside Pierre Trudeau’s famous swimming pool, one hand on a Ouija board and the other holding the pinkies of Aline – who is watching Jojo on the television set.
This brings back all those fond memories of Nancy, who phoned her star-gazer in California to plot Ronnie’s major announcements.
Nancy’s reader of the tarot cards was the most important air traffic controller in America, advising the president’s wife when the big guy would be safe to fly.
We’ve all been confused by Jean Chretien’s peregrinations over the GST, NAFTA and his hat size, but now it’s all clear. We can relax. Jojo is aloft, zooming around in her own reveries.
It costs only $4.99 a minute to ring up Jojo and her national network of 1,200 telephone psychics.
This is the biggest bargain in the land, since her entrail-stirrers are almost equal to the number of consultants and flacks the Liberals employ to chart the next bob and weave of the boss.
The PM says he’s “having fun” watching the Parti Quebecois in the election he won’t touch. Which is rather like the Canadian electorate confessing it likes root canal work while awaiting the election result.
Actually, the liking for fortune-telling and crystal-ball gazing is a well established Liberal tradition. Mackenzie King has long fascinated psychiatrists for his strange collection of ruins scattered around his Kingsmere retreat in the Gatineau hills (remarkably close by Meech Lake, which should explain everything).
Historians have told us more than we want to know about his talks with his dead mother and his faithful dog. A York professor is about to spring upon us hitherto unknown letters that he wrote to his family, revealing yet untold new horrors.
One would not be surprised if he had contemplated Houdini – who, bound in chains, used to be buried in a coffin before escaping – as foreign affairs minister.
It is clear the dust from aging 24 Sussex timbers, and the stale air from the Trudeau bath towel cupboards that Margaret used to complain about, still permeates the residence of our new PM.
Aline, since she has to remain there all day while Jean is off saving the nation (sort of), clearly has had to inhale most of the residue.
What to do? Correspond with Jojo, the wonder blonde. Madame Savard, never adverse to publicity, confesses that in a 1988 dream – when Jean was in his post-Turner blues – she saw the garcon from Shawinigan winning the 1993 election. And smartly advised the Chretiens of such.
Since then, she often gets cards from the prime ministerial couple with handwritten salutations. Even invitations to social events where, it could be presumed, she could feel Sheila Copps’s forehead for bumps.
Britain has an official poet laureate, a reflection of its magnificent literary heritage. France has a government-appointed guardian to ensure that its language be not sullied by “franglais.”
In our summer of discontent, it is soothing to know we have an astrologer in constant touch with 24 Sussex, stroking the PM’s angst.
What next? Ray Hnatyshyn’s term is up. Jojo for Gee-Gee?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, August 12, 1994
ID: 12561657
TAG: 199408110198
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Broadcast News, which produces the news digest (in print) for cable channels, has been taking opinion checks on issues of public concern for several months. You know: Phone this number if you would vote “Yes” on this or that; phone another number if you would vote “No.”
One day after a result from one particular poll came on I thought, “Oh, boy, this confirms to the orthodox and correct folk that Canada is a racist country.”
The question had been prompted by a judge’s rejection of a suit brought by retired RCMP officers against the wearing of religious headgear (see Sikhs). Did respondents approve or disapprove of RCMP officers wearing turbans? Almost three-quarters disapproved.
But match this result, interpretable by the rights mongers as racism, against another result a few days later. Ernst Zundel (yes, the man who denies the Holocaust) has applied for Canadian citizenship, and the word from unnamed federal officials was that they would block this bid.
The question for the phone-in answer was whether or not one believed citizenship should be granted to Zundel. Well over three-quarters said “No.” Hardly racist.
Of course, one sees from appearances on the floor of the House of Commons that a turban is not an infallible indicator of Sikh religiosity. Gurbax Mahli (Lib., Bramalea-Gore-Malton) has worn a turban each time I’ve seen him but another Sikh, Herb Dhaliwal (Lib., Vancouver South), does not.
Mahli anticipated a turban problem and got a ruling from the Clerk of the House that his use of a turban would break the House rule an MP must be uncovered when he rises to speak.
Over my years of watching the House I’ve seen headgear worn several times in the chamber.
– A long-gone Liberal MP for Russell, J.O. Gour (1935-62) often sat for hours, especially in the evenings, with his fedora on, the brim down to shade his eyes.
– Two other MPs in the 1950s, Liberal Merv Hardie from the Territories and Tory Grant Campbell from Stormont, occasionally spent time at their House desks wearing kilts and tam-o-shanters.
– I cannot recall any of the women MPs wearing hats within the House although several have used broad hair bands.
– The most pressure for changing the dress code for male MPs has come from those who have wanted to doff suit jackets and dispense with ties. Although a few at times have worn sweaters or used a simple string tie, on the whole the custom of the past carries on: Shirts, ties and jackets. In dress terms, the House is most decorous, in contrast to the Ontario Legislature.
My reading from the opinions of veterans coming to me by mail and phone calls over the turban issue has to be a chary one.
As both a newspaper columnist and a contributor to Legion Magazine I’ve had widely split and highly emotional arguments from some of those roused by the national uproar over the rejection by delegates at the last Royal Canadian Legion convention of a motion to approve the wearing of religious headdress in Legion branches.
As a generalization, the further west the respondents, and the more they live in small cities and towns, their opinions tend to support the ban. The more easterly and the big-cities’ responses tend to dislike the ban, even to be appalled by it. My hunch is that the opinion-split among Legion members as a total group probably runs about 60-40 for the ban.
It’s fairly clear that the turban issue will come up for consideration in many branches in the year ahead, but a lot of members in branches which are fairly happy and stable fear the effects if and when the issue goes to a branch vote.
And, yes, a minor but sizable fraction of those who’ve been in touch with me are fearful of the consequences of the issue, as taken to heart as a cause in the media, for the Legion’s good reputation and its programs.
What about reaction to the expressed intentions of organized Sikhs and Jews to take the ban to the courts under provisions of the Charter of Rights? This is the course advocated by the federal commissioner for human rights, Max Yalden. I myself hate to contemplate the reaction of many Legion members if such cases reach the Supreme Court and are successful.
What am I getting at? Simply this. A lot of veterans insist the decision at the convention was democratically taken and reflected the views of a strong majority of members. It wasn’t just a reflex to the executive’s counsel that the ban should be removed.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 10, 1994
ID: 12801385
TAG: 199408090086
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Two readers want a statement in a recent column clarified. What did I mean by the following: “Some 30 years ago the politicians of Canada, federal and provincial, tacitly and not by open proclamation, opened the way for Quebec to leave Canada; i.e., Canada was divisible.”
I should have said: They opened the way for Quebec’s departure by agreeing that Canada was divisible.
My argument was we should remember this because it means there is nothing treasonable in what is advocated by Jacques Parizeau, Lucien Bouchard, et al.
It has been conceded or accepted in our politics since the early 1960s that a part of Canada could determine to leave it.
There was never any grand, formal, parliamentary debate in the 1960s which led to a vote that approved the possible separation of Quebec as the advocates for it came forward, most strongly in such as Marcel Chaput, a federal employee, and through several political movements, the chief of which fused as the Parti Quebecois under Rene Levesque in 1968.
Anyone who checks Hansard indices of House of Commons proceedings will find that entries under “Quebec – separatist movement” began to swell in 1962. They increased sharply in 1963 and soared in 1964 and 1965, and soared even more after Centennial year.
What was amazing about those years was the failure of anyone to cry “Treason!” No one asserted that Canada was indivisible. Trying to provoke, several times I prodded Lester Pearson, the prime minister from 1963-67. And he made it clear again and again that his government and Canadians as a whole accepted the right of self-determination for French Canadians of Quebec. Usually he noted this right had been put in the UN Charter with Canada’s support.
Of course, Pearson was dead set against separation and promised every effort to repulse the forces of separatism. And yet he accepted the right of a federal employee, Dr. Chaput, to advocate separation.
The way I used “divisible” muddied clarity. I had used it almost for sentimental reasons because as a politician in the 1960s I often asked in public why our prime minister didn’t take his cue from the great emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States of America during that country’s Civil War.
Is Canada divisible? Well President Lincoln went to war against the Southern states who were declaring secession from the Union.
Even as one who has never wanted to be American, my spirits tingle whenever I recall Lincoln’s bedrock position: The Union was, is, and shall remain one nation – indivisible!
Now to other matters.
Jane O’Hara as columnist (Vancouver Province) floats Svend Robinson as a “natural” to succeed Audrey McLaughlin as the NDP’s federal leader. The only chance of such happening would be a consequence of the next federal election. If Robinson was the one, or one of two or three electoral survivors, then he might emerge by default as the NDP’s federal leader.
My absolutism on his abysmal chances of following McLaughlin is not from personal antagonism. Robinson is a very smart, able politician. And his avowal of homosexuality is no longer the ruinous curse it would have been, say when McLaughlin won the leadership.
No, Robinson is simply not trusted by enough regulars of the NDP. He is a magnificent soloist as MP but he has always riled a lot of his caucus mates.
Over to the Liberals and leadership. No Grits of my acquaintance are shaping to succeed Jean Chretien or preparing for anyone else’s run. But in my vetting of the press about any top prospects it is interesting that the two obvious alternatives of a year or more ago – Paul Martin, Jr. and Sheila Copps, previous contenders – get scant attention, even as being a “heartbeat” away if the worst strikes Jean Chretien.
In Copps’ case this is not shocking. She still has an opposition syndrome. Martin? All speculation seems on hold. Will he be masterful in his next budget?
Among Hill reporters the successor at this stage would be Allan Rock, the minister of Justice, and an MP for less than a year. He’s earned the most feature stories, full of praise for his deftness, sincerity and grasp of responsibilities. The next minister in terms of praise has been Brian Tobin in Fisheries. A few reporters have been taken with aggressive Sergio Marchi, the Immigration minister.
My own wager would be on Lloyd Axworthy, largely because he seems most respected by the MPs.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 07, 1994
ID: 12801437
TAG: 199408050149
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


Most of us don’t know how much published advice our governors get. TV’s one reason for this. It’s our main source of news on public affairs and it rarely analyzes such advice because it’s too academic and hard to package. This is true of the four publications we note today.
Who or where are the public’s proxies for weighing, interpreting, rejecting or even implementing such advice?
Not the 300 or so MPs or the some 1,000 provincial legislators or the officials of our various parties. This advice gets examined by other academics – economists, political scientists, sociologists, etc. – and those so trained who work for major interest groups and lobbies. But the best hope for consideration of such advice by our governors is through the senior officials of governments and major corporations.
Each of these recent publications is modestly difficult to read, but the main arguments are readily grasped and they strike me as worth serious consideration in our political community. The first three are from the C.D. Howe Institute think-tank:
The Illusion of Difference; Realities of Ethnicity in Canada and the United States, by Jeffrey Reitz and Raymond Breton; The Case for Change; Reinventing the Welfare State, by William Watson, John Richards, and David Brown; and The Prospects for Reinventing Government, by Michael Trebilcock.
The fourth, from U of T Press, is by far the longest. Its title is catchier and simpler than its subject matter, conveighed in the title: Thatcher, Reagan, and Mulroney; in Search of a New Bureaucracy.
The first book on ethnicity by veteran sociologists sketches what’s happened to immigrants in both the U.S. and Canada, culturally, socially and economically.
Have we really a “mosaic” and the Americans a “melting pot”?
The conclusions are that the mosaic assimilates immigrants into its society and communities as thoroughly as the melting pot and our attitudes to behavioral and cultural differences of immigrants tend to be more severe or critical than Americans. This touted difference from the Americans – so cherished by politicians and ethnic leaders – doesn’t work out over the years. The wisdom of multiculturalism as a prime Canadian policy is dubious. So is an immigration-refugee policy that pumps most strangers to our languages and customs into three big cities.
The authors think most Canadians have thought “multiculturalism” is to hasten understanding and acceptance of immigrants, not encourage them to perpetuate their values and customs.
The next two books emphasize economic changes and the choices for better productivity at less cost in our governments, particularly of the federal government as the creator and major funder of the welfare state. Both books accept a thesis which emerged years ago from the right wing of politics but is now held across a broad centre: That Canada must restrain the spending of governments while improving the quality of governmental services.
So The Case for Change advocates major reforms in social policy, as Lloyd Axworthy seems to be preparing, and it recommends economic policy adjustments regarding the global economy and the domestic spectre of massive debt.
Trebilcock’s The Prospects for Reinventing Govern-ment is the breeziest reading of the four. In a nutshell he advises a “hard heads but soft hearts” approach, with changes coming through experiments and pilot programs and what he calls by incrementalism, not through huge, convulsive “reorgs.” This is a sample of the wisdom offered:
“Rethinking how governments might do their work better is not to be confused with rethinking what governments should be working at.”
Donald Savoie, a former provincial and federal official, now teaches public administration at Moncton University. He seems to be admired among federal officials because he’s seen as understanding the difficulties between political leaders determined on change and their permanent mandarinates.
Savoie’s thesis favors the bureaucracy over these leaders who reviled them and often bypassed them. His case is that the Thatcher-Reagan-Mulroney determination for better management based on methods and values of private business was disastrous for efficiency and staff morale.
Well . . . let’s wait and see if Chretien is a throwback to the Grits’ Golden Age when deputy ministers seem to have shaped our country.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, August 05, 1994
ID: 12801128
TAG: 199408040222
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Mid-summer, 1994. Canada, and Ottawa of course, is midway in the parliamentary summer break. The Hill’s busy, but with tourists, not MPs and senators.
Hardly a picket has been in sight. It’s become a hush of politics. So little uproar. Not a blustering or whining chief has been heard for a fortnight. No NAC feminists are harassing Reformers. No peace campers, no anti- or pro-abortionists around and the prime minister is still in the not Mulroney routine. Few glimpses, few words!
Once one puts what’s underway in Quebec aside or on hold, a lot of Canadians can look around this week and say: “Not bad.”
Start with something petty elsewhere, but significant in the capital. Last week StatsCan issued data which showed Ottawa and its boundary places like Kanata and Nepean handily continue to have the highest average incomes in the country.
Of course, to complement such witness of Fat City there are the splendid parks, the national museums, the sparkling waterways and the capital entertainments produced by the military, the RCMP and the National Arts Centre.
The downtown streets so bare most of the year are crowded, and there are buskers galore, even some with real talent. The canals and the rivers almost jam with launches and sight-seeing craft. There are throngs in the markets. The tide of visitors is high, helping make this the most remunerative Ottawa summer in five years.
But Ottawa’s not a lone phenomenon of comfort, good business and fair times this mid-summer. Let me push on with good news. (The ill can wait.)
The Bank of Canada rate has been moved downward for many weeks, and with it the private banks’ prime rates have dropped. Our dollar’s not exactly muscular vis-a-vis the U.S. dollar but the spring panic’s gone. Our stock exchanges have been steady in both volume and prices.
The rate of drain from the Unemployment Insurance fund is down. So are the number of U.I. claimants. The monthly jobless rate has hardly nose-dived but it’s modestly down this year. Just as bankruptcies are down (officially), so seem the frequency of those cruel news reports so common in 1992 and 1993 that such and such plant was to close or such and such corporation was excising hundreds, sometimes thousands of employees.
Thousands of us are foregoing trips for holidays and buying sprees in the United States and trying Canadian vacations. The cigarette crisis has waned, so has the smuggling, and the best bet left for moralizers who fear our rush to hellfire is the proliferation of casinos or municipal, provincial, or tribal schemes for more of them.
Those familiar and long-staggering railway giants, the CNR and the CPR, have both had good profits in the last reported quarter. The auto trade in Canada is doing well, and not just the Big Three. The parts manufacturers seem on a roll. Orders for inventories in merchandising have been fair and forecast data shows optimism.
Our bellwethers in export trade for so long – forest products, metals and natural gas – are undergoing modest but promising spurts in sales and production. Farm exports are holding well and so are the prices and the western grain crop is not yet heading for a disaster.
Federal revenues have not been surging but they are nicely up, relative to last year. A sweeter herald has been the news from several provinces, notably Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, that the scale of their revenues vis-a-vis spending has been improving.
None of the provinces is forecasting dramatically higher annual deficit. Gosh, even the biggest of spenders among our political parties, the New Democrats governing Ontario, are talking pridefully of meeting deficit forecasts this year.
Sure you can find glitches, say like the squeezing down of durum wheat exports to the U.S., or you can point to the Quebec dilemma and argue the good of better times if we face a split country.
The point being made is that this summer looks good in comparison to recent ones. It’s time, at least for a month or so, to revel in some substantial improvements in the economy.
Undoubtedly, angst will return, probably with the results from the Quebec election. Certainly there’ll be expectancy, even fretting, over what Parliament will face next month.
Will Jean Chretien really slay the GST? Has Lloyd Axworthy a workable and sensible reform for our social system?
Let those questions lie, and think of the better news.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 03, 1994
ID: 12800881
TAG: 199408020059
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


I took a skim through a score of dailies in the week after MP Svend Robinson (NDP, Burnaby-Kingsway) got 14 days in jail for criminal contempt. More than half had editorialized on the case, with a surprisingly even split between those severe with him and those praising a courageous politician.
Robinson’s situation or dilemma has intrigued me more than it would most citizens. Thirty years ago this October, as an MP (for Port Arthur) I had had to take steps in some constituents’ interests which many people and some powerful groups construed as criminal. And, somewhat like Svend Robinson, after my actions I waited months for what course legal proceedings might take.
In recent commentary much was made by the most critical of Robinson’s penchant for grabbing and manipulating media attention. Certainly, only one other of his gambits that drew the cameras over his 15 years as an MP brought him more notice than his arrest and eventual conviction for joining a blockade by environmentalists against a logging chance, a form of protest a court ruling had forbidden. Of course, that other gambit was his revelation six years ago that he was homosexual. (As yet no other MP has followed suit.)
Out of my own experience as an MP – not as a journalist who, of course, feeds on stunting politicians – I sympathize with Robinson on the fix which brought him to court and then to jail. The MP from Burnaby-Kingsway knew he was breaking the law. He had weighed that, then decided (I believe) that it was necessary.
He had to show where he stood as a representative of the people on a key issue within his region, one gripping many of his constituents and with which he agreed.
In my case, as an MP I had weighed for several years whether I should counsel railroaders in my riding and beyond to take certain illegal actions and take part in them myself before the flash point came. I’d even discussed it in the House of Commons. As with Robinson, my caucus colleagues had not urged me on. I was on my own, as was he.
What led me to raise the matter before resorting to illegal acts went beyond drawing attention to a major issue. There was a growing frustration, as I’m sure what pushed Svend Robinson. In the railway case, neither the responsible federal ministers nor the CNR in its determination to go ahead with run-throughs nor the heads of the unions which represented the grievors would accept that an explosion by frustrated workers was coming. The men who manned the trains and the communities being affected were making no headway with their requests for consideration.
So on the hour the CN instituted run-throughs, which would eliminate some jobs and shift others, 14,000 railroaders walked out in a nation-wide wildcat strike. Shortly, the CN was tied up and the operating trades on the CP were ready to join.
Lester Pearson, the Liberal prime minister, got the news on a Saturday night and by Sunday afternoon he had assured me as a spokesman for the strikers there would be an indefinite postponement of run-throughs and an immediate, public inquiry headed by a senior justice. His choice was Samuel Freedman of the Manitoba appeal court. And Freedman, among larger matters had to accept, reject, or ignore demands by CN lawyers that I be charged with breaking both the criminal law and a specific labor law.
The illegal walkout had been successful. No run-throughs before a full inquiry! And eventually, from the Freedman Report of 1965, came legislation on instituting technological changes in federal work-places. Gratifying though this was, I recall the uneasy months of worrying about indictments, a trial, and possible sentences.
As it turned out, Justice Freedman recommended no charges. A few of his remarks were along the lines of those by the judge of the B.C. Supreme Court in praising Robinson’s forthright advocacy even as he sentenced him.
Freedman wrote: “In debates in the House, in proceedings before its committees, in speeches and writings outside the House, Mr. Fisher has upheld the cause of the men with consistency and vigor. But is this an illegitimate role for a member of Parliament to play? The commission is quite unable to say it is.”
Svend Robinson hasn’t bragged about it, but the blockades did bring some change in B.C.’s forest policies. Even though I recall with some pride the consequences of the strike and the Freedman inquiry, the months of apprehension were very uncomfortable. I don’t believe Robinson as an MP took or takes his trial and conviction lightly, or the light sentence.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 31, 1994
ID: 12800558
TAG: 199407290134
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: Backgrounder


My advice to youngish, zealous Canadians outside Quebec is simple: don’t tie yourself into knots of frustration during this Quebec election. Those of us adult since the early ’60s have surely fretted over too many previous Quebec votes – provincial, and federal, byelections and referendums – to panic now.
This counsel comes because influencing the outcome is beyond us, and it’s clear the Parti Quebecois and Jacques Parizeau are excellent bets to beat the incumbent Liberals and Premier Daniel Johnson. Opinion polling flourishes in Quebec, so coming up to Sept. 12 a sequence of polls will show if the PQ’s commanding edge of 10 points last week has slipped or grown.
To repeat, there’s nothing good we can do for federalism by sounding off on who should win. Further, this election is merely a prelude to the grand referendum on separatism or sovereignty association or associate status which comes next year if the PQ wins. And if they don’t, they’ll be back after office before the turn of the century.
Some 30 years ago the politicians of Canada, federal and provincial, tacitly and not by open proclamations, opened the way for Quebec to leave Canada, i.e., Canada was divisible. This acceptance of the possibility needs reiteration because so many outside Quebec still talk as though what the PQ and the Bloc Quebecois are up to is treasonable.
The saga of the French of Quebec and their dream of independence through separation has been running for a long, long time. Take a look at the rear-view mirror.
In 1962 the CBC’s French network broadcast three talks by Prof. Maurice Seguin, of the University of Montreal. Later these were titled in translation as Origin and Historical Record of the Separatist Idea in French Canada.
Prof. Seguin saw the idea of separatism as first discernible in reaction to the Quebec Act of 1774 and the Constitutional Act of 1791. He saw it in the rebellion of 1837, and it was frustrated by the Act of Union in 1840-41. Union brought deadlock which forced forward Confederation in 1867. But the idea didn’t die. It was fanned by the execution of Louis Riel, stoked by distaste for Canada’s backing of Britain in the Great War, and inspired by the likes of Henri Bourassa and Maurice Duplessis and churchmen like Canon Groulx, on to the likes of Marcel Chaput and Rene Levesque.
Thus, six years before Levesque and 1,000 other Quebecers formed the Parti Quebecois (Oct. 11, 1968) a Quebec scholar had structured two centuries of history for separatism. You may relish Prof. Seguin’s concluding words:
“Our masters, the English, would not be worthy of having been our masters for two centuries if they allowed themselves to be easily overthrown.”
Challenging? Yes, Seguin was driving home the difficulty of the challenge of separation. But even before the CBC gave him his platform the Anglos, the so-called “masters”, were acquiescing to the right to separate. Here’s an example.
In 1961 there was a national hullabaloo over what the federal government ought to do about Marcel Chaput, an employee who advocated separation for Quebec. This paragraph from an editorial of the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, an English language daily, dated June 17, 1961, explains the emerged Canadian conundrum.
“Chaput is not recommending forcible overthrow of the government. He is simply working for the secession of Quebec province. This is not necessarily incompatible with loyalty to present-day Canada. It is merely an expression of the right to self-determination, a principle which Canada upholds elsewhere. We cannot forego it in our own land.”
In 1972 a parliamentary committee, reporting on the Constitution of Canada, gave a chapter to self-determination. The MPs noted that settlements from two world wars had led to the incorporation of self-determination in Article 1 of the UN Charter. It reviewed the matter in federal states and concluded:
“Although the right to secede as an expression of self-determination is not generally recognized in federal constitutions . . . we are of the view that it would be appropriate to recognize self-determination as a right belonging to people.”
Although all Quebec MPs and senators in 1972 were assumed to be federalists, an inquiry by the Montreal Gazette found most of them backed the right of Quebecers to decide whether or not to remain in Canada.
When the Quebec government with Rene Levesque as premier went ahead with the referendum on “sovereignty association” (rather than separation) in May, 1980, it lost in a big turnout of 87% of eligible voters. The spread was almost 20 points (59.56% vs. 40.44%).
We outsiders who rue the prospect of Quebec going should remember that Levesque did not go for outright separation. And after the vote, which dismayed him, he stressed, most notably to the most militant PQers, that the first article of the party’s constitution stated that it is “to achieve sovereignty for Quebec through democratic means and propose to Canada a mutually advantageous economic association, respecting the principle of full equality between the two peoples.”
In short, separating had not been conceived by many Quebecers, particularly those in electoral politics, as an abrupt or absolute or unnegotiated departure from Canada.
Let’s take some assurance from this. Despite Parizeau’s recent bluster he’ll need a really stunning elevation to power before he dares an abrupt, absolute separation in a referendum.
There are a host of parties in the field for Sept. 12. Even though a dozen or more will get less than 1% of the vote, the PQ and the Liberals are likely to split at least 90% of the turnout. This time Johnson is a less equivocal federalist than Robert Bourassa, so the Liberals won’t lose so much of the Anglo vote to the Anglo parties this time.
If Parizeau and the PQ fail to gather over 50% of the vote and well over 100 of the 125 seats, I wager they’ll put a referendum question considerably less than a direct: Should Quebec separate, yes or no?
While we wait for the question on Quebec, which seems likely next year, those impatient with Jean Chretien must appreciate his time for open, tough work in Quebec won’t come until Parizeau fashions the question.
Electoral law in Quebec is severe on unrecognized parties and interest groups intervening with views or spending in provincial campaigns, excluding even the BQ, the PQ’s blood brothers, now in Ottawa.
To go back, again, electors in Quebec have usually chosen MPs of the federal party which formed a government in Ottawa and then elected a provincial government of a different stripe. They’re shrewd, not sheep. And savor the fact they’ve handily rejected two referendum propositions (1980 and 1992) put by their provincial government.
To repeat . . . relax. Quebecers’ sophistication conjures up a handy PQ win in 1994 and a breeze for federalism in 1995.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, July 29, 1994
ID: 12800251
TAG: 199407280147
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Thirty-six years of columns on politics by Charles Lynch lead me to thoughts on the trade or craft as it’s practised in Ottawa. To my knowledge Lynch, who died a week ago, had the longest run ever as a regular columnist based in Ottawa. The late Bruce Hutchison and the late Grattan O’Leary wrote on politics over more years, but not as daily columnists.
It’s immeasurable but also unlikely that Charles influenced public opinion or politicians more than other writers. But surely he was the most widely read political columnist of all in his heyday for Southam papers, 1958-85. He was easy to read and more to the taste of readers by the thousands than to those in the mandarinate or in journalism itself. He was a story-teller, not an ideologue, a raconteur of everyday humanity who took himself as on par, not above or below politicians.
Charles’ last piece, done in the third person for the Ottawa Citizen (July 22) was his own obituary. In it he was forthright, clear, and critical on what had happened in his lifetime to daily newspapers and the craft of political journalism.
He said he began reporting “believing the essential ingredient of his trade was curiosity. In later years he realized it was content – the way news, commentary and features are presented to compel readership of newspapers. The quality of the writing was the thing.”
He regretted the forsaking of content and quality as publishers retrenched and went for “the bottom-line” with staff cuts, mergers, and cheap syndicated material. They thought people didn’t want to read or hadn’t time for it. He sketched the rebuffs of his last decade as a freelancer, including the line he was too old a hand, out of sync with contemporary stuff like feminism and multiculturalism.
His last column was typical Lynch – quite personal. This openness of personal views is a distinguishing factor of every political columnist who lasts for many years. But such longevity has never been easy. Recall if you will all the Ottawa columnists the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail have gone through since Peter Newman and George Bain shone for them in the 1960s, also the apogee decade of Charles Lynch.
As Lynch began writing five times a week for Southam in 1958 I began clipping political columnists (first as an MP, later when a columnist). In consequence I have scores of pieces by Lynch and many other political columnists. In order of quantity in my files Lynch comes fourth, behind Bain, Newman and Richard Gwyn.
Just listing most of the Ottawa columnists over those 37 years underlines Charles Lynch’s rarity.
Consider the aforesaid Newman and Bain, then Blair Fraser, Robert Duffy, Stan Westall, Geoffrey Stevens, Michael Valpy, Jeffrey Simpson, Frank Howard, Don McGillivray, Christopher Young, Roy MacGregor, W.A. Wilson, Dave Ablet, Maurice Western, Arthur Blakely, Gordon Pape, William Johnson, Austin Cross, Norman Campbell, Michael Barkway, Hy Solomon, Robert Taylor, Anthony Westell, Peter Trueman, David Crane, Peter Desbarats, Leonard Shifrin, George Radwanski, Richard Gwyn, Carol Goar, Marjorie Nichols, Dalton Camp, Michel Vastel, Amedee Gaudreault, Gilbert Lavoie, Chantal Hebert, Judith Robinson, Ron Collister, Lubor Zink, Claire Hoy, Michel Gratton, Stewart MacLeod, Patrick Nicholson, Robert Needham and Gerald Waring.
When do I clip a columnist?
If his or her piece strikes me as: a) a delightful romp, or a great aggravation; b) having fresh data on trends or issues or striking assessments of politicians; c) putting a clear, personal, political position vis-a-vis a party or a great issue; d) revealing believably a scenario inside a cabinet or caucus or the senior mandarinate; e) sure to be the talk of the Hill.
Is there a scouting report on Ottawa columnists in my head? Yes, of sorts.
Maybe easiest is to pick a prime woman columnist from the Ottawa lot. It would be the late Judith Robinson, tough, irreverent and Tory; and, latter-day, the morose and analytical Chantal Hebert.
A “best of all” choice is impossible. Too much diversity!
George Bain for common sense, integrity, and drollery; Peter Newman for grandeur, scope, plus gossip; Richard Gwyn (with a bow to his wife, Sandra) for repeated credible guff from “inside the whale;” Jeffrey Simpson for sound judgment and adroit milking of the mandarins; Dalton Camp, so smooth a defender of a partisan faith; Don McGillivray, best as a reporter-cum-columnist; and Charles Lynch . . . well, for being Charlie, and loving a columnist’s life.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 27, 1994
ID: 12799989
TAG: 199407260067
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


In Ottawa on Monday over the noon hour, Charles Lynch, the late newspaper columnist, had a long service, thanks to the rich funeral ritual of the Anglican Church, a numerous choir and his grandchildren brimming with nostalgia. Friends and acquaintances filled the bright cathedral.
Such a gregarious, entertaining man will be missed. (For an odd reason – which I’ll get to later – few will miss him more than I will.)
Charles was too smart and diverse to be a proverbial “happy guy” but few men, particularly in journalism, enjoyed their work and life as a convivial feast as he did – and for so long.
My first view came 37 years ago. I was present at his figurative slaughter in a panel discussion. To jubilant applause from the crowd, mostly of mandarins, historian Frank Underhill left Charles reeling with the tag of “mediocre,” then stopped for rebuttal. But Charles kept his temper and his smile. By the evening’s wrap-up he was again the liveliest one in the hall.
But this is too quick into Charles Lynch. I must recall what a young, wire service reporter said a few hours after it was known Charles was gone.
She asked: “I’ve been told you knew him. Could you give me the names of any politicians who might remember him?”
Wow! This on a long-time star, still running once a week in an Ottawa daily.
Later, another reporter called. He sought comment on Lynch as a political columnist. “Someone,” he said, “has described Charles Lynch as `a national celebrity columnist.’ Do you agree?”
I did, with a few caveats – not in French Canada and not really in the city of cities, Toronto. I thought Charles one in a tiny array of former or present columnists who were or are nationally known and recognized as personalities, beyond familiarity with their work in print. The few include the late Greg Clark, Blair Fraser and Nathan Cohen, and Pierre Berton, Peter Newman and Allan Fotheringham, each still luminous from sea to sea and still at work in one form or another.
Charles Lynch was born in 1919. So was I and Pierre Trudeau and Simon Reisman, Beginning in New Brunswick, he wrote for dailies for 58 years. As he often told me, his “best free ticket” for trips and notice came from war correspondent’s work in the liberation of Europe, including the landing on D-Day.
In 1958 as John Diefenbaker became PM, Charles began a column, five times a week, for the Southam chain of dailies. When Southam shortly went to foreign bureaus Charles was made chief of Southam news service. Southam retired him in 1985 at 65 (and, ironically, has yet to find a good equivalent). He kept writing, a few dailies using one or more columns a week, until last week.
Charles Lynch never tried to be profound or even mildly academic. He prized clear, personable writing, conversational in pace. Almost every piece pivoted on anecdote or character sketches. He wrote as he talked, easily and with good nature. This was also true for his chatty books.
And he was a ham. He loved a show, even better to be in a show, and best to be the show. I know because for two decades we shared, often with George Bain and Peter Stursberg, hundreds of TV bits on an Ottawa station as interviewers and commentators. We rarely nipped Charles from diverting an interview or capping us with outrageous lines.
It was TV in the 1960s, even more than having the most widely read column in Canada, which made Lynch a national celebrity. For much of the decade he was the CBC’s top free-lance commentator and a star on election nights in the Diefenbaker-Pearson era. His years of regular weekly work on CBC political shows from Ottawa ended when the Corp began handling such stuff from Toronto late in 1968. But Charles got another life on TV for six more years as a regular with CTV’s Question Period. Through the ’60s Hill gossip had him making more money than any other Canadian journalist, abetted by fees from his humorous stuff for the luncheon speech circuit.
Let me explain why Charles chortled not long ago at a legacy he was leaving me.
Maybe because our voices are similar and we were on local TV together so much, for years around Ottawa I’ve often been taken for him, he for me. This baffled us because physically he was so much smaller. But there it was, even unto two weeks ago. I told him a stranger, taking me to be Lynch, stopped me and asked: “When are you off to the Arctic?”
I replied, “I’m not Charles Lynch. I’m Douglas Fisher.”
“Oh, sorry,” the man said. “I thought he was long gone.”

(More on Charles, and the columnist’s craft, on Friday.)

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 24, 1994
ID: 12799657
TAG: 199407220144
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


Few who are politically aware can be indifferent to the outcome of the September election in Quebec: A two-way affair with the incumbent Liberals, led by Premier Daniel Johnson, against the Parti Quebecois, led by the veteran Jacques Parizeau.
What we might wish for most, a landslide victory for Johnson, seems most unlikely. Polling suggests a modest victory by Parizeau.
If it is a very modest one, he would probably choose to fiddle and bridle for a long time, seeking a cause celebre of Quebec’s frustration with Ottawa before the promised referendum on separation.
An advantage for Canadians as a whole might come with a PQ sweep. This would almost guarantee an early referendum. It might even force Jean Chretien to be daring, say having Parliament approve a parallel referendum for all Canada, arguing it is unfair that all but Quebecers should be bystanders as Canada’s fate is decided.
What most of us would love to happen is a result that gets us past the threat of Quebec’s separation.
Although they don’t make much of it publicly many federal MPs are aware a sizeable minority of Canadians, notably more of them in western Canada, are so fed up with the Quebec threat of self-determination over three decades they would welcome the departure.
So much so they raise touchy issues like the split of the federal debt, fair values for federal properties and systems (e.g., Dorval, Mirabel, the CNR, and the Seaway) and acceptable settlements of aboriginal rights and lands within present Quebec boundaries.
At best such views are arguable as pragmatic and facing the brute facts inherent in this long-lasting worry; at worst they seem both apocalyptic and vengeful.
I hear this, in my mail and calls, in impatient expressions like “Let’s get on with it” or “This time make them dance to our tune.”
One can foresee such “tough love” towards Quebec becoming more popular, in particular taking a hold in Ontario if there is a posturing, pompous Parizeau in power in Quebec and Lucien Bouchard crowing in the House of Commons and raking federalism every day.
Unlike the late Rene Levesque, whether as premier or merely the PQ’s leader, Parizeau has few fans or much respect outside Quebec and Bouchard’s adroit cleverness is chilling to the non-Quebecois.
There is a broad consensus now in the capital that any referendum in the next few years on separatism which the PQ sponsors will be lost.
In large part this is a tribute to Chretien, a prime minister from Quebec who 10 months after gaining office is still liked and appreciated in English Canada.
His victory was almost total in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces, substantial in Western Canada, but not reinforced in Quebec.
Even there, however, his stock has risen, jacking up federalism to a lot of Quebecers.
Certainly Chretien radiates confidence about a victory by Johnson and, if that should not happen, for a defeat of any subsequent referendum bid for separation by the PQ.
If the Liberals of Quebec retain power in September we will relax about the direst prospect for us – Quebec’s exit this century.
If the PQ wins and lives up to its promise of the referendum, then we must largely put our confidence in the case for federalism which Chretien will carry in Quebec. Certainly, he would head an array of premiers and federal MPs of all parties but the BQ.
And a vote in Quebec which favors federalism by a handsome margin, say 60% to 40%, would likely rob separatism of vitality for another decade.
Of course, separatism in Quebec or the arguments for it or sovereignty, its much used euphemism, won’t disappear, but the chances are good they will give way – dread the thought! – to a renewal of discussion on the constitutional front.
Why so?
Don’t forget that Daniel Johnson and most Quebecers we take as federalists regret the Meech accord was lost. They dislike much in the Constitution as it was changed 12 years ago.
Their primary political community is Quebec. And their Quebec must have the powers to preserve and strengthen the community. Their Quebec cannot be simply a province like the others.
In short, beating back the PQ and the BQ this year or next year won’t end pressures from Quebec for more.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, July 22, 1994
ID: 12799380
TAG: 199407210134
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It seems MPs of the Reform Party cannot behave much differently than those of other parties. Why not? TV news demands adversaries and noisy simplicities. And a party’s leader must be its chief exponent, the prime focus of news coverage and comment. Courtesy, constructive criticism, even praise of rivals, simply do not fit parliamentary politics.
So this week the Reform caucus “re-orged.” Months of discrediting by the media pack and rival partisans won out. Reform will take up the invective mode, made heroic by the Grit Rat Pack of the ’80s.
The Reformers have accepted the daily oral question period as paramount in politics, more vital in gaining media notice, than any part in actual House “debates” or the hearings of House committees.
The wry humor in Reform’s regression toward the Rat Pack is they’ve been spooked by opinions of those with a large bias against Preston Manning and the party because of their very conservative or illiberal attitudes.
My argument on this matter is a forlorn one. And it’s almost heresy for me to state that in the first six months of this new Parliament the 50 Reform MPs have performed well – almost phenomenally so, considering 49 were green, including their leader, and because the Bloc Quebecois as the Official Opposition has made for far more French being spoken in the House than ever before.
The BQ overshadows Reform because it leads off in each debate, each question period, and each round of questioning in committees.
Reform MPs have been well-behaved and neither nasty nor wild with charges in question period. They have asked a lot of broad questions, for example on debt and deficits, and have not attacked ministerial motives.
In short, they’ve not aped Tories, New Democrats and Grits in opposition. Reformers have been more assiduous than Liberals or the BQ MPs or the NDP MPs in presence and participation as speakers and interlocutors during debates on bills or on opposition motions critical of the government.
Of course, such debates get scant notice from political journalists, TV’s in particular;
At least 30 Reform MPs by my count (as a committees’ reader) have come to such hearings well-prepared and made excellent contributions to most of the busy ones – say on defence policy or the GST or broadcasting or small business. But such contributions are rarely monitored, let alone noted on air or in print by the political media.
It’s true that MPs of all parties get short shrift from the media for what they say or do in debate or in committees. That’s how distorted Parliament has become. The “show” of the daily question period is both agenda and main grist for both day-to-day news and the judging of political performance.
The vapidness of such concentration lies in part in the long stretches without the House sitting – almost five months of the year. Do the reporters then catch up on what was said and done in debates or in committees?
Don’t make me laugh! They make do with press releases, conferences, important visitors and critical reprises of parliamentarians – especially their natural enemies in Reform.
One columnist agrees with me that Reform MPs have done well on the Hill. In fact, Michel Vastel of Le Soleil thinks Reform has been the best party in this Parliament. He’s blunt on why this isn’t recognized: Because the media, particularly those of it who cover the Hill, have a bias against the party because of its allegedly reactionary ideology.
Recently (July 15) the Globe and Mail editorialized on Reform’s “timid performance,” describing it as “too gentle and evasive” and “averse to risk.” The Globe wants more trenchant stuff to test the Liberals, more material on Reform’s alternative policies.
The reality is that Reform MPs have brought more than a decent decorum with them to the House. By and large they’ve spoken to their stated aims and beliefs. Their analyses of Liberal bills on electorial redistribution, settling Pearson airport contracts, and Yukon Indian settlements were thorough. They’ve even put, and stuck with, genuinely fresh views on present policies for immigration, aboriginal affairs, and federal sponsorship of interest groups.
Of course, they could do better, but hardly by veering to behaving like the old lags of Parliaments past.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 20, 1994
ID: 12799114
TAG: 199407190089
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Do you ever feel you’d like to rage into the face of a storm? By yourself? Just shout and let go a huge, recurring frustration?
Last Monday such an urge came on me: To get out alone to keen, and rant at Canada being so cursed.
Cursed with what, some may wonder. With a perennial irresolution which will not disappear in my lifetime nor in Canada so long as it is a federation.
How do we keep a country going with two distinct loyalties within it?
How do we keep patience with a federation in which a prime integer, Quebec, has been, is, and always will be shaped in its aspirations by its large majority of French Canadians?
Most of you know the answer.
Canada as a federal state for well over a century has been kept going through continuing compromises, notably most of which concede the political power exerted by the French Canadians in Quebec, not just through the provincial government they’ve controlled handily since 1867, but in using in the federal cabinets and the House of Commons what has normally been a block of partisan MPs who protect Quebecers’ interests within the context of federal policies and spending programs.
My latest urge to scream into the wind came as Jean Chretien assembled the premiers on Monday in Ottawa for a show, not only of federalism’s workability and its worth in dollars and cents but to show Quebecers all the rest of Canada is backing Premier Daniel Johnson and his Liberal party of Quebec in the coming campaign against the wreckers – the Parti Quebecois, abetted by Lucien Bouchard and his Bloc Quebecois MPs.
One by one, or one on one, the present premiers and Prime Minister Chretien are okay with me, certainly neither better nor worse than the previous gangs that have been assembling with growing frequency since 1958 when John Diefenbaker lured Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis to Ottawa for a meeting with the other premiers of the time.
On most of these occasions, Quebec’s aims or needs have been to the fore, and so often barriers to a consensus. And even when agreements have been reached, they often come to grief – see the Charlottetown accord, and the Meech Lake accord, and the Victoria charter. Always the high concern over Quebec. Always Quebec requires compromise, or delay, or no action.
And once again we all must be moderate and sensible. Boost federalists in Quebec, pray Quebec rejects separatism.
Take our cues from the nine premiers and decent, hokey, familiar Jean Chretien in touting Daniel Johnson to Quebecers and our prayers that with their votes he will be the next savior of Canada.
Fifty years ago this fall I had my first bootless rage over a consequence of attitudes in Quebec. I was in an armored outfit that had had low casualties. At the tail-end of the Antwerp campaign our squadron had several days work with two infantry regiments. Both happened to be from Quebec – the Fusiliers de Montreal and the Black Watch. Each was battered and dispirited, down to near a third of strength and with few experienced NCOs. Neither could do more than hold a quiet sector.
Their problem? Very few well-trained reinforcements. Why? There were thousands of trained men in Canada? Yes, but . . . Quebec, and all that.
Most Quebecers hated conscription for overseas warfare so it was put off. And out of delay came the divisive “conscription crisis,” and most belatedly trained conscripts were sent into battle.
It seemed so stupid and so unfair then that men should suffer and die through weaknesses in their units which stemmed from political compromises at home. So I cursed, and so did most of my comrades, including the guys in the Black Watch and the FMRs. We cursed Mackenzie King and the Liberals.
That was long ago and far away. Later, as I studied history at college I cottoned to the merit of that delay. King and his Grits were trying to hold Canada together and not repeat the bitter follies of 1917 with Quebecers.
And, by and large, I’ve been a compromiser ever since if such could keep Canada whole.
But it’s maddening and demeaning. Demeaning to watch the likes of Monday’s organized hurrah for a tired provincial party and government whose claim on us is simple: If it loses, we may lose Quebec.
No! Despite this bleat of frustration, I’m unready for saying to hell with Quebec, although it’s tempting.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 17, 1994
ID: 12798764
TAG: 199407150221
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


Some opinions on recent rumors, announcements, or reports.
– It is mid-summer and the Hill is almost bare of politicians. This makes understandable the most stupid rumor thus far in the Chretien term, one which ran around Ottawa and its talk shows last week: Pierre Trudeau as Governor General.
It was explained as the ultimate measure by the PM to sustain federalism and turn back separatism. One caller who loved the prospect believed that, “Now that his boys have all left home, he’s free to do this for Canada.”
– The advantages are hard to see, either economically or in better services for people, in the massive divestiture of ownership, management and control of airports which was announced mid-week by Doug Young, the federal minister of Transport.
Ideologically, however, this program for local management and jettisoning of federal employees, their wages and benefits, plus capital and operating costs, is very small “c” conservative. It’s private enterprise stuff to match the dreams of Erik Nielsen a mere decade ago.
Jean Chretien’s government will get away handily with this major, permanent devolution of federal power. Too many municipal politicians and local entrepreneurs will go for the policy.
If matching devolutions and abandonments of programs now in place are forthcoming, as seems likely, in agriculture, with its subsidies and services for farmers and their products (e.g., aid for wheat transport), and in the social system being reformed under Lloyd Axworthy, this will be the most conservatively minded government since that of Tory R. B. Bennett from 1930-34.
An obvious corollary for the Liberals as a counterweight will be to stick with, even reinforce, programs in the less costly but more caring and showy fields of culture and citizenship, packaged now as “Canadian heritage” and multiculturalism.
– Not only is the royal commission inquiring into aboriginal affairs to be the most costly in federal history, its first report on a specific subject – the transfer of Inuit families some four decades ago from the mainland to the Arctic archipelago – recommends substantial compensation to those moved and their offspring.
The government is more likely than not to cave in and follow the recommendations but there will be hesitations. Why? Not the costs. Rather, the problem lies in the good reputation for common sense and fairmindedness of the mandarins of the time who foresaw the need for such a move and carried it out.
In short, this was hardly a mean, wrong-headed, and dishonest plan as the royal commissioners make out. And anyone but a fool knew this commission was stacked to favor native claims and grievances with compensation in money and large land settlements.
– After the latest “amnesty” deal for refugees was revealed two weeks ago by Immigration Minister Sergio Marchi, I approached one of the few acquaintances I have in the horde of adjudicators on the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
The board as now constituted and operational was largely created five years ago because of a judicial ruling that rejected refugee claimants must have “a fair hearing.”
Thus far its creation and operation has cost over well over $500 million and for the 1994-95 year will run around $90 million. The board employs just over 1,000 persons, a fifth of whom are order-in-council appointments – i.e., political, not civil service choices – with an average annual salary of about $85,000. Last year the board opened some 11,000 inquiries and concluded about the same number, and reviewed almost 1,000 detentions. Far more appeals have been granted than rejected.
I asked my acquaintance what he and those associated in his work thought of the amnesty. After a few minutes reflection, he said the decision was discouraging. It meant the board was not handling its various caseloads with enough dispatch. It meant a huge input of time and serious consideration already given thousands of cases by members of the board, and previously by officials of the Immigration department, was simply bypassed. Gone for nought. Finally, it had deepened the recent infection of cynicism in the board which followed appointments to it by Marchi of many who had been key workers for him and other Liberal candidates.
“It will be hard,” he said, “to be neutrally minded and consistent with each or any case after such a permissive declaration from the responsible minister.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, July 15, 1994
ID: 12798453
TAG: 199407140183
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


What opinion do you have on the Chretien government’s plan to take 250,000 immigrants this year? In June, 1,000 Canadians were asked their opinion: 60.3% said it was too many; 31.5% thought it about right; 1.5% said it was too few; and 6.6% didn’t know.
A polling firm asked seven questions. Each response confirmed opinions in prior polls – i.e., the gulf between the policies and programs of the federal government and what most citizens want. The gulf has been there for over 25 years.
How to explain the persistence of the gulf? Why have a series of cabinets and their members and counsellors held to policies they think better of than the people do? A closer look reveals an extraordinary highmindedness and stubborn persistence with the ideal of equal opportunity for all. Canada shall welcome would-be immigrants in quantity from anywhere and everywhere in the world.
Also, in the last decade, despite a refugee schmozzle that’s made Canada noted as the international “soft touch” neither ministers nor mandarins will acknowledge that our immigration programs are poorly handled, full of holes and inconsistencies – especially regarding refugees – and increasingly costly, not just for Ottawa but for the provinces and big city governments.
The killing of a policeman – the accused is an illegal alien – plus a roster of crimes by some immigrants in Toronto is highlighting this season’s political news and bothering the newish Liberal government and Sergio Marchi, the minister in charge.
Young, verbose and ultra-confident, Marchi is a perfect archetype for Canada’s immigration policies. Why so? Because he’s an optimistic proponent of high and diverse immigration. And he never hesitates to tag critics as racist and reactionary and send them cowering away. He turns charges that the programs are flawed or unpopular into homilies on Canadian generosity of spirit and to the marvels intrinsic in a multicultural nation.
Of course, Marchi will brush past the latest polling about immigration. Any notice will be indirect. You may divine it in: a) the smoke he’s already blowing over the programs with vigorous assurances he’s reforming them, notably re: criminals and welfare abuses; b) the two federal releases this week, one a StatsCan report indicating recent migrants have had higher levels of education and skills than the Canadian norm, the other by an immigration mandarin which “proves” immigrants are less likely to be criminals than the home folks.
The particular poll I refer to was taken three weeks ago for the Immigration Association, a group organized years ago by some former immigration officers who felt a once fair system was being debauched by softheadedness and immigration lawyers. The association has been a persistent and, I think, a telling critic of immigration and refugee programs. But it has been most politically incorrect, and so largely ignored by ministries or referred to as “reactionary” and rooted in a narrow-minded past.
Here’s a digest of the response percentages to the other six questions put a few weeks ago. They are not startling. They fit with most opinion polling done on immigration over recent years.
– Of those queried 66.3% would approve of restrictions on the entry of immigrant workers who may compete for jobs in a period of high unemployment.
– A majority of immigrants are sponsored by relatives living here and 69.2% would approve a restriction on such sponsorship to immediate dependent family members such as husbands, wives, and unmarried children. That is, not grandparents or adult children or married children.
– 77.1% think people with incurable contagious diseases (e.g., AIDS) should not be immigrants to Canada.
– 61% think elderly persons without a medical health program entitlement valid in Canada should not be permitted to settle here.
– 95.9% think those with criminal records or with backgrounds in terrorist organizations should not be allowed into Canada.
– Finally, a question whose responses indicate a critical rejection of the amnesty for so many refugee claimants such as Marchi announced last week: 64.1% disapproved of a policy which gives permanent residence to persons who had claimed refugee status on entry but who have been declared ineligible after complete judicial review.
But, to repeat, in immigration it is not what we want but what our governors think best for us.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 13, 1994
ID: 12798199
TAG: 199407120094
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


I have to try hard not to mock Sergio Marchi. But in commanding new immigrants to “Fan out!” he recalls Canute, that medieval king who ordered the tides of the Wash not to come in. Of course, they came on – inexorably.
On the other hand, over a century ago, Horace Greeley, a progressive American publisher, cried: “Go west, young man, go west.” Thousands and thousands did, and the phrase still rings through the history of the west.
Anyway, “Fan out!” by Marchi may be the memorable phrase for the year, although it has competition from Ovide Mercredi’s “meagre $5 billion” in reference to Ottawa’s spending on “status” natives.
Succinct and clear as “Fan out!” may seem, is it likely many of the 250,000 immigrants/refugees Marchi hopes to have this year will bypass Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver? Will a lot of them fan out, say to The Pas or Mattawa, Cornwall or Fredericton or to prairie farms or bush-holdings in the Clay Belt? Guess.
Over the past 40 years the meccas for immigrants to Canada – and for migrant natives and many Newfoundlanders – have been the big cities and, above all, Toronto the Great.
There’s where most of the immigration lawyers are, and most of the religious, service and ethnic associations which support and succor immigrants. There it’s easier to get the health and welfare benefits and such aids as language training for adults and schools familiar with polyglot kids.
And so Toronto, and to some degree, given their smaller scale, Montreal and Vancouver, have become very cosmopolitan and not at all typical of most of Canada, especially in terms of “visible minorities.”
For example, the likes of Thunder Bay, Brandon, and Moose Jaw have no Jamaican problem, no extortionist Asian gangs. Toronto has, plus other strains and costs of a continuing, large intake of migrants. Without sarcasm, this outsider marvels at Toronto’s resilience as both entre-pot and settling place for so many immigrants.
An outsider also appreciates why it tempts many Torontonians, especially politicians, to see their community as symbolizing Canada itself. Well, on immigration this is not so.
This illusion comes from Toronto as the head and heart of English Canada’s media, who radiate the stuff of national news and comment. The image has somehow emerged that Toronto symbolizes Canada, that country-wide our communities throng with fresh or recent immigrants. And this is not so.
Does his command “Fan out!” mean Marchi has realized it?
If immigration policy and levels were set by the opinion polls of the past decade they would be markedly different in two regards. Indeed, their implementation would make Sergio Marchi bail out of office shouting “racism.” The opinions are plain and blunt.
First, most Canadians favor less, not more, immigration. They think a quarter of a million a year too high. This goal was set in the late 1980s and is stoutly defended by Marchi.
Second, and more shocking, most Canadians seem to prefer immigrants from Europe, particularly from the U.K., and would have fewer, far fewer, from the Caribbean, Africa, Latin America and Asia. (This happens to be my own opinion.)
The Pearson government (1963-68) abandoned a cautious, careful, well-controlled pattern of immigration which favored migrants from the U.K. and Europe, i.e.’ largely white and mostly Christian. The changes were sparked by the global idealism og Barbara Ward, a friend and counsellor of Pearson’s, and they opened up English Canada (much more than Quebec) to migrants from anywhere in the world. And thus Toronto came to gather so many, in particular far more “visible” than non-visible newcomers.
There’s a magnificent optimism to our high-minded immigration programs. In time Canada will rival India for variety. It may be an inspirational model to all nations. This glorious confidence is repeatedly avowed by Sergio Marchi and he has kept telling critical Reform MPs: “See the Red Book,” He insists that Canadians voted overwhelmingly for such progressive immigration policies.
So how does one interpret the call to newcomers to “Fan out?” Is Marchi suddenly distraught at a Toronto which seethes and suffers from a spate of newcomers of every kind and color? No. Surely Marchi wants a lot of other communities in Canada to have some of what makes Toronto so wonderful.
Not just a world city, but at its present rate, in another decade, arguably the world city.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 10, 1994
ID: 12797855
TAG: 199407080124
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


There’s acuteness in the droll insight of Sun colleague Michel Gratton that Jean Chretien would be better off if the House of Commons was sitting this summer.
The suggestion conflicts with a hoary Hill truism that a ministry escapes from rancor and pettiness and gets to real work once the opposition MPs are out of the way. But Gratton thinks daily House antics through the summer would be cover for a slow government that’s done little and whose major intentions are up in the air.
Everyone appreciates that Chretien must mark time on several key matters until Premier Daniel Johnson goes to the voters of Quebec and the entire country finds out how immediate a threat to Canada the Parti Quebecois in office would be, abetted by the official Opposition in Ottawa.
So the imminent Quebec campaign makes partial sense of why the mighty overhauls in both the national social system and the health system, which were underway under the respective direction of Lloyd Axworthy and Diane Marleau, have been stalled and may not be openly tackled until the winter – if then.
But Chretien’s problems go beyond Quebec. The currency of a fresh, strong mandate from the voters has not long impressed the governments of any province west of Quebec. This is a quite familiar condition in federal-provincial affairs. Any broad consensus on joint matters is almost always hard to reach, and sustain.
Thus, Finance Minister Paul Martin got literally nowhere in broaching a harmonized sales tax with the provinces; Diane Marleau has had few provincial enthusiasts for her national health forum; and Lloyd Axworthy’s been facing intense suspicion from defenders of provincial turfs and the many interest groups which fear such propositions as a linking of unemployment benefits to something like compulsory training or even public work.
It was invigorating for Chretien as he stumped the land late last summer and into the fall with his promise to kill the GST. But in the relative quiet of July, 10 months later, it’s clear the alternatives to the GST are also grim. Either a massive increase in the personal income tax for middle- and high-income citizens or a form of a “buried” GST tagged as a VAT (value-added tax) which would be as complicated as the GST for most who would pay it unless Martin could get the impossible – federal-provincial harmonization of a consumption tax.
The prime minister’s popularity holds well; no alternative seems within years. Not too many in what fortunately is the smallest cabinet in three decades have made fools of themselves. Although partisan patronage survived the Tories wipe-out, the Liberals handle it far more deftly – so far!
But any rating of the Liberals legislative achievements thus far has to be a low one, in particular because two measures were stupidly framed and argued: 1) the attempt to put off electoral redistribution; 2) the bill to deny legal appeals to those whose contract to run Pearson airport in Toronto was cancelled by the Liberals. Common sense criticism from Tory senators forced a retreat on the first, and may on the second.
Although Quebecs destiny remains a prime matter for Chretien, his chances seem better with it than when he took office. Nonetheless, what he achieves on the GST is vital, and now seems rather ominous. However, the stalled initiatives on social and health matters will demean rather than destroy his government even if prolonged harangues over them go on with the provinces.
And this gets us to the issue as hard and more dangerous to Jean Chretien than either Quebec or the GST: The federal deficits and debt-burden. Is he truly determined to end deficits and reduce the debt-burden? Or has he already “gone chicken?”
Only a doubting answer seems sensible given the recent, odd burbles out of the bureaucracy about huge spending cuts being readied.
Roughly, here’s what’s been set out internally but denied externally, almost absolutely by the PM, and by and large by his minister of Finance:
– A 40% cut in spending for the departments of Agriculture, Transport, Energy, and Industry;
– A 15% cut for all other departments and programs except for native affairs, the CBC, and seniors and veterans pensions;
– Total federal spending to drop by $15 billion for fiscal year, 1995-96.
One understands a cabinet gagging on such medicine, but how in Hades did it get so far in preparing to take it?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, July 08, 1994
ID: 11986617
TAG: 199407070171
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It’s no shocker that our public policies and their ethical emphasis are shaped more by “experts” or “authorities” than by either voters or parties. Now an analysis elaborates the thesis. And it’s by an expert, Stephen Brooks, a political scientist at the University of Windsor.
What Brooks describes in an essay in How Ottawa Spends, 1994-95: Making Change seems obvious although it is neither widely known nor much discussed. The lack of debate may be because politicians and journalists back away from the implication that they are mere tools of those who know or seem to know.
Know what, you ask? Why, what is best for us all!
Over 15 years Carleton University has published an annual collection of essays, How Ottawa Spends. It is designed “to provide informed analysis and to stimulate debate about federal government policies and practices.” The essayists are usually economists, political scientists or sociologists.
My tag for the entire series would read: Left of centre, pro-government and anti-conservative. To be fair, such a description would fit at least three-quarters of the crop of reports, books, and essays which flood into the public realm from those we roughly define as social scientists.
The Brooks essay is titled: “How Ottawa bends: plastic words and the politics of social morality.” I enjoyed it as a delightful treason against both social science and the general tone of authority in this Carleton annual.
Three public documents are examined in detail to sustain Brooks’ argument that “plastic words” have become a manipulative formula for applying ethics in Canada that are never really understood or affirmed by most voters.
These are: The 1992 report of the Canadian Human Rights Commission; a 1992 House committee report titled “Culture and Communications: the ties that bind;” and “Changing the landscape: Ending violence, achieving equality,” a 1993 report by the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women.
Here is Brooks’ argument in a nutshell:
“The vocabulary used by administrators, journalists, politicians and experts to describe and conceptualize moral causes relies heavily on a shared set of word-concepts that constricts the political imagination by conflating morality and scientific authority.”
That is, moral arguments grow in strength and toward their application in politics and by governments through their use by, and association with, those who become recognized as authoritative. Much of such authority stems from post-graduate degrees, publications and commissions served, but above all through the use of “plastic words.”
Plastic words now constitute a political code. Here’s a list of some plastic words noted in the essay:
Alienation, benefit, communications, community, consensus, equality, equity, empowerment, environment, development, factor, framework, functions, generic, gender, harassment, identity, information, infrastructure, inclusiveness, legitimization, management, model, modernization, needs, orientation, paradigms, pattern, planning, problem, problematic, process, project, quality of life, relationship, rights, role, system, systemic, transformation, values, violence, and variables.
The essayist sounds right to me when he says, “Plastic words constitute a political code whose moral character and political consequences are concealed by the combination of the scientific authority associated with these terms and their everyday use by those who define and interpret human experience for the masses – the media, political parties, teachers and the ranks of administrative officials whose job is to apply these words to real-life situations.”
The code and its usage have enabled “the New Class – intellectuals, administrators and wordsmiths to achieve a far greater level of collective social and political influence than is generally attributed to them . . . The words attain a scientific aura that gives them an air of objectivity and universality, and so helps defend those who use them from charges of being ideological.
The bias and the intent of plastic words and those who use them is for expert-driven changes. That which once belonged to private and personal morality is being overlaid by applications of public morality (or legalized political correctness).
It is easier to understand this than to stop it or root it out. Brooks only counsels closer criticism of the code and those who use it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 06, 1994
ID: 11986174
TAG: 199407050085
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Here’s a “found” column, largely using words of John Gray, playwright, and Mavor Moore, playwright-plus. Messrs. Gray and Moore on June 7 spoke to a House of Commons committee considering “a revised citizenship oath” and “a declaration of citizenship . . . expressed in resonant language.”
Each man spoke or was questioned for half an hour. These are a few excerpts from long statements. Gray said:
“Every immigrant who comes to Canada has a fundamental misconception of Canada, and it’s one we communicate with each other as well. The misconception is that Canada is a young country and lacks history. This causes a lot of problems . . .
“Canada became a country in 1867. Germany and Italy were unified in 1870 and 1871. Germany and Italy don’t think of themselves as young countries, yet Canada did not get its own flag until about a century later. Therein lies the difference. Canada remained a colony of Britain, which is a fact that shows up in our institutions, in the names of our streets, provinces, and towns and, most important, in the mental habits of the people who live here.
“Our colonial heritage is at the root of our cultural subservience to the United States, just as it’s at the root of our past subservience to Britain.
“Thanks to these deep-set local habits of mind, the recent immigrant will search in vain for a distinct Canadian culture and will find Canadians reluctant to even discuss the topic. However, it does exist. There is another Canada.
“There is an indigenous, authentic Canada with a culture independent of the government, the CBC, the RCMP and even the 49th parallel, created by the collective experience and memories of people who have lived on the northern half of North America for centuries.
“This other Canada is culturally different from Britain and the U.S. Unlike Britain, this Canada did not assume inequality as a God-given right and, unlike the U.S., this Canada does not assume that all persons were born equal. Canadians know that you might be poor and it might not be your fault . . . At the centre of this other Canada is a principle we might loosely call common human decency.
“Common human decency requires a fundamental position of goodwill, a spaciousness that makes compromise and accommodation possible. It’s the underlying principle, the basis for our social stability, our relative non-violence, our comparative lack of dreadful poverty and our comparably clean and livable cities.
“The Canadian government did not create this fundamental cultural position; the Canadian people did it . . . in the Canada that counts, it’s okay to be nice. In the long run you’ll be further ahead. You’re not being taken for a sucker, because in Canada, although nobody talks about it, this is really how the country works.”
And Gray added: “That basically is what I would like the new immigrant to know.”
Mavor Moore followed shortly after Gray. He too was on to the elusive identity of Canada.
“Citizenship,” he said, ” . . . is fundamentally a cultural issue rather than a political, economic, or bureaucratic issue.
“Identity has become terribly complicated in our own time by the arrival of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is really a way of handling a multiculture, which we’re all in . . . The common objective should be a desire and a responsibility on the part of all groups to understand and appreciate the contribution of others to the common good . . .
“Can we have it both ways? Can we preserve the old cultures that people bring with them and at the same time lead them towards some kind of mainstream Canadian identity? I don’t know whether we can. It’s certainly a complicated matter.”
Moore sketched the society for which immigrants should ready themselves and it fits nicely with John Gray’s “common human decency.”
Moore debated whether multiculturalism wants “fusion or does it want fission? Does it want to bring everybody into a kind of mainstream or does it want to maintain cocoons of differing cultures that are brought here, at least until they are ready to come into the mainstream?”
He answered: “The notion of dumping everybody into a mainstream is something that obviously won’t work in Canada. From the very beginning we have had two societies and two cultures: French and English, not to mention the native people. There never was one culture, and it’s ridiculous to talk as if there could be a single mainstream in Canada.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 03, 1994
ID: 11985495
TAG: 199406300169
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


It’s a fair bet that someone, perhaps in the Yukon, perhaps a provincial government, perhaps an MP of the Reform Party, will challenge through the courts the constitutionality of the bills passed by the House last week that will empower the creation of self-government for 15 “First Nations” of aboriginal people in the Yukon.
These bills will deal out land settlements and fundings, even for some settlements not yet negotiated.
Why would anyone choose to do this, perhaps confounding the long-delayed requital of Canadian whites for their past mistreatment of natives and appropriation of their lands?
Further, what legal legs would any challengers have against an act representing the will and the votes of a large majority of MPs?
On the first question, these bills establish for perpetuity within a governed entity such as the Yukon a new, unique level and form of government for 15 different groups of people. Their respective identities are determined and retained by blood lines from generation to generation. Also, the Yukon settlement has been heralded by the sponsoring minister model as a model for all the First Nations within Canada, which now number 605.
The challenge to constitutionality would begin with the fact that in 1992 it was deemed necessary to amend the Constitution in order to legalize aboriginal self-government. This was a proposal among others which was defeated when the referendum was lost. It was in section 41 of the Charlottetown “consensus report.” It included these sentences:
“The right should be placed in a new section of the Constitution Act, 1982, section 35.1 (1) The recognition of the inherent right of self-government should be interpreted in light of the recognition of aboriginal governments as one of the three orders of government in Canada.”
The defeat of the referendum proposals does not by itself close the matter because the result was not binding, and certainly the Red Book of the Liberal Party does state that:
“A Liberal government will act on the premise that the inherent right of self-government is an existing aboriginal and treaty right.”
Note that word “premise.”
The Liberal government with these Yukon bills as models is building a new order of government for hundreds of enclaves of people and lands, endowing an array of jurisdiction to be developed by those in these enclaves within the greater whole of both the Yukon and respective provinces and Canada, and so fractioning the equality of Canadian citizenship.
It is not the profligacy in these bills with lands and the tax revenues of present and future Canadians which most merits criticism. Surely, considering the enormity in perpetuity for what will be set in motion by these bills when they are proclaimed as acts after Senate approval, they should be based, not on a premise but on a judicial declaration regarding the relevance of Section 35 of the 1982 Constitution to the question of aboriginal self-government.

A reader of mine is even more critical of the Roman Catholic Church than he is of homosexuals and their way of life.
And so he’s called, suggesting I point out to gays and lesbians a possibly effective injunction they should seek in the courts because of the recent, direct intervention into the crux of a debate in the Ontario Legis-lature on a bill (subsequently defeated) to give homosexuals some rights and possible benefits.
What was the man getting at? It’s true the bishops and the priests in their parishes are largely financed in their livings by contributions from the faithful. And most contributors get a record of their gifts to tender with their annual tax return for a diminution in the tax to be paid.
My caller says homosexuals should scan what tax law and regulations require of organizations which benefit from such legal tax avoidance, notably that recipients must not engage in direct political action.
Yes, the Roman Catholic Church teaches adherents against abortion and homosexual activity. And some Protestant churches advocate both to their members. Such advocacy of moral behavior for members has and will go on within the respective churches. But the full-bore, public assault of the bishops on the NDP’s bill was an open, direct, partisan one. If the law means anything, those who finance the bishops, etc. should lose the tax advantage.
Will Svend Robinson try this one?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, July 01, 1994
ID: 11984895
TAG: 199406300185
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


What to say on Canada Day, once Dominion Day? A recent hearing of a House committee gives me a skyhook. The MPs have been asking individuals and groups to join them to fashion a statement on the essence of citizenship for present and future generations.
The exercise is sparked by Sergio Marchi, minister for Citizenship and Immigration. He wants a clarion message on being, or on becoming, a Canadian. Why? It would seem Toronto needs it. Anyway, it makes a grand exercise in “feeling good” and may be an antidote to the reigning negativism blamed on the politicians.
Maybe the nicest witness for Canada at the committee thus far has been Betty Kennedy of Front Page Challenge fame. She said this:
“One of the saddest columns I have ever read appeared in the June 6 issue of The Globe and Mail. It was written by Andrew Coyne and headed `Where nothing means anything, what’s left to be loyal to?’ Now that piece was written for the 50th anniversary of D-Day. Its closing sentence is: `They fought for Canada. But the Canada they fought for, the object of their loyalty, no long exists.’ ”
Kennedy continued: “The article is one obviously written in pain, and I suspect strikes a responsive chord in the hearts of many more people than we would like to admit.”
It so struck me.
Kennedy said her awareness of citizenship first took shape during Canada’s effort against Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito.
What she didn’t do – she’s kind – nor did other witnesses, was to recount acts or factors that taint the worth and gild the guilt of being Canadian.
Over the past 40 years with laws, regulations, and a modern day Puritanism so many antecedents and traditions have been wiped away. Take some things obvious: Metres for yards, kms for miles, Celsius for Fahrenheit, or Canada Day for Dominion Day or Canada Post for the Royal Mail.
Take something which must belittle and supercede the Canadian past and respect for the institutions of our forebears – the national policy and programs of multiculturalism.
This policy posits every ethnicity is of equal value in Canada to Canadians. With it comes a gigantic idealism. We are or shall become a model to all nations: A workable diversity of heritages and cultures from the whole globe.
With multiculturalism one must be ever at work rooting out racism. How? By laws, regulations and the policing of equality. The campaign is complemented by our courts, their judges and human rights commissions. An instantly sacred Charter of Rights, an American device, now must shape, even direct, Parliament, once called “our highest court.”
Multiculturalism as policy is so portentous, diverse and dazzling with aims of love and respect it is hard for Canadians to grasp, let alone band together to abolish it as too idealistic and divisive. And other trends sponsored within recent and current events also suborn confidence and heighten guilts.
Consider the wretched things we did in those years when Kennedy and I caught realized Canadianism. No, not our fiascos like Dieppe and Hong Kong, or our flyers slaughtering German women and children.
The government forced some 20,000 Japanese and Japanese Canadians from homes on the B.C. coast. Our government had to apologize 50 years later for that government and split some $400 million among the survivors or their heirs. And now many of Italian and Ukrainian stock are demanding apologies and similar redress.
For decades our government kept a head tax on Chinese immigrants and made entry of Chinese females difficult. Redress is being sought for that, with compound interest.
How mean and deceitful we’ve been with the native people and those of color or with disabilities. We’ve been uncaring and usually vicious with gays and lesbians and cruel to furred creatures. We still lay waste lovely forests.
Ponder the long domination of our women, kept at lower pay with narrower opportunities, every generation abused and harassed.
Sycophants in power in Ottawa have kowtowed ignobly to the U.S. in economic and military matters. Worse, as voyeurs and mimics we ignore our own creative talent in soaking in American TV and pop culture.
What a lamentable excuse for a country.
Right? No. Wrong!
Not all is lost or forgotten. Most of this guilt stuff is bunk, and we are broke. In a long haul out from that hole we can shuck both the bleaters and an idealism beyond human nature.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 29, 1994
ID: 11984482
TAG: 199406280065
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Those in and around politics often divine connections that may or may not be there. Sometimes the linkages are speculative; sometimes straight cause and effect.
A sample of the latter struck me last week when news that Canada Post was to get a price hike from 43 cents to 45 cents for a letter came in just after I had driven by the new, glittering, glass palace of the corporation. Users of the mail must cover the costs of such an extravaganza.
Take a more speculative case. Possibilities ran riot last weekend for all MPs and political journalists. These rose from a story Mike Duffy broke last Friday night on local Ottawa TV and filled in on his Sunday hour on Baton Broadcasting stations. After one’s mind got past doubts about the substance in the story, the links or connections multiplied like fruit flies.
Now that Parliament has shut down for three months, Duffy said the Chretien government was turning to major spending cuts. These would aggregate a quarter of spending, with slashes as severe as 40% in two federal departments – Agriculture and Transport.
Duffy didn’t make clear his prime source nor whether this was to be 25% of the whole of federal spending or just 25% of all non-statutory spending. The latter has significance because most of such spending is tied to federal-provincial arrangements. If they are to share the cuts we shall have a domestic war. If they are not to be included, a lot of programs will have to be cancelled and federal employees reduced in numbers and in salaries.
By Monday afternoon we had denials from both Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Finance Minister Paul Martin, along with comments of two other ministers who agreed that in time there would be more spending cuts than those set out in the first Liberal budget.
If you follow politics much you will find your own links from Duffy’s story, perhaps beginning with wonder about who had fed Duffy the news, and why. Let me narrate a bit of my own steeple-chase after the story broke.
First, was Duffy’s story credible? In part, yes, even though it was either a leak by someone irresponsible and dozy or, more likely, a defensive ploy designed to rouse an uproar of resistance or, less likely, a bid to force somebody’s hand, say that of Finance Minister Martin.
Early last week I myself got three bites of information on spending. The first came from a former cabinet minister. He’d recently chatted with the PM about the way ahead for the government. Again and again the PM had said he had little leeway because he had no money.
The second bite came from a Liberal MP after he’d had “a gracious hearing from the Boss” over a proposal of his. Despite the grace, he’d left Chretien with no more than wry shrugs and remarks like “The cupboard is bare.”
The third bite was from a mid-level mandarin economist in a line department’s “policy shop.” He said acquaintances who are senior regulars in Finance are exasperated with Martin. Why? Because he won’t face squarely the implications of the deficits and debt charges, which are deeper cuts.
Once I’d accepted there could be real substance in Duffy’s story I progressed (well, moved on) to the partisan implications of more rigorous cuts, especially in Agriculture, which has such a vociferous constituency in scores of ridings, and in Transport, where the cuts would hit the western provinces especially hard.
Recently a former Tory apparatchik had told me how Don Mazankowski, first as minister of Transport, then as minister of Agriculture and as deputy prime minister to Brian Mulroney, was assiduous at cabinet and in caucus in protecting federal farm and transport programs affecting the west against cuts. The point being made to me was that federal spending for grain-growers and rail transport is figuratively heart and soul to the west. Of course Mazankowski’s long gone, so who defends the western interest now?
Who now represents by far the most western ridings? Yes, Preston Manning’s Reformers. And what have they been demanding day after day in the House since January? Yes, more spending cuts. Really big cuts.
What a way to hoist Reformers on their own swords. Cut, cut, cut . . . and mostly in their own bailiwick.
Too fanciful? Impossible? Probably, but even the float of such cutting prospects could curb incessant harping by Reform for really major spending cuts.
Could Duffy’s tale come from a Grit ploy of threatening Reform with a poison pill? It’s not impossible.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 26, 1994
ID: 11983752
TAG: 199406240086
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


For decades Brian McKenna and Brereton Greenhous have looked critically at the Canadians in World War II. Each is still getting angry responses, notably from those who flew with Bomber Command.
The responses are reverberating now in politics, the media and the courts. One aspect of the outrage is sponsorship of work from these two critics by federal agencies and funds. The works are:
1) McKenna’s The Valour and the Horror, the three-part film series sponsored by the NFB and the CBC and shown on network TV two years ago last winter.
2) A new book, Crucible of War, 1939-1945 (Vol. 3 of the official history of the RCAF, by four historians led by Greenhous, who work in the history directorate of National Defence).
At present the Bomber Harris Trust is appealing a court decision which dismissed a class action for libel it entered against the CBC, McKenna, etc., and is selling a book Battle for Truth, to help pay costs. It details errors and untruths of The Valour and the Horror.
Meanwhile, the National Council of Veterans Associations has asked David Collenette, the Defence minister, for “a simple, ombudsman-type enquiry into the allegations in The Crucible of War which suggest the World War II bombing offensive against Germany was immoral.”
When early reviews of The Crucible highlighted the alleged immorality and the high cost in lives of a campaign which failed in its goals, Brian McKenna welcomed it as justification of The Valor series.
It is taken by historians that Greenhous is the chief author of those parts in The Crucible now generating controversy. (A personal letter to me confirms this and a full confidence in the analysis of the bombing issue.)
Both McKenna, a Montrealer, and Greenhous, then in England, were too young to serve in the war but it’s long fascinated them. As a print reporter, McKenna visited France’s battlefields 25 years ago. Soon after Greenhous joined the history directorate in the early 1970s from a post at Lakehead University he was studying air force records. Remember the storm of protest over the NFB film which cast Billy Bishop, our World War I ace, as a liar and a fraud? Some protesters were sure Greenhous was the source of such interpretations.
For a long time McKenna and Greenhous have been after the themes of Canadian military incompetence, failures, and of myths of both valor and achievement.
McKenna is a far more zealous advocate of the futility of war – any war – than Greenhous. The latter’s targets are leadership by donkeys and the Canadian penchant for reading grand deeds into mostly lacklustre and often pitiful performances in action.
The Nov. 9, 1974 issue of Weekend magazine featured a story by McKenna, “On the beach: back to Normandy with the spirits of the living and the ghosts of the dead.” He was “trying to understand the war I was born into – the war that whelped a world still tumbling into new wars, each seeming to bring a little less freedom than the one before.”
His emphasis was decidedly on the sorrow and the pity of it all. In the article McKenna recalls the chastening he got in 1969 from Frank Walker, a RCN veteran, then his boss at the Montreal Star, for his recent stories on the futility of the sacrifices by those who’d served.
“I had begun the evening,” McKenna wrote, “as I had taken the assignment, with an arrogance only the young are capable of. After we talked I got very drunk. I wasn’t so sure any more.” He was to regain the assurance and, as those angered by The Valor might say, his arrogance.
Greenhous was just as assured in the 1970s as he is in The Crucible of 1994. See Out of the Shadows; Canada in the Second World War, a book from Oxford Press in 1977. These lines from it dovetail with those in The Crucible which are under protest.
“Bomber Command’s strategic air offensive was intended to win the war, or at the very least to shorten it significantly. The price paid in human lives was enormous, but it failed to achieve its objectives. Ironically, perhaps, many Canadians who had volunteered for aircrew duties in the belief it offered a more individualized, more human environment than either the army or the navy had found themselves committed to a malevolent, technological, impersonal battle waged primarily against women and children.”
Both the film-maker and the historian have been long on their mission.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, June 24, 1994
ID: 11983300
TAG: 199406230166
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Ungracious behavior by Liberal MPs in belittling their Reform counterparts was a feature of the last two days of the House before its long summer break.
The cause of the racket was plain: The determined opposition of the Reform caucus to a pair of bills which give land settlements and long-term funding to four of the Yukon’s 14 “First Nations.”
To get the measures through in a rather extraordinary three weeks, Liberals used “the guillotine” to end Reformers’ speeches. The latter fulminated at such strong-arm stuff and cited promises in the “Red Book” of a considerate Liberal government.
The Reformers’ opposed the bills with views on native matters unlike any heard in Parliament’s last 40 years. They argue natives have been over-subsidized and merit equality as citizens, not special status in perpetuity. They insist “self-government” must be defined and lead to self-sufficiency.
They argued well that the Yukon bills give too generous land areas and funding, and that future deals there should go through Parliament and not be done by cabinet on the model set by these bills. Also, they couldn’t fathom the rush to pass such complex bills in just three weeks from first tabling.
Nothing so critical as Reform views on native policies has been heard on the Hill, and the same goes for Reform’s stands on immigration, refugees and slashing cultural spending and snuffing out money for interest groups such as NAC.
These Reform challenges to the familiar patterns in federal politics have not had much notice beyond their general disfavor with Liberals and those in political journalism.
This has been a House with the largest swatch ever of new MPs and a strange “official” opposition, dedicated to disunity.
Has the government forged forward with zip? At first, yes. Then, as some hard issues went to study or review, and the enormity of promises to manage national unity, reform the social system and kill the GST sank in, the zip withered. By recess expectations are much reduced. We’re back to the parliamentary roundelay of bluff and, lately, a smidgin of the old arrogance of Grits when in power. If it were not for the simple savvy of the PM in the House one could imagine we were looping back to a Tory continuum, with Paul Martin as Mike Wilson, Lloyd Axworthy as John Crosbie, Herb Gray as Don Mazankowski and Sheila Copps or Ron Irwin as apes of Harvie Andre.
Liberal backbenchers have had few chances to shine in the House but there’s neither brilliance nor memorable pith in the first batch of major committee reports for which they are mostly responsible – e.g., on the GST, citizenship, social security, and clear-cutting of forests.
The Speaker of the House has been neither hopeless nor stimulating. The three House leaders seem compatible. Lucien Bouchard has fully taken advantage of his lead-off edge in question period while Preston Manning has chosen to share his right as follow-on with colleagues.
Both the BQ and Reform MPs have been readier with questions, statements and speeches than expected. One surprise has been the consistent social democratic nature of BQ ideas and critiques. Although Reform MPs have been jeered for hypocrisy and inconsistency, they’ve consistently spoken from the proverbial “right.” Their problem is that this is both unusual and anathema to most in the covering media.
And so Reform’s efforts at House courtesy has brought them mockery as being inadequate, as failing to do what opposition parties have always done. Few reporters are conservatively minded and not aligned with the doxology of correctness on such as gay rights, abortion, greening, federal money for culture and opposing the death penalty.
Reformers seem a special affront to the women journalists. The latter are now in the forefront of Hill coverage. See such as Susan Delacourt (Globe and Mail), Joan Bryden (Southam), Leslie Jones (CTV), Julie Van Dusen (CBC) and Chantal Hebert (La Presse).
A recent conference on the media and politics sponsored by the CBC has been on cable TV, and it revealed a burst of applause when Mary Lou Finlay, a panelist, spoke her frustration that she wasn’t on the line firing at Manning’s rednecks.
In summing this House thus far, the deeply set animosity to Reform rates with Jean Chretien’s modesty and Lucien Bouchard’s adroit promotion of sovereignty.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 22, 1994
ID: 11982812
TAG: 199406210074
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Parliament’s break for the summer coincided with my return to the Hill from nine days in the Northern Ontario and Manitoba boondocks. Politics there seemed as much to the fore as ever.
As a starter, people’s attitudes seem far from those fashionable in the big media centres like Toronto. The contrast is a disregard for the politically correct. My impressions begin with those on political leaders.
– Approval for Jean Chretien as prime minister is almost stratospheric. Not one critique of substance! There’s been nothing like it since Jean Diefenbaker’s early run in 1957-58.
Everyone talks of Chretien’s “lack of BS” and tags him “a straight-shooter.” Brian Mulroney is fading as the great villain, largely replaced by Lucien Bouchard. There were few unsolicited references to Preston Manning, and not many more to Reformers’ performances in the House.
On the provincial scenes, Bob Rae seems the only thing the Ontario NDP has going for it. Tory Mike Harris was mentioned with approval more than Liberal Lyn McLeod, even in her Lakehead bailiwick. In Manitoba, Premier Gary Filmon seems more respected than I expected, perhaps because there’s so little enthusiasm for the NDP and Gary Doer, and the Liberal leader hasn’t had time to catch on.
– Despite TV’s remarkable penetration with a high quotient of Ottawa news, as a generality, none of the Chretien ministers has yet caught on or been found wanting, except for Lloyd Axworthy and Doug Young. In his home province of Manitoba, Axworthy’s much respected. Nobody mentioned Paul Martin or Allan Rock to me. While most who bitched about Transport Minister Young know little about him, he’s roused much animus with his approval of a CP-CN merger east of Manitoba and his idea of cancelling the money benefits paid into the Western grain trade to compensate for lost freight rate ceilings (the Crow rates).
– The irony of the absolute favor shown the PM mounts when my interlocutors got on to opinions – mostly nasty – of several government bills or proposals, including the abandoning of the Crow commitments. For example, Rock’s gun control proposals have already sparked spontaneous turnouts to gear a fight against them, and his undertaking of legislation soon to guarantee homosexual rights is scorned even before it’s unveiled.
It’s hard for me to recall a measure so repugnant across Northern Ontario as that pushed by the Rae government and defeated in a free vote a fortnight ago. The federal Liberals now hold a majority of the boondocks’ seats in the House. Their stands on both gun control and abetting homosexuals will be closely watched.
– The widest gap between the small town people and the reigning Toronto wisdom to be found in TV’s commentaries and “streeters” and in letters to the editor in the big dailies, was on the vote at the recent convention of the Royal Canadian Legion which rejected a motion to allow the wearing of head-dress with a religious value within Legion branches. Not totally, but by a large margin, there were ready opinions from almost everyone for the decision. In most places the Legion branches are seen as integral and good.
– Where runs boondocks’ opinion on our most fundamental question – unity? What should be done about Quebec and those like Bouchard and Jacques Parizeau, who are pushing separation from the rest of Canada?
This is where I found the most specific references to Jean Chretien and the huge trust in him. Most who talked of him went on to say he was “the best possible” or “the right guy” to handle the separatist threat. Contrary to the recent divinations of Preston Manning, these people by and large don’t see Chretien as soft or vague or wasting time with his determination to give the economy priority. Most seem to believe in his reiterating assurances that when the formal choice is offered Quebec voters will reject it. And they think Chretien will be tough in any referendum campaign about the hard terms a separating Quebec could expect.
– Finally, the GST. I found the range of stances on this tax and over Chretien’s guarantee to kill it rather imponderable. Oh, it is detested. And yet expectation it will be erased and replaced with something very different seem minimal.
How could this be, given the Red Book’s promise to erase the GST? I think because almost everyone accepts, first that Ottawa’s broke and Canada’s threatened by its deficits and debt burden, and second, that a federal sales tax is the best avenue of escape from being broke.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 15, 1994
ID: 11981175
TAG: 199406140084
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report
SERIES: Part 2 of 2



Anyone ranging the profusion of printed committee proceedings in this new Parliament’s first session gets much diversity of subject and in quality of performance. And often there are pocket dramas like the Justice minister kiting a fresh line on same-sex benefits or the snowing of MPs on the Industry committee by those who speak for the big banks.
Here are some opinions formed from reading what’s gone on, mostly without much public notice.
First, most MPs are taking the work seriously. One expects this with a bumper batch of new MPs. The calibre of opposition input has been good; if anything better, not worse, than in the previous Parliament.
Second, more than ever before committees are working a lot in French with great dependence on translation. Bloc Quebecois MPs lead off questions or statements, and with few exceptions take up their time and are well-prepared.
Third, everyone expected the Bloc MPs would be heavy in critiques with a Quebec and francophone emphasis. They have, but the striking aspect of their contribution is how left of centre they are, so much like the old NDP gang. And the BQ’s line at the Liberals is as much or more that they are conservatively minded than strongly federalist. In committee the Bloc tends to leave Reform alone, and vice-versa.
Fourth, there have been surprisingly few slanging matches between the BQ and the Reformers. Usually the rowdiness and stresses which have been occurring, in particular in seven of the 30 or so committees, have been coming from aggressive Liberals deploring the hypocrisy and near treason of BQ MPs (see Citizenship and Immigration, Official Languages or Government Operations) or the rudimentary and cruel economics of the Reformers or, in some cases (see Finance), their racism (see Official Languages and Aboriginal Affairs).
In the Transport committee’s dealing with the cancelled private enterprise contract for Pearson airport and, to a lesser degree, in the Finance committee working on the GST, the Liberals have actually shifted to the defensive. It’s gotten harder to come up with anything widely differing from the GST; and with the cancelled contract they’ve seemed intent on whisking by the arbitrariness of it and the emptiness of its raison-d’etre, i.e., the quickie probe of the deal by Bob Nixon.
Neither BQ nor Reform members got deep into this contract maze because the Grits seemed bent on covering the committee’s superficiality with now stale outrage at Tory sleaze and graft.
Fifth, the Citizenship and Immigration committee’s proceedings are more often fatuous than most of the others. This springs from: A dozy chairwoman; mostly green MPs; the usually cynical ploys of Mary Clancy (the minister’s parliamentary secretary); the complexity of immigration and refugee policies and programs; the chequered history of citizenship programs; and a bootless quest for what being Canadian means.
Sixth, if Sergio Marchi’s troop is off on the most dubious chores the best committee in quality of membership and the discussion with witnesses is the joint House and Senate committee on Canada’s defence policy, followed by the somewhat more discursive and academic performances much of the time by the joint committee reviewing our foreign policy.
The defence crew profits from three bright MPS of former high rank in our military, Grits Fred Mifflin and John Richardson and Reformer Jack Frazer, plus two veteran MPs and three senators long familiar with the military and its bases. The foreign affairs group is larger and with just enough erudition not to fall down before the many long-hair, long-beard, academic witnesses, and to question rather than sound off.
The most retrograde performance noted of an MP in committee was by Eugene Bellemaire, a Franco-Ontarian from East Ottawa. Daily he charges forth, bellicose against treason and racism. The most annoying clutch of doctrinaires at work is in the Environmental committee, their green doxology parroted best by Karen Kraft Sloan (Lib., York-Simcoe).
The finest high intelligence and wit apparent in the proceedings I’ve vetted has been by 1) John Bryden (Lib. Ontario), an historian who tries to lift the Citizenship gang; 2) Suzanne Tremblay, the BQ polymath who’s deflated Grit MPs and ministers in several committees (notably Official Languages and Heritage); and 3) Tom Wappel (Lib. Scarboro West) so knowledgeable in Justice.
Try examining some printed proceedings. Ask your MP to send you copies of his or her committee work.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 12, 1994
ID: 11980330
TAG: 199406100119
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


“For the past 50 years the Allied war has been sanitized and romanticized almost beyond recognition by the sentimental, the loony patriots, the ignorant and the bloodthirsty. I have tried to balance the scale.”
– Paul Fussell
A week ago I heard two questions on TV, one put regretfully by a veteran, the other by two young people. Before impressions from the media’s D-Day orgy fade, let me try some answers.
First, why do 28 million Canadians know so little of what the 12 million Canadians of 1945 did together in a mighty effort here and abroad?
Second, why is so much of what is recalled not of us doing great things together, but of the disasters at Hong Kong and Dieppe and our guilt because we failed to help Jews who were expunged in the Holocaust and acquiesced, or worse, at the expulsion from our West Coast of Japanese-Canadians in 1942? Some crusade, given those horrors.
There are many parts in the answer to the first question. They include an enveloping bitterness, sorrow, shame and demands for redress raised by the matters within the second question.
Later generations either don’t know about or disbelieve how naive we were about Hitler’s intentions and how distant Germany seemed until France collapsed. It’s forgotten how desperate eventual victory seemed in 1942 at the time of the expulsion.
In postwar Canada the sustained campaigns which developed on behalf of those who suffered in the Nazi death camps and the expulsion undercut pride in our wartime achievements. I got this often in the late ’60s and early ’70s in young people’s anger at wartime Canada’s indifference to the plight of the Jews and its callousness with the Japanese-Canadians.
But explaining why Canadians know little about us in World War II should begin simply – with figures. It was 50 years ago! And of the then 12 million Canadians, no more than 4 million who were teenagers or older are now alive. So only one in seven now has a personal memory.
As a biographer of C.D. Howe told me in the late ’70s, most corporate executives he met knew little or nothing of the genius who marshalled the wartime and postwar economies.
Also, after V-J day, our politicians and mandarins wanted to put behind them and us the divisiveness between English and French Canada over conscription. Thus there was scant official promotion of wartime deeds. And folks everywhere were anxious to get back to normal, to revel in peace after six years of war.
So the mandarins got on with getting the warriors back to jobs or educated. Their masters and they themselves took much credit as a postwar economic boom went on and on. They had little regard for our generals and admirals, so few of them remained prominent. Mike Pearson, not Guy Simonds, was the postwar, archetypal man.
And the programs for released veterans were so broad and generous that no militant cadre of vets arose to demand attention and continual memorializing. The gladiators shucked their service, and got on with their lives.
Of course, the war was just over when suddenly Stalin and “the Red menace” loomed over a globe which now might be ruined by atomic bombs – the war’s closing shocker.
The Korean war in 1950, the various crises over Berlin, the creation of NATO and NORAD and our part in them, led to a permanent military here and, with it, near abandonment of the militia and its long traditions. These units, speckled across Canada, had been the nucleus forms in World War II in which most of the volunteers had served. Also, postwar Britain, whose politicians and forces we had linked with, was in decline, and so were our mutual traditions.
With our postwar economic boom came new booms in babies, immigrants, education and, most important, in television. It boosted our exposure and responses, often negative, to Americanism, notably to U.S. militarism. Also, the spectre of nuclear war animated support in Canada for the UN and for glorifying peace.
In the 1970s and ’80s history disappeared from our schools as a prime subject. And over the past 20 years, many writers and documentarians have been “revising” World War II.
Go back to my opener from Fussell, an American debunker of war. The saturation of D-Day commemoration cannot re-balance the tilt his kind have given the scale. And it matters much, mostly to the relative few left who cannot forget those who were there.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, June 10, 1994
ID: 11979734
TAG: 199406090134
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Before beginning a two-part piece on current parliamentary committees, I must apologize for two recent errors.
1) MP Barry Campbell (Lib. St. Paul’s) is not, as I had him, a relative of Eddie Goldenberg, longtime adviser to Jean Chretien. Campbell, once a Montrealer, is a friend of Goldenberg, a Montrealer. I should have checked with Campbell.
2) It was in 1988, not 1984, that Dennis Mills ousted Lynn McDonald of the NDP from Broadview-Greenwood. This mistake was very stupid and embarrassing.
Some 30 House committees and joint Senate-House committees have been meeting through recent weeks. Accounts in print of their proceedings come to hand a week or so after. The total pile is huge; there are thousands of printed pages. The whole is far past one person’s reading or understanding. So I skim a lot and fix most on my keener interests like transport, Immigration, and Parliament.
When my skimming spots something dramatic I read closely, as example, the sessions of the Official Languages committee, first with those who speak for anglophones in Quebec and then with francophones outside Quebec. Bellicose Grits and needling BQs made it a comedy show.
Obvious insights come on the abilities and worth of the members, in particular those who chair the committees or are their party’s lead critics.
Also, most of the Liberal ministers have now appeared in committee and been questioned. Oddly, two who are awkward in the House have been impressive in committee – former top mandarins Marcel Masse (Intergovernmental Affairs) and Michel Dupuy (Heritage).
To me, the most learned, succinct, and adroit minister in both statements and responses to committee members across the whole writ of his responsibilities has been Allan Rock (Justice). Lloyd Axworthy, the social system reformer, has been good, and best when he forgets partisan grumpiness. Sergio Marchi is verbose and woolly about Immigration and Diane Marleau is just woolly on Health.
In early shows Ron Irwin was ferociously partisan but he’s now less accusatory. Both David Collenette and Andre Ouellet handily “dull-spoke” through their appearances whereas Paul Martin was ever ingratiating, even in befuddled passages. Doug Young in Transport, David Dingwall in Public Works, and Brian Tobin in Fisheries were confident and brusque before committees – get it done and get away!
Some chairs are excellent, a few poor, and most adequate. My favorite is an old smoothie, Allan MacEachen, who co-chairs with MP J.-R. Gauthier, what will be one of the six longest-runners, “Reviewing Canadian foreign policy.”
The other long ones are: Finance, chaired by Jim Peterson, doing the GST to VAT shuffle; Industry, chaired by David Berger, examining small-business needs; Defence, chaired by Bill Rompkey, reviewing defence policy; Human resources development, chaired by Francis LeBlanc; and Citizenship and Immigration, chaired by Judy Bethel. All these chairs but Bethel are able or adequate.
Sen. MacEachen is a great chairman. He moves witnesses and questioners along, courteously, fairly, and smartly. Someone should get the dud and over-partisan chairs to observe him or Beryl Gaffney, who handles well the committee on Human Affairs. I think of the scatterbrains, Bethel and Pierrette Ringuette-Maltais (Official Languages) or the over-partisan chairs, Stan Keyes (Transport) and John Harvard (Government Operations).
The most promising new Liberal MP running a committee is John Godfrey (Heritage). Four more veteran Grits – Bob Nault (Natural Resources), Warren Allmand (Justice, etc.), Peter Milliken (House Affairs) and Charles Caccia (Environment) – manage their proceedings well, although Allmand’s heart often bleeds too openly, Milliken has smart-ass streaks and Caccia is not swift.
The most aggravating feature of too many proceedings is a penchant of some Liberal backbenchers to flay at BQ disloyalty and Reform hypocrisy, encouraged or unhaltered in a few committees by chairmen like Harvard and Keyes.
The committee on Public Accounts is largely the auditor general’s forum and is chaired by an opposition MP – in this House by Richard Belisle of the Bloc. He doesn’t shine, but he gets the job done.
The text of most committee hearings, once a reader is used to the bobbing around a series of questioners, is usually more informative with far less donkey-braying partisanship than one meets in Hansard.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 08, 1994
ID: 12408174
TAG: 199406070077
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


So there’ll be more money for the CBC, the costliest of Crown companies. And it got me wondering if Keith Spicer’s theatrical penchant explains his harsh chivvying a few months ago of Tony Manera, the new CBC chief.
Remember? The CRTC boss belittled CBC-TV’s waning reach to viewers, its scantier scale of cultural programs, as against its U.S. imports, sports coverage, and commercial avidity.
It must have been Spicer the Stagey, given the awards of new slots on cable systems made Monday by the CRTC. In part, the awards and the rejections will aid the growth of giganticism of news and commentary within the CBC and the priority in its schedule of news and sports, not drama, music, and art.
Just take the rejection of competing news service bids and that for a hockey channel. CTV must find it maddening. Data on viewers show its news programs and those of its affiliates have outpaced those of the CBC for a long time.
(Surely some of the CTV edge comes from the reaction of viewers by the thousands to the surfeit in CBC news and commentary of much didacticism and a regular, liberally minded view of the public weal.)
In the high pile of CRTC bumph on the awards there wasn’t a paragraph on the rejection of private news channel bids, not even a precis in the award of a national French-language news franchise to the CBC.
This latter award pairs with the CBC’s English-language Newsworld. It puts ever more dollars of cable-subscribers into the technology, reporters and researchers of the CBC as maker-distributor of news and public affairs programs.
This government-owned company is by far the largest of Canadian news groups or outfits. One could tuck the person-years and dollars devoted to news and commentary by the Southam and Thomson chains, plus the Toronto Star, in the personnel bag and budgets of the CBC for the same purposes.
Canada deserves stronger competition within the news and commentary field, not more enhancing of a government-owned and funded colossus.
Far more than our American neighbors, political affairs and issues dominate our news on air and in print. The disbalance toward a common, national news-speak increases when a Crown company is the news group with the most money and presences in and around our politics.
A recent book by a Calgarian, political scientist Barry Cooper, has ruffled CBC fans, including some of its satrap academics. In the preface to Sins of Omission: Shaping the News at CBC-TV (U of T Press) Cooper refers to the reach of the CBC news goliath over politicians. It fits what I hear from politicians when I ask why they’ll beef privately but not publicly about the social preaching and tilts of CBC News. The common reply is, “Why get labelled as a redneck?”
Cooper said his work “benefited from conversations with several elected political leaders, whom, because they could be harmed by unfavorable media coverage, I will not name.”
MP Dennis Mills (Lib., Broadview-Greenwood) is going back to China this fall, this time to northeast China which shares weather, landscape and a passion for hockey with much of Canada.
The Toronto MP returned a fortnight ago from Beijing from a visit with four other MPs and more than 100 Canadians in small- and medium-sized businesses. In five days in May at a trade convention in the Chinese capital the entrepreneurs did well in securing contacts, contracts and letters of intent from Chinese companies.
Mills thinks even more trade can be gained be returning with more salesmen to concentrate on the great prospects in Lioaning province. The Beijing trip was organized in concert with the Inter-Canada Far East Trade Centre in Markham and not enthusiastically backed by Ottawa.
Well before Mills knocked off the NDP’s Lynn McDonald in 1984, Sen. Keith Davey told me Mills was “an organizational genius.” As an MP Mills keeps confirming Davey’s appraisal. I rate him with four rare birds among MPs I’ve watched: Alvin Hamilton, Walter Gordon, Lloyd Axworthy and Svend Robinson. Mills is more market-oriented than those men were or are as MPs but, like each of them, he often aggravates colleagues more than rivals. He gets epithets like “soloist,” “push,” and “headline hunter.”
So Mills as a forceful MP does get put-downs. Even from Grit ministers. It does seem unfair the media have given this Beijing pitch and its sales successes minute examination, critical or otherwise. May the next one get a lot more.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 05, 1994
ID: 12407483
TAG: 199406030090
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
ILLUSTRATION: photo courtesy of Canadian War Museum, Ottawa
NORMANDY COUNTRYSIDE … Canadian war artist Bruno Bobak painted this scene of mechanized troop carriers moving forward at dusk after the breakout in Normandy.
COLUMN: In Ottawa


This veteran of World War II was amused at the send-up in the latest Frank magazine of “Operation Overload.” In cartoon, photo, and cameos, Frank spoofs the CBC’s D-Day extravaganza, the military acuity of the McKenna brothers and old vets reminiscing of their glory days.
Certainly, TV is leading the blitz of film, articles and books on D-Day and the Normandy campaign. In each medium scads of former soldiers and airmen recall where they were and what they did. Two reporter friends of mine spent several weeks contacting and interviewing D-Day veterans.
To my surprise they found it a satisfying assignment. Each, in summarizing the encounters, hit the same three notes about these volunteers of long ago: First, modesty about their own part or deeds; second, the most pensive recall was always of pals who didn’t make it; third, their talk of regiment, company, platoon and section was like talk of home and family.
Both those comments and Frank’s satire were on my mind as I wrote this piece on Normandy, 1944.
Our outfit arrived a month after D-Day. I was a water-carrier for an armored regiment’s rear echelon – a safe slot – and left it just after Falaise was passed in late August to be a loader-operator in a 13-ton Staghound car.
The note about “modesty” strikes home. There was much in my Normandy days to be modest about, notably so much waiting, wondering and being dwarfed in the scope and swirl of the environs to a battlefront. But even those of us in water trucks needed and used slit trenches. And the unavoidable sensory shocks of the beachhead were shared by several hundred thousand other Allied troops.
Of noise. There was ceaseless sound and vibrations (from guns, planes, tanks, carriers, trucks, and radio-calls – even from clouds of flies). Even more scary at night than the red flower crack of an 88 airburst was the whirring of butterfly bombs strewn by low, criss-crossing, enemy “sewing-machines.” There was the whistles of shells from the offshore battlewagons or the higher roar and sharper cracks of our 5.5s and 25-pounders.
Of smells. Always the smells of cordite and petrol and our insufferable battle-dress, literally stiff with anti-gas chemicals and our sweat. And, enveloping all other stenches, the inescapable, choking-sweet odor of dead farm animals putrefying in the summer heat. It did not make for savoring our grub.
Of sights. At night, over us an arching blue-black canopy was framed by intermittent searchlight sweeps and fingers of red and green tracers, parachute-flares, and muzzle flickers. Near the front, infantrymen in single line, face-blackened and silent, were often the trudging shadows going forward or coming back.
In daytime, the green or fallow fields were littered with vans and gear. And brown and yellow dust clouds were always rolling from trucks and road traffic. The dust caked us, our vehicles and our weapons.
There were small signs and big signs with warnings and directions. Vehicle and static emblems, with identity colors and unit and formation numbers, challenged our curiosity.
Almost hourly there was an air show, low and near or over the front by high-winged spotter craft and swooping Typhoons, with fighter sweeps and medium bombers even higher, and the high blue traced with contrails.
In a phrase, there was spectacle.
Twice in July and once in August most of us were witnesses of Allied bomb drops going wrong, with many near us killed or wounded.
All of us saw planes crash and parachuting airmen. We saw burnt-out, sometimes burning, tanks. We passed fresh graves, and unburied bodies. Some of us put fellow Canadians in the earth. Our big speculation was on the enemy’s morale, staying power and guns.
Even for service troops in the rear there was some danger. After my switch forward from rear echelon “safety” the next two at my chore were lost: One to a stray shell; the other bumbled into enemy lines.
We knew there were hosts of British and American troops on our right and some Brits amongst us, but where we were the pervasive presence was Canadian. And then we knew who we were, even if our units were from B.C. or Quebec or Nova Scotia. We took the Canadian scenario for granted, not with extrovertish pride, although I think with pride of those present 50 years ago.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, June 03, 1994
ID: 12406894
TAG: 199406020113
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The MPs of this newish House of Commons seem restive, given the session is less than six months long and they get a summer break in three weeks. Not that House behavior is vicious . . . yet.
One may see the restiveness as bottled-up impatience. Absenteeism is rising, noticeably among Liberal backbenchers. It’s evident in the chamber and the many committees at work. And the best turnout – for question period – is growling more with anger and repartee. Again, the Liberals seethe almost audibly at the themes preached so relentlessly by the Bloc. Of course, the Reform’s righteousness has all their rivals’ backs up and is hurrahed by the media mob who mostly read the Reformers as western bigots.
In mid-week we got an example of House pettiness after a serious issue over the status of MPs and minority parties was raised by Bill Blaikie, an NDP veteran from Winnipeg.
The Speaker so far lacks finesse. He is not a bully but he does try surging past anything knotty with bluff heartiness. Several times he rose and asked Blaikie to wrap it up. Any parliamentarian would have heard Blaikie’s argument as rational, thorough, and put in a moderate way.
Speaker Gilbert Parent should have been very patient after Blaikie raised a fact, which heretofore has gone unnoticed, about the decision that in this Parliament NDP and Tory MPs would be designated as mere “independents,” not as members of a party.
Was this decision made by Speaker Parent, chosen by the House as both symbol of their rights endowed by electors and the arbiter of its practices? No, it was made unilaterally by the Liberals – presumably by Jean Chretien and Herb Gray, his House leader – even before talks with representatives of the Bloc and Reform. It was decided before the House first met and chose the new Speaker.
If the Speaker was obtuse about Blaikie’s arguments, the Liberal response from Peter Milliken, Gray’s parliamentary secretary, was cheap partisanship – mocking and empty of sense about the case made.
Of course, there are precedents and arguments in favor of this decision to stuff the NDP and Tory remnants on a parliamentary caboose. But it was a Reform MP who made them, not the petty Milliken.
The Speaker was to consider Blaikie’s argument for a response later. His advisers should do it well because this Grit decision late last fall has helped make the oddest and most skewed opposition of modern times and put 11 MPs in limbo.
In a later chat with Grit MPs of experience, they made two points to me. They cannot figure why the NDP MPs have been so passive when in concert they could screw up the House day after day with refusals of unanimous consent and motions to adjourn. And their own ministers need a wider-ranging opposition. As one put it: “Jean Charest’s a great federalist but he might as well be seated in the back lobby.”
To another matter, 22 years ago this summer Maclean’s ran a blockbuster piece that savaged the RCMP’s role in national security and intelligence. The core source was the RCMP officer on the front cover. Recently the House justice committee’s MPs examined those on the committee which “reviews” CSIS, the separate security and intelligence service created after the RCMP lost those functions.
Jack Ramsay, Reform MP for Crowfoot, told the reviewers he could see little change from “the old days to protect the public from potential illegal acts” by CSIS. Then they gave him assurances all was well which he summed up as “almost like an echo from the past.”
And he said: “I was responsible for the publication of information through Maclean’s magazine that was the watershed to those inquiries into the RCMP. I sat and listened many times to people not unlike yourselves saying all was well. The commissioner . . . assured Canada and the people all was well, and they attempted to shoot down the truth I was bringing forward.”
At that point the Liberal in the chair told Ramsay he was out of time, to conclude, and he said that he’d simply wanted to make the observation. Well, it’s hardly a comforting one.

To questioners about my view of the Legion convention’s sweeping majority against headwear on branches’ premises, I’d have voted with the minority. But elected politicians so critical of the decision might be fair: The delegates were elected; their vote was literally a “free” vote; and the issue had been debated in most branches for months.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 01, 1994
ID: 12406451
TAG: 199405310052
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


“Where do you stand? Forget that `on the one hand-on the other hand’ stuff. Are you for or against?”
This demand came from a caller last week. It’s most unusual. Thousands get worked up on many political and ethical issues, and many go beyond politicians and want advocacy for their stands from journalists they read or hear.
It’s hard to give pithy replies. My bent is to the arguments, for and against. However, I always recall what a Grit who adorned the Senate once told me of my promotion of Jean-Luc Pepin as the best-spoken, warmest person of all prospects to succeed Lester Pearson.
What a callow appraisal! Why? Surely I knew what made Pepin charming. He couldn’t bear to be brutally partisan on any issue. He couldn’t deal with anything briefly. He had to explain. Again and again, he drove his colleagues mad by making a better case in the House against a bill than the opposition could.
In partisan politics, the senator had a point. And so had my caller about a columnist being forthright. But I had another caller on the same topic, a man I knew long ago in the CCF. Surely I would write something forceful.
But his view was not that of the first caller’s.
The subject? The bill to give rights equivalent to marriage to homosexual couples living together. Ontario’s governing party, the NDP, got the bill past a close first vote at Queen’s Park. The Tory caucus was against it. So are most of the Liberals, but not so thoroughly. And although the NDP says its MPPs have a free vote, the opener showed most following their leaders.
Well, if I were a member of the Legislature I would vote against the bill.
There! I am against granting family status in law, and for so-called spousal benefits, to homosexual couples.
My first caller would be pleased with that, but he’d rant when I explained my vote and what I think should be done, almost in lieu of such recognition.
I lean in terms of equity in taxation to something like what Alan Rock, the federal justice minister, seems to be floating; that is, ignoring gay and lesbian in any “family” definition but recognizing for tax purposes couples who live together in a household, even say a grandparent with a grandchild.
My second caller, as an old-hand socialist, is strong for the separation of church and state. He believes the Roman Catholic Church, despite the social gospel some of bishops here talk up, has been, and is still, a reactionary force against personal freedom. (For example: Against legal abortion and against birth control campaigns in the Third World.) And so he believes whenever Canadian minions of the papacy issue ukases to their faithful against a legislative proposal, they should be challenged as anti-democratic.
He became testy when I recalled for him what still seems to me an anachronistic, stupid decision by the Bill Davis government to extend funding to the “separate” school system of the province. I was against this, and said it, and wrote it. Where had he stood? The Ontario Liberals had been for it. Had he taken after Walter Pitman and Stephen Lewis when they let Davis know the NDP would support the bill?
That’s irrelevant, he said, to this interference by priests in politics.
It’s not that a columnist or any other citizen but a judge should be neutral on political issues, even if this were possible – and in our heads I don’t think it is possible. Biases or cants on an issue, toward or away, are human nature.
Today, in scanning Quorum, the daily scalp from newspapers done for MPs by the Library of Parliament, I had either a pro or con reaction to almost every item, and often a chuckle over the ironies in politics. For example:
Over the high cost to the CBC in its 1994 invasion of Normandy as it expiates for The Valor and the Horror;
At news-crafty Lucien Bouchard’s ploys in swearing to defend French beyond Quebec after it separates, and in doing the “manifest destiny” tease with the geography of B.C. and Alaska;
At this cabinet replicating Mulroney’s, replicating Trudeau’s, replicating Pearson’s, in denying a Liberal MP’s bill to enact what the auditor general wants – several reports a year, not just one blockbuster;
Over Bob Rae, the freedom fighter, now like Jean Chretien, dancing to the trade-with-China tune.
Yet . . . in each of those actions or stances, the CBC, Bouchard, Chretien and Rae have their arguments.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 29, 1994
ID: 12405768
TAG: 199405270064
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


Forgive an older citizen his jaundiced view of the latest exercise in “rah rah” Canadianism being promoted by the Liberal government.
Why be jaundiced? Because again and again in my lifetime federal politicians have been searching for Canadianism and prating about citizenship, while screwing it up with exaggerated catering to ethnic diversity and the wonders of multiculturalism.
Now the politicians are at it again, formally, through hearings of the House committee on citizenship and immigration. In part the inspiration seems to have come from cabinet minister Sergio Marchi. The committee is now eliciting statements of what it means to be a Canadian.
The call has gone forth to thinkers, songsters, poets, the young and the venerable. Come to us. Write to us. Let us work at creating the memorable, savor phrases of understanding and explanation of our citizenship.
The committee is chaired by one Judy Bethel, once a high school teacher, now a Liberal MP from Edmonton East. She compensates for an obvious dearth of weight in judgment (as a chairperson) with gee-whiz enthusiasm, and she has a kindred Liberal spirit on the committee, one Sarkis Assadourian, MP for Don Valley North. He’s so hyped with zeal that he wants MPs as representative Canadians to keep reaffirming their Canadianism in a regular ceremony.
Their mutual zest for an articulation of Canadianism may have had its inspiration from America since both took their post-secondary education in the U.S. As for loosing the committee on this project, the Liberals on it have drawn the Reformers in with them on an exercise which is as much a silly taunting of the Bloc Quebecois MPs as a bridging to fresh insights on being Canadian.
Few politicians, and certainly never a Liberal minister like Sergio Marchi, would admit that a prime reason for these recurring orgies on Parliament Hill is to compensate for the fragmentation of public opinion about Canada as a nation and the denials of history implicit in their promotion over many decades of “the Canadian mosaic.”
Although this promotion began long before the Trudeau Grits promulgated official multiculturalism, the latter capped the divisiveness implicit in the mosaic.
What do I mean? Multiculturalism fitted with the decisions on immigration taken in the later 1960s to depart from a policy that emphasized promotion and selection from European countries. Open Canada to those from anywhere and everywhere. Stop being exclusive and white. Canada would be a “rainbow” and a model of compassionate diversity for the world.
So multiculturalism, as enacted by Parliament and promoted since then by the federal government, heralds the equality in values or worth of every ethnicity, every heritage, every culture. It compounds this hypocrisy by proclaiming it distinguishes Canada from other nations, because we officially encourage everyone to keep and carry forward the heritage in customs and values of the national or ethnic community of his or her origin, be it Chinese, Jamaican, Somalian or whatever.
Of course the Grits’ multiculturalism also played to keeping the party’s grip on the Bathurst-Bloor axis and helped to straighten those ethnic noses put out of joint at all the promotion of “Bi and Bi” and the glorious contributions of “the two founding peoples.”
Ah, you may be reacting: Why is this guy so cynical? Why shouldn’t each generation in Canada, even each new House of Commons, seek to define and explain Canada?
Isn’t this, as Marchi might put it, a most appropriate time for perspicacious evocations of being Canadian. given the crisis looming again over Canada as divisible?
Let’s get on with our federation. More important, let’s stop the fraud of multiculturalism.
It’s a fraud because most of us know who we are, and have since we were children. My generation knows that what we inherited and continue with is splendid and (though it doesn’t matter) unmatchable.
The Marchis, Bethels, and Assadourians should concentrate on a sane policy for immigrants and refugees and an administration of the policy that better mirrors what we need in terms of workforce and skills and that is as inexpensive and simple as possible.
Cease spouting the wonders of diversity and one will find the unity of Canadian citizenship. It has never been lost.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, May 27, 1994
ID: 12405142
TAG: 199405260132
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Coach Chretien is getting conflicting advice on how to handle Lucien Bouchard’s team. At this stage in the series should Jean Chretien keep back, stacking centre ice and his blue line, letting Lucien Bouchard and the BQ press and press – to their exhaustion and public fatigue, even in Quebec?
Or is such caution right in Bouchard’s game plan? Should Chretien not be forechecking fiercely, laying on the body, knocking down Bouchard’s fantasies on the easy promise of separatism?
William Johnson of the Montreal Gazette has written more often and longer on whither Quebec and Canada than any other English language columnist. He thinks the effective antidote to separatism is silence.
“Chretien,” says Johnson, “is undoubtedly wise to avoid the referendum debate at this time . . . Bouchard knows what he is doing. The best way to promote separatism is to keep talking about it, and to make others talk about it. That sustains its credibility. Silence is the best antidote.”
Another columnist, Dalton Camp of the Toronto Star, agrees with Chretien’s “strategy to remain disengaged from the `debate’ over the future of Quebec.” He thinks “the notion that the prime minister of Canada should inject himself” in the Quebec election is bizarre. Chretien should certainly not take issue on a daily basis with Bouchard. Camp relishes an image of Bouchard’s frustrations when Chretien and English Canada ignore his arguments and claims.
On the other hand an even more senior columnist than Camp or Johnson thinks Chretien in his Quebec strategy is being “super-careful, as much about its timing as its content.” Peter Newman in Maclean’s argues that Chretien cannot continue to soothe the rage of Quebec separatism by mouthing cliches about how his Canada includes the Rockies, Don Cherry, Anne Murray and Newfie Screech.
Newman has ferreted from Chretien’s advisers that the prime minister is seriously thinking of calling a federal election immediately after the Quebec electorate goes pro-separatist in a referendum next year. Of course, this assumes Quebec’s Liberal government led by Daniel Johnson is sure to be turfed in favor of Jacques Parizeau and the PQ.
Well, that is really getting way down the road.
If we get there it seems to me the credibility of Chretien and his government would be in jeopardy in more than Quebec if the PQ caps an election victory with a referendum triumph soon thereafter. Surely in the referendum campaign all pro-federalists in Canada, and the Liberals and Chretien in particular, would have a try at convincing Quebecers to vote for staying in Canada. Some would use sweet talk and arguments of caring, others would talk tough and guarantee that negotiating the split will be grim work.
Preston Manning shares much of Newman’s impatience with Chretien’s bromides that all Canadians, including Quebecers, are sick of constitutionalizing and simply want politicians who promote jobs and growth.
Manning had several suggestions for the House, arguing from his premise that Chretien’s unwillingness to vigorously promote his vision of federalism “is creating a national unity vacuum.”
Manning even wants to hear that a “principled response” is being prepared by the government to cope with Quebec’s separatism if this should crown the endeavors of the PQ and the BQ.
The Reform leader insists we need a “federalist vision” and this need not focus on constitutional arrangements. This is how he put his suggestion:
“ . . . to provide the country with a fresh, clear vision of what a 21st century federal state should be in order to deepen the commitment of all Canadians including Quebecers to Canadian federalism.”
For what it’s worth. the current advice for Jean Chretien on coping with Bouchard, etc. from columnists working in Quebec dailies like La Presse, Le Devoir and Le Soleil are near unanimity. They think he should continue being super-careful, even silent. He should keep a distance from the provincial campaign opening up in Quebec. He, and premiers too, should stay away from such explosive issues as the rights of self-determination of natives in Quebec or doubts on the future boundaries of a separated Quebec. Such threats are without foundation, unworthy, and taunting to the pride of Quebecers.
My hunch is that Jean Chretien will know when to switch from defence to vigorous forechecking, but he must realize the “Rest of Canada” crowd is more than ready to stop playing with Quebec.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 25, 1994
ID: 12404707
TAG: 199405240050
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Yes, Ottawa is ever deeper in debt. Nonetheless, a political issue last week was not why it is subsidizing more than 60 sporting bureaucracies to a cost of nearly $70 million a year, but why it would be so unfair to oust 19 of them from the trough. And such slashes are not to reduce spending but to have more for more popular sports.
Let me sketch the previous and current contexts for the nattering unleashed by the cuts. We are deeper into sustaining sport than most of us realize.
Of course, organized sports are just one of many cultural endeavors Ottawa subsidizes. Why underwrite sport? Because sports are good for health, community morale, and national identity and pride. All right?
But now a high-level consultant says support for a quarter of the sports should be ended, freeing some $6 million for the others.
Those sports named for the cut have few athletes (reportedly fewer than 3,000 competitors in all Canada). Even so, the uproar on their behalf is rising on sports pages and broadcasts. How could backing be cut for such winter excitement as freestyle skiing, ski-jumping and the biathlon?
Of course, the odds are good the suggested cuts will not be made. Despite the preaching of the Manningites, frugality has not yet caught on strongly with the Liberals..
How did Ottawa get so deeply into sport? Much of it was the exasperation of sporting associations after the Massey report on arts and culture in the ’50s led to big federal programs for the arts (e.g. the Canada Council) but nothing for amateur sports, which, obviously, sponsored far more activity by Canadians than the arts.
Ottawa got formally into its own sport bureaucracy and to funding sport under John Diefenbaker but it did this slowly. Before this, federal spending on sport had been slight and occasional, mostly small grants for the expenses of teams to big international events like the Olympics and the Pan-Am and Commonwealth Games.
After the first Trudeau government took enthusiastically to the recommendations of a 1989 task force’s report on sport, the spending increased and broadened, most notably in the run-up to the ’76 Olympics in Montreal.
Aside from a fully-serviced administrative centre for sports associations in Ottawa, the Coaching Association and a permanent sports research centre were established and funded. And as of this year, most sporting associations depend substantially (though not totally) on Ottawa dollars to keep their full-time offices going. Most of the bigger provinces have mirror associations of the national ones and these are usually funded by the particular provincial government.
In short, what were notoriously “kitchen table” organizations 35 years ago are federations which mimic our political federation and are largely sustained by governments. Also, and importantly, most sports have athletes who are in regular receipt of federal dollars, dependent upon their ratings and continuing training.
Further, Ottawa has been funding special events in Canada or participation in special events abroad. In fact, what has been spent in this way – for Olympic Games in Montreal and Calgary, for Pan-Am Games and Commonwealth Games here, and on the venues for Canada Games (winter and summer) dwarfs what the taxpayers have contributed to the sports associations and their athletes. By my rough count, hosting the big games here has cost Ottawa at least $10 billion over the past 25 years while associations and athletes have only taken some $3 billion of federal money.
(If those figures stagger you, consider that in this period taxpayers put over $12 billion into the CBC and at least $40 billion into health and welfare for “status” Indians.)
Canada’s role in international sporting affairs has even earned its first book-length analysis in the recent Sport and Canadian Diplomacy, published by McGill-Queen’s and written by professors Donald Macintosh and Michael Hawes.
It was recognized early in politics’ interventions in so-called amateur sport that the familiar jurisdictions applied. Ottawa has a responsibility for activity at the national and international level, not below. When it went below, some provinces, Quebec in particular, balked.
To repeat my opening, the current outrage over cutting off aid to some sports has nothing to do with this good question: Given federal finances, is national and international competition in some 40 sports something we should be taxed for?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 22, 1994
ID: 12404036
TAG: 199405200066
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


Several times recently a wish has come to mind that Brereton Greenhous and Brian McKenna had experienced nearby fire from a German 88. It might have eased the righteousness each brings to judging the parts played by Canadian flyers and soldiers in World War II.
Greenhous, a military historian, came to Canada from Britain after the war and works for the Department of National Defence. He’s lead author of four who’ve written The Crucible of War, 1939-1945, volume III of the official history of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Much in what Greenhous writes – on Dieppe or the deeds of World War I ace Billy Bishop – deflates any penchant for pride or puffery about Canadians at war. Though erudite and scholarly, Greenhous seems intensely, almost cynically, neutral and his judgments scathing and rarely laudatory of the war’s leaders, at home or in action.
Brian McKenna, producer of the expensive, epic series from the CBC-NFB, The Valor and the Horror, says he’s delighted that the analysis in Vol. III of Bomber Command vindicates his thesis in the Valor about the despicable Allied bombing of civilian German targets. And already the media has roused strenuous criticism of Vol. III from some RCAF veterans, few of whom could have yet read the book.
This inordinate focus on the immorality and the failures of the bombing offensive against Germany is unfair to the book. It gives less than a third of its 1,096 pages to the offensive, and even this, credited to Greenhous, is not as unbalanced as the first press stories indicate (see later!).
The contents include an opening reprise on air policy that dwells much on the effort to Canadianize the RCAF. There follow segments on the fighter war, the Maritime air war, and, after the bomber war, a piece on air transport.
One reaction I have to The Crucible is surprise at the great variety of roles and the spread around the globe of our air and ground crews – from striking at the Tirpitz in Norway to flying the Hump into China to the drudgery of U-boat patrols. I staggered again that a country of some 12 million, less than unified in the effort, could almost from scratch raise an army of six divisions, a navy of several hundred ships and a major air force, and also gear factories, farms, and forests to produce arms, vehicles, planes, food, etc.
Reading The Crucible of War is not a romp. It’s heavy, long and so detailed, with charts, maps, statistics, names, squadrons and anecdotes galore – and with much on staffing, training, and equipment issues.
And, yes, it does emphasize that the aims and claims of “Bomber” Harris were not met in terms of ruining the German economy and stifling arms and munitions production; nor did it destroy the morale of the German people. On the other hand … and here I return to my opening wish about experiencing 88 fire.
One morning in early September, 1944, our lot in scout cars wheeled into Dixmude on the French-Belgian border ahead of our tanks.
Just off the town square we cornered a Jerry crew rigging a gawky, great 88 for action and they gave up. For a few minutes we savored scotching this nemesis. We’d dreaded 88s since first hearing and feeling their bark in Normandy. On the gun’s trundle was a row of some 30 markers – tiny tanks. So the score of just this one gun represented some 50 dead and as many or more wounded Allied soldiers.
Here’s some stuff on such Nazi guns from The Crucible. It closes the bombing segment.
” … the flak arm required some 900,000 men in 1943 and was still 636,000 strong in April, 1945.
“In March, 1942 … when Bomber Command had not yet launched its first “thousand” raid on the Ruhr there were almost 3,970 heavy flak guns deployed around German cities which could have been made into mobile artillery or bolstered anti-tank defences … By September, 1944, that number had grown to 10,225.
“Indeed, according to Albert Speer, of the 19,713 88-mm and 128-mm dual purpose flak/anti-tank guns produced between 1942 and 1944, only 3,172 could be allocated to the anti-armor role because of the pressure of air attack.”
So a lot of us on the ’44 invasion front got rolling and remained whole because some 10,000 88s and 128s were knocking down our bombers and only 1,000 or so were at hand to rip us apart.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, May 20, 1994
ID: 12403510
TAG: 199405190193
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It may surprise you that lawyers compromise less than half Jean Chretien’s 30 ministers, and just nine of them have had private practices. Of course, the latter experience is no guarantee of qualities or similarities.
This is a circular route to two lawyers big in this week’s news: Allan Rock, the minister of Justice, and Ron Irwin, the minister for Indian and Northern Affairs. Or one could say, the smoothest skater of the cabinet and its prototype of the bull in the china shop.
Why does putting such contrasts side by side appeal to me? It’s in the wry ironies of what the two were declaiming about this week.
Abruptly, and without caveats, Irwin stated what I imagined in the provenance of the prime minister or minister of Justice. He defined a right of the natives who live in what is now the province of Quebec. Given their “inherent right” to self-government, assured in the Liberal Red Book, Irwin told some 60,000 Cree, Mohawk, and Montagnais that they may take themselves and their lands away from a separated or sovereign Quebec.
What a far smaller and handier land mass this would leave the Quebecois to manage. Undoubtedly the huge partitioned acreage would either become part of mighty Ontario or an 11th province.
The ripples of sound and fury from this declaration by Irwin will spread and echo throughout the Canada-wide debate until the next referendum is done.
Where Irwin bulled and roared, the urbane Rock gave priority in two major statements of highly reasoned intentions of the Chretien government.
First, the Supreme Court must decide, quickly, whether the recent Federal Court decision on the taxation of child support payments should stand. Otherwise, there will be grand confusion and much litigation, and this will inhibit, perhaps confound, the magisterial task which Lloyd Axworthy has under way of a total reform of our social security system.
Rock also reinforced his quickly gained image as a crime-fighter and exponent of the law and order wisdom in the Red Book when he assured delegates departing the Liberal convention we shall soon have even more complex and stringent regulations on the sale and ownership of firearms, particularly handguns, than those instituted just a few years ago to fanfare by the previous government.
Irwin’s straightforwardness last week went beyond heralding a partition of any probable partition. After noting that many chiefs and many bands are hesitant about so-called self-government, he said this would not deter him from pushing bands into taking up actual self-governance.
And he’s determined to keep the momentum rolling in Manitoba where the assumption of handling affairs such as education, health, welfare and policing is under way under chiefs from the bands of the province, apparently with the approval or the acquiescence of the provincial government. The last point is significant, if you reflect on whether any government of Quebec would accept Ottawa’s promotion of such governance in its jurisdiction.
However crude or rude and upsetting you find the forthright Irwin, at least he’s been readier to force events in his realm than any previous minister. And to be frank about it.
After years where news from the aboriginal sector has been of whines, grievances, and blaming whitey, Irwin has forced action and opened up the wide variations in natives’ wants. And he’s put the natives of Quebec who, for reasons we all know, are as unbeloved there as Haitians, into a wonderful position of influence and for bargaining. Any unilateral declaration of independence stemming from the inherent right of a distinct people like the Quebecois to self-government may be, and probably would be countered by a second declaration, to the massive approval of those in the rest of Canada.
This is not subtle stuff, like Rock’s glib but involved excuses on the taxing of child support payments or his toss of another sop to those aghast over guns in private hands.
Though Irwin is probably off the mark on the merits of native self-government, he has been more open on a nearly certain consequence of Quebec separation than any federal minister in several decades.
Now, does Jean Chretien, a Quebecer, agree the Cree of Quebec may deed themselves and half of Quebec’s landmass to Canada, if they so choose?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 18, 1994
ID: 12403028
TAG: 199405170108
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Where are we on real participation by the public in our federal politics?
Last week’s busy, bubbly convention of the reigning Liberals could deceive one about such participation. Few of the conventioneers, like few of our millions of adults, were aware how busy the Ottawa political arena really was last week. So many interest groups and various authorities on issues were active but went unnoticed, even by those whose role is reporting.
What went on without notice shows the gap between the Canadian public and informed discussion of what our federal government is, or should be, about.
By “public” I mean the hundreds of thousands who get their news and analysis from the daily press and TV news and commentary. What they got last week was slight, given what went on in hearings of over a score of House and/or Senate committees.
The readiest answer why so much said in committees never reaches the public’s notice is that papers haven’t the space to print and the TV channels haven’t the time to display such variety and complexity, or even to precis it all.
Let’s recall recent events and a major critique of our politics, made vivid with the trek across the country by Keith Spicer and his constitutional task force. Our top politicians and the three major parties were shaping us toward the Charlottetown accord and this led to its presentation in a national referendum . . . and rejection!
Do you recall that many opinion-leaders lectured politicians for losing touch with the people. They said what they thought obvious: The people want a say, to have input. They were fed up with a politics dominated by interest groups.
And when last October’s election almost wiped out the Tories and the NDP and vaulted two odd parties into parliamentary prominence, this seemed further proof Canadians were fed up with being on the outside.
No doubt of it, the image created by this critique is both appealing and stirring: Our democracy as a great fishing hole where anybody and everybody casts or trolls.
Many years ago humorist A.J. Liebling used the fishing-hole image for the Washington press – almost all its reporters fishing the same place for the same fish.
Our prime fishing hole in Ottawa is the oral question period of the House and the scrums outside which follow. The biggest fish to be caught, of course, are the party leaders. Not many of the reporters range around or over the whole hole. Few mind committee hearings where much public policy is argued.
Last week some 23 parliamentary committees or sub-committees had public hearings. And roughly 60 interest groups or associations and more than 50 individuals presented briefs and answered questions. Four cabinet ministers came before committees and more than 50 senior federal mandarins were on hand for explanations. In over 120 hours of proceedings, some of the brightest and most opinionated citizens made their views known.
Just one part of one of the hearings made it fairly big in the papers and the newscasts. This was the Health committee’s session with spokesmen for R.J. Reynolds, the American tobacco outfit. (They were taken to be threatening economic sanctions.)
Some committees heard witnesses from Crown corporations such as VIA Rail, Central Mortgage and Housing (CMHC), and Canada Post. Federal endeavors such as Parks Canada, the commission for official languages and CSIS, the intelligence service, were heard. Be they economic, social, cultural, environmental, judicial, criminal, international, or military matters, there were hearings. An assiduous reader would need several weeks to cover all the briefs.
For example, the Industry committee continued its long pursuit of proposals for aiding small business and the Finance committee did the same with the GST. Committees reviewing defence policy and foreign policy were hard at it, advice coming from historians, military strategists, many of the “peace” outfits and from the array that clusters round the military and the defence industries.
The expertise and erudition, and sometimes the passion of opinion, from interest groups and individuals was often impressive and surely enlightening for the handful of MPs present. And a sensible appreciation of the variety, range, and depth in the proceedings of last week must conclude that the domination in public policy issues by interest groups and experts will continue and the general public will go on without direct input. Further, the media which most of us use did not, and probably could not, appraise and report much of what was offered and examined.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 15, 1994
ID: 12402338
TAG: 199405130112
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


Parliament can become a chokehole if the opposition gets windfalls from a government’s lack of foresight.
And so, the Bloc has Chretien and company in a squeeze over the bill to deal with the broken contracts at Pearson airport in Toronto; and Reform, followed somewhat by the Bloc, has a winner in an even more foolish bill (which has gone to the Senate) on redistribution.
The latter’s purpose was to insure the next election goes with the present ridings, not the adjusted ridings which would recognize the population shifts registered by the ’91 census.
The hoist of redistribution is stupid because no plausible reason for it was advanced, and it shafts the most westerly provinces and Ontario, and can be interpreted as protecting Quebec.
Cabinet is badly split on the bill. Most Liberal senators think it stupid because they remember what a Godsend for fairer politics it was when the Liberals in 1964 took redistribution away from the House.
One aim purported for the bill is to determine a sensible ceiling for the total seats in the House.
But this opens constitutional issues that are touchy. Not only Quebec’s diminishing proportion of seats, but in correcting the so-called “Senate floors” that guarantee P.E.I. in particular, but also the other Maritime provinces, more MPs than does strict representation by population.
How do the Grits get out of the redistribution box?
They may not brazen it through. And if they do, they may not declare the passed bill into law and divert setting a House ceiling to some neutrals.
Their semi-filibuster on the Pearson airport deal is very much a futures’ proposition for the Bloc MPs.
(By the way, the quality of the material used in their many speeches has been higher than in most such blockades.)
The Bloc senses the Liberals want to privatize operations at Pearson, in whole or in larger part than now. This means more contract propositions, probably another consortium, or two, to bid for the deal, and almost guarantees participation by those known as backers of Jean Chretien and the Liberal party.
Oh, the traps the Red Book’s righteousness sets for the Liberals.
My hunch is the Liberals will either leave provenance at Pearson largely as it is or delay another set of contract bids until after the threat of Quebec sovereignty has been met by a referendum victory. There’s more genuine urgency that the Liberals get going on replacing the Armed Forces’ aging helicopter fleet than privatizing Pearson.
Now, to the general import in politics of such angry passion as writer Peter Newman unleashed against Lucien Bouchard in the current Maclean’s. He detests “nice Nellyism.”
” … to hell with common sense, one-sided decency and compromise. You don’t win a country that way and you shouldn’t lose one either … Let’s leave no doubt … that our will to survive as one nation is at least as strong as his intention to turn himself into the first president of a socialist republic straddling the St. Lawrence Seaway.”
Thus far in the Commons not even the Reform MPs have taken such a ferocious line of attack against the Bloc although I sense from interviews that their mildness on separatism stems from a strategic decision by Preston Manning.
Lots of Liberal MPs would love to open up but they’re under the restraints which have gripped the parliamentary caucus since Lester Pearson as prime minister said that those of French stock in Canada who advocate separatism were not treasonous but exercising the internationally sanctioned right of national self-determination.
Since then our federation, unlike the American, thanks to Lincoln, has been divisible.
Anyone who scans a wide range of English-language dailies across the country spots a general difference on separatism between editorial comment and the views in letters to the editor.
Editorialists tend to be cautious, patient that the issue of divide or not is to be settled in the electoral and legislative arenas.
Letter-writers tend to be far fiercer. They seek pre-referendum toughness about terms – on financing, properties and land rights – if or when Quebecers persist and approve sovereignty.
Symbolically, Newman surely represents a strong majority view in English Canada. Practically, until the referendum vote is underway, it’s hard to see Jean Chretien talking so tough.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, May 13, 1994
ID: 12401664
TAG: 199405120121
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Unlike its predecessor, this House of Commons has not been buffeted by serious rows over procedure. And it has been just mildly ruffled by so-called questions of privilege, most raised over “unparliamentary language” and almost all readily withdrawn.
There’s a web of explanations for the docility but first off, not much of it stems from the sagacity or firmness of the House Speaker, Gilbert Parent. His official surrogates are three other Liberal MPs: Deputy Speaker David Kilgour and Shirley Maheu and Bob Kilger, the two deputy chairs.
Of course, the opposition benches have few experienced parliamentarians who know procedure and rules of order or how to exploit them. And as significant to good order so far is the theme of adult behavior without partisan vituperation which the Reformers brought in and to which, by and large, they’ve stuck. Stuck, and been typecast as a dreary opposition by reporters whose daily product depends so much on the oral question period’s histrionics.
An uprecedented usage of French has also helped courtliness and cut crossfire. The Bloc MPs stick very much to French and they get and take the most speaking time. Their French usage means much that’s said flies past the unilingual English MPs, some two-thirds of the whole.
Also, Lucien Bouchard early determined the Bloc would take the high road in the House, and he and his MPs rarely run to rank negativism, however cogent their critical analysis. Several of the BQ’s busiest performers model the the civil bearing and behavior which they acquired in the Quebec National Assembly, a dignified institution when compared to the Commons or the rackety Ontario Legislature.
Of the nine MDP MPs, eight are veterans of a busy caucus that used every device to attack the Mulroney government and hold up legislation. But the NDP hasn’t yet rallied to steady House duty nor to exploiting the rules as they once did.
A final credit for a surprisingly equable, rather smooth and unexciting House comes from the great host of government MPs, overwhelmingly so for Ontario and the Atlantic provinces. Maritimers in opposition have long been capital whiners. As for Ontario – just a lone Reform MP is in opposition!
Opposition MPs from Ontario have always fed into the question period and debates material for attack and protest provided by the biggest dailies, the networks’ main bureaus and the most powerful business interests, most of which centre in Toronto. To this stage, aside from John Nunziata and Eugene Bellemare, Grit MPs from the Ontario swarm have not gotten on to contentious stuff in House time. And only Bellemare of the Liberal backbenchers has taken to scorching the BQ and Reform MPs with scornful invective.
Further, only one cabinet minister, Ron Irwin (Indian Affairs) has gone looking for House trouble.
This exposition on a more peaceable House than we’ve known ends with a reiteration that all this relative harmony doesn’t owe much to a dextrous speakership. And this gets to the storms which may be ahead.
The calm in the House, and also in almost all its many committee hearings, owes much to pussyfooting on our most continuing, fundamental issue. We all know it. It’s been with us since 1759 and the the Plains of Abraham.
Despite their responsible behavior, the open purpose of the BQ reminds us of Lord Durham’s vision in the 1830s: The two nations warring in the bosom of a single state.
Is it fanciful to think such unvenomous courtliness over federalism and sovereignty and separatism can last for another year, let alone the whole parliament? Yes, it is.
The potential for a vicious, even riotous House, even a stalled House, lies in the Bloc’s aims and their rights as Official Opposition and with a prime minister from Quebec who’s been in federalism’s van for 30 years. If, prompted by Quebec events, the issue explodes in the House, the question becomes vital: Have the House officers the skills and the will to keep proceedings going?
It’s gone unnoticed but Speaker Parent is not emerging as a keen student of the rules or able to handle adroitly any procedural or behavioral challenge. While most benign he’s slow on the uptake and his neutralism is shaky. Thus far he’s bumbled through each of the few “order” problems. Although far quicker, Kilgour, his deputy, is more voluble, didactic, and hard-edged. Oddly, neither is as adept at reading and handling the House as Bob Kilger, a deputy chair (and a former junior hockey coach and NHL official).
Anyway . . . the House may get out of hand when the Quebecois storm breaks.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 11, 1994
ID: 12401150
TAG: 199405100084
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The election last October put some 200 new members into the House of Commons. This mob is roughly 50% Liberal, 25% BQ and 25% Reform. As a whole the fresh cast is impressive in talent and energy.
What follows is a pair of lists, noting those whose work on the Hill so far indicates they will be very able MPs.
The first short list is simple: Eight MPs who already stand out and seem sure to be prominent and durable. The second, longer list is by party (and within it, by province) and may give too much notice to early opportunities. Picks from the BQ are few, largely because they perform in French and I cannot.
First, those who can’t miss.
HERB DHALIWAL (Liberal, Vancouver South). Parliamentary secretary to Fisheries minister. It’s unfortunate this very bright and well-spoken Sikh Canadian (unturbanned) refused a place in the cabinet. Potentially the best bet in the Grit pack.
BOB RINGMA (Reform, Nanaimo-Cowichan). Oldest Reform MP and an apostle of common sense. An ex-general, he’s knowledgable, reasonable, bilingual and argumentatively cogent. He’s doing much to stabilize a caucus with a surfeit of priorities and egos.
RAY SPEAKER (Reform, Lethbridge). He should be good on his feet, given a quarter-century as an Alberta MLA, with a stint as minister. His grasp on federal-provincial matters is strong but his outlook is not parochial.
ELSIE WAYNE (PC, Saint John). Shrewd in comment, sharp in repartee, and more energetic and unbowed than one expects from the new half of Tory representation in the House.
JANE STEWART (Liberal, Brant). More emotional and less laconic than her father and grandfather (the Nixons, former Ontario Liberal leaders). Best bet for long-term prominence among a handful of interesting new Liberal women.
WAYNE EASTER (Liberal, Malpaque). Grits now have a dozen farmers but Easter stands out as a former high-level agitator, and he may go further in government than his base in P.E.I. suggests. He is pushy, glib, well-informed and a natural at brokering cabinet, caucus and the lobby groups.
SUZANNE TREMBLAY (BQ, Rimouski-Timiscouata). Surely the MP of the year! A long-time teacher (law) she’s bowled rivals over with her range and research.
MICHEL GAUTHIER (BQ, Roberval). No. 2 to Lucien Bouchard in attention-getting. Like Ray Speaker, an all-rounder in the House, he shows worth of a decade in the National Assembly.
And now for the second list . . .
HEDY FRY (Vancouver-Centre). Secretary to minister of Health. Top pick of caucus colleagues as most outstanding, as yet she’s not done much in the open on the Hill
REG ALCOCK (Winnipeg South). May be far back in party’s priority list in Manitoba but he’s a well-educated striver.
JOHN GODFREY (Don Valley West). More modest and adroit at chairing House cultural affairs committee than his brio and gall as educator and publisher heralded.
MARIA MINNA (Beaches-Woodbine). Much admired in caucus and, like Fry, has poise, elocution and polish from much committee-going.
BARRY CAMPBELL (St. Paul’s). A fierce self-promoter in a swarm of Metro thrusters, he’s ungainly but destined to move up as relative and protege of Chretien’s “minder,” Eddie Goldenberg.
SUSAN WHELAN (Essex-Windsor). Secretary to minister of National Revenue, she’s less folksy than her famous father but just as determined.
JOHN ENGLISH (Kitchener). Secretary to Marcel Masse, the cabinet’s bureaucracy czar, he’s Pearson’s biographer but neither stuffy nor arcane.
PAUL ZED (Fundy-Royal). Young protege of both Romeo Leblanc and Premier Frank McKenna and married to an Irving, he is very forceful but hasn’t a safe seat.
CHUCK STRAHL (Fraser Valley East). Almost a perfect prospect for high places, with good appearance, voice and diction.
HERB GRUBEL Capilano-Howe Sound). A character and a conservative economist who’s clear in exposition and frank in opinions.
JAN BROWN (Calgary Southeast). A spry and busy natural! Reminds me of Flora MacDonald (but wittier).
IAN McCLELLAND (Edmonton Southwest). Urbane, confident, persistent, and readier than most Reformrs to pursue the topical.
ELWIN HERMANSON (Kindersley-Lloydminster). A Mennonite and farmer who’s caught on fast to House practices.
FRANCOIS LANGLOIS (Bellechasse). An excellent deputy for Bouchard, not so much as talker but for wide reach over issues.
YVAN LOUBIER (Saint Hyacinthe-Bagot). He’s at home with fiscal and monetary stuff, of course with a Quebec-as-a-state viewpoint.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 08, 1994
ID: 12400536
TAG: 199405060133
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


What a blowout is under way in the media about D-Day and the Normandy invasion 50 years ago.
Of our population of 29 million, less than a third were alive in 1944. Of the 100,000 or so Canadians who went to France to fight and who survived that summer, less than half are with us.
The news hype means it will be the rare Canadian who won’t know that his or her countrymen were there in France – fighting, suffering and dying – or that after three months of bitter battles, they were victors and part of the Allies’ surge to the western perimeter of Nazi Germany.
One reason there will be much substance to the Canadian coverage in print and on television is a little-known service in the National Defence department, the directorate of general history (DGHist).
This small unit stemmed from the leadership of the late Charles Stacey, a great historian, who was backed by Lester Pearson. It has been productive in terms of books and reports on Canadians at war and at providing study materials for those who want to understand or write or film who did what and where and how. It’s little known here, but anyone who tracks what American, British, and French historians and journalists have been producing about World War II notes the respect given and the usage made of the work and files of DGHist.
And it is an ironic consequence of slashes in defence spending that DGHist has been ordered to dispense with almost half its civilian personnel (of 28). This means firing half a dozen able historians and researchers, including those who’ve given us fine books on Vimy and Dieppe and the RCAF.
We have done great things together in the past, and must do so again, perhaps in wars, certainly in keeping the peace, here and beyond. We need to know, in particular our armed services and the administrators and politicians who direct them, what happened, why decisions were made, why operations turned out as they did.
My interest in arguing with Liberal ministers and MPs that this small group in an organization of some 100,000 service and civilian personnel should be left intact is also personal. I spent most of World War II at the manufacture of fighter planes or in the armored corps and I write a regular column for war veterans in the Royal Canadian Legion’s magazine. So it seems most stupid to me that the military we have and will continue to have, as well as the general population, should be short-changed on the data and experiences of the past in appraising who and where we are in the world and what our course should be.
Not only does the official historian and the personnel of the directorate make past operations and policies intelligible to current policy makers, but whoever holds the post has the responsibility of seeing the armed forces meet one of their most important obligations: Reaching out beyond past members of the services, the academic and other informed members of the national community to Canadians at large.
Such a statement seems mere common sense. My sources indicate, unfortunately, that neither Gen. John de Chastelain, the chief of the defence staff, nor R.R. Fowler, the deputy minister, has much feeling for the directorate’s worth nor any readiness to stop it from reduction to inanity.
Let me illustrate how DGHist serves our broader understanding by mentioning two splendid, topical paperbacks. Their authors depended enormously on its resources and acknowledge this.
The first is Bloody Victory: Canadians and the D-Day Campaign, 1944, by Jack Granatstein and Desmond Morton. The second is A Canadian’s Guide to the Battlefields of Normandy, by Terry Copp.
Of course, DGHist means more than archives and histories about Canada in the world wars. For example, it has just completed a thorough study of French Canadians and Bilingualism in the Canadian Armed Forces by Serge Bernier and Jean Pariseau, and it’s working on a book on peacekeeping and another on the recent Gulf War and Canada’s part in it.
The widespread myth has it that Canada as a nation has been unwarlike and essentially peace-loving, and in this we differ from both the British or the Americans. This explains both why we are an unhistorical lot who allegedly ignore the military strands in the web of our history and why there’s been much debunking of our warriors and their achievements, notably by the CBC and the NFB.
Follow the riot of D-Day stuff in the coming weeks. See whether the myth is real.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, May 06, 1994
ID: 13026020
TAG: 199405050127
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report
SERIES: Part 2 of 2



Anyone who rates federal ministers must check their performances, roughly in this order of salience:
1) House work, most notably in question period, then in the post-QP media scrums;
2) Stature in the ministry, the caucus, and the party;
3) Savoir-faire or lack of it in relations with the PM, the press, and the interest groups which cluster round a department;
4) Input to the affairs of his or her own bailiwick;
5) Reputation earned from dealing with premiers and provincial ministers.
Here’s a rating of the present ministry, by province.
B.C. – Its two ministers, David Anderson (National Revenue) and Ray Chan (Asia-Pacific) have not done well. Anderson has gall but not much common sense, and he’s no heavy hitter on the West Coast. Chan is an odd, ethnic indulgence of the PM.
ALBERTA – Anne McLellan in Natural Resources is quite dreary and without force, even in her department; and thus Sen. Joyce Fairbairn, a partisan but smooth Hill veteran, is anchor in a province always tough for Grits.
SASKATCHEWAN – Ralph Goodale at Agriculture is positive, gabby, and elusive under attack. He’s been one of Chretien’s better ministers so far.
MANITOBA – Lloyd Axworthy is simply the most important minister behind Chretien because of presence, toughness, a big burden for which he has plans, and the respect of the backbench. Jon Gerrard, the secretary for Science, Research, etc., has been a House zilch but some scientists say he’s bright.
ONTARIO – Twelve ministers! Only one of them, Alan Rock (Justice) is doing exceptionally well. He has a succinct candor while on his feet; however, Justice is usually early duck-soup for its minister (see Turner, Trudeau, Crosbie, etc.).
Herb Gray’s mired in House stuff and a stupid bill to block redistribution. At Trade, Roy MacLaren is quaintly idiosyncratic but a loner. Sheila Copps is mere hard shell without core, a too familiar caricature of yak! So far John Manley at Industry is far below expectations – too cold, too careful – but it’s too soon to dub him a dud. David Collenette’s been low-key but steady in Defence. Art Eggleton at Treasury Board has kept out of trouble but he neither shines in the House nor has enough smash as a personality to earn and hold the party boss role in Metro. At Immigration, Sergio Marchi’s bumbling into the confusion and contradictions which come with a wooly mind, prolix prose, and a sappy benevolence.
The northerly twain, Diana Marleau (Health) and Ron Irvin (Indian Affairs), have even their colleagues cringing. She may rebound by defending medicare’s integrity. He’s very bumptious and needs miracles. Christine Stewart talks well and looks better and is underexposed as minister for Latin America and Africa. The other Ontario minor minister, Doug Peters at International Financial Institutions is now seen as a likely alternative to Manley or MacLaren, even to Paul Martin.
As yet Ontario has neither a dominant minister nor any solid, working duo or troika, and this situation, aggravated by the swarm of thrusting MPs the party has in the province, means some early moving and adding for Chretien.
QUEBEC – Chretien himself has done splendidly, a 9 out of 10 show, Martin at Finance has been adequate rather than brilliant. He is more appealing to the public and to his caucus than most men who’ve had the role but he’s far from home-free. So too for Andre Ouellet at Foreign Affairs, a veteran schemer whom reporters tend to mistrust. He’s been competent without scintillating in a portfolio more newsy than usual. The two ex-mandarins in the cabinet, Michel Dupuy, who handles cultural affairs, and Marcel Masse, who minds the bureaucracy, are from weak to ordinary in a parliamentary way. They’ve made few friends with fellow MPs but (I gather) they’re busy and useful in their parts of government. Sheila Finestone’s earnest and innocuous as the minister tending women and the ethnickers.
In Quebec Chretien badly needs a younger Quebecois, a Jean Charest sort.
NEW BRUNSWICK – Doug Young at Transport is coming on strongly. He, not Brian Tobin or David Dingwall, already seems the minister for the Atlantic provinces. Fern Robichaud to whom Chretien owed his previous seat has had small scope from Herb Gray as minister for Parliamentary Affairs.
NOVA SCOTIA – In style and practice Ron Dingwall is a pre-modern Grit more destined for the Senate than for fame.
P.E.I. – Lawrence Macaulay has Veterans Affairs – safe and usually quiet.
NEWFOUNDLAND – Fisheries has become as mean and bootless for its minister as Indian Affairs. It’s befallen blustering Brian Tobin and he may sink, not swim, in it.
TERRITORIES – There are more best wishes for Ethel Blondin-Andrew than any other minister, but she’s not yet rolling with Training and Youth.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 04, 1994
ID: 13025701
TAG: 199405030093
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report
SERIES: Part 1 of 2



One should not push the sporting metaphor of an all-star team too far for any federal ministry, certainly not Jean Chretien’s first one. Yes, the electorate gave him a huge talent bank – notably from Ontario, less so from B.C. and Alberta – but there were other factors in play beyond ability and geography in his choices, such as rewarding past backers.
In this column the context for judging a ministry is outlined; in Friday’s column an opinion is offered on each minister.
The context must begin with how ministers are chosen. One must begin with provincial representation.
Unlike Pierre Trudeau, Chretien did have choices in each province, even Alberta. These are the number of ministers and of Liberal MPs, by province: B.C. 2 (6); Alberta 2 (4); Saskatchewan 1 (5); Manitoba 2 (12); Ontario 12 (98); Quebec 6 (19); New Brunswick 2 (9); Nova Scotia 1 (11); Newfoundland 1 (7); P.E.I. 1 (4); Territories 1 (2).
The total of ministers is 31, one of whom is Alberta senator, Joyce Fairbairn. All but eight are members of the cabinet. The eight who are not are the almost new-fangled secretaries of state, each with a subject responsibility. Some of these seem slight, even make-work, like the secretary of state for Asia-Pacific given to Raymond Chan, a Chinese-Canadian MP from B.C.
The Grit sweep of all but one of Ontario’s 99 seats is recognized in the ministerial numbers. Of course, more numbers means more vulnerability and next column we will notice the already obvious frailties of Ontario’s dozen. Not one has flowered as either a cabinet anchor or the linchpin of the Liberal party in the province.
Awarding Quebec only six ministers is daring, but one is the prime minister, another has the usual No. 2 post in Finance, and a third, Andre Ouellet, has Foreign Affairs, often ranked No. 3. Also, eight of the 18 Quebec MPs behind Chretien are anglos.
Once chosen, ministers should be appraised in relation to the roles in which, and the venues where, they may be judged. Far easier said than done, in part because much of their work is out of public sight.
For sheer importance, how a minister is seen to do in the daily question period, and its consequent media scrums, rates first, far ahead of the unseen performances within weekly caucus or the cabinet room. Another question is often undivinable: Does the minister really manage the work of the department or agencies or is he or she merely a front?
Almost as important in making judgments is the scale of the national responsibility in an assignment, and then the scale of its difficulty. Usually the minister of Finance is at the top of the first scale and the Indian Affairs minister at the top of the second. Of course, for the governing party’s fortunes, Finance is much more crucial.
Over my years of observation the most controversial ministries, in which it has been hard to shine for very long, have been Indian and Northern Affairs and Immigration, whereas the less controversial ones, which usually offer either good chances to glow or to be safe, have been Justice, Defence, Trade, Transport, and Agriculture. The most innocuous, most of the time, have been National Revenue and Environment. “Energy” is now “Natural Resources” and no longer the dicey post it was through the ’70s and most of the ’80s.
What’s the mix of parliamentary experience in this ministry?
There are four long-term MPs with much cabinet time: Chretien himself, Herb Gray, “dean” of the House; Andre Ouellet; and Lloyd Axworthy. Two others, David Collenette and Roy Maclaren, were in later Trudeau ministries. Sixteen Chretien ministers were in previous Parliaments, but as mere MPs, and only eight are new MPs. So, about one-quarter of the ministers are very green.
There are seven women ministers. Chretien would have been in deep trouble if he’d chosen fewer. Why distinguish this if we are focusing on context? In large part because women ministers tend to get more notice, often over-kind or supportive, but also often volatile and critical, and easily turning to vicious. (Current examples of this: Diane Marleau and Sheila Copps.)
Four of the women are in the cabinet: Copps, deputy PM and minister of the Environment; Joyce Fairbairn, leader in the Senate; Marleau with Health; and Anne McLellan with Natural Resources. Three women are secretaries of state: Sheila Finestone, Multiculturalism and Status of Women; Ethel Blondin-Andrew, Training and Youth, and Christine Stewart (Latin America and Africa).
None of the seven has yet been a smashing success, but neither have more than three of the 24 male ministers.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 01, 1994
ID: 13025393
TAG: 199404290156
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


Six months of a new government and 11 weeks of a new House make grist for assessment.
What’s now clear about the party leaders? The cabinet? The respective caucuses? The performances open to view in question period, debates and committee proceedings?
There’s material in all that for many columns. This one just ranges around the leaders, the next will weigh the cabinet and the third will note some MPs whose futures seems promising.
The leaders?
It’s A+ for the BQ’s Lucien Bouchard; an A for PM Jean Chretien; and a B for Reform’s Preston Manning.
It’s mean to judge the NDP’s Audrey McLaughlin and Tory Jean Charest. Their parliamentary chances are few, and Charest has preferred to beat across the country. His candor and sunny personality are intact, and he could be a significant leader, long-range. But not now – not for several years.
By both quitting the leadership and staying with it, McLaughlin has shrunk an already meagre status on the Hill for the benefit of a party most unsure of itself and with few good alternatives to her. She’s sturdy and she’s there, trying, despite the few chances the House affords her.
Chretien bestrides his cabinet and caucus and presently shines in public opinion in parliamentary terms, including policy themes. But he hasn’t been quite as impressive as Bouchard. This judgment is largely because it gets clearer by the week that he doesn’t have a strong or vivid cast of ministers, whereas Bouchard has energized, inspired, and somehow disciplined into coherence a big band of rookies.
Half a dozen of Chretien’s ministers seem useless or worse; not many look promising for the long haul. This is hardly the cabinet Mitchell Sharp envisaged of strong departmental ministers who concentrate on policy and public performance, and let the mandarins execute the administration. This is made plain, in part, because Chretien is so much on his feet and has no real lieutenant. At times he seems the only firefighter and there are more and more fires for him to douse. So far he’s been making a very good fist of it, but it’s very much a one-man show.
Bouchard has rocked a lot of us, not so much in able questioning or speech-making but by fashioning a formidable, well-prepared opposition from so much green talent.
One may dislike the BQ’s themes and values but concede its good, consistent performances, even on issues outside the pale of Quebec like the Toronto airport contracts.
Chretien has been quick and crafty in ploys and scornful rebukes in handling Bouchard and Manning, the BQ and Reform, in the House.
Day to day there’s more wit and grace and less of the much scoffed, guttural bumpkin than some of us expected. But, to repeat, his ministry’s not much and he’s beginning to hurt from a surfeit of ambitious MPs with not enough to do, in particular his Ontario mob from which he drew some very lame ministers.
Manning’s shakedown or “running in” has been awkward and uneven, in part because of the hostility to him and what he’s seen to symbolize to so many reporters, particularly the female ones, who hammer at every contradiction and paradox they can ferret out.
And Manning has a diverse caucus – lots of fascinating experience but many simplistic attitudes, notably moralizing from a pulpit of virtue.
Preston Manning has failed to de-emphasize, let alone alter, the circus-like farce of question period. He and his crew have not shifted the public focus to legislative debate, and they’re now part of the daily show’s hypocrisy. Although Reformers’ questions have not had the trite front-end load of malice and accusation, their reiterated ethical appeals are almost as deadening as the old Rat Pack invective.
The Reform leader has done best at keeping his temper and a good-natured, reasonableness in the face of the critical array who write Reformers off as bigoted reactionaries. He’s also been unselfish in letting those around him show their stuff. As yet, however, he’s been unable to generate or direct as much quick and substantial analysis, day to day, on legislation or for committees, as the Bloc.
And a parallel flaw comes from Reform’s slowness in developing detailed policy positions which go beyond frugality and moralizing.
Of course, in weighing Manning’s moderate show so far against Bouchard’s starry one, we must remember he’s on a much longer road than Bouchard and the Bloc.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, April 29, 1994
ID: 13025097
TAG: 199404280194
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Yes, compromise is the prime ploy of our political games. And so it was, even regarding sport itself.
Wednesday, after 90 minutes of speech-making by 14 MPs, a cautious government fudged away from legislating the obvious – that hockey has been, and is, Canada’s national sport. Instead, they voted to make it just the national “winter” sport, adding lacrosse as the national “summer” sport.
Lacrosse is a game only played and followed today in a few places in the country, and comes far behind either softball or hardball in number of players and followers during our summers. Of course, hockey is, and has been, our game for over seven decades.
Ah well, this seasonal designation gives bold legislators like Nelson Riis (NDP) who sponsored Wednesday’s bill the chance to amend the act some day. Make Canadian football the “fall” sport. (Consider the Grey Cup as nation-building.) Make marbles, even better, basketball, our “spring” sport. (Didn’t an Ottawa Valley man invent the hoop game and give it to America?)
In passing let me note that two Reform and two BQ MPs who spoke for double-barrelling national sport were sensitive about spending parliamentary time (and money) on something frivolous alongside unemployment, deficits, etc.
Let me explain my next comments with the note that Canadian sporting history has been a life-long hobby. From such reading, etc. I have to say that none of the speakers showed familiarity with our outstandingly inventive sporting past. The best (and most succinct) fist of the subject was made by Sharon Hayes, a Reformer from Port Moody-Coquitlam.
Albina Guarnieri, the parliamentary secretary for “heritage” moved the lacrosse gambit, hinting at, rather than openly explaining why. The natives! Our First People. Lacrosse is their game and heritage. We must not affront them. Let us officially recognize lacrosse for their sake.
Such a line would be reasonable if many Indians today played or followed lacrosse. None anywhere, so far as I know, regularly plays lacrosse in the gang-game way of many tribes into the early 19th century. Such games faded away after the young, white, English-speaking men of Montreal took up the idea of lacrosse and gave it form and rules.
Far more Indians in Canada now play hockey than either field lacrosse or box lacrosse. The first was organized with rules, leagues and a governing association by Montrealer George Beers in the 1860s. He’s the zealot who fashioned the myth (which had no basis in fact) that lacrosse was designated Canada’s national game “by act of Parliament at Confederation.”
Box lacrosse, a rousing, rugged game, was developed some 60 years ago, and in a modified form it’s still played competitively in a score or so communities in Southern Ontario and in B.C.’s lower mainland. Despite its merits, its chances for a genuine national status are nil. Soccer and volleyball, let alone baseball, are in the way.
There are several oddities about hockey’s origins and development. We know without contradiction from historians that George Beers fathered organized lacrosse in Montreal and James A.Naismith, an able McGill gymnast, invented basketball while doing YMCA work in New England. But few know that a Haligonian, James George Alwyn Creighton, an engineer and a skilled skater, played a similar role for hockey.
Creighton was of a prosperous family and as a youth he helped Sir Sanford Fleming survey the line for the Intercolonial Railway. Then he came to study law at McGill in the early 1870s. Student lacrosse players were the nucleus he got together to play hockey, using the relatively new Montreal Victoria indoor rink. This was in 1875. In the next decade hockey took root in Montreal and spread slowly west to Ottawa and Kingston.
Creighton had a part in the sudden boom of hockey through Ontario and the West in the 1890s by getting the sons of Governor General Stanley into skating and then into hockey. Their Rideau Hall team and enthusiasm quickly popularized hockey across Canada.
There’s some irony that in Wednesday’s parliamentary debate on sport, the catalyst of organized hockey was mentioned just once and that without much explanation by Hayes. Post-Montreal, Creighton worked on Parliament Hill for 48 years. From 1882-1930 he was the law clerk of the Senate. In fact, at 80 and still in office he fell dead in the Rideau Club across the street.
This bill honoring hockey and lacrosse must be approved by the Senate. If senators want to recognize the role of a long-time servant of their institution they could do it in the title of the act. Yes, being Canadian they would have to consider the natives, and so declare it be known as the Creighton-Beers act.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 27, 1994
ID: 13024828
TAG: 199404260133
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


A riding sometimes sends an unheralded genius to the opposition seats in the House of Commons, one who figuratively flies from the start. Such an MP usually blends ideas, energy and adroitness in research.
Some examples who will make the history books, like them or not, have been the CCF-NDP’s Stanley Knowles; Tories, Ged Baldwin and Erik Nielsen (in opposition!); and, still in place, Svend Robinson of the NDP.
A fresh MP of this sort, Suzanne Tremblay of the BQ, may be on the Hill too briefly to become a totem like Knowles or Baldwin, but on performance so far she’s of their quality.
Tremblay is 57, a law teacher, and is plain and unadorned in appearance and mannerisms, a contrast to several svelte and quite histrionic caucus colleagues. Hers is a boondocks riding – Rimouski-Temiscouta – and her House assignment is federal cultural activity. She’s been brisk and assured in the House and in committee. In preparations, she’s been ahead of the other MPs, opposition or Liberal. While direct and sometimes fierce, she’s not at all Coppsian with any trolling for media notice.
The stock, partisan animus hardly figures in Tremblay’s technique, but data-based analysis does. In a similar way the cultural critic of the Liberals in the last House, Sheila Finestone, had excellent research material, say on the CBC or the NFB or the Canada Council, but she would always flub its worth with woolly observations and meandering questions.
Let me give a sample of Tremblay at work, taken from issue No. 5 of the Heritage committee proceedings which reviewed the order-in-council appointment of Tony Manera to the presidency of the CBC. As Grit chairman John Godfrey put it, its purpose was “for us to get to know him a little better.”
Manera opened with a homey sketch of his life and some broad blarney on his vision of the CBC’s future, including the going platitudes about the electronic highway and the 500 channel universe. When he stopped, on came La Tremblay. In her allotted time she put Manera on the defensive and staked out future argumentative grounds about the CBC for the Bloc.
She was pleased to have a chance to ask questions.
“First of all, I would like to hear a little about the strategies you have in mind to better comply with the act, which provides that efforts should be made to give the two networks, the French and the English, equivalent quality.” (My emphasis.)
There – for the Bloc – she goes straight at the heart of their matter. Then she raised evidence recently put to the CRTC on “an imbalance in funding for the French network compared to the English network.”
Tremblay unrolled comparative program costs, unabashedly noting that the CBC had already challenged such data. She then took apart this response, spoofing its logic, then shifting to the topic made so tender for the CBC by recent rebukes by Keith Spicer of the CRTC over the lousy ratings of CBC-TV’s English network. Her succinct analysis made it mathematically obvious that if viewers are of value, the CBC French networks give much more value for each programming dollar spent than for each dollar spent by the English network.
“You say that 33% of francophones watch your programs, which amounts to 2.2 million people. Then you go into greater detail. You say that two million watch a particular program, two million another, and so forth. Moreover, you tell us that the ratings for English language programing is 13%. However, in this case, strangely, you do not go into detail.
“You forget to point out that this 13% of the English-speaking population who watch programs on CBC totals 2.8 million people. So the figure of 2.8 million compared to 2.2 million on the French side. So there is not a very large difference between the ratings. . . . The seven most popular programs were produced in French in Quebec, either by Radio-Canada or by TVA . . . The seven most watched programs by anglophones came from the United States.
“There is a flagrant injustice here. Not so long ago, at the end of the 1970s, the CBC spent about the same on French as English programs.”
Tremblay wanted explanations for the widening gap, and her turn as interrogator being done, she had to leave the floor to Manera and other MPs.
The CBC president waffled, rebutting Tremblay with the line she should not look at input in dollars but at the output in results (and what that meant was very vague).
Manera never did get produce a good, specific rebuttal to Tremblay such as English TV programming earning so much more revenue from advertising than French programs. As for the Bloc, Tremblay has made its theme line clear regarding the CBC, and she can and will exploit it further, to telling effect, at least in Quebec.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Monday, April 25, 1994
ID: 13024615
TAG: 199404240216
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Democracy must take its course.
Voting freely for the first time, a majority of South Africans will select Nelson Mandela as their first black president this week.
While this process is inevitable it may not be the best outcome for South Africa.
Mandela is a man of immense stature, and accomplishment. After a lifetime of punishment, the 75-year-old Nobel Prize winner is patient, generous and incredibly forgiving to those who have oppressed him.
But Mandela starts his presidency with a few grave weaknesses.
He has virtually no control over millions of angry and heavily armed young supporters who are spoiling for a fight with the Inkatha Freedom Party. Tied to this is a huge and growing conundrum about who is fit to succeed the leader many Africans lovingly refer to as “the old man.”
And if Mandela isn’t a communist himself, he has a lot of close advisers who are.
Communism has been thoroughly discredited almost everywhere, including nearby Mozambique and Angola. But going to an ANC rally is like entering a time warp.
With a straight face, ANC members still routinely greet each other as “comrades.”
Banners are hoisted celebrating Lenin and Marx and the hammer and sickle.
It all fits in nicely with the ANC’s main campaign rallying cry, which is a Castro-style “Viva Mandela.”
Therefore it’s only natural that South Africa’s Communist Party leader, Joe Slovo, is ranked fourth on the ANC’s list of 199 candidates for parliament and is one of only a few whites assured of a senior cabinet position in the next government.
Mandela has softened a bit of his socialist rhetoric recently on such topics as state ownership.
But he still does a dreadful job of explaining how land reform is compatible with his promise that white South Africans will not be forced to sell or surrender any of their land.
The ANC leader has also offered no logical explanation of how an ANC government will pay for two million new jobs he has promised within two years or the one million houses he has promised by next April – without raising taxes.
The only solution offered is that part of the funds will come from fresh tax revenues generated by a robust South African economy and from a reduction in public spending.
By this Mandela means two things; the so-called peace dividend which will result from a supposedly slimmer army and the savings which will result because the government will no longer have to provide duplicate services to the white, colored and black communities.
These pie-in-the-sky forecasts ignore the fact that the economy is practically moribund, that public money will be needed to pay for nine provincial bureaucracies instead of the current four, and that the peace dividend comes up against widespread public disorder and the ANC’s stated intention to incorporate about 15,000 of its own soldiers into the South African Defense Force.
It is worth noting that the ANC’s probable choice for defence minister recently went on a shopping expedition to Europe where he visited with missile, computer and jet-engine executives in England and France.
This can hardly be an encouraging omen for the South African treasury or for the country’s shaky peace process.
The problem with the rogue’s gallery of men and women in the ANC leadership who aspire to succeed Mandela is that all are less forgiving and less patient than he, and many of them seem to encourage violence.
Of those who might become South Africa’s second black president his hate-spewing estranged wife, Winnie, is the most intriguing and unsettling possibility.
Winnie Mandela is like an unstoppable virus coarsing through the ANC’s veins.
Nelson finally distanced himself from her after she was implicated by the courts in the murder of a teenage boy.
But after lying low for a few months, she has bounced back bigger and louder than ever as the head of the ANC’s militant Women’s League.
Now, while Mrs. Mandela fends off fresh charges that she has had her hand in the till, she continues to make inflammatory comments.
One of her most outrageous themes is that whites should be given necklaces – that is, they should be tied up with tires around their necks and set ablaze.
With allies like this, Mandela’s greatest difficulties may not be with Inkatha, white facists or the gun-happy boys from the Pan Africanist Congress.
Mandela takes over a beautiful and fantastically rich country that his own political party may render ungovernable.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 24, 1994
ID: 13024473
TAG: 199404220132
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


For most of us, a sojourn through the U.S. means parallels and contrasts between Americans and ourselves.
A recent trip left me maundering more on presidents and former presidents than I expected.
By and large, the media’s appraisals of the incumbent (and his wife) are relentless and often vicious; on the other hand, ex-presidents are glossed with piety (witness the response to Richard Nixon’s illness).
But it wasn’t primarily to Bill Clinton or to Nixon, the “sage” at death’s door, that I was looking in my travels. It was for the big issues gripping America. And the answer is that these are so various none stands out.
For example, do they match us in fretting, over jobs, jobs, jobs? Are they as morose as we are over the seemingly perpetual curse of public deficits and debt burdens?
To both questions, the short answer is no.
The imperative of more jobs is more bothersome in some regions than in the entire nation, but although the recession’s lingering in many places, this is not a nation in gloom about its economy.
As for the grimness of public debt, it’s a second-rank topic among letters to newspaper editors, and there’s far less awareness of debt burden than in Canada.
Have Americans anything, say in black-white relations or the burgeoning of the Hispanics in the sunshine states, that seems as nation-shaking as the aspirations in Quebec for sovereignty or separation which threaten our make-up? Again, no!
In many locales one may see or sense the rub of racial tensions, and the topics of multiculturalism and ethnicities get mulled over, usually more openly than in Canada. Rarely, however, does the depictions or analysis suggest a national crisis because old American values are falling apart. There seems little demand that the executive or the Congress in Washington do something about racism or bias, say through more educational spending or tighter immigration controls.
And although one finds lots of discussion or notice of issues about women, or gays, or the environment, none of these dominates public attention.
We are small stuff in global politics whereas our neighbor is still the world colossus in military and economic matters. What’s afoot in the American public arena on global politics? Are Americans agonizing over problems in Bosnia or over Israel-Arab relations or the shakedown into economic chaos of so much of the former USSR?
Well, remarkably few Americans seem to be paying much attention to international affairs. Crime and punishment matters at home, rather than abroad, rank far higher.
The nastiness generated by the national media which envelopes the Clinton White House is centred far more on the characters and past of the president and his wife than on his handling of the tragedy in ex-Yugoslavia or the massacres in Africa or Boris Yeltsin’s chances for success.
So far this is a domestic, not a foreign affairs presidency. And this seems to suit most Americans. Further, and by calculation, this is a presidency of a very common man with popular tastes and interests. He ranges the broad centre of politics
My hunch is that the plain people of the U.S. take more to Bill Clinton’s folksiness and gift of gab than the intelligentsia or the journalists.
Of course, there’s almost no reportage or commentary of Canadian affairs. Mexico gets more notice, and so does Cuba despite the duration of the Castro regime.
So what are most average Americans seized with, politically-speaking? Well, not the leading topic of those whose beat is politics, which is: Are we too probing and harsh with the Clintons, particularly on their pre-Washington antics? The judgment seems swinging to the affirmative.
Few of self-critiques in the media binge get to TV’s irrevocable intertwining of American politics with news of show business, entertainment, sport, publishing, even the academe.
On most matters the person and the performance come far ahead of airing a national dilemma or issue.
Oddly, once past the president, the major politicians of the U.S. are not as large personalities as ours are in Canada, in part because ours have less competition for public notice. We have far fewer Roseannes, Michael Jordans, Donald Trumps, etc. Truly, we’re a more politically aware and worrying lot than our neighbors. Maybe we should be.
But coming home to our dirges (and cold) is not so bad. Ours is a less confusing circus.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, April 22, 1994
ID: 13024054
TAG: 199404210203
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Before we get to promoting the best choices to lead the federal NDP – obviously, either the great talker, Stephen Lewis, or the great doer, Bob White – let’s make some notes on the relinquishing leader, Audrey McLaughlin.
She is leaving in a low-key, dignified way, rather more so than did Kim Campbell, the other party leader whose future collapsed in the electoral debacle last October.
Even before the NDP in convention chose McLaughlin as leader, mostly because of the determination of the many active women members of the party, it seemed to me her deficiencies as a leadership prospect were clear, and I put this as one who played a part in the first promotion of McLaughlin after she came quite unheralded to the House in 1987 after winning the Yukon by- election opened by Erik Nielsen’s resignation.
In truth, it was bad conscience over such promotion which set me reviewing, from Ellen Fairclough’s advent as first female minister in 1957, the various women who came to the House of Commons and made an early, favorable impression, most notably in the oral question periods. You will recall Judy LaMarsh, Jeanne Sauve, Monique Begin, Flora MacDonald, Iona Campagnolo, Judy Erola, Pat Carney, Barbara McDougall, Sheila Copps and Kim Campbell.
What I remember about each of these women is that I shared with other journalists a high interest in how these MPs would do as performers. With most other commentators, mostly male, I gave high ratings to each for poise, presence, sensibility, articulateness and argumentation. And in most cases we emphasized their partisan toughness – especially LaMarsh, MacDonald, Erola, Carney, and Copps. They could rough and tumble!
Although not so ever ready for partisan warfare and far from as florid or cutting in style as LaMarsh, Carney, McDougall, or Copps, McLaughlin got our lavish praise, early and often, as she told and retold the messages from her far from run-of-the-mill constituents about the worries and needs of natives and women and the abused. She was a refreshing change of pace, coming on new near the end of a tiring Parliament, one much strained by big issues like the free trade agreement and drug industry protection.
There really wasn’t that much in what McLaughlin said, nor was she good at projecting a shining vision of the future or great cogency in explaining our past or present issues to us. But we praised her, and the women’s magazines took to this romantic venturer to the North. So did TV talk and panel shows. Within the NDP and for women New Democrats she gave a wonderful extra dimension beyond Ed Broadbent as leader and beyond what other women MPs like Marjorie Mitchell or Pauline Jewett had given the party.
After McLauglin returned from the 1988 election and Ed Broadbent arranged his departure from the House for a government posting to a good-cause agency, she was the obvious women’s candidate for the leadership. The breadth and fierceness of the support for her – in the caucus, among the apparatchiks, across the party – scared off several candidates (see Lorne Nystrom and Bill Blaikie). The likeliest “pole star” alternative, Dave Barrett, the former premier of B.C., for all his color and wit in debate was not popular with either the leadership of the NDP’s trade union allies or the women of the party, allegedly for his inattention to B.C. unions and his refusal to elevate Rosemary Brown to his cabinet.
So Audrey McLaughlin cantered to the leadership, and then gradually and thoroughly revealed she was neither colorful nor gifted in her leadership, either in the House or on the hustings or on television, beyond a steady decency in manner and tone. Canadians were certainly not ready to embrace Kim Campbell, colorful, perky, and phrase-coiner though she was, but they were no more drawn to the NDP’s more modest and less pretentious woman leader.
After review, it seems to me those of us who report and interpret politicians are too quick to build up the grand prospects of new MPs who do well in the forum of the House and, in particular, of any new women MPs. We did it with all the women mentioned, most notably and recently, with Campbell and McLaughlin. Let us puff less.
Oddly, Audrey McLaughlin got to the House by a fluke of electoral fate. Tony Penikett, an NDP organizer, had prepared for years to oust Erik Nielsen, but he got elected as a Yukon MLA and became head of an NDP government. Bereft of a ready candidate for the federal byelection, the party co-opted a very green McLaughlin as candidate and she won with Penikett’s backing. Oddly, Penikett is now advocating an end to leadership cultism in the NDP, even a rotating or collective or committee leadership. Of course, that would ditch the usefulness of charismatics like Lewis or White.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 03, 1994
ID: 13005688
TAG: 199403310120
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


Retirement comes to all federal servants of high rank, sometimes with nice remarks in high places on great contributions. There has been such stuff in the House and the Senate for Erik Spicer, the librarian of Parliament.
No one could guess from the remarks how remarkable Spicer’s survival has been, mostly because few now know the tale. His term ends after 34 years on his 68th birthday, April 9.
This recall of the Spicer career began with lists of the mandarins of Ottawa with deputy-minister rank. I found just one appointed in the Diefenbaker years – Erik Spicer! He and two senators have been the only political appointees of the Chief still in harness. (One, John Macdonald, now 87, says he’ll go till his hourglass is empty. The other, Orville Phillips, at 70, has a few more years.)
The scarcity of Diefenbaker relics in office underlines Spicer’s unique tenure in a running scenario of zealous partisanship, aptly put as Byzantine. Spicer lasted even though some powerful Grits and top-level bureaucrats wanted him out from the day he took the job. I know something of how he did it, because I was myself a librarian who set out to get a much better Library of Parliament when I became an MP in 1957.
I had known Spicer as a fellow war veteran at university, who had also studied librarianship. As a new MP I found the Library of Parliament wanting, so I got on the joint House-Senate committee for the Library to push improvements. The incumbent librarian was a lovely man, elderly, good on belles lettres and a very benign bass. He’d had no formal training in librarianship, the staff was small and only three members were top-flight librarians. The collection was a disaster with little on economic and social issues, and the staff had literally no capacity to give research help.
The senators loved the Library, and not until the ’58 election brought in a Tory swarm did I find backing from MPs for a library with modern standards.
Just into the big Diefenbaker mandate I went to see Gordon Churchill, a minister and a C.O. of mine in the war. He agreed the library was inadequate. He’d take it up with “the Chief.”
Shortly, an Ottawa Tory MP, Dick Bell, came to see me confidentially, with a question from “certain persons.”
Would I be parliamentary librarian?
I wouldn’t, but I saw the reasoning. A Tory had run just behind me who was prominent locally and strong for the Chief. He’d romp in a byelection that would follow after my resignation to take the library. After a later discussion with Bell I was asked to recommend some good “trained” librarians for the job. I did. All but one was a woman because I thought them the best around.
Months later Bell called to say I knew the new librarian. He was Erik Spicer, then deputy-librarian for the city of Ottawa. Fine with me, I knew Erik was a punctilious and very studious librarian. I knew also he was the Chief’s personal choice. Why? Because Erik’s wife, also a librarian, was the cherished daughter of Dr. William Blair, an Ottawa valley MP who’d been in the House with Diefenbaker from 1945 to 1957 and had nominated him for the Tory leadership.
Despite Spicer’s good qualifications and experience, the Tory tie to the appointment enraged Liberal stalwarts like Jack Pickersgill who detested Diefenbaker. If and when the Grits got back Spicer would get short shrift. And he would have, had Lester Pearson not led a minority House with the Chief as opposition leader.
So the Pickersgills waited and Spicer survived on to the majority Liberal mandate won by Trudeau in ’68. By then Pickergill and most of the other pre-’57 Grits were off the Hill and Spicer, aided by some expert recruits, was well along to forming a modern library whose far better service was pleasing individual MPs and the caucus teams. Trudeau was not much interested in settling partisan scores and he got along well with Spicer’s sponsor.
Thus Spicer carried on, developing in the midst of the Hill’s patronage wallow a genuine value-for-money operation. Of course, there’s far more to the story he may tell some day, such as surviving Jean Sauve’s term as House Speaker, or the determination of some grandees in the PCO to force him out by keeping his salary down.
An excellent librarian leaves MPs a very active legacy.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, April 01, 1994
ID: 13005398
TAG: 199403310138
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The best academics go past telling us where we have been to what we could do. How might we handle ourselves after Quebec goes? This is the grist in Philip Resnick’s small book, Thinking English Canada (Stoddart).
He believes the rest of Canada can do well without Quebec. We have the functioning experience and the economic and cultural stuff. Resnick’s is not a “ditch Quebec” essay but a case for our survival in unity with quality, if the parting comes. No sliding off into the U.S.!
The professor (UBC) is persuasive in arguing the contributions to our public values from “the three strains in our political culture: The conservative; the liberal; and the social democratic.” But the best of Resnick for me is his brave analysis of “our aboriginal component.” He even argues what aboriginal self-government must not be. Given the bumbling rush of Ron Irwin, our newish Indian Affairs minister, to implement self-government without defining it or discussing what is and is not possible beforehand, Resnick’s analysis is timely and pungent. Perhaps he will usher some honesty and candor into matters affecting us all but are stifled by a communal sense of guilt, at least among the intelligentsia, and a fear of challenging the demands and complaints which flow from native leaders and cloak the outrageous impracticalities in much of their “nation” talk.
Resnick on aborigines and our future with them ought to be the grist for much parliamentary and legislative discussion. His concerns are what the current Royal Commission must address. Here’s my sampling of them:
“Aboriginal people constitute involuntary citizens of Canada . . . their cultural identities, for most purposes, were denied, and their maladaptation to the mainstream Canadian society became a palpable reality from the start. To acknowledge this denial, even at this late date, is to acknowledge that aboriginal people have reasons to spurn assimilation and to seek alternative solutions within the limits of the possible.”
“But two options . . . need to be ruled out. First, there can be no going back to the status quo ante, some earlier stage of civilization and social organization that existed before the Europeans arrived. Technology cannot be uninvented, English unlearned, Christianity extirpated, liberal democratic precepts cast aside, regardless of attempts to revive traditional notions of spirituality, to give a new lease on life to native languages, to allow aboriginals to touch base with older tribal customs.
“Second, aboriginal people, few in numbers, divided up into multiple tribal groupings, scattered across the length and breadth of the country, cannot aspire to anything as heady as a nation-state. What would the boundaries of such an entitity include? What degree of political coherence might it have? What would be the basis of its economic livelihood? What means of military self-defence would it have? What would be the citizenship rights of aboriginals living outside its territory? What about the non-aboriginals within its borders?
“A whole series of questions would come with sovereignty as the term is used in international affairs, stirring enormous conflict.
“Rather, self-affirmation seems to lie in achieving forms of aboriginal self-government that stop short of sovereignty and that entails ongoing association with non-aboriginal Canadian society.
“ . . . The most compelling form would seem to be on a territorial basis, using existing reservations or historical patterns of settlement. Yet immediately ticklish problems arise. Clearly not all of the unassigned territory of Ontario, Alberta, and B.C. is to be recognized as aboriginal land! Perhaps 5%, perhaps 10%, may come to be so recognized once negotiations have been carried out.
“. . . It would be unacceptable to have a series of environmental safeguards operating at the level of a province but not within aboriginal lands; fisheries regulations cannot be neatly separated into aboriginal and non-aboringinal compartments; and one cannot imagine vastly different criminal and civil legal systems operating between them.
“ . . . Self-government, with its implication of full-scale autonomy and parallel institutional structures, is an impossibility for aboriginal people in the context of diverse, inter-related urban centres. It would create an administrative nightmare of the first order, sowing the seeds of endless contention between aboriginal minorities and the much larger non-aboriginal population. Aboriginal Canadians wishing to live under governments of their own control will have to do so where they constitute the majority or the whole of the population, primarily on aboriginal lands.”
Sensible! Practical!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 30, 1994
ID: 13005159
TAG: 199403290079
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


There’s one disturbing factor in the court-martial and sentencing of the army private, Kyle Brown, on charges of manslaughter and torturing while on duty in Somalia. He is at the bottom rung of the military hierarchy and we know from DND press releases that others are to be charged and tried, in particular men of rank in whose charge or under whose orders Pte. Brown lived and worked in the Somalia operations. Certainly a corporal, a sergeant, a lieutenant and at least one officer of even higher rank.
As one understands the operation, it was similar to, or parallel to, an action operation of wartime. The responsibility of command is in constant effect. Surely Brown was not really in an off-duty situation or on leave on his own. Rather he and the scenario of an intruder on the lines who had been taken prisoner is one where his responsibility was the least. During WW II, as one who served at the private’s level, I was within my troop or squadron and under command and with NCOs and officers of mine present, or in the immediate area when one or more of them was responsible for what I did, or should have done, or didn’t do.
It simply isn’t fair in something so serious in which there were many actors, some with the responsibility of authority, that the trials should have begun with a man who had the least responsibility.
I recall a situation in which alleged thievery or what was then often called looting had taken place. Accusations were made by the civilians who were deprived of their goods and an investigation took place which showed that a senior NCO had been present during the course of the looting.
Because of major movements of the front the happening got left behind and while no formal charges were ever followed up it was clear to all of us that the NCO was to bear the primary responsibility for the misdeeds.
It is my understanding that the NCO most directly involved in the incidents for which Brown has been convicted has not been sound enough in mind or body to face trial.
True or not, in my opinion it was not right that Brown alone faced the court-martial and the almost-circus concentration of our media which interpreted the proceedings and the sentence as though they were of epic significance to the nation, our foreign relations and future participation in peacekeeping.
The question of military policy, which responses in Canada to the Somalia affair and our dicey troop situations in Bosnia have raised is whether it is time to give up troops, aviators and sailors who are thoroughly trained for action with guns, bombs and so on.
There is such a denial abroad in Canada of any real merit in our military history and traditions, at least insofar as these stemmed from actions in which people, whether ours or putative enemies, were killed or wounded.
It seems apparent, not least from opinion polling, that many Canadians, certainly a lot of our opinion leaders with an interest in the world and its difficulties beyond our borders – in particular, those who speak for church, disarmament, women’s and peace groups – believe we should be a model to the globe as neutral pacifiers and interlocutors, and that by our patience, sanity, good will, charitable acts and supplies, may bring a constructive and settling presence into troubles. Of course, all this under the aegis of the United Nations.
Further, with the end of the Red menace which split the world for so long, it seems clear Canada can hardly face a serious military threat, except from the United States, and the latter is so far-fetched either as a prospect or a contest with any utility, that it’s ridiculous.
All we seem to need is a far smaller, much less rained and skilled military than we have today to (a) give aid to the civil power on the rare occasions this may arise, notably during natural disasters like floods and earthquakes; (b) do celebratory ceremonial occasions, largely on anniversaries; (c) patrol our borders to mind their security and provide search and rescue services; (d) and by a composition that celebrates equity between men and women and allows for the fair proportion of gays, lesbians, and those disadvantaged by disabilities or ethnicity.
We could be what so many halo-minded Canadians seem to want: A model to the world, the first nation of considerable economic strength to give up even the pretence of having a shoot-and-kill military.
Some may think this is a tongue-in-cheek bit of irony, designed to bait both the “pro” and “anti” camps regarding the Canadian military. Not so. Why spend over $11 billion a year for forces whose focus is the so-called sharp end or killing edge, when the same funding used with kindness by healers and teachers and peace-makers might do so much good, not least in a national self-satisfaction?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 27, 1994
ID: 13004814
TAG: 199403250132
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


Is the CBC “on the path to oblivion.”
A few years ago an attack such as Keith Spicer made on the CBC last week would have been a national sacrilege.
Even now, when those who would kibosh the Mother Corp are multiplying, the caustic from broadcasting’s top regulator seem unusually pungent, particularly his stress on the plummeting CBC ratings.
Spicer has bobbed like a dolphin across our front pages. He’s been racy on public issues since the day in 1970 when Pierre Trudeau made him our first “bilingual commish.”
So some will dismiss his harsh sketch of CBC failings, using abysmal figures on viewer engagement, as one more provocative blip from a national smart-aleck. What it may do, I would hope, is lift politicians’ web of timidity.
Of course, the CBC still has fierce backers, notably in Toronto’s cultural circles and among groups, from feminists to homosexuals to Green Peacers, who see it as a righteous arm of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and a voice for the God who makes the trees.
The new president, Tony Manera, refused to lie mutely and give Spicer a walk-over, but his verbal prop was used by all his predecessors from Alphonse Ouimet in the ’50s: The mandate to the CBC from Parliament in the Broadcasting Act is to serve a broad audience with widely varying tastes. And a wide audience with diverse tastes means considerable “narrowcasting.” To use Manera’s example, this explains prime time’s Adrienne Clarkson Presents even though her programs fetch a minuscule share of available homes.
As a taxpayer I worry less about such programming, avant-garde though it often is, or about the viewer-grabby sports stuff the CBC carries and makes neat profits from. I worry over the major element in overall programming and costs, one Spicer hasn’t raised openly, although it’s been hurting CBC’s reputation and affecting audience shares.
Do we now need a government-owned news-gathering and opinion-dispensing agency?
In particular do we need one which has a continuing zeal, not just in public affairs programs but in its so-called straight news, for opinions and advocacy drawn overwhelmingly from the liberal or left of the political and cultural spectrums?
Ponder a contrast with the CBC News and commentary that any steady user of PBS programs like The McNeil-Lehrer Report will understand. PBS is sometimes mocked for its objectivity and its “on the one hand . . . on the other hand.”
Reflect on how PBS has handled some controversial matters that also bubble here, issues such as homosexual rights; sexual harassment; abortion; native wrongs and native claims, native exaggerations and native behavior; clear-cutting forests, partial cutting forests or not cutting old-growth forests at all; job equity laws to redress perceived sexual and racial and handicapping inequalities; immigration from everywhere; more refugees; advocating peace; sustaining peace-makers; rejecting needs for a highly-trained, fighting military.
You must know what the invariably righteous CBC news and public affairs will emphasize and what it won’t in its news and commentary.
And to ask a question which pivots on what Keith Spicer threw at President Manera, the CBC ratings, how well does the news-commentary operation draw? Does it “ace” other Canadian networks and stations. No. No. No No.
Take the CBC News, etc. as tuned in within the Ottawa region, home-base for a big governmental labor-force. CTV’s night news has a nifty margin over Peter and Pam; and over the supper hour the minor fraction of the viewership that CBC news has against those watching the CTV station and Global is embarrassing.
Why should this Rolls-Royce of news operations draw so relatively little?
Probably in part because so many get bored and some get fed up with advocacy and one-sided emphases.
As historian David Bercuson, sounding like Spicer of the CRTC, wrote recently in the Financial Post:
“When so many basic Canadian institutions are being re-examined, it simply won’t do to allow the CBC to be the one sacred cow in the barn.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, March 25, 1994
ID: 13004618
TAG: 199403250040
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Several times last week on the Hill I heard a phrase that is run-of-the-mill in Washington but not in Ottawa. It was used by a backbench Grit and by a veteran senator. One said: “We had a bad week” and the other said: “Chretien’s having a bad spell.”
Ottawa is not yet a match for the Washington rush of remorseless, instant weighings of the president’s performances but we are getting there.
Sometimes the president is holding his own; sometimes recovering; often, in deeper and deeper trouble; or he’s mastered Congress or about to lose there. All in all, today, this week, this month, Washington is confident or disturbed or waiting, but always the emphasis is on: “How’s he doing?”
Ottawa has a similar capacity for instantaneous media coverage of anything that might be exciting, but our leaders in power have had the protection of a more secretive system. Also the fixed electoral timing in the U.S. makes for more ceaseless evaluations of partisan prospects than here.
Further, the separation of the U.S. executive from Congress means their senior officials are more exposed than our rather closeted mandarins. And party discipline in Congress is far looser than on Parliament Hill with congressmen and senators carrying more power for both spending and law-making than all but our major ministers. So often when affairs in Ottawa seem dawdling in Washington there’s an impression of on-going action and reaction.
Perhaps the key difference between Washington and Ottawa is the intangible of “confidence.”
There’s so much self-confidence in the American political psyche and system, and the president does symbolize it or ought to do so.
Long periods of high Canadian confidence have been rare here since Centennial year and the early mandate of Pierre Trudeau; some might say since our last budget surplus in 1974.
Are you asking: What’s the point of this sketch and comparison? Well, we’re now into a following of the prime minister and the daily partisan play in Parliament that is more intense than usual, considering what is going on, and we are far faster at judgments and ratings than we used to be.
We have a government four years or more from an election. It has a popular, likable leader and mastery of any vote in the House of Commons. The House itself is invigorated with some 200 new MPs, and two of the three familiar parties are almost out of sight, replaced by fresh ones.
These are all indicators this should be a government with a long honeymoon but despite all of them and the fairly easy run in the House so far it is already clear – and the reigning Liberals know it – the country and its voters are already fidgeting and impatient. They don’t like marking time, waiting for the economy to roll. And it’s just as clear Jean Chretien and his ministry are marking time, unsure of what to do because they lack both confidence and money.
Revenues are not rising well. The first budget has meant little for our currency. Despite the agenda implicit in the Liberal’s Red Book, almost everything that’s substantial is on hold, being reviewed or studied.
Consider all the reviewing: Of defence, foreign policy, the welfare system, the health system, the tax system vis-a-vis the doomed GST. How to help small business. Even the what, where, when, etc. for the heralded information highway. The less and less used St. Lawrence Seaway. The amalgamation of the CPR and the CNR.
Even finding more significant work for MPs is being studied. So is a better means for citizens to engage with the government and Parliament.
The budget, insists Paul Martin, was two-pronged – wait till the next one for the complete plan for coping with the deficits and the debt.
The predecessor government went deep into a fifth year, awaiting a strong recovery, which isn’t here yet, at least enough to put jobless by the hundreds of thousands back to work or end the wage freezes of civil servants.
It may not be stupid and it is certainly not criminal for the government to wait, to delay, to review but it looks less and less decisive and confident. That’s why instant, running assessments like “It’s been a bad week for Chretien” may soon become “This is a do-nothing government.”
It is arguable that only Jean Chretien’s personality, his down-sizing and modesty, his folksiness and simplifying is sustaining the continuing high level of popular support revealed by opinion polling. That, and the hunch that is strong in much of Canada outside Quebec that he has to be pivotal in federalism’s contest with the Bloc and the PQ. He has a devil of a load.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 23, 1994
ID: 13004241
TAG: 199403220126
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


“We may be in separate cabins, but we’re all in the same boat, and it is therefore crucial we all take a consolidated view or picture of deficits and debt.”
– Denis Desautels, auditor general, on March 9
Whoever’s prime minister, in my time each cabinet has shaken down into left and right bowers. Aside from Walter Gordon in the mid-’60s, the Finance minister has been of the right bower.
The quote from the auditor general points to what’s freezing the Chretien cabinet and frustrating backbenchers who want jobs now, not next year. The tilt to the right is under way. Already Paul Martin Jr. and the other main economic ministers, Roy McLaren and John Manley, are there, together. Because they dread their huge deficit and a debt busting past $500 billion, they are like managers sent in to salvage a big corporation in receivership.
Of course, my backbench tips this soon in a mandate don’t have names attached, but I see indirect evidence in recurring items in the financial press. These private pressures are being put by unnamed international financiers on Chretien and Martin. Get the deficit down, fast! My hunch these are floats from the Finance department mandarins.
Whatever! Something’s happened, and an inertia that may soon see a paralysis settling over Ottawa. For a man just a month past a budget that got rather gentle handling, Paul Martin is tense, not a happy camper, because there cannot be more borrowing even for jobs, jobs, jobs.
A fortnight ago Martin and David Dodge, his deputy minister, had a brisk encounter with the Globe and Mail editorial board at which the DM was very aggressive. Later, Martin sent a public letter rebutting the paper’s thesis that he’d fiddled up the deficit he’d inherited, and insisting on his integrity and sense of responsibility. I bet Dodge wrote the piece.
Dodge is the most declamatory DM in Finance since Simon Riesman, and he does not underplay the deficits-debt issue. Here are quotes from evidence he gave the House finance committee, at which he followed the aforesaid auditor general. He agreed holus-bolus with Desautels on the dread issue: MPs and the public have to be given “credible, understandable and timely information which must reflect financial reality.”
Dodge said: “The problem is not only a federal one but also a provincial and local one. In 1992-93 our deficit stood at approximately $40 billion federally and approximately $25 million provincially. The debt at the federal level is getting very close to three-quarters of GNP. We are paying interest rates that are about 2% above the rate of growth of the economy. That means we have to divert increasing amounts of taxpayers’ revenues just to service the past debt.
“Canada’s total budget deficit was the second highest among G-7 countries in 1992; we are just about leading the G-7 with respect to all levels of spending – approximately 50% of our GNP. The proportion of our debt that is internationally-held has increased a great deal over the past 10 years . . . We must pay foreigners more and more to service Canada’s foreign debt, approximately one dollar in every $20 produced.
“All we can say is there may come a time when financial markets will feel they can no longer trust Canada to handle its problems . . . people will want to sell their Canadian bonds and we will no longer be able to borrow. We would face serious problems like New Zealand, Sweden, etc.
“The moment of truth can arrive just like that . . . It is essential we take steps to avoid having those problems. In New Zealand, the standard of living declined by about 30% . . . ”
Dodge gave a long answer to a question on the role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and when it intervenes with Canada. I summarize it thus: Canada belongs to the IMF, and has the right to go to it to borrow funds. Once a year the IMF comes and examines Canada for a report on our fiscal and economic situation. If international lenders suddenly decide they don’t want to hold the $380-billion worth of marketable Canadian paper they would try to sell it. This would drive up our interest rates very dramatically. We’d turn to the IMF.
“At some point, the thing would top out, but it would be at enormous expense to Canada . . . It’s important to understand it’s already at enormous expense to Canada because markets have not got the confidence in us they had 20 years ago.”
Dodge closed his tale on the deficits-debt bind with, “When one really gets into trouble, the amount you have to pay rises dramatically. It’s not so much the IMF, as is often stated in the papers, it’s the international lenders who will raise the flag and cause the problem.”
See why Dodge’s minister has gone right?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 20, 1994
ID: 13003953
TAG: 199403200086
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Backgrounder


How to rate the Chretien ministry in Parliament? It’s two months into the new House and almost five months since the Red Book gang swept into office. Polling confirms the obvious: They’re doing well across the country.
So far in Parliament the Liberals look all right, across the board. Cued by their leader, they behave confidently and they’re still the choice of the underlying public service corps.
But is it all plain going? Not on your life. We’ve too many knotty problems and despite its manifested assurance the ministry is still feeling around and toward them, rather than pushing ahead with definitive programs to deal with them.
After asserting the government is in no apparent trouble, either in the House or beyond, let me get closer to the parliamentary scenario for the good and the as yet unclear for some judgments, made after much auditing of the Parliamentary channel and scanning Hansards and the (early) committee records.
Let’s leave the most positive assessments – those of the prime minister – until last.
First, let’s get past the least vital aspect of the government in Parliament, the Senate. There the Liberals haven’t a majority but do not face the two recognized opposition parties.
Sen. Joyce Fairbairn, the Liberals’ Senate leader, has the Senate’s course well in hand or, put another way, the majority Tories under John Lynch-Staunton seem amenable, not flourishing their voting power to obstruct the will of the government.
A petty point that intrigues me is the lack in the Senate of Grit exulting at the big band of Tories about their party’s electoral catstrophe after two majority governments. This benign attitude probably comes from the Liberal appointees treasuring familiar enemies after considering the grim spectres of Reform and BQ which confront their regime in the House – the Bloc as nation-busters, and Reform as the startling, alternative in the rest of Canada.
Now to the House where Gilbert Parent, the Speaker, is getting by. No devilish points of privilege … as yet. He’s neither graceful nor adroit but his slow-spoken, good-naturedness has worked, and there’ve not been any genuine explosions of rage, probably because of the Reformer’s pious fair play, Lucien Bouchard’s natural courtesy and the low-key benevolence of a trustable House leader, Herb Gray.
This is a positive House. I cannot remember one with so many serious, eager, industrious MPs. Thus far there’s been far less cheap or fake partisanship than in the last House. One stresses “thus far” because there’s evidence the Bloc is slowly sandpapering away Jean Chretien’s aplomb and the far-different Reform caucus with a score or more MPs as righteous and apt at sermonizing as Preston Manning, is getting under the skins of shorter-tempered Liberals, from old-hand ministers like Ron Irwin, Lloyd Axworthy, and David Collenette to a lot of vote-proud backbenchers.
An assumption broadly held by both the four score or so veteran Grits and in the Hill press gallery regarding Parliament’s cast when it gathered has been badly shaken, although the reporters have been slower than the Grits to accept this. The truth is now clear: The Reformers have very few rubes and fools, and neither has the Bloc. The Reform as a caucus is thoroughly organized and one can see, most of all in committees, that Manning has the nucleus for a solid, future cabinet. The Bloc is also well-managed and gives daily evidence of preparation and excellent research backing. More sophisticated in style and argument than the Reformers and almost always preferring French, the Bloc MPs have the Liberals outmanned in that language with high-rolling debaters.
The Liberals have a glut of able House performers in English, most notably from Ontario, but they can’t overshadow the Bloc in French in either the question period or debates. The oversupply of backbench talent is not yet undermining the ministry but it will if (to use a cliche phrase) without meaningful work, something no government with a host behind it has ever managed to do well.
The ministry breaks into 23 cabinet members and eight secretaries of state. Thus far none of the latter have stood out as very able or even very personable House performers, except for Doug Peters, the Toronto banker-economist who’s No. 2 for Paul Martin. Sheila Finestone, responsible for Multiculturalism, does reek compassion, and Christine Stewart, a No. 2 at Foreign Affairs is very regal.
The other four haven’t yet got going much. One, Raymond Chan, our man for Asia-Pacific, is a literally awful speech-reader.
The expected stars of the cabinet were the economic ministers – Paul Martin, John Manley, and Roy McLaren; the two former mandarins of rank, Marcel Mass at Intergovernmental Affairs and Michel Dupuy at Heritage-Culture; the ubiquitous veteran of the Liberal left, Lloyd Axworthy at Social Affairs; and the neatly bilingual Doug Young at Transport.
Well, so far the much-tripping McLaren has hardly been a presence and in the House the former mandarins have been dull, some think duds.
Manley’s so serious and cautious he has half the caucus old hands asking what’s gone haywire with him.
Martin talks too much for a minister of Finance with a rather burbling, adolescent enthusiasm and jocularity. So far this has washed quite well but his way ahead is grim.
Doug Young has seemed more defensive and terse than he needs to be. There’s a looming schlimazel for him in the CN-CP amalgamation plans. He will have to either stop it or make it credible.
Although it’s obvious this is not a “galaxy” cabinet, two rather unheralded members have stood out well. Alan Rock in Justice is a poised, self-contained, well-spoken, concise minister when on his feet, and Ralph Goodale at Agriculture, though Rock’s opposite pole so far as substance goes is a fast, fudging, ’round-and-’round gabber, almost a self-spoof.
Andre Ouellet has been heavy and very cautious with Foreign Affairs, and so has David Collenette at Defence, although he’s more easy at the job than Ouellet.
Torontonians keep asking how their former mayor’s cutting it? So far Art Eggleton’s getting by. He may be pedestrian but so far he’s been plausible.
The dyed-in-the wool partisans and nasties of the past in the cabinet are Sheila Copps, Brian Tobin at Fisheries, David Dingwall at Public Works, and Sergio Marchi at Immigration. None has yet got rolling, old-style. Copps and Tobin seem deflated and less full of themselves. Neither has much in departmental positives in near prospect. Dingwall and Marchi, sonorous and unctuous both, at times refer to themselves in the third person, evidence they know they’re at home in high places.
Ron Irwin at Indian Affairs is the shortest fuse in the cabinet, just as Axworthy is the most magisterial and assured. Diane Marleau at Health is not so bad in content as she projects through her artless, rather whiny style. David Anderson is aggressively recouping from a bad, opening press and an over-portentous House start. Not much of anything can be said for what’s been seen of Anne McLellan at Natural Resources.
There’s the cabinet and it’s not bad but not great. It’s my bald opinion Chretien has a much better one in the richness in his backbench boondocks. The most promising neophyte: Allan Rock. The likely linch-pin below Chretien: Axworthy, not Martin.
But so far and not unusually, given a national obsession since Diefenbaker with the prime minister, the story has been Jean Chretien. And a success story, I’d argue, because of his openness, plainness, availability, and modesty. He simply will not vest mystery or arcane complexity into his work as leader. He’s been a refreshing change, particular in frankness and lack of bombast. He knew he could run a government and many of us doubted. He was so familiar, unpretentious and unread, so far from being intellectual or Machiavellian.
It seems Chretien has in place and under way a pragmatic, patient sort of government. A journeyman government could be a marvellous contribution to a more relaxed and less politicized country. But one is being far too previous to be sure of this. The tough conundrum of Quebec’s choices are just ahead. Any real coping with the deficits-debt dilemma needs a big, lengthy surge out of recession. And the Red Book is proving to be more a lengthy agenda than a program of thought-out measures to be carried out.
And so, as we long for the spring and warmth, Jean Chretien, in particular, has carried most of us along through the mean winter, and the newish Parliament remains promising.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, March 18, 1994
ID: 13003591
TAG: 199403170190
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


This week, evidence these Grits are like the old Grits. Like the Mulroney Tories, they’re contracting services in advertising, polling, and legal advice with known Grits. Not the end of federal patronage as we’ve known it.

The report on Parliamentarians’ Compensation by consultants Sobeco, Ernst & Young got short shrift because it advocated jacking MPs’ salaries above a basic $64,000. There was sensible analysis of the too-generous-too-early pensions of MPs and senators, and the stuff on the demands on an MP and the skills best able to handle them seem accurate and fair.
In passing, like it or not, one has to admire Jean Chretien for refusing to chase along the slash-and-burn trail after parliamentary remuneration and perks.

Several times the Liberals under Trudeau, aware many western Tory MPs detested official bilingualism, would bring motions for a debate and a vote to reaffirm official bilingualism. Monday Eugene Bellemare, a capital city Grit, got a short debate on his bill to change the oath sworn by MPs. Some Bloc MPs refused the unanimous consent needed to get a vote which would “challenge,” as Bellemare put it, “the patriotism and loyalty to Canada of all members of the House.”
Tuesday, Sarksi Assadurian, a Metro Grit, got a motion passed in the House citizenship and immigration committee in favor of a ceremony in the House on April 18 at which all MPs would “reaffirm their citizenship” by an individual oath.
These manoeuvres seem too arch and too petty to bother Bloc MPs, let alone embarrass them.
Way back in 1963 the die was cast against affirming officially that Canada was “one nation, indivisible.” A new PM with global credentials, Lester Pearson, said the world was at the stage in which the right of self-determination for a people was a principle. And so it was neither treasonable nor an affront for an MP or civil servant to advocate an independent Quebec.

Of course the choice of David Johnson, McGill’s principal, to chair the advisory council “on developing and implementing a strategy for Canada’s information highway” means Bernard Ostry of Telidon and other communications’ fame won’t have the task. Maybe he’ll make the blue ribbon panel of experts of sorts who will join Johnson on the council as volunteers.

Maybe you wouldn’t be caught dead reading Lucien Bouchard’s autobiography, On the Record, available in an English translation by Dominique Clift (Stoddart). Nonetheless, it’s excellent reading, firstly because of the Bloc leader’s candor about himself and familiars like Brian Mulroney and Rene Levesque; secondly, the prose is graceful and never turgid.
Aside from setting out the issues which three years triggered Bouchard’s desertion of federalism, the sketch confirms the widespread mutuality in experiences of Quebec politicians and lawyers. The Quebecois elite circle is not numerous.

It’s ridiculous, even beyond irony, how quickly the newly elected become owners of their ridings. In large part our costly decennial census is to establish where the people are, so electoral constituencies can be adjusted to reflect (1) the equality of each citizen’s vote, (2) the total number of MPs in the next Parliament and (3) the number of constituencies for most provinces (not all – some have “floors” against losses).
Some weeks ago the official redistribution process produced the new riding maps required by shifts revealed in the ’91 census. At once many MPs, most of them new, particularly Ontario Liberals, began to protest. Of course, this means an attack on the enacted formula for increasing the number of MPs. The chief justification for sticking with what we have is the presently popular one of saving money.
Stalling redistribution would probably save $30 million in the short run but it offends the rep-by-pop principle and stacks up some already inordinately populous ridings and leaves others small and decreasing in numbers. The electors who most get done dirt, of course, are those in large cities and their suburbs.

Should a columnist draw attention to a critic who depicts him as a reactionary relic of the past and an anti-Quebecois? Why not? The magazine Cit Libre for March-April has a long article (of course, in French) by Brian McKenna, the famous producer of the CBC-NFB epic, The Valor and the Horror.
The piece is titled Official History and Other Illusions.
He gets to me as the conductor of the writing campaign to denigrate the film. Well, it sure merits denigration.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 16, 1994
ID: 13003343
TAG: 199403150077
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


A new book, Reporting the Nation’s Business by Patrick Brennan, coincides with Peter Newman’s piece in the current Maclean’s: Mulroney Today: A lion in winter.
The book from the U of T Press is sub-titled Press/Government relations during the Liberal years, 1935-1957. A succinct word for those relations is “cosy” – nothing like press relations with the Mulroney government.
The recent PM told Newman: “As soon as I came in, the media set itself up as the official opposition. There was a total lack of moral leadership in the parliamentary press gallery. Forget the legitimate adversarial criticism that comes from disagreeing with my policies, but there was an active anti-Conservative and anti-Mulroney bias.”
I’ve visited this topic before but let me try to explain what’s right and what’s wrong with the Mulroney perception, beginning with his naivete if he expected “moral leadership” from a pack of 300, split by employers into a score or more groups.
There was more to the bias than just anti-Tory feeling, factors which will come into relations with the Chretien government.
One may trace the Tory’s press bind from 1935 when the Liberals routed the unpopular R.B. Bennett. It’s there the Brennan book opens in its sketch of the 22-year rapport of the Grits under King and then St. Laurent with pace-setters of the gallery like Blair Fraser and Bruce Hutchison.
Since ’35 few Ottawa journalists have been Tories whereas a lot admired the Liberals.
It wasn’t until the late ’70s that a minor swing in the gallery began that also favored the NDP.
As I recall, the media of federal Ottawa had little patience and scant appreciation for the Diefenbaker and Clark governments. And so, in 1962, ’63, through the election of ’84 few Hill reporters favored the Tories. A growing group was social democratic (most apparent in the CBC) but the goodliest number were Liberally inclined.
But by 1984 other factors than either partisanship or remnants of objectivity were shifting press relations, mostly toward bloody-mindedness. Into play came “investigative journalism.” The Gallery man who pioneered this genre was John Sawatsky. He was the equivalent to the Washington Post duo who broke open Watergate. His evidence of RCMP wrong-doing led to a royal commission and the eventual creation of an intelligence service outside the RCMP.
Sawatsky by nature is unobtrusive, not much for pursuing his own fame. His basic attitude was less set by where he was on the left-right spectrum than by a zeal for access and to know all that politicians and mandarins were doing or planning to do. He scorned press conferences and handouts. He wanted to interview, interview … see what was under the rocks!
If, in 1984, Sawatsky symbolized the widest and deepest penetration of reportage, a columnist in from Queen’s Park immediately symbolized “getting Mulroney.” This was Claire Hoy, then of Sun newspapers.
Like Sawatsky, Hoy won emulators in the gallery who took to his core thesis that all politicians are crooks or would be when the chance came. Total cynicism equals total distrust. And Hoy’s contempt for the Mulroneys was paralleled in the House through the antics of the Grit’s rat pack.
In sum, there was a running take-down of Brian Mulroney, his wife, and his government. It came from a long antipathy in the press corps to the Tories, the partisan bias of some reporters, and the influence of models like Sawatsky and Hoy.
But there’s more to the Mulroney dilemma than those elements. Even through the “cosy” years which Brennan recounts there was a distaste in the Gallery for ostentation, extravagance and gross patronage. With Trudeau, spending in high places vaulted to give him privacy and the living standards he demanded, but everyone knew he was wealthy so he wasn’t in it for the bells and whistles. Not so Mulroney, the truck-driver’s son. Even in his first run at the Tory top he’d been wildly extravagant. In power, he engrained this profligate image, not least by aping White House falderol.
One must also emphasize the greed of TV for the cheapest staple at hand – on Parliament Hill. TV’s nightly circus on politicians predated Mulroney’s advent, but his hyperbole and high profile, along with scandal after so-called scandal in ’85 and ’86, agreed with an image of “Lyin’ Brian” (Hoy!) and of both domestic extravagance and international sycophancy.
The gallery is not, if it ever was, a band knit by professional standards or shared values of fair play. The bent of most reporters – TV, radio or print – is to compete over the same stories. These touch most on the PM and his key ministers. In time, though not as quickly or as zealously as with Mulroney, they’ll be raking the Chretien flaws.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 13, 1994
ID: 13003034
TAG: 199403130043
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


The latest edition of the Hill’s bible is to hand, the 1994 edition of the Canadian Parliamentary Guide, some 1,200 pages in English and French, from Globe and Mail Publishing. This is a directory of Parliament, the legislatures, of ministries, of all federal privy councillors, the federal courts, plus a digest of federal election results since Confederation, plus reviews of the most recent provincial elections, and much more.
A partisan buff with a handful of well-spaced guides from the years since World War II can replay elections and their results, the makeup of cabinets, and follow changes in constituencies and their elected personnel with their margins of victory.
The Globe took over the Guide a few years ago and has improved the layout and proof-reading and (I believe) the accuracy. This edition (at $60) has at least a thumbnail on each of the 200-odd new MPs from last October, plus office phone numbers for each MP and senator. The major change this issue has been combining all the election results since Confederation except for 1993 into one long roster by province and then by constituencies. For political journalists, they’re imperative.
The guide’s list of parliamentary press gallery members as the year began totals 338 men and women. The largest single employer is the CBC with 85 members, down by more than a dozen from three years ago.

Recently at Queen’s, Hugh Segal, for so long the Progressive Conservative party’s public surrogate for its leadership on strategies, lectured on the theme there is too much news coverage of politics in Canada.
He may have pointed to the press gallery swarm. He did argue that media’s stressing government as being the core of Canadian matters has led to overexposure of the leading politicians and their activities, which has led to over-familiarity and so on to contempt among citizens. The surfeit of political stuff has engrained an attitude that governments have to tackle all society’s problems and resolve them.
Segal explains this emphasis has developed from the media’s imperative of filler to provide a base for advertising. The handiest, cheapest filler is in covering politicians. This is most obvious with television. The medium’s need for faces, contentions and variety makes shallowness and evasion of complexity inevitable.
Although the pundit advises politicians to distance themselves from media attention, he thinks a remedy is emerging with proliferating channel choices.
These interesting views are colored with irony for me, given Segal’s own gluttony for media notice. Also, his strategic wisdom can be cockeyed. Last week he advised young Tories against swinging their hard-hit party to the right. It won’t work, Segal says. “Why would people vote for a pale imitation of Reform? People will vote for the real thing, nine times out of 10.”

There are two questions about such counsel. Do the Tories have to be imitation conservatives, i.e., pretending to be somewhat to the right of centre? And if they can’t compete with the Reform on the right, how will they cope at the centre-left where the Grits and New Democrats are the real thing?
There was an unusually damning item about the Globe and Mail’s integrity from a recent star, investigative reporter Stevie Cameron.
On TVO’s Between the Line she alleged the paper would often not run material of hers that put politicians in a bad light. She talked of both the excuse of likely libel actions and the “old boys’ network” that suppressed such information. Then, pushed by the interlocutor, she added that for a long time William Thorsell, the editor-in-chief, has been and still is in regular touch with Brian Mulroney. The inference one draws from this mocks the “national newspaper” tag.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, March 11, 1994
ID: 13002728
TAG: 199403100113
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Jean Chretien is being boomeranged with his own thrown weapon even though it seemed a master stroke when he threw it. Let’s not circle this droll situation with images and allusion. The boomerang is the campaign promise Chretien flaunted to kill the GST.
Now, after a month of hearings by the House committee he set to study an alternative to the GST it’s getting embarrassing for our prime minister.
Anyone reading the committee’s proceedings may trace the growing unease of its Grit members. This unease had a confounding apogee Wednesday when 14 of 19 tax experts there indicated there was no promising alternative to the GST and the soundest action would be to refurbish or improve it.
A reader is not long past the first proceedings before he or she divines that the Liberals, including committee chairman Jim Peterson, did not begin with a firm alternative in mind, although he and several other Grit MPs may have had a simple business-retail sales tax in mind. Unfortunately for Liberal equanimity most of the witnesses have not advocated such simple escapes from the GST trap.
The dozen MPs of the committee get along well. The Reformers are open-minded and empirical, and the Bloc MPs quite positive. Neither the Tory creators of the GST nor its harshest critics of the NDP have contributed to the hearings.
The Red Book’s dictum on the GST underlines how agonizing it would be for Chretien and company to stay with it, no matter how much it might be adjusted.
“A Liberal government,” says the book, “will replace the GST with a system that generates equivalent revenues, is fairer to consumers and to small business, minimizes disruption to small business, and promoted federal-provincial fiscal co-operation and harmonization.”
The Red Book said: “. . . the GST has undermined public confidence in the tax system . . . lengthened and deepened the recession . . . is costly for small business to administer and for the government to collect . . . and has fallen far short of promised revenue potential, partly because of the growth of the underground cash economy where no tax can be collected.”
Many witnesses, in particular Denis Desautels, the auditor general of Canada, have recounted the complexity and high overhead of the GST system, its too abrupt introduction, an over-broad inclusion of very small businesses, the prompts it gave the underground economy, and the bulging of officials to ensure compliance. And yet the witnesses come back to it.
But . . . but . . . you will say as I once said: “Chretien was right; the GST is hated. We should be rid of it. Let’s have a plain, workable alternative to the GST.” Well, if you have one in mind, rush it to Chairman Peterson or the latest fiscal wizard, Paul Martin, Jr. because neither has one to hand.
The most riveting alternative offered to the committee came from Michael Walker of the Fraser Institute. He calls it the personal expenditure tax. It’s fascinating in its simplicity (compared to the GST) but it will give politicians the willies. It would focus a percentage tax on the spending of everyone who registers for personal income tax purposes.
You are sure to hear much about the Walker proposal, and I’ve a hunch another tax proposition around for years will be resurrected. That is the “flat” tax or “single” tax whose recent Canadian advocate has been the effusive Dennis Mills, a Toronto Liberal MP.
Let me close with a question and answer that alerted me to the boomerang circling back at Jean Chretien on the GST.
Asking was Jim Silye, a sharp Reform MP (Calgary-Centre) and advocating what would seem a much refurbished, harmonized GST. Answering was the auditor general of Canada.
Q: “What would your department’s opinion be of a multi-staged, visible national sales tax in the range of 10% to 12%, harmonized with the provinces, no exemptions, which would include food, with the federal share 4% to 5%, and the provincial share, 6% to 7%? This would get the Liberals with their campaign promises, off the hook.”
A: “The proposal I’ve just heard is a full package that contains all the details and also obviously reflects some very clear policy objectives, such as the rate of tax, the sharing with the provinces, and so on. These are very important policy questions that are best answered by elected representatives. There are certain qualities about your proposal that really are very consistent with some of the messages we tried to give today.”
Shortly, a Liberal member went out of the way to make clear this model was just Silye’s personal thing, not “any conclusion we’ve come to as a committee.” This signalled me, not just that the Grits don’t know what to do about the GST, but that they’re very edgy about any propositions put by rival politicians.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 09, 1994
ID: 13002453
TAG: 199403080081
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Habitues of Parliament Hill become careful of being captured by men or women who press around MPs and ministers with good causes. They come and go and come and go, a parade of changing personnel. The ones I’m most leery about are those determined to save Canada from the separation of Quebec. So it’s despite almost five years’ familarity with his themes that I’ve not written before of the indefatigable Charles Shaver of Ottawa. He is a medical doctor, specialist in internal medicine, fluently bilingual, handsome and a good talker. As plain Dr. Shaver he lobbies politicians and journalists.
Dr. Shaver’s been breaking through. Recently his pieces on medicare have been in such stalwarts of French-language culture as the dailies Le Devoir and Le Soleil.
A paragraph from a recent Shaver letter to Daniel Johnson, premier of Quebec, has the gist of his arguments, including the nation-saving context: “Since 1986 I have been attempting to persuade Quebec to sign the Reciprocal Billing Agreement, both in order to satisfy the requirement of the Canada Health Act, and so to benefit the citizens of your province. I believe that if Quebecers were fully covered for physicians’ as well as hospital services from coast to coast, they might place greater value on their Canadian citizenship and might be more reluctant to choose a course of independence.”
To this appeal to the self-interest of Quebecers in services and costs, Dr. Shaver gave practicalities: “The cost would be in the order of $6 million per year . . . a rather small price to pay if this would be a factor which could persuade a number of your citizens to vote for the Liberals rather than for the PQ . . . ”
In Le Devoir (March 1) Dr. Shaver puts his targets in his opening questions: “Is Lucien Bouchard right? Are there two nations within Canada, inexorably destined to split? Or do Quebecers and other Canadians still share some common interests, and are fiscal and other problems best resolved within one united country?”
Shaver is aware that most Canadians appreciate the portability of their rights as citizens to hospital services and medical counsel; and all have such portability except Quebecers. Their portability only covers hospital services but not physicians’.
He notes Lucien Bouchard and the BQ have cast themselves in Parliament as the defenders of social programs such as medicare, but if he attains his main goal Quebecers who travel beyond their republic into Canada will find themselves without free access to either medical or hospital care.
After noting Premier Bourassa often cast the European Community as his model for relations between Quebec and the rest of Canada, Shaver points out that arrangements for free medicare in European countries vary widely and a Briton in France or Belgium must pay up front for hospital and physicians’ services, and claim expenses after returning home.
Also the list is not very long in most European countries of participating hospitals and physicians offering care without advance payment.
The Shaver persistence over many years has had at least this success: A lot of adult Quebeers now know one useful entitlement they’ll lose if they ditch Canadian citizenship.
The Sunday Telegraph last week ran a hilarious review of Pierre Trudeau’s Memoirs by its proprietor, Conrad Black, under the title “Pierre Trudeau regrets rien.”
“By his own admission” says Black, PET “never made a mistake.” His book is “self-worshipping and platitudinous.”
Of course, Black’s is not the only severe review Memoirs has had but none top this sort of scorn:
“It was, for instance, the fault of Quebec society that when he arrived at Harvard University at the age of 25, a few months after D-Day, he had no idea of the `historic importance of the war.’
“ . . . he is unembarassed at having admired the sanguinary efforts of Mao and Stalin to develop `a new man.’ He is unapologetic about facilitating Castro’s outrages in Angola (by granting Cuban transport planes landing rights in Newfoundland.”
“Trudeau purports to believe that he transformed Canadians into a mature nationality with his Charter of Rights, which is, in fact, a pastiche of platitudes which had been established in common law but which can now be vacated by any provincial legislature and often has been.”
If that Black note on the Charter hits you (as it did me) as wry but truthful irony, savor this telling observation:
“Great libertarian though he professed to be, he did not lift a finger to preserve the 210-year-old status of English as an official language in Quebec when that status was abolished by the government of Quebec, to the considerable annoyance of the English-speaking majority in Trudeau’s own constituency.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 06, 1994
ID: 12576908
TAG: 199403060077
SECTION: Comment
HAPPIER DAYS … Alan Eagleson, with Hockey Canada in 1977, shows off Team Canada’s “new” sweater.
COLUMN: Fisher Report


There are ironic parallels between the dilemmas of Alan Eagleson and John Munro.
Eagleson, former head of the National Hockey League Players’ Association, has just been indicted in Boston on 32 counts of fraud, embezzlement, racketeering, kickbacks, etc.
Likely you’ve forgotten that John Munro, a minister for 13 years during Trudeau’s regimes, faced 35 criminal charges in our courts for fraud, kickbacks, corruption, conflict of interests, etc. after long investigations of his dealings with natives while minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.
The RCMP inquiries, preliminary hearings, and the trial covered almost five years, culminating late in 1991 when the judge hearing the charges threw them all out. The Crown had used over a hundred witnesses, 106 days of testimony, and 30,000 documents.
I’m not interfering in a sub judice matter when I forecast that some distant day Eagleson will have what Munro described on the day he was freed of charges as a “costly vindication.”
But that’s far up the pipe. Why put the cases side by side? In part because both men are hard goers, gregarious, aggressive, determined, given to schemes and quid-pro-quos and almost always charging along, slam-bang and in a rush, and rarely worrying about whose noses they put out of joint. Of course, in political terms, Munro is a bleeding-heart liberal, fretting over life’s underdogs and Eagleson is an empiric, market-focussed wheeler who can be charitable and often generous, but rarely worries where the little sparrows fall. Of course, Eagleson at any time used to be more bent to rudeness and horse-play than Munro.
Few Canadians, and very few in sports journalism, remember or ever knew of the connections between Eagleson, then pro hockey’s union leader, and Munro, the federal minister responsible for sport in the period from 1968 to 1972.
Their efforts in concert, more than those of any other parties, brought about the famous 1972 series with the USSR hockey team (Yes, Paul Henderson and all that). Each was determined that Canada should prove it had the best hockey players and could ice the top team in the world. In passing, I’d note that neither then appreciated that they were blowing open hockey to the world and triggering a revolution in the game from training and tactics to competition.
Also note it wasn’t until the ’72 series was over and much profit had been made, mostly through Eagleson’s initiatives on everything from TV sales to the airlift of 3,000 fans to Moscow, that NHL owners and advisors like Clarence Campbell and Sam Pollock realized the money in prospect for purposes like pension funding from games with the Russians. And such fruitfulness led directly to their acceptance of the Canada Cup series.
My opinions may seem uncommonly assured. They come from close work with both Munro and Eagleson through the 1970s, first as a writer of the ’69 federal task force report on sport, as a founding director and then head of Hockey Canada, the quasi-crown corporation which Munro created to seek and attain regular participation by Canada’s best players in international competition, and then as author of the Canada Cup proposal.
A few journalists – e.g., Roy MacGregor of the Ottawa Citizen – are excoriating themselves and the whole Canadian sports media because the Eagleson case is essentially a Canadian story that was broken by a reporter for a small paper in Lowell, Mass., and a long inquiry by the FBI this started brought the 32 charges. Some others – e.g., Al Strachan of the Globe – are foreshadowing revelations or cover-ups regarding those in Canada’s political and legal high places with whom Eagleson consorted.
On MacGregor’s point I would confirm that from 1969 to 1979 as spokesman for Hockey Canada I was unable to get a single sports writer interested in our reports of revenues and spending, much of both tied to Eagleson’s activities. No sports writer nor investigator has since queried me about deals made with my approval by Eagleson with the likes of banks, airlines, hotels, coaches, trainers, etc. or for his firm’s services.
When I appraise the opening up of hockey since Eagleson got the NHLPA going in 1967 I see major change in its economics and in the playing, including by whom and where. And the first in my list of credits for this is Alan Eagleson. And politically speaking, John Munro was a prime, early cause.
It was tragic Munro was popularly taken to be a criminal once the 35 criminal charges were laid. His exoneration never caught up with the shady public view of him. Eagleson? I’ve expressed my hunch simply because the charges don’t square with the man with whom I worked over a decade.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, March 04, 1994
ID: 12576330
TAG: 199403030141
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The media focused on these three Mulroney effusions this week rather than his hymm to the Free Trade Agreement: The parallels in Jean Chretien’s recent deeds to his own as PM; his legacy of strength in party policies, organization, and finances left and booted by Kim Campbell; and the assurance that just as spring follows winter so shall the Tories again return to prominence.
He was witty on the first, self-deceiving on the second, and it’s more than an even chance his now forlorn party will come back. The resurgence will need more than one federal election.
It certainly must be presaged by a rebuff in Quebec to sovereignty and the Bloc.
If federalism survives the looming challenge, the Tories under Jean Charest should add some Quebec seats in the next election, though not a lot.
Why? So long as federalism prevails and the Reform Party keeps its present positions on issues prime in Quebec, the Tories must be the alternative national party.
The most insightful quip of the ex-PM was the small place there is for former party leaders in active politics.
Several times Sergio Marchi, the minister responsible for immigration, has magisterially rebuffed opposition critics of the high levels he’s ordained for entrants from abroad.
He exulted as he openly revered the Red Book.
In it the critics find the Liberal undertaking for immigration. The book projected the annual intake of 250,000. And the overwhelming huge House majority of the Liberals shows the broad backing for this immigration policy.
There’s humor in this guff. Those dreadful Tories had set exactly the same intake level. It hadn’t done them a damned bit of good with the voters, especially in Toronto where so many of the quarter-million will wind up.
I parade Marchi’s mighty deductive leap from a brief bit in the Red Book to approval by the whole nation for lots of immigrants as a prompt regarding the future.
As spring follows winter the days will come when opposition parties will raise items in the Red Book, say, on deficit reduction or child care, and declare: “You had the mandate. You promised it. Why didn’t you do it?”
Three recent professorial products suggest to me how imperative it is for the New Democratic Party to develop a fresh, forward-looking economic program. I refer to:
1. A book by historian Bruce Muirhead, titled The Development of Post-war Canadian Trade Policy, from McGill-Queen’s Press.
2. An essay by economist John Richards, titled The Social Policy Round, in the recent C.D. Howe Institute book, The Case for Change: Reinventing the Welfare State.
3. A book by economist Roger Smith, titled Personal Wealth Taxation: Canadian tax policy in a historical and an international setting, paper No. 97 from the Canadian Tax Foundation. Both Muirhead and Richards have been active New Democrats, the former at the Lakehead, the latter in Vancouver and Regina. Muirhead was a campaign manager in Thunder Bay and Richards a minister of health in Saskatchewan before he moved to Simon Fraser.
Muirhead’s book builds objectively to the achievement of the FTA by Canada and the U.S.
As a reader, I asked the author if my hunch was right – he hadn’t trumpeted it – that he approved of the FTA or, as a trade expert, felt it was inevitable. He nodded. I said: “You, a New Democrat, back the agreement?”
His reply was affirmative, with the caveat this had been and is an issue complicated by failed or unlikely alternatives.
Richards’ essay is clear and convincing in its appraisal of the successes and failures of our “welfare state” and the absolute imperative we redesign social policy now because of “the parlous state of Canada’s public finances.”
Generosity has led to chaos. Richards says the welfare state must co-exist with a market economy. This puts limits on both. There must be major reforms of unemployment insurance and training provisions, etc.
So there are two large views by NDPers of note that are obviously ahead of party policy. The third professor, Roger Smith of Alberta, is not an open New Democrat but his book on taxation of wealth is a grim account for those like Audrey McLaughlin who insist the NDP’s economic plans can be largely financed by taxing the wealthy avoiders.
Smith shows there isn’t that much wealth out there and there is little indication, even from opinion polling, that Canadians are keen on taxing personal wealth.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 02, 1994
ID: 12575809
TAG: 199403010109
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Our household pivoted on the TV screen during the Olympic fortnight. Beyond our Canadianism that was moderately satisfied, I thought there was something for every bias, even for those who know the mass fascination with sport is moronic and could take the Tonya-Nancy affair as witness.
Two matters few other viewers would know about reminded me of the political antecedents for the Canadian showing at the Games. One was prompted by a recent item about the ’76 Montreal Olympics, the other by an ignored 25th anniversary in Canadian sport. In 1969, the report of the federal task force on sport was published by Health Minister John Munro. It stemmed from a ’68 campaign promise by Pierre Trudeau.
Federal access-to-information law is revealing stuff on what has gone on within the Ottawa bureaucracies. What hit me with long-delayed pleasure was a story a week ago from a reporter who’d conned cabinet papers for the early to mid-’70s.
He discovered the Trudeau ministry pondered long on whether to cancel the Montreal Olympics by withdrawing support. The cabinet had realized Mayor Jean Drapeau and the Quebec government were far out of their depth on costs.
The ultimate bill for the taxpayers of Montreal, Quebec and Canada too, would be staggering. Ottawa had been badly burned by what became Drapeau’s World’s Fair in and after Centennial year. Only a fool could swallow Drapeau’s assertion there could be no more an Olympic deficit than he could have a baby. Ultimately the cabinet cracked. It feared international scorn and Quebec outrage more than colossal debt for generations.
(Yes, both Montreal and Quebec taxpayers are still paying down the debts of the ’76 Olympics.)
Why should I take pleasure in learning the cabinet almost called the Games off? Because I and a handful of others who’d spent a decade lobbying for more federal backing for amateur sport knew the grandeurs which were captivating Quebec politicians would be costly and small help to sports.
We buttonholed several ministers. They were attentive but very cautious, notably those from west of Quebec. Only one, Bud Drury, from Westmount, ever broke into open comment on the fantasies in Drapeau’s math on costs and revenues. We knew our pitches were getting through but the silence and lack of action was discouraging. We demonstrated Canadian taxpayers would put out more for the fortnight’s extravaganza than all the moneys spent on sport by the three orders of government since Confederation.
We mocked the Olympic fiction the Games were awarded to a city. No city alone could handle the honor without national backing, and the IOC knew this. Why blow several billions of government money and create a monstrous debt at a time when all the governments in Canada were spending less than $40 million a year on the development of amateur sport and its facilities?
Now, some 20 years later, even as the follies of the Montreal stadium roll on, it’s good to know we did make the case even though fears of a Quebec backlash were too ominous for the cabinet. It’s also true the Montreal fiasco rather like the Dieppe Raid, was to influence events, notably the Winter Games in Calgary that made a profit.
Why did a few of us think we were entitled to object to Drapeau’s folly? Because we’d been involved with John Munro in both the preparation and the implementing of the 1969 task force on sport (which had been headed by Charles Rea, Nancy Greene and Paul Desruisseaux).
The report led to the Canada Games, completing the four-year cycle of Olympics, Pan-American and Commonweatlh games. It caused the formation of Sports Canada with its services and space for national associations. The Coaching Association, Hockey Canada, and the Sports Information Research Centre were launched and Ottawa backed both the importing of world-class coaches for a score of sports and athletic scholarships at our universities and colleges. Within two years of the ’69 report all the larger provinces had created their own sport wings with space and services for the provincial arms of associations.
At this moment as one very chary now of government spending in an age of huge debt I contemplated Canada vis-a-vis global sports as seen in the quality, spirit and achievement of our women and men in Norway. On balance, what Trudeau triggered in ’68 and the task force trio recommended and John Munro got largely implemented in the early ’70s is worth some prideful recall. As I watched the competitions I reviewed what the 25 years have brought in sport: The making of hundreds of rinks and gymnasia and fields of play and scores of pools, and the swarms of kids and volunteer leaders in contests and training, in and around them. I think it all more fulfilling even than the Blue Jays.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 27, 1994
ID: 12575188
TAG: 199402270079
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


As Lise Bissonnette of Le Devoir is far more the intellectual than most newspaper editors, so is Jerahmiel Grafstein when compared with most of his fellow senators.
Thus an opening round of exchange between them over the aims of the BQ had an unusual freight of erudition and ideas. The senator made a 15-minute speech in the Red Chamber on Feb. 8 and Bissonnette responded in detail in Le Devoir of Feb. 21, and suggested Grafstein may be the herald of “a Bosnian strategy” by the Chretien government.
Pierre Trudeau summoned Grafstein, a Toronto lawyer, to the Senate 10 years ago. Long before his elevation he was unusually interested for a Canadian political groupie in philosophy and the history of ideas. To the senator, being a capital-l Liberal means being a small-l liberal in philosophy with an emphasis on individual rights and the pluralism which parliamentary democracy sustains.
And so, as Grafstein scans the new Parliament with an official opposition in the House bent on sundering Canada he analyzes the basis for Lucien Bouchard and his BQ caucus. He identifies it – accurately – as “nationalism” (as has Trudeau, his appointer). And he characterizes it as nasty and ultimately oppressive (as does Trudeau).
Let me list the six “tactical arrows” which Lise Bissonette charged him with firing at the sovereignists. They indicate the tone and scope of the Grafstein speech, as Bissonnette interprets it. The six “arrows” were:
1. “Questioning the adversary’s legitimacy” by suggesting the BQ were in the House as official opposition by accident, rather than by design (i.e., of the electors);
2. “Presenting the opponent as the incarnation of evil” by the device of metaphors regarding nationalism such as “political cancer” and “the most corrosive cause of wanton human destruction,” and even insinuating this is something to be eradicated.
3. “Making the opponent guilty by association” through linking it with its “incubator baby sisters” such as “chauvinist regionalism” and “ethnic fundamentalism.”
4. “Lying boldly about the opponent” by asserting that “Quebec’s nationalist media thinks it is not unfair to monopolize print and the electronic airwaves” and ignoring (as Bissonnette puts it) “the pluralism which is central to contemporary cultural production in Quebec.”
5. “Proclaiming the opponent’s moral inferiority” by denoting nationalism as “self-love” and the evocation of “the tribal passions that never fail to engulf and drown reason.”
6. “Using code words to destroy the opponent” such as trying “to appease, or worse, underestimate, the forces of nationalism,” and the sensitive editor reminds readers that “appeasement” is code for Chamberlain’s deal with Hitler.
Grafstein’s speech with its collective accusations and stereotypes is effective, says Bissonette, but it is immoral. “The slope is a slippery one, and it is not too soon to point that out.”
Last Wednesday a Tory senator, Jean-Claude Rivest, was critical in the Senate of Grafstein’s speech, and no doubt defenders of Grafstein will have letters in Le Devoir.
Now given the hundreds of speeches annually in the House and the Senate which are unreported and uncontested in chamber or out, one must be cautious about a 15-minute whirl in the Senate and a snarky 1,800 word rebuttal in a newspaper with a small circulation. But one can see a central significance which has to concern the federalists, whether in Quebec or in the rest of Canada.
The editorialist pushed hard to sharpen and poison Grafstein’s “tactical arrows, overlooking or whistling by some cogent examples of nationalism’s excesses and pluralism’s fruitfulness. In making such a powerful counter she has sobered me about the crunch on Canada’s unity coming this year. How so? By showing that in literate Quebec the flaws of a nationalist state that is rooted in the primacy of one language are not considered fair arguments.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, February 25, 1994
ID: 12574464
TAG: 199402240108
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


A puzzling aspect of timing – political timing – comes with the clearest strategy of this first Chretien-Martin budget. It really was a preliminary budget assay. The full and genuine revelation of the Liberals’ economic and social policies will be in the second budget this time next year.
Have the Liberals thought much on what’s ahead?
The winning federal party flaunted the fullness of its undertakings in the Red Book. But after nine years as “official opposition” and four months in office, it was not ready to act thoroughly. We must await “reviews” of tax policy (the GST) and social security policy and transfer payments (to the provinces) for a year. And half-a-dozen other reviews are underway or planned for parliamentary committees – e.g., health policy, defence policy and peacekeeping, immigration and refugee policy, and cultural agencies.
Have you thought much about the politics of the 12 months ahead? Yes, you know there’ll be opinions by the score from interest groups and by the thousands from individuals on keeping and amending or jettisoning the GST and finding other means to raise from $16 billion to $20 billion a year.
Yes, you know that the social security review will draw even more group and individual interest than the tax stuff, and in particular if hospital and medicare gets drawn into it in the latter stages, as seems likely if the provinces have their way. Yes, you are likely to anticipate that both these reviews plus the undertaking to reach a new and long-term plan for transfer payments will spark intense interest and determined participation from the provincial governments.
Literally as well as figuratively, the year ahead for the federal agenda in politics will be the fullest one in diversity and the bite of major issues since the advent of the Pearson government in 1963 with its heralded 60 days of decision (which were shaken and nearly foundered by the first Gordon budget).
But one matter, the gravest of all, stands out in this coming year which had nothing as perilous or near parallel in 1963, although some believe it began to take shape with “B and B” – the bilingualism and biculturalism initiative.
Yes, a Quebec election is certain, and this time almost every indicator posits a party dedicated to sundering Canada will win. Already it’s vividly clear in the new House of Commons that the BQ, the PQ’s comrade party, is the official opposition and is adroit in using the priority such status gives to impinge daily on the parliamentary agenda. Consider what the BQ will be about in the House if (or, almost certainly, when) the referendum is put to Quebecers.
In brief, we go into the year to the climactic budget after this tentative and preliminary shift in economic and social policies with a less than robust economy and close examinations underway in most major policy fields, all of which will affect the provincial governments and overload federal ministers and their departments and parliament itself.
Very soon, certainly in this year ahead, we know the constitutional matter which most of us are tired of must explode and this time the odds for federalism are not as good as they were in the referendum campaign when Trudeau faced Levesque.
The failures this decade of the Meech and Charlottetown accords were more than tiring; they’ve made the Rest of Canada far more impatient than it was in the early ’80s and unwilling for much more flexibility toward Quebec by Ottawa. One witness, indeed a guarantee, of such unwillingness is the half-hundred Reform MPs.
It seems obvious that without a miracle triumph of the Daniel Johnson government, by Labor Day Jean Chretien’s government and parliament as a day-to-day institution must be onto the issue of sovereignty-separation of Quebec.
As one scouts strategy and tactics for a federal triumph in a Quebec referendum nothing seems more definite than that a win can neither be bought with programs and dollars nor by going back to the changes in status and role for Quebec which were set in Meech and in Charlottetown. Rather, it seems sure to be an all-out slugfest all the way to the decision by ballot. Now this may be all for the best, even unto a result that disappoints federalists.
But come back to the budget, which is merely stage one. Come back to the welter of activity necessary before stage two is to be revealed next winter. How to fit it all in?
What’s the brute question and the doubts it creates going to do to the creep out of recession? What irrational effects will it have on the main “reviews” because a PQ government won’t engage in them intensively or waste its energies working toward a national consensus on their recommendations.
So what’s my gist? A year from now budget # 2 may be, or may seem to be, redundant.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 23, 1994
ID: 12573909
TAG: 199402220102
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Paul Martin, Jr., is a dear, undevious sort and last night the first Liberal budget speech delivered in a decade was earnest, hopeful and, paradoxically, both repetitious and surprisingly narrow.
The repetitions were in rhetorical flourishes, most of them exhortations to do good and work hard. The narrowness was in a dearth of references, let alone economic analysis, regarding cultural programs, immigration policy, environmental policy, native affairs programs, grain and dairy policies, trade and industry policies and the huge “reorg’ underway of departments which the Tories started and the Liberals are tidying up.
There was no excitement or grandeur of a fresh start in this budget exercise. Take out the major military base closings and what’s left is a swatch of small changes and dinky program initiatives.
Of course, there were the repeated reminders that this was “first stage” and the Liberal rocket’s takeoff comes with “second stage” in the 1995 budget after reviews are in hand on replacing the GST, reforming the social safety net and appraising changes to cultural policies and peacekeeping.
The tentativeness and lack of really grand substance vis-a-vis either deficit/debt or more jobs confirms an opinion put last week by Richard Gwynn of the Toronto Star that here is a crew which may have come to office with a Red Book on what to do, but far from prepared in plans or decisions on how to do it. They want to restore the confidence of entrepreneurs and consumers; they want to get both the jobless rate and the deficit down; and they keep touching “Creating Opportunity” (i.e., the Red Book). But it’s a wish list, not an action program of plans and figures.
The wriest aspect of the budget and its papers are the similarities with preceding stuff from Michael Wilson and Don Mazankowski. A little less optimism, just a little less reverence for private enterprise, similar paeans to small business, a few more references to the disadvantaged and a lot more self-congratulation for “consultation” and being “open.”
The good news for many will be that tax changes are minor and neither the rates nor levels of personal income tax are changed. How few are the tax changes? In total they will mean less than another billion in 1994-95.
The plays for small business are many but the stress is on “challenges and opportunities,” and on better bureaucratic service, more access to research, and far readier loans from banks. And Martin has inherited the buzz words from the Tories’ “prosperity” gambit such as: Globalization, the information highway, productivity, strategies, niches, accesses and (for sure!) lots more “working committees.”
How widespread, diverse, and intense will the criticism be?
Much protest will roll over base closures. The federal public service unions will rage. But the government’s apprehensions aren’t there but with the finance and investment communities, who will likely await the second stage, and the provincial governments, who will await the social policy restructuring. This won’t be a partisan disaster like the ’63 Gordon budget, the ’79 Crosbie budget, or the ’81 MacEachen budget.
In Parliament the Reformers will storm in detail over the failure to make more and deeper spending cuts. The BQ MPs will sound as harsh but Quebec has suffered no more from the budget cuts and closings than Ontario or B.C.
The stopper to Reformers and the BQ and almost all critics will be “Wait till next year!” And one understands – surely even the Liberals – that the crunch next year must be an epic one. In general, the deficit must be at or near their prediction, the GST must be replaced, the social programs restructured, health care reforms agreed to with the provinces and a long-term commitment made on transfer payments.
This has not been a flattering appraisal. What did I like in Martin’s budget? Higher funding for the National Research Council; income-testing the age credit now allowed those 65 and over; the tiny improvement on charitable donations; continuing the freeze of all federal salaries; and the greater caution in forecasts.
To conclude, I refer to two questions I found in the recent Canadian Tax Foundation paper #93. After it credited the Mulroney government with having made the tax system “cleaner in the sense of being more efficient and equitable” it asked:
“Will governments retreat from the laissez-faire ideology that they adopted in the ’80s and return to a more activist role? Or will they become even more conservative, continue to reduce their economic role, and rely increasingly on private markets to promote growth?”
From this Martin budget one cannot answer either question positively. We must wait till next year.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 20, 1994
ID: 12573331
TAG: 199402200096
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Surely there’s some humor in the crisis over the credentials of the two Grit victors in eastern Metro who’ve been caught short: Jag Bhaduria and John Cannis. At least I find droll the sheer brass of the challenged MPs. There’s fun of sorts in sturdy responses to damning allegations. Two anecdotes from riding campaigns long ago may illustrate the comic prospects in campaign allegations.
The first concerns a former Tory MPP and long-time cabinet minister, the late George Wardrope of Port Arthur.
I first got to know George as a child in a bushtown in the 1920s. He was then a travelling fur-buyer who was courting my favorite teacher. He was (and remained for life) a sunny, dapper and jovial man. He was a joy for kids as a candy-giver, tease and story-teller. After a colorful career from the fur trade to lumber sales to insurance to municipal politics in Port Arthur, George at 52 finally made it into the Ontario legislature in the election of 1951. He’d been a busy bachelor until he married a few years before this.
George defeated an able CCF MPP, a friend of mine who knew I cherished George. My friend was wryly rueful in relating his example of George’s bravura, told to him by its victim.
George’s campaign had brought him to a crowded community hall in a small town in the bush north of Lake Superior. The audience was mostly male and far from all Tory. After George’s climactic speech the chairman asked if there were any questions for the candidate.
After George had suavely massaged a bumbling male questioner, a middle-aged matron stood up, stiff and serious. At the chairman’s “Yes, madam” she launched out.
“George Wardrope! You should be ashamed to present yourself to the voters. Some of us know you. We know your past, and what you’ve done. You’re not a fit man to represent this riding. I know as fact, and so do others who’ll swear to it, that you, George Wardrope, are the father of an illegitimate child.”
The crowd gasped at this and buzzed as the red-faced challenger sat down. George rose quickly and strode to the very front of the platform. He paused. He was composed, unruffled as he spoke.
“Madame, thank you for bringing forth an indiscretion of the past. But Madame, you haven’t given the full facts. I am more than the father of an illegitimate child; I am the father of two illegitimate children.”
For a few seconds there was silence in the hall, then the crowd exploded with laughs which worked into standing applause during which the accuser fled the place.
The story of the encounter ran around the region; however, George carried the riding then, and several more times.
The second story came to me from the late Arthur Blakely, a columnist for the Montreal Gazette. It was about the boldest campaign ploy he’d seen. There was a big “confrontation of candidates” meeting near Quebec City in 1953. A Liberal incumbent was under strong challenge from a voluble Conservative.
The incumbent was notorious in Ottawa as a Don Juan, a reputation he sustained after he left the House to become an ambassador.
To a full house the Conservative, a handsome, leggy, curly-coiffed fellow with elegant phrasing, went right at the immorality of his rival.
Was this infamous womanizer, a threat to decent women, fit to represent this Catholic county? He himself, a family man, with children, would never as their MP lay such a trail of adultery.
The crowd was gasping at the attack. And people edged forward for the Liberal’s response to this crusher. The MP, a man of small stature, came forward, then stood quiet, hesitant for long moments. Then he spoke, slowly and intimately. as if chatting with neighbors.
Ah yes … he was a sinner, and like many men he had a frailty – a fascination with, and a delight, in women. He was not proud of it. Nor would he ever boast of it. His confessors knew of it, and his repetitions in temptation and sin. Like most men, at least most men he knew, he couldn’t deny he had transgressed in this regard. He would not deny what this so righteous gentleman had said of him.
But there was a question for those present. Most of them would understand his failings. But would they understand and appreciate another far less common failing? One which his competitor surely symbolized. (Long pause.) His own affinity was with women. (Shrugs.) Would the county prefer a man who loves women? Or, (looking at his accuser) a man who loves young boys?
There was uproar, said Arthur Blakely, a rollicking uproar. The meeting broke into noisy confusion and scores pushed to congratulate the Liberal. And he carried the riding handily.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, February 18, 1994
ID: 12572605
TAG: 199402170104
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


On Tuesday friends came to the Chateau Laurier for a spiffy dinner honoring and spoofing Dalton Camp on the eve of his entry to the Order of Canada. Half a dozen people made witty and quite Tory speeches, e.g., Bob Stanfield, Roy McMurtry, senators Finlay MacDonald and Wilbert Keon, and David Camp, Dalton’s oldest son (with a gem).
There was much ranging over Tory times (and feuds) from Sir John A. to John Diefenbaker to Kim Campbell, even unto Jean Charest, a guest. A sad surprise, at least to an unTory like me, was that the name Mulroney was uttered just once in two hours of remarks, and that in an offhand reference to “the Mulroney years” just to date something. Evidently October’s legacy is too dour for irony or ruefulness.

Recalling the use of the “royal we,” as when Queen Victoria would say “We are not amused,” got me to thinking of what’s becoming known in Liberal circles as “Chretien’s I.”
When the PM says he said this, or told somebody this, it may be a figurative, rather than a literal, truth. How so?
When Chretien’s handler, Eddie Goldenberg, phones someone or gives someone direct word of a decision or an opinion of the PM he or she who hears knows that this is the ultimate word from Jean Chretien.
Right? Right. That’s the way it is. A prime minister has to be busy and Chretien’s always been busy – a mover! Too busy to speak directly to every errant member of the Liberal caucus. Thus the Chretien “I” encircles two people, Jean and Eddie.
So figuratively but not really did Jean Chretien tell anything to Jag Bhaduria in recent weeks. But his “I” did.

A few Reform MPs are fed up with turning the other cheek to nasty “redneck” tags and to their leader’s quick disavowals at each touchy interpretation by partisan rivals and reporters of Reformers’ deeds or words on language, immigration, etc. Good examples: The Hitler quote and “Frenchified Ottawa”.
The deep animosity toward Preston Manning and the Reform caucus is deeper in the Liberal and NDP parties than the bitterness toward Lucien Bouchard and the Bloc’s MPs. What’s also surprising is the prevalence of the same animus among most members of the parliamentary press gallery, an animus well past mere traditional cynicism of the press.
One is tempted to make a leap from this pervasive antagonism to Reform to the generalization that what has been or has passed as the establishment views of political partisans of New Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives, had become a grouping of comrades in outlook and values – and, using the cliche phrase, most politically correct.

None of my recent columns brought as much reaction as that on Bernard Ostry and his fitness to direct Canada along the information highway. I was aware Bernard had impressed many over his 40 years, veering from well left to moderate right to the centre of politics. What I hadn’t realized was the large cadre of Ostryphobes. Now that I do, I refer then to an analysis of Ostry’s view of Canada. It’s in an entertaining book from U of T Press by Ted Magder: Canada’s Hollywood: The Canadian State and Feature Films.
A warning! Magder, of York University, is politically incorrect. He says:
“Ostry . . . writes that `the federal government has a clear responsibility – if we are to have a country at all – to encourage the growth of the missing sense of heritage and destiny. The federal task is to ensure we connect.’
“For Ostry the formation of a national cultural identity through the policy mechanisms of the democratic state is the final, and perhaps the most important, act of nation building. The consummate bureaucrat, Ostry . . . reflects the optimism that his profession often places on state steering mechanisms . . . In one of the most familiar traditions of Canadian thought, Ostry emphasizes the need for `reason and order’ around a policy that `allows us to choose more rationally the possible courses, even the right course, for the Canadian federation of the future.’
“Ostry never systematically considers the possibility that specific interests form the basis of the state’s decision-making cues, or that at a given time there are real limits on the nature of bureaucratic calculations and the extent of state intervention . . . State policy cannot be idealized as the practice of a neutral, rational, bureaucratic institution, less still can the policy process be situated above the contradictory dynamics of capitalist democracy.”
Good stuff!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 16, 1994
ID: 12572060
TAG: 199402150074
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


On some topics this House of Commons has had more disagreement in remarks and questions than any since the 1950s. This has come largely from the advent of Reformers, and in a lesser way from the BQ MPs. And there’s the obverse to their presence in large numbers, i.e., the dearth of Progressive Conservatives and the hobbling of the NDP MPs through lack of party status.
It’s been noticeable the Reformers come at issues from the right side of the spectrum and the BQers from its left-centre. Neither Reform nor the BQ has been strongly oriented federally, although Reform is inching there. Of course, the Liberals, like every governing party with a large majority straddles both sides of a broad centre and they tend to burn at any dissent from the customary stances in the House on issues.
What are the issues that so long had a largely consensual House? Sometimes the lack of bite was because the subjects were perceived as very touchy. Sometimes it was because criticism was thought to be reactionary and that the policies enjoyed strong backing from most good citizens. Thus almost all MPs for years have backed away from attacks on the following:
There is immigration (and refugees) and its tag-along multiculturalism, first floated in the ’60s as Canada moved away from immigration sources in Europe. Multiculturalism became a banal commonplace of the Mulroney years through repetitious rhapsodies on the merits of diversity and global heritages.
Secondly, and slightly less delicate now the House has the BQ and the BQ has little time for it, there is official bilingualism policy. It was first introduced in the Pearson years to some dissidence from some opposition Tories, but it has been broadly accepted by all the parliamentary caucuses since Brian Mulroney came to the House in 1983 and quickly went for it when the Liberals tried to embarrass him as opposition leader with a motion which reaffirmed parliamentary support for bilingualism and its programs.
Thirdly, there’s federal support for culture and higher education through federal funding and such long-running crown institutions as the CBC, the NFB, the Canada Council, and Sport Canada. In one sense the BQ is far less critical than Reform on the proposition that such endeavors deserve governmental support. What the BQ zeros on are programs which they see as intrusions on provincial jurisdictions or those from which Quebec has not been getting fair shares.
Fourthly, there is native policy and its wide array of programs, for more than a decade the most steadily rising expense to the federal treasury. The native issues represent the most striking departure from the traditional consensi of the parties. Who would have forecast a year ago that the benign general agreement on white guilt and aboriginal needs and demands would fracture so soon and so much?
The break in the consensus on natives has really shaken the Liberals, in part because the critique is coming strongly and persistently from both Reform and the BQ. Also, the cigarette crisis stemming from the Mohawk smuggling ramp along the St. Lawrence has alerted them to the creep across Canada of exasperation at native antics, largely by chiefs like the unsatisfiable Ovide Mercredi and by native disrespect for laws.
And it has rather suddenly struck Liberals from the prime minister to the back rows of the caucus what a daunting undertaking Indian affairs minister Ron Irwin gave in assuring the process of establishing aboriginal self-government would be underway by mid-1994. Daunting also because no one knows what this “inherent right” means in terms of where, for whom, and to what degree, either constitutionally or financially. And even more daunting because neither Reformers nor the BQ are ready to back anything more than bands with reservation lands may have the equivalent of municipal governments. Of course, a municipal equivalent is far less grand than the Mercredis, Erasmuses and Ahenikews have been talking about.
The BQ appreciates that, come an affirmative vote for sovereignty in a Quebec referendum, the position and attitudes of Indians in Quebec will become major determinants in any amicable resolution of Canada-Quebec affairs. This is so, first because the Crees are the main dwellers in a huge chunk of Quebec Hydro’s watersheds; secondly, the three Mohawk reservations on or near the St. Lawrence, in gingering the BQ about limits to the rule of law in Quebec, have roused its caucus on serious trouble ahead for sovereignty, even unto violence.
Reformers are casting an even wider net through continuing examination in detail of past and current spending programs for aborigines. For years MPs never dared to question seriously any such spending. Watch how the Reformers in particular will take apart what next week’s budget indicates for each of these once consenual policy areas.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 13, 1994
ID: 12571456
TAG: 199402130112
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


White, black, brown or yellow?
That’s a way, some would say a racist way, to put the choices we have in immigration policies.
We have choices because far more want to come here than we can take.
Another way to see choices in immigration is in terms of religions – say Christian, or Muslim, or Buddhist, or secular. Or choices can be put in terms of language spoken – English or French, our official Canadian languages, or Italian, Greek, Spanish, Urdu, Swahili or whatever.
Another way has some recognition in present policy but it’s been much fudged; that is, the education levels and/or job skills or the personal wealth of a would-be immigrant have been tied to to the state of employment and the shortages or surpluses of skills in the Canadian economy.
Also, for a long time, and increasingly as immigrants tend to come from nations where kin ties are strong and long, the family factor in immigration policy honors a right of a landed immigrant to bring in relatives.
Another way of choosing or of giving priorities to immigrants might be to favor or give a bonus to those who would come to Canada from a country which has a history of democratic experience, that is of free elections and the acceptance that governments which lose elections lose office. The majority of immigrants in the past decade are not from such democracies.
In these balloons I’ve just floated on immigration choices are two attitudes which will bring lots of rebukes.
Firstly, I’ve offended or will be seen to have offended the correct and benign views of our political parties and familiar interest groups on immigration. These could be refined to a core premise that all landed immigrants are of equal value to Canada.
Secondly, I’ve touched on the substantial aspects about immigrants and refugees which are in Canadians’ minds as they think about the levels and composition of our immigration.
Why venture on ground so dangerous to a journalistic reputation? In part, because a new government, with fanfare, is continuing the relatively high levels of immigration worked up by its predecessor as we turned into the ’90s and it is continuing the basic premises of what’s been described as “the rainbow,” that is, all immigrants are of equal benefit to Canada and Canada does not distinguish between countries as sources of immigrants.
It’s clear to me that a lot, probably a majority of Canadians, think (as I do) that:
a) We’ve been taking too many immigrants and refugees and in particular too many whose costs to municipalities are high, particularly in light of our joblessness and our perilous deficits and because so many arrivals are funnelling into three big cities;
b) Too much of recent immigration is coming from countries with heritages in marked contrast in values and customs to those here, for example, female circumcision;
c) Not enough immigrants are coming from the original mainstream sources of democratic values and systems, that is, Great Britain and Europe.
It was encouraging that the Toronto Star, so long editorially zealous for multiculturalism and the rainbow, wrote this (on Feb. 5):
“The part of the immigration debate that hasn’t yet graduated to the House of Commons is probably the most explosive:
The whole issue of the changes to Canada’s cultural mosaic taking place because the majority of immigrants now come from the Third World.”
And the Edmonton Journal (Feb. 6) wrote:
“A country built on immigration needn’t fear an immigration debate . . . A debate would clarify feelings and perhaps bring understanding. It might even produce more revelations about why Canada remains the most open country in the world towards immigration.”
And the Journal went on to castigate our political parties for their “conspiracy to avoid debate.”
Sergio Marchi, the latest ministerial advocate of high immigration, uses the “racist” slur for any who attack our immigration practices. He should take to mind this sentence from the Journal editorial. So should those who think the suggestiveness in this piece is outrageous.
“A debate in immigration should proceed without the code words and stereotypical responses that have characterized recent positions on immigration policy.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, February 11, 1994
ID: 12570707
TAG: 199402100111
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The Liberals have done well in their first 100 days of power, in particular the prime minister. But this week responses to the tobacco initiatives show the honeymoon is ending. The budget should finish it. Here are opinions on the Liberals from their parliamentary context.
On the tobacco issue, the evidence that the government will need within a quarter or less to assuage the massive and angry health lobby is a proven end to the smuggling, particularly through the Mohawk reservations. An even worse danger may emerge if Quebec becomes the base for an informal inter-provincial trade to serve Ontario and Western smokers. My hunch is that the complex, messy initiative will work out well.
Unfortunately for advantageous comparisons, the intense involvement of literally millions in response to the bold moves has submerged the vivid memories of Brian Mulroney, notably as ever obliging Quebec.
An apprehension of some Liberal MPs, notably Metro Toronto ones, is a better reading than a Gallup on what’s still going up. They view with misgivings the huge agitation in the riding of Markham-Whitchurch-Stouffville for the resignation of Jag Bhaduria, now an independent MP. Why? Because they don’t want what would have to be an immediate byelection. Why not? It’s not just because they think the Reform Party would win it but because the campaign would be a circus highly favorable to Reform in their heartland. Does this mean a Grit backroomer has directly counselled Bhaduria to hang in? No. As I divine it, the message has been going by social osmosis through Bhaduria’s ethnic ties.
By almost a decade, Charles Lynch is the most experienced parliamentary commentator still at work. He is remarkably high on the surge in quality and constructiveness he observes in the proceedings of the new House of Commons. Give Lynch his due, he’s been a regular in the House gallery since 1958. What bothers him is how the excellent performances, particularly by new MPs (including lots of Liberals), get ignored. No paper or station or network gives space or time to speeches in “debates;” once question period’s over, reporters exit. So do a lot of MPs and almost all but a “duty” minister.
Chretien’s made much of the generosity and uniqueness of the free House debates he set up on social policy, cruise-missile testing, and budget ideas but neither the ministers specifically responsible in these areas nor any other ministers have stayed for most of the speeches. Why not? Too busy! Too busy for discussion and exchange with colleagues and rivals in the country’s prime forum? Yes, and this practice of ministers dodging the House and not taking an active part as listeners and intervenors in the debates means the elan, concord and material arguments which Charles Lynch applauds will wither and back we’ll go to the presidential-style emphasis on the executive.
On the matter of ministers’ work recall what Mitchell Sharp, Jean Chretien’s mentor, has stressed: The duties of a minister are political, not administrative. The deputy minister and his assistants should run the department and counsel the minister on choices or options. If Sharp’s advice was taken the current ministers wouldn’t be talking and behaving like their predecessors for many parliaments. They wince over overload, their hectic schedules, their full agendas, their thick and numerous papers.
One may read this rather quick estrangement of ministers from the House as the prime workplace of federal politics in the combination of bafflement and frustration among the veteran, backbench Liberals. Only four or five ministers out of the 30-odd are rated as open, available and not uptight: The PM, Lloyd Axworthy, Herb Gray, Ralph Goodale and Paul Martin.
Two ministers, Marcel Mass and Michel Dupuy, are taped as continuing to be what they have long been – capable bureaucrats. Roy MacLaren has levitated to a realm far above House or caucus hurly-burly. John Manley and Doug Young seemed cowed by the scope of their portfolios and are very jumpy. Sheila Copps and Brian Tobin, the most certain and voluble of all present ministers when in opposition, seem stunned by responsibility. With Andre Ouellet so engaged in foreign affairs there seems no ministerial strategists handling day to day the many performances of BQ MPs in the House.
And already there’s uneasiness on the government benches during question period when the gauntlets are thrown to either Ron Irwin or Diane Marleau or Sergio Marchi. Irwin bumbles, Marleau whines and Marchi blusters. Art Eggleton and all the infrastructure job hopes are deflated. And not a ripple of public interest has radiated from the eight non-cabinet ministers.
It looks like a long, weary, political year.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 09, 1994
ID: 12570286
TAG: 199402080101
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


On Monday Herb Gray gave us the Liberal package for changes in House rules and orders. One should never get rapturous over procedural reforms.
Since the Diefenbaker tide in 1958 there’ve been about 10 such initiatives and neither in part or as a whole has their application improved MPs’ repute. Again and again the reforms have failed to make most MPs more relevant or make citizens happier with their behavior.
Marlene Catterall, an MP from Ottawa, was probably right in saying in the good House debate on the Gray proposals that: “Canadians … are not really interested in our standing orders, but they are interested in what our decision-making process is and how their views count in that process. Substantial portions of this bill will enable them to see openly and transparently how this House and how the government reach the decisions which will affect how much they contribute to their society.”
Although greater openness is a prime objective of the Gray reforms the prime reason for them was touched on by most who spoke in the debate – i.e., the abysmal lack of public respect for elected politicians, much of it rising from what they have seen and heard of the House of Commons.
Over the past two years Preston Manning has emphasized the disrespect across the country and he elaborated most of the proposals which the government is either introducing or has agreed to put to a durable House committee for examination and report, for example, measures to recall an MP who is unsatisfactory to his constituents and set up a system for holding referendums on major issues like capital punishment or immigration levels. And it was Manning who made the most telling response to Gray’s presentation, setting off a fine exchange of views that came close to being a model debate. He has a superb knack for simplifying and clarifying matters.
For analysis one needs to break the public critique of MPs in two: Firstly, into their remunerations, pensions, services and perquisites; secondly, regarding their performances in the House and its committees, as individuals but more notably as partisans subservient to their respective leaders and whips.
Gray’s propositions deal with the second aspect; the first has been tackled in part by budget cuts for ministerial offices and caucus research, but much more is to come from the government on pensions, plus some system for handling parliamentary pay raises or cuts and more practical rules on conflicts of interest and disclosure of assets.
The first reform in the new House rules is not mint-new. The practice of sending a government bill to the particular House standing committee which deals with its subject matter before it has second reading (i.e., had a full-scale House debate, followed by a vote) was tried out in 1964 and 1965 with transport bills but it never caught on as a practice because the mandarins disliked it. The advantage of it is that MPs of all parties get a chance for close examination, questioning of witnesses, and discussion of improvements, before having to vote yes or no.
The second reform will open the way for a committee to prepare a bill on a matter proposed by either a minister or by a backbench MP. It would report to the House on the principles, provisions and scope of the bill. This should be most encouraging to the ambitious and could give backbenchers a positive policy role rather than a defensive or protective one.
The third and fourth reforms would open the way for MPs to do more on financial matters or at “scrutiny.” The auditors general have told us over many years that MPs do poorly as scrutinizers.
To remedy this both estimates and the pre-budget process will be handled differently. Each spring a regular analysis will be the chore of each committee of the House on the spending intentions for their field or fields in the next year. And each fall the House finance committee will hold hearings across the country on opinions or proposals for the mid-winter budget of the minister of Finance.
Preston Manning described these moves as “attractive” because they “give MPs a greater say in the development of public laws and the budgetary process.” However, the Chretien government is not yet ready for a regular use of “free” votes on major bills, as the Reform Party demands. It may on occasion designate that a measure is not one it expects each of its members to support. Gray made the nice point that even if the government declares a free vote it doesn’t mean it’s free for all other MPs, simply because each caucus makes its own decision on whether the whip is on or off.
These House reforms are neither very broad nor revolutionary but they promise better chances for plain MPs of all parties.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 06, 1994
ID: 12569828
TAG: 199402060101
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It’s heartening to some of us that Tony Manera, the new president of the CBC, has been an employee there for a decade, is not and has not been a top-level federal mandarin, has real expertise as an engineer in electronics, a major aspect of the corporation, and he cut his managerial teeth in the far from grandiose world of community colleges.
As Manera moved up to one of the half-dozen toughest tasks in federal affairs, Norman Inkster left another one with the RCMP. His term as commissioner of seven years has been a successful one. How? Why? Because by and large he kept the force out of headline controversies and was largely unembarrassed by leaks and major internal skulduggery.
Inkster presented a modern, even progressive, set of opinions to public view. He was pleasant, and modest enough to make many older people forget the string of RCMP commissioners from Leonard Nicholson (1951-59) through George McLellan and Roger Simmonds to himself who were in and out and in critical controversies.
This week Eric Malling of CTV’s W5 had a most entertaining feature on the views of Erik Nielsen, former deputy prime minister. The ex-MP for the Yukon seems jolly, not at all the laconic or lugubrious character as we knew him on the Hill. With his actor brother, he’s promoting the development of an electric automobile.
Nielsen compressed his explanation for the huge deficits of a government dedicated as it took office in 1984 to good, sound management to these simplicities: first, the refusal of the ministers, particularly the prime minister, to face, let alone endure, the outcries of interest groups and regions against cuts or abolition of spending programs; second, the weight of collegial opinion of senior mandarins on ministers who realize they must have their support; and third, the amazing capacity of a program agency to endure and grow once it has a foothold as an item in the estimates and some functioning “person years.”
This seems a succinct abstract on why the massive output of the Nielsen task forces of 1984-85 on reforming the federal government and their 900 or so recommendations, were almost totally neglected by the Mulroney government in both its mandates, but does it help us forgive Erik for not blowing the whistle on his leader and colleagues before or as he left Parliament in 1986?
Instead of going public he took the presidency of the Canadian Transport Commission. He’s sensible in describing the Mulroney ministry and the Tory caucus as not really conservative, but he wouldn’t trumpet this paradox when it might have had some remedial effects, even regarding the huge sums going to farm support programs which he now spoofs.
A bill in the British Parliament to introduce a common age of consent of 16 years for both heterosexual and homosexual experience has been causing much discussion in the U.K. where the legal age for male homosexual activity is 21, whereas for female heterosexual activity it is 16.
Canada doesn’t have a common age of consent and, as I remembered it, Svend Robinson, our only avowed homosexual MP, had pushed for it in the past, in effect reducing the age for male consent. So I asked the NDP MP whether he planned a bill or a motion on the subject and he wasn’t. But he was very aware of the British dust-up on the issue and he recalled that he had raised the consent difference during the work of the House committee on equality rights chaired by Patrick Boyer. Its report led to numerous reforms but not on the age of consent.
When the report’s recommendations were going through he tried and failed to get an amendment on common consent. Why isn’t he pushing it this Parliament? He thinks a recent Ontario court decision has made the matter redundant.
In passing, a new study in Britain has found that only 3.6 out of a hundred males have had a homosexual partner and a mere 1% acknowledged having had such a partner in the last year.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, February 04, 1994
ID: 12149917
TAG: 199402030113
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


This week three antics of the Chretien government were bold and quite daring because of their certain unpopularity with many Canadians and with the opposition parties in the House.
First, through Sergio Marchi, a florid maestro of the polysyllabic, we learned the government will extend even beyond the government’s present mandate the highest level of immigration and refugee acceptance of any developed nation.
The Reform Party immediately staked out firm opposition to such generosity, although using just economic factors, not ethnic considerations, not even a hint of the perils of “Hongcouver.” The Bloc is less critical. Its MPs care nothing for the transformation altering Metro Toronto and Vancouver and they support the understandings reached by the Mulroney and Bourassa governments that gave Quebec the say on how many and who may enter there as immigrants and refugees. A BQ MP emphasized his party’s prime concern was ensuring those who came could or would speak or learn and use French.
Second, through Ron Irwin, the minister of Indian Affairs (and former political tutor of the aforesaid Marchi), the government confirmed to a gathering of provincial ministers and aboriginal leaders that it accepts without quibble the “inherent right to self-government” of aboriginal people and is determined to push this into setting up such government without defining what the writ is and where and how widely it runs. It has not bothered to put the constitutionality of such initiatives before the Supreme Court.
The daring of this federal policy was confirmed by the strong line taken at the gathering by a minister of Quebec’s Liberal government.
For the Johnson cabinet, any recognition of an inherent right is merely for a right to local self-government, that is, by band and analogous to municipal governance, and it’s only for native lands and not for a third order of government which would range over the country as a whole, including Quebec.
The gathering broke up without settling much of anything. Ovide Mercredi, grand chief of the First Nations, balked at a program of self-government band by band or reservation by reservation without establishing constitutionally either (a) a framework for a nationwide system of aboriginal self-government which would reach and function in the cities and towns and wherever aboriginal people live, or (b) setting out the federal responsibilities on the scale and means of financing aboriginal self-government.
Put colloquially, Mercredi wants the whole ball of wax, not bits and pieces stuck here and there across our land mass. Whether or not the Irwin initiative stalls and ultimately founders – as seems likely – for the first time in modern memory, and not for quite the same reasons, we have two opposition parties in Parliament that are very critical of the expansive claims of native leaders on self-government and the high and steeply rising costs of the aboriginal programs.
Of course, the aboriginal issue has not been a sleeping dog but Irwin’s impetuosity has roused it and it will agitate many citizens, particularly in Quebec, the home territory of the BQ, and in the two most westerly provinces where the Reformers are very strong.
Third, with something as commonplace as cigarettes we rather suddenly have an issue before us that’s mint-new compared with immigration levels or native rights (although woven in it is a clear, native strand).
This is the well-telegraphed intimation of the Chretien government to master the challenges of cigarette smuggling and the revenue losses to governments with tax reductions large enough to undercut and ruin the smuggling and illegal sale of cigarettes. Much of this traffic was spawned in and is run through Indian reserves in Quebec, New Brunswick, and Ontario.
In the short-run the cigarette issue is the Tartar of the three. It touches all our lifestyles and our opinions on health and legal limits to individual behavior and choice. It challenges the whole health profession and the worth of solemn admonitions to the children in our schools.
Not least, a tax drop means substantial revenue losses for the provincial governments. The initiative has arisen largely in Quebec and surely reflects less puritanical and interventionist attitudes than hold in the rest of Canada. Also, many Quebecois have not forgiven the Mohawks for the Oka crisis and most of the rest of Canada is not seized with the Mohawk-cigarette equation.
To close and, to repeat, we certainly have a government bold enough to go against the grain of majority opinions and it has opposition on and with substance.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 02, 1994
ID: 12149543
TAG: 199402010054
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The electoral havoc in the federal Conservative and New Democratic parties has brutal witness in the House after a mere dozen sittings. MPs of these parties are almost shut out of the oral question period, the stock “resource” pool for the media.
The marked increase in the use of French, due to the determination of the Bloc MPs to defend the priorities which status as official opposition has given them, tends to sidetrack the nine Anglo New Democrats and, clever and glib as Jean Charest is in either language, already he’s a forlorn fringe on this House.
Further, both Bloc and Reform are well-prepared in matters as simple but onerous as good attendance, sequential questioning, and readiness with debaters. Already each has a team spirit that’s far broader than devotion to the leader.
The new crop of MPs is enlivening a procedural innovation of a dozen years ago which allowed a brief period for query and responses after each speech in a debate. Largely this had become a stylized exercise in partisan puffery. The debater’s own colleagues would ask him or her questions or praise the wisdom in the remarks. What should have been impromptu mostly became as trite as a high school mock Parliament.
So far dozens of the MPs who’ve been listening to the speeches have taken to the interventions, particularly the Liberals. They probe around at the “reactionary ideology” of the Reformers and seek the distinctions between sovereignty and separation from the Bloc MPs.
As yet there’s been little of the familiar partisan antics of insult and barracking but the potential for a return is apparent in a certain edginess among the Grit MPs, first over the effrontery of the BQers in their constant assumption they speak for Quebec, second at the repetitious simplicity of the Reformers in demanding frugality and cuts. Austerity is far nobler to the Reformers than it is to most Liberals, in large part because their party and caucuses have so long known the perks of power and many of them are as abstemious as either Jean Chretien or Preston Manning.
In the Hill chatter I’ve heard nothing yet on the “heartbeat away” line. Who would succeed the PM if . . . ? Three years from now there might be argument around a half-dozen names because there’s a handful of would-be PMs among the new Liberals. But for this year and probably unto his second budget, the immediate alternative to Chretien would be Paul Martin.
The New Democrats have a serious leadership dilemma but its many months away from being a crisis. My understanding is that Audrey McLaughlin is more than willing to give up the leadership and function merely as the MP for Yukon. So the questions first about the most sensible time for the change, then who would be best, and of those who are worth considering, who would want it. Or should an “acting” leader be taken from eight male MPs?
On timing, should the choice come before or after the Ontario election? The arguments are with “before,” in part because the normal convention must be held but also on the assumption there’ll be a disaster for Bob Rae. Another 18 months or so of McLaughlin’s leadership is dispiriting, and a genuine contest between several excellent candidates – e.g., Bob White and Stephen Lewis – would resuscitate the party, even in Ontario.
While on the topic of NDP leaders, did you see the reckoning on Bob White, the Canadian Labor Congress president, by the National Media Archive? The latter is an offshoot of the Fraser Forum. It analyzes the media, notably network TV, for the time, topics, and “spins” given to issues and public persons.
The archive says that in the years Shirley Carr led the CLC the CBC quoted Bob White, then just chief of the Auto Workers, nine times more frequently than Carr. And in White’s first year after replacing Carr, the CBC quoted 101 of his statements, whereas in her final year the CBC only quoted 10 of her statements.
White was also interviewed more frequently by the CBC than Audrey McLaughlin. After she became party leader both the CBC and CTV gave less attention to her as the leader and more to Bob White. Over three years the CBC quoted White 97 more times than McLaughlin. While the CTV was fairer to McLaughlin, the archive notes it also “significantly decreased” attention to the NDP leader.
So the NDP has an obvious choice at hand. Not surprisingly, after last weekend’s meeting of the NDP national council Bob White was much quoted as inspiring the faithful to fight on.
Now for media junkies there’s good news. Henceforth, the National Media Archive is to reach “beyond national TV news and include major Canadian daily newspapers.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 30, 1994
ID: 12149096
TAG: 199401300071
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


There is nothing mysterious about the prime minister’s line on Quebec. It is absolute confidence that the majority of Quebec voters will not approve the separation of Quebec from Canada.
The problem is this: How does Chretien gets such a straight proposition – Canada: Yes or no? – on a referendum ballot and before the voters of Quebec.
Last week the chief electoral officer of Canada put out a report titled: The 1992 Federal Referendum: A Challenge Met.
In the foreword he notes: “The province of Quebec chose to conduct its own event under provincial legislation.” The data in this report reflects “the two solitudes.” Even the vote by ridings and provinces has nothing on Quebec.
Aside as a simple reminder that even the pro-federalist government of Robert Bourassa felt it had to ensure that this choice on the Charlottetown agreement was wholly handled by the province under its rules, polls, and officials, and not those of the federal government, it underlines how hard it will be for Mr. Chretien to get “separatism” on a ballot for Quebecers.
The PM says he and his will do all possible to help the Quebec premier, Liberal Daniel Johnson, win the pending provincial election and defeat the Parti Quebecois led by Jacques Parizeau. And last weekend Lucien Bouchard and his half-hundred MPs enthusiastically agreed to put all the BQ’s resources into helping Parizeau become premier.
If the PQ, abetted by the BQ, loses the Quebec election Chretien will be able to relax on the issue of Quebec’s status vis-a-vis Canada almost to the end of the century.
If the PQ wins, Jacques Parizeau will have the National Assembly pass a motion empowering a referendum on “sovereignty,” almost certainly before the end of the year.
Then, if a majority votes for the proposition the PQ government will proceed to establish the full sovereignty of the “nation.” It’s assumed that Lucien Bouchard and his BQ MPs will then pack up in Ottawa and come home. More likely they would stay on the Hill till the next federal election to make sure the federal government and the non-Quebec MPs and the provincial governments deal fairly on such vital matters as revenues, properties, military equipment, and services, say like Radio-Canada and the coast guard.
To repeat, we’re sure of a Quebec election this year, and perhaps 60-40 sure of a new government led by Jacques Parizeau. Chretien will aid and abet Johnson in the first one. But what does he do in the second eventuality? If the referendum question in Quebec is not on separatism which Chretien “knows” would be rejected, but on its euphemism, “sovereignty,” which he realizes has a lure for Quebecers. How does he get through that sovereignty equals separation? How does he get the high costs of separatism before Quebecers? He may have the winning choice but how does he make it clear how stark and grievous separation will be for Quebecers?
How tight are the limits on what Chretien can say and offer Quebecers without offending their strong sense of autonomy or antagonizing those not from Quebec. A minority of English Canadians seem ready for Quebec’s separatism and want a hard deal. Probably a majority of those outside Quebec are against any more federal concessions to make Canada unleavable for Quebecers.
Again and again the question comes: How does Chretien get the blunt issue of separatism, yes or no, before the Quebec voters?
Could he force it forward, reinforced by a majority vote of Parliament and by the support of all provincial governments but Quebec’s, that his government will negotiate with a PQ government on something as nebulous as “sovereignty”?
Could Chretien make the case stand up in both Quebec and the rest of Canada if he insists in the coming election that any government he leads will only deal with a Quebec government that comes with a majority vote behind it that has approved of separation?
Might Chretien also sketch terms of such separation, say on debts, lands, properties, aboriginal entitlements, and pensions for veterans, disabled, etc.?
Within the year the prime minister must be very firm and blunt.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, January 28, 1994
ID: 12148409
TAG: 199401270102
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


A warning to 205 new MPs: Protect the federal treasury! Insist on some assurance of value for money in the latest dazzling, national project.
Why such a warning? Because Bernie’s on the prod again. Bernie gets huge enthusiasms, and he’s a wizard at energizing cabinet ministers into exciting (and costly) programs.
Bernard Ostry, now 66, is Bernie to scores of bureaucrats in Ottawa who may not know him at first hand, but who’ve marvelled at his careening career, figuratively from Flin Flon to Ottawa to Paris, and back.
A week ago John Manley, the new minister of Industry spoke in the throne debate. Aside from earnest intentions, particularly for small businesses, Manley was positive on advanced technology and job creation, and he said this:
“We are prepared through strategic investments, through the Canada Investments Fund, through the creation of technology networks, and by giving leadership on issues like the electronic highway to help the Canadian business sector move forward into the 21st century. The information highway is a good example of the fact that government has a role to play.”
This week Heritage Minister Marcel Dupuy told the House the “highway” is an imperative if Canadian culture is to survive.
Where does Bernie come into this? First, because he’s been leading the open touting of an information highway. Second, because a lot of Bernie’s propositions in his assistant deputy minister and deputy minister days became government programs, most of them costly, and some very expensive sink-holes – for examples: The late Information Canada or the late Telidon technology or the late local initiatives program (LIP) or the now cancelled amalgamation of federal museums. Surely you’ve noted the burst of stories bruiting the marvels of this “highway.” Almost a highway in the sky, or a boulevard of dreams.
Here’s a definition of it from an alliance of telecommunications outfits which recently asked Jean Chretien to set up “a high level advisory task force” on it:
“A national information highway would build present cable, telecom, wireless and satellite networks into a seamless, high-speed network capable of carrying voice, text, data, graphics and video services to and from all Canadians.”
In many of the “highway” stories one prime advocate, Ostry, is quoted and tagged as a “communications expert.” Indeed he’s an authority on communications – remember the wall of monitors in his head office at TVO that offended the Ontario government’s auditor a few years ago.
In the later ’70s and very early ’80s, Ostry, was the publicized mandarin of the newish federal department of Communications, then hyping Canada as a “wired city,” a predecessor phrase to “the information highway.” He took up the wizardry of Telidon, a two-way videotext system. In 1979 Deputy Minister Ostry argued that Telidon could be “the key to the future” for Canada. The government should help Telidon and business and industry, he said, because: “If our own industry does not participate in this expansion, our balance of payments could suffer and there could be a flood of jobs south of the border.”
By 1985 Telidon as a mammoth, Canada-rallying project had petered away. It had cost Ottawa, some provincial governments and private corporations almost half a billion. Michael Cowpland, then of Mitel Corp., appraised Telidon as “a colossal failure because the information didn’t have any economic value. It was mostly a curiosity.”
Scan any report of our auditor-general. You’ll find history repeated. Ottawa launches a program that sounds wonderful, cost millions . . . and doesn’t work. Then it does it again. For example, for our leaders of tomorrow the Company of Young Canadians, LIP, and Katimavik have come and gone. Today the Chretienites are floating another youth program!
Anything pushed by Bernie Ostry merits caution. It’s clear Industry Minister Manley is already hooked, and Bernie’s the “natural” for that advisory task force . . . Bernie on the “information highway” is a haunting replica of Bernie on Telidon. Put his recent “clips” besides those of the ’70s.
Can John Manley explain to the MPs in language which most adults can understand what “the Canadian information highway” or “electronic highway” means?
What are the projected costs to the treasury, say for five years? Who is to use the highway? Who will bill users? What data and what uses will be available? Does it cross the border? Is the technology at hand, except for installation? Or is it midway or three-quarters through research development? Is the user-instrument a TV set or a computer or a phone or any of the three? What systems and companies will the highway replace? Remember Telidon . . . and Bernie.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 26, 1994
ID: 12147887
TAG: 199401250060
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The threatening hyperbole of Jag Bhaduria, the MP for Markham, will be hurtful to Jean Chretien for a long time. The prime minister decided Bhaduria’s apology to the public, the House, and his constituents is enough and he continues as a Liberal MP in good standing.
It’s doubtful the MP’s past extremism will be forgotten. Every remark of his will be vetted. There’ve been MPs before this with extreme opinions. For years the Liberal caucus suffered the late Ralph Cowan’s zaniness, but Cowan’s antics seem tame alongside Bhaduria’s. Again and again in the past decade he has charged or alleged racism in those who’ve not accepted his merits or causes. And he’s threatened.
The “insider” explanation of why Liberal executives who knew his record and the details of his separation from teaching is that it was not fear of the critical material which Bhaduria’s dismissal as a candidate would give the opposition parties. No, it was fear of the backlash from the Indian community against the Liberals for crucifying one of theirs for something that had not brought him criminal charges. It’s the same fear which counselled against exile from the caucus.
The case, taken with the many new, ethnic and “visible minority” MPs who’ve been rising in the House, underlines the identity of the Liberals with a generous immigration program and a forgiving refugee program. And the immigration minister, Sergio Marchi, has ordered changes to make easier both the entry of refugees and their waiting periods.
In making his announcements, Marchi has stressed that Canadians are in favor of more compassion than the Mulroney government showed in his field of responsibility. This is odd stuff, given that our 1992 intake of immigrants (240,000) was just three times the intake in 1984, the last previous Liberal year.
For liberally minded idealists, the emergent Liberal policy of generosity in immigration is admirable, as is the Ontario NDP policy on job equity. But how wide is the gulf between what most want, even in the “rainbow” of Metro, in immigration, refugees and job equity and what their governments have been giving them? My calls and mail indicates the gulf is wide.
Are there now federal politicians – in Reform or the BQ or on the Liberal backbench – who will insist in the open that immigration line up with the wishes of Canadians? Probably not. But for a few years each time the name or face of Jag Bhaduria comes before them anger against the Liberals’ ethnicking will be prodded.

One of Chretien’s stranger moves was the appointment of Anne McLellan, his Natural Resources minister (from Alberta) as “federal interlocutor for Metis and non-status Indians.”
What descriptions we have of this role indicates that McLellan becomes the contact for the Metis, etc. and has oversight over the government’s participation in self-government negotiations with the Metis and the non-status Indians.
Here’s why this is strange. Ron Irwin, minister for Indian Affairs, has announced that the Chretien government accepts the right of aboriginal people to self-government even though it is not in the Constitution. And he’s set a deadline of six months to get the process of such self-government going.
Is Irwin the minister for the status Indians on band lists and with entitlement at one of the 600-odd reserves? And is McLellan the minister for the Metis, most of whom are in Alberta or the two other Prairie provinces, and for the non-status Indians?
It seems daft. Metis leaders and chiefs of the Native Council of Canada claim more aboriginals now live off reserves than on them. The disparity is rising as more and more Indian youths exit the bush for the cities.
Is Irwin to have direction only of aboriginal self-government for bands and reserves?
This would leave McLellan with the far harder and larger task. Why? Because of scatter!
It’s mind-boggling how to fashion a governing framework, estimate basic funding, find a tax base and create educational and justice systems for the half-million or more Indians off reserves. Remember these people are in scores of cities, townships, and villages.
Has Chretien forgotten his own past?
In 1968 Trudeau made him Indian Affairs minister, and then assigned Bob Andras, a minister without portfolio, to help Chretien create a new Indian policy. Although the policy was produced – and rejected by the natives – the combination of two ministers went poorly and Trudeau had to chasten Andras openly for exceeding his role.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 23, 1994
ID: 12147494
TAG: 199401230135
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It’s too early to rate the new ministry and the new House, but not too soon to give a general appraisal of this bag of MPs and note a few of the dubious prospects among the ministers.
As a whole, this House seems to have more intent and readiness to work on journeymen’s chores than any predecessor in modern times. Two Parliaments which at first assembly promised much – those of the big Tory sweeps of 1958 and 1984 – didn’t carry their elan or high hopes past their first six months.
The obvious determination flourishing within this House is not surprising in the Reformers or the Bloc Quebecois, but it’s also abundant in the considerable Liberal backbench. While each of the main opposition caucuses has lots of ability to go with their push, the Liberals can match them in talent – and will, if their leadership gives them the chance.
If the prime minister keeps his focus and that of his ministers on the House itself, emphasizing presence and performance there, the rewards for the whole body politic may be enormous.
A test of this will be how often Jean Chretien resorts to traditional divesting to royal commissions and other arms’ length agencies of hard and controversial matters. If he trusts his own backbench he’ll delegate the tough stuff to House committees and make this the most vigorous of Parliaments.
But that’s a columnist’s hope, after years of skepticism. One must balance such hope against the very stuff which most sustains cynicism, for example, this week’s annual report from the auditor general.
The most serious critique in it was not particular case histories of waste and foolish spending but the indictment of the senior bureaucracy for its inability, first, in doing what ministers and Parliament want, second, to even evaluate the effectiveness of government programs.
One early, useful gauge of a ministry comes from the opinions (not for attribution) of veteran government backbenchers. My canvass found less criticism than I expected. Either the PM or someone close to him has made it clear to the experienced MPs that the ministerial roster of 30 is set for no more than six months.
Who in the current ministry frets backbench critics?
No. 1 would be Sergio Marchi, the Citizenship and Immigration minister; No. 2 Ann McLellan, minister of Natural Resources; No. 3 Andre Ouellet, minister of Foreign Affairs; and No. 4 Ron Irwin, minister of Indian Affairs.
Marchi is not disliked, but there’s scant respect for his acumen among his colleagues. This wouldn’t matter so much if there weren’t so much apprehension that a volcano of public anger at our immigration and refugee programs is due to explode, probably in Toronto or Vancouver.
Has Marchi the wits to anticipate this and get firm control of a dispirited administration along its rubbing edge with immigrants and their client groups?
As for McLellan, she’s bothersome because she’s so wildly unrepresentative of Alberta and Albertans. It seems she’s “in” because she’s both a protege of Eddie Goldenberg, Chretien’s Gray Eminence, and has durable ties with the federal Grits in her roots’ province of Nova Scotia. Already it’s clear she brings little magnetism or speaking skill into the House.
Andre Ouellet has been on the Hill since 1963 as either a gofer or as an MP. He’s just behind Chretien and Herb Gray in formal precedence. His years at work have given him a high gloss or slipperiness. It’s his obvious old-style Quebec Liberalism that bothers the backbench. His style and arguments are out of tune with the chore of prime rebutter of Lucien Bouchard and the BQ.
An MP who likes Ouellet very much thinks his leader and party have a desperate need for a younger warrior for Quebec, someone like Jean Charest.
Ron Irwin from the Sault is a blunt man of rough texture. He has the hard task that takes some $6 billion a year in one of its dimension to deal with the often conflicting demands of natives and conflicting demands of the five biggest aboriginal interest groups. Already he’s set a six-month deadline for getting aboriginal self-government rolling. But veteran MPs know:
a) There’s nothing like a consensus of what such self-government means;
b) Both the Bloc Quebecois and the Reform Party are outside the old, benign and uncritical loop of the political parties in the past, and they won’t readily support any form of self-government which reaches beyond bands and reservations.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, January 21, 1994
ID: 12146625
TAG: 199401200081
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Lucien Bouchard is more able than many thought, and so is Preston Manning. Each spoke very well last Wednesday on “leaders’ day.” But the edge for impact goes to the Bloc Quebecois leader because he largely focused an attack on Canada as it is and why it must be split. The Reform leader centred cogently on the priority of deficit reduction but as yet we do not see Canada doomed by debt.
Some of us expected that the issue of two nations within a single state would await spring and a Quebec provincial election. This is not to be. Bouchard portrayed Jean Chretien as the prime actor, abetting his mentor Pierre Trudeau in the early ’80s, who demeaned the Quebecois and delayed sovereignty.
On Wednesday Chretien spent most of his time reading a script which would win no prizes as prose, reiterating his respect for promises and celebrating the Red Book again and again. Finally, he addressed Bouchard’s attack. He did it with such ad-lib ease and high emotion that all MPs but the BQ ones rose and roared approval for the “love Canada” stuff.
Chretien stressed examples of French Canadianism from sea to sea and didn’t bite on the nub of Bouchard’s argument which is that his mandate from Quebecois voters is to speed without rancor a sensible separation of the “two solitudes.”
Lucien Bouchard speaks English well and at high speed. His vocabulary is wide, his grammar good. A more natural orator than Trudeau he also compares well in using English in convincing, muscular argument. Journalists who work in French say Bouchard is even abler in their language.
Although Bouchard radiates confidence in his cause and there is force in his argument that Quebec is a nation and so is English Canada, he’s too smart not to know the PM will have schemes and ploys to put off Quebec’s acquisition of sovereignty, and that many in English Canada would sanction very strong measures short of force to prevent it.
The issue of Canada or not as a grand and serious one has been roiling Ottawa since 1960 when Jean Lesage, a former federal minister, became premier of Quebec with his “politics of grandeur” and the slogan “Masters in Our Own House!”
Thirty years ago this winter, in the town hall of Notre Dame de Grace, Rene Levesque and I debated the future of Quebec and Canada. Each of us used the constitutional phrases of the time. One was “particular status” – for Quebec! Another was “co-operative federalism,” coined by the late Maurice Lamontagne when an aide to PM Pearson. Levesque liked “independantiste.” The bluntest, simply “separatism,” had been much used by Marcel Chaput and Pierre Bourgault. The most used word now, “sovereignty,” came on with the first referendum in Quebec under the PQ.
That noisy encounter at NDG came to mind when Bouchard began his “two nations, two sovereignties” argument, saying: “More than 30 years ago, Quebec awakened to the world, and decided to catch up. The Quiet Revolution transformed Quebec. It didn’t take long before the spirit of reform in Quebec collided with the spirit of Canadian federalism in Ottawa. Thirty years ago, the horns were locked. Thirty years later we are still at it, as if frozen in a time warp. We should learn from the past, and this we should have learned: The political problem with Canada is Quebec and the problem of Quebec is Canada.”
The BQ leader noted, surely accurately, that “many Canadians refuse to acknowledge the problem which only serves to compound it.” He continued: “Canada and Quebec have both changed tremendously in the last hundred years. But they are travelling on parallel tracks, and remain as different today as they were yesterday. By and large, they both continue to ignore the history and the culture of the other.”
The BQ leader echoed a fear of my own when he said: “By clinging to the `one nation’ thesis, English Canada is running the risk of undermining itself. As Kenneth McRoberts wrote in 1991: “In its effort to deny Quebec’s distinctiveness, English Canada has been led to deny its own.’ ”
Why is sovereignty so vital to Quebec? Bouchard believes it’s because Canadian federalism “means that the government of Quebec is subordinate to the central government, both in large and lesser matters. Within the federal regime, English Canada has in fact a veto on the future development of Quebec.”
This has set out some of Bouchard’s thinking. All who are anxious about Quebec in Canada should read his whole text. He chides our hang-ups on sovereignty. Oh, we’re such strong sovereignists when we face the U.S. But facing Quebec we play national sovereignty as becoming passe. The future, we say, is with supra-national groupings.
Bouchard is formidable and, worse, so are many in his big band of MPs.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 19, 1994
ID: 12146296
TAG: 199401180065
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Gilbert Parent, the 33rd Speaker of the House of Commons and the second to be chosen by his peers, was a surprise for the press corps, most of whom were sure it would be either Jean-Pierre Gauthier or Warren Allmand, veteran Grits who’ve been even longer in the House.
My delight that Parent edged Gauthier for this important task is not because I noted here weeks ago that he was the likeliest dark horse nor because I recommended him to those new MPs who sought my ratings on the likely candidates. In large part, I thought the touted favorites would be disasters in the chair -Gauthier because of his gargantuan self-importance; Allmand simply because he’s become such a manic left-wing Liberal.
Parent, as I’ve observed him, is an equable, decent, modest and thoughtful man. He’s been a good backbench MP, respected in his riding and liked by most MPs.
In the late ’70s some teacher acquaintances of mine in St. Catharines asked how Parent was doing on the Hill. I asked why and they said they wondered as teachers how he would do. They thought “Gibby” an archetype of a good teacher. I told them he always seemed to be around the House and his work was solid though without flair as the parliamentary secretary to the minister for Veterans’ Affairs.
Parent has never spoken a lot in the House but each session he was on his feet half a dozen times. His attendance record was always good, as can be checked by his voting record.
Among the new Speaker’s remarks in the House, either in opposition or while a government MP, were opinions on House practices and procedures. For example, he has treasured decorum in the House, and has said so. He’s also spoken to the often forlorn cause of backbench government MPs, arguing they should have better and consistent opportunities to be heard, both in major debates and during question period.
It’s unlikely Parent will have trouble for a few months with the kind of behavior that has created the most bitterness – impugning character; imputing motives; making false and misleading statements; making personal remarks and slurs.
The best evidence of the new Speaker’s grip on his job will come from the oral question period. Watch to see whether he curbs the main means by which the supposed question by an opposition MP has been converted by the so-called preamble into a long statement, often rife with allegations or absolute criticism of ministers.
If Parent persists at insisting there must be a question, not a speech offering opinions or judgments, we’ll know if he’s the man who reinstates fairness in the House. Of course, he’ll need the aid of the 200 new MPs and the mooted disgust of the public with the conduct of the House.
A fellow columnist, William Johnson of the Gazette, has pointed out that one way to get a less stagey and nasty question period is for the media, especially TV reporters, to spend less time on milking the confrontations of question period (which they follow up in post-QP scrums) and more on confronting ministers and senior officials and committee chairmem with questions outside the House.
He was not optimistic on this, nor could I be, but his point underlines the paradox between the sensible conduct which almost every MP knows is right and the temptation of outrageous conduct to get media attention and on to TV news.
John Turner as leader of the official opposition in the 1984-88 House detested “the farce” QP had become but it was half a dozen of his own MPs who had largely made it so. He knew, much as he disliked the farce, that their nasty antics had hurt the government and rallied his party out of its slough of despair after Brian Mulroney rang up 207 seats.
Sooner or later today’s opposition MPs, and most probably the BQ ones, will likely be fired by antics in QP used by a few of the veteran New Democrats, to play back to the form of question used in the recent past, heavy with preambles and allegations. If Parent stamps out the preamble practice early it should prevent tumult.
The speech from the throne is remarkably uncontentious. It begins with sermonizing on ethics and a clean government and a better Parliament, and then skims from the array of undertakings in the Red Book. The few new programs indicated and the former ones to be reinstated are not high cost.
We await the February budget for how Chretien and Martin will address the debt and deficit issue without, as they say, sacrificing jobs and economic growth. And there’s the nub facing the government and Parliament, at least it will be the prime one until or if the PQ carries Quebec and forces everyone back to the fundamental Canadian question.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 16, 1994
ID: 12145802
TAG: 199401160058
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


It was easier to predict a smashing Liberal victory last October than to forecast the make-up of the House by parties, and now, it’s chancy stuff predicting what the new House will settle into.
(a) Will it be a far less contentious House than we’ve known?
Almost certainly, particularly in its noise level and through the first year. But here are some caveats on such nicer conduct.
Firstly, an inept Speaker could ruin such a prospect quickly as the first Speaker of the Mulroney years did. For the second time the MPs pick their own Speaker, not the PM. A few of the aspirants could be as disastrous for equability and despatch as John Bosley was from 1984 to 1986. The difficulties this Speaker will have are heightened because more of the talk than ever before will be in French.
Secondly, a reasonable House depends so much on a sensible government House leader, one who is trustworthy, long-headed, flexible, and very alert. Herb Gray meets at least two of those qualities.
(b) Will the promised reforms in House procedure and voting practices be significant and useful?
Well, their extent will take time unfolding, and their practicality will only be proven in use. We could have some months with day after day of discussion and wrangling over procedure and for the future business of the House and its despatch.
Remember: No federal cabinet and its senior mandarins have ever been comfortable at the prospect that passage of their bills and spending items should be uncertain because party discipline is not to be an imperative. My hunch is that by the fall there’ll be rather less on the democratic wonders of “free votes,” notably from Reformers. The NDP MPs will be very busy, and the party does not believe in free votes for its caucus members.
(c) What quick jell in impression will there be of the ministry?
In the oral question period Jean Chretien and most of his crew should come through well for the first session. The QP, like it or not, has long been the media’s forum for judging competence or its lack. Paul Martin, Roy McLaren, and John Manley, the economic ministers should have an easy float for a year or more. Eventually there may be explosive dissent in the Liberal backbench, which has several score MPs of large ego and real abilities but their frustrations shouldn’t blow open for a year or two.
Tick the following ministers as dubious or dangers to the image of a government of high purpose and stability. They should be wary about extremism or going off half-cocked. The short-list begins with the known incendiarists, Sheila Copps (deputy PM) and Brian Tobin (Fisheries) and includes David Anderson, already dicey and likely to be more because he’s essentially a cavalier.
Three of the Torontonians, Art Eggleton (jobs), Sergio Marchi (immigrants), and David Collenette (military) will be much under the opposition guns. The first two are not exceptionally endowed. Collenette at Defence has undertakings already under critical siege. Major decisions ahead on bases will loose loud caterwauling. His department has become very “leaky,” and he, though not a fool, has an often flippant manner.
Two of the half-ministers, Sheila Finestone (Multicult) and Ethel Blondin-Andrew (Training and Youth) are wayward sorts with unconsidered opinions. Fortunately, each as a personality has a big cushion of good will.
Lloyd Axworthy, Chretien’s certain left bower, will become the most controversial of all ministers but that’s a year or more away when his new social system is formally unveiled.
Two of the three unknown ministers who will soon be seen as doing very well are ex-mandarins and Quebecers, Marcel Masse (Federal renewal) and Michel Dupuy (Heritage). The third is Allan Rock at Justice who should do well on modesty and good manners.
(d) Aside from the Reform pair of Preston Manning and Stephen Harper, the MPs who’ll gain the most attention throughout English-speaking Canada will not be Reformers or from the Bloc but experienced and disputatious New Democrats, Svend Robinson, Nelson Riis, Bill Blaikie, and Chris Axworthy. They’ll do this as much or more by taking on the Reformers as the Liberals.
Both Manning and Harper will wear better with almost everybody than Lucien Bouchard and his crew, once the journalistic pack tires in its pursuit of hypocrisy among Reformers about pay, pension, perks, and services.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, January 14, 1994
ID: 12145153
TAG: 199401130085
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


“In truth, we stand alone. We are deserted by the federal politicians and betrayed by the provincial ones. We face the separation of our province from our country” – from The First Step.
Does your conscience ever regret not taking a stand on a public issue of democratic principle with a moral dimension at its core?
A few weeks ago an austere paperback came in which I put on a shelf after seeing a squib on the cover that began: “The conflict between Quebec nationalism and Canadian values.”
Like Jean Chretien and millions of others, the dilemma of whither Quebec is one I would postpone or leave to the next century. For now, let’s go after more work and less debt.
Such a Pontius Pilate stance has seemed rational to me even though the PQ is at the gates of office in Quebec and the BQ is a known Trojan horse within the Parliament Hill precincts.
So I put The First Step, by Maurice King, aside and only took it up again when hurrahed by a call from its publishers (Southwest Quebec Publishing of Huntingdon, Quebec; J0S 1H0). I add a phone no. (514-264-9149) and the price ($15.95) because the book has a gripping story, is unlikely to be in your local bookstore or library, and you may wish to order it.
My bad conscience is not over the book but for forsaking the people it speaks for: The Anglos of Quebec, in particular those outside Montreal.
Years ago, back in Trudeau’s heyday, I began turning away from these people.
In part my turnoff was a reaction to the absolute faith in Trudeau of these Anglo-Quebecers. I was sure that his proposition of pan-Canadian bilingualism would not wash, nor would his scorn of separatists as irrational and authoritarian.
Later, when the National Assembly passed the punitive sign language law I thought it most unfair and, worse, stupid. But democratically speaking, it seemed to be approved by a majority of Quebecers, and if they believed it essential to their survival, so be it.
Even less nobly, I recall thinking that this minority within Quebec had done well economically for decades. Further, I felt it had never looked west beyond Ottawa or east to the Atlantic region to celebrate its membership in English-speaking Canada as a whole.
This unsubtle discount of Anglo Quebec may seem awful to you but remember, I’ve been a long witness to the work in Parliament of Anglo MPs and senators from Quebec, particularly from the Island of Montreal. They always radiated an attitude that the rest of Canada should trust the traditional federal parties, in concert with the Quebec Liberal Party, to handle the separatists – just don’t give the latter any ammunition, for example, by shouting “Let Quebec go!”
Also, it seemed that I or others far more significant in politics or the media couldn’t remedy the long indifference beyond Quebec to the Anglos within it.
Well, both the course and the completeness of Anglo Quebecers’ isolation is tellingly recounted by Maurice King in The First Step. It hit its victims hard after Premier Bourassa led the Quebec assembly in outlawing signs in English and the federal government did not disallow the law. And when the high court found the sign law unconstitutional, Quebec used the “notwithstanding” clause to make the ban stick.
And after Gordon McIntyre, a businessman, abetted by this author, persisted for four years in putting the sign law to the UN Human Rights Committee, his appeal was approved, and the law was judged a violation of freedom of expression.
Few in the English national media made much of this UN ruling nor did federal politicians.
Why not? King believes because it had become so politically correct to ignore anything which might embarrass the Bourassa government. Wasn’t it federalism’s bastion? And why taunt the separatist zealots who use the fear of assimilation through anglicization as a club?
The First Step is vivid on the frustrations of those who knew they were being treated most unfairly but could not get their arguments well heard in Quebec or beyond.
What is “the first step?” It’s separation, or as Maurice King puts it in the conclusion he’s reached:
“If Canadians want to restore unity, pride and a sense of common purpose for themselves, they need to take The First Step down a new path, even if it means we take two different paths . . . I am forced to conclude that English and French Canada will each have a greater future if they co-exist in mutual friendship as neighbors and cease trying to remake each other in their own image.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 12, 1994
ID: 12144738
TAG: 199401110045
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


There’s been much commentary in reaction to Pierre Trudeau’s print and TV Memoirs binge, both produced and shaped by reverent chaps of the Montreal anglo community where the former PM still walks on water.
My estimate, not so much of the man as of his legacies, is not reverent. It’s hostile over such accomplishments as $30-billion-a-year deficits, the Americanizing Charter of Rights and a continuing denigration of Quebecois aspirations.
Many people I respect, however, have been and still are ga-ga over him. An example is one of our better political journalists, who last week told me again of her continuing envy of Deborah Coyne as a child-bearer for this polymath. And Sun colleague Michel Gratton wrapped up a recent column with this ultra-appraisal: Trudeau – the man all men would like to be.
It doesn’t advance analysis of either Memoirs or the significance of Trudeau’s federal leadership from 1968 to 1984 to overdo either fascination or repulsion, the black or the white. Last week, the Globe and Mail presented various estimates of Trudeau gleaned from the series. A scan of them is confusing, beyond their common postulate that TV is his medium. Which Trudeau is the real thing, which an act? More bluntly, is he statesman or fraud?
Globe editor-in-chief William Thorsell is harsh. He sees the TV series as an “authorized autobiographical rerun, a parting gift by the CBC to Trudeau in prime time.
“Because this is a TV memoir, rather than journalism, Trudeau’s perspective prevails . . . Many people have grimaced at the book, embarrassed for its author, apologetic on his behalf. . . . We are asked, in effect, to forgive their possible banality. This assumes Trudeau’s `real’ life memoirs would not be equally banal – that this effort and the TV series that accompanies it do not reveal the `real’ man.”
After emphasizing TV is very good to Trudeau, Thorsell stresses that “his book reveals a man with only the most conventional rationales for action.” Then he quotes some homilies from Trudeau on what he’d learned as PM and then concludes “the printed memoirs suggest there has always been much less than meets the eye to this consummate political performer . . . In the end, the mystery about Pierre Trudeau is that the man is considered a mystery at all.”
John Haslett Cuff, the Globe’s TV critic, is kinder to Trudeau than to the producers of the series. While “the casual viewer . . . will certainly find the account useful and informative . . . many may wish as I do that Trudeau had been confronted more often. . . . the Trudeau whom we watch and listen to . . . comes across as a sharp, clear-sighted, confident, tough, charismatic, slightly (and justifiably) arrogant elder statesman. But . . . we never get a clear sense of what drives him spiritually and how he resolves the inescapable contradictions and shortcomings of both his personal and political lives.”
Lysianne Gagnon, Globe columist, thinks that “even a well-crafted TV series cannot do justice to the complexity of his intellectual and political evolution.” She describes Trudeau as a “superb thinker, with a clear, rational mind and considerable erudition, a man who was years ahead of most of his contemporaries.” She regrets his print memoirs “do not represent the glorious epitome such a rich life deserves.”
Ray Conlogue, the Globe’s arts man in Quebec, interviewed Brian McKenna, the series producer, at length. McKenna, “an admirer of Trudeau” told him “Trudeau believes the Parti Quebecois was resurrected by Brian Mulroney and his gang for political purposes.
“This analysis, which ignores the vast and palpable passion for independence in Quebec, is almost sad; it indicates how detached Trudeau has become from his roots. That McKenna accepts without question underlines the lack of insight into separatism which is unfortunately also part of Memoirs.”
There you have four, differing appraisals, all admiring Trudeau’s panache as a performer, but Thorsell deflates the genius balloon, Cuff is disappointed in the TV series because there must be more to see and know of Trudeau, Gagnon is bothered because a great man merits a great biography and Conlogue is very interested in the politician but put off by idolators and dismayed at Trudeau’s off-the-track analysis of Quebecers.
To those who see Trudeau as a great, perhaps the greatest prime minister, note in Memoirs how he dodges responsibility – for escalating deficits, or calling out the troops in October, 1970. Premier Robert Bourassa and Mayor Jean Drapeau insisted there had to be soldiers. And the social programs demanded by the NDP for keeping him in power after the ’72 election were very expensive. Brave man? Responsible PM?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 09, 1994
ID: 12144313
TAG: 199401090123
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Fisher Report


Most of us have heroes and heroines whom we respect, even revere, although we don’t know them well in a personal way. John Hasek was a hero of mine. His death last week made me sad, and I keep recalling his way with words in speech or writing and his sturdy handsomeness. In a public sense Hasek was a courageous citizen.
In the late ’70s Hasek knowingly began to dish his promotion track, then his whole career as an infantry officer, to make public suggestions for our military and defence policies.
Out of the army in the mid-’80s, Hasek tried to ram a stick of reality through the spokes of the “peace” movement here. For example, he organized a seminar-holding outfit whose title was a take-off on our doves – the Canadian Council for Peace in Freedom. And, typical Hasek, he disbanded the council once it had had a good fling.
In retrospect I think Hasek had more success in taking momentum out of our indigenous peace movement than will ever be credited. Yes, he was tagged by the politically correct as a fascist. Those were the days when the likes of Gwynne Dyer and former general Len Johnson (of NDP renown) were being plugged by the CBC, flogging an unaligned, neutral Canada. His former colleagues in the military would never openly identify with his arguments because senior officers and the mandarins of National Defence dismissed him as a loose cannon.
At the time my checks with officers who knew Hasek brought not-for-attribution bits such as “brilliant,” “tough as nails,” and “an exceptional writer.” Hasek could write well. In the early ’70s he drafted a proposal for “Citizenship service for Canadian Youth” which eventually was taken up by Barney Danson as minister of National Defemce. Unfortunately, Danson’s boss, Pierre Trudeau, had a friend, Senator Jacques Hebert, with a youth program. It became the foolish, costly Katimavik. The Danson-Hasek plan was dropped – Canadians were too anti-military! Today’s Grits who want a new youth program should resurrect Hasek’s plan. It’s easy reading.
Although Tory ministers in the mid-’80s like Joe Clark wouldn’t give Hasek the time of day his critique, especially in his 1987 book from Key Porter, titled The Disarming of Canada, got to enough Tory MPs to turn off the federal cash for peace groups and eventually for the Trudeau memorial, the Institute for International Peace and Security.
As a reader of anything on our military history I still rate The Disarming as having the most clear, clever and pungent account of it all.
Last week a brief news item said John Hasek had died in the Czech republic of wounds received while observing the fighting going on in what was Yugoslavia. He was 55 years old.
What was he doing around this bitter strife? I haven’t the specifics but battle and war were his close ken. I assume he was prowling along the front between Serbs and Croatians, maybe reporting for a Prague paper when his luck ran out.
Where did John Hasek come from? Let me use bits from a letter sent in 1985 to publisher Jack McClelland. He was trying to sort out what was happening to a manuscript he’d turned months before to fulfil a contract for a book on Canada’s role in global conflicts which would use his experience as a military observer of the Vietnam war. He gave McClelland these reactions to a belated critique of his draft from the publisher’s editor:
“Imagine my surprise when the second paragraph of the comments read: `I say these things despite the fact that I am a pacifist, a Vietnam-era conscientious objector and draft evader from the States, and disagree strongly with some of the author’s assertions and believe the U.S. is at least as great a threat to world peace today as the USSR.’ ”
Hasek said, “It makes as much business sense to have someone with views such as this edit my work as to have Mother Teresa do The Happy Hooker.”
What bothered him most was the editor’s view that Hasek wasn’t sagacious enough to write as “an old, experienced warrior.” So he told McClelland:
“I am 47 years old and my first memories are of terror lest the Germans send my mother and me to the extermination camps just as they had my grandparents and aunts. In 1948 when I was 10 we escaped from Czechoslovakia after the Communist putsch made it evident that history, if not about to repeat itself, was about to give a fair re-enactment. … Having spent all my adult life in uniform, it was precisely because I am not a militarist and was always critical that I only reached the rank of major.”
Only a major. John Hasek should have been more.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, January 07, 1994
ID: 12143686
TAG: 199401060131
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


A few weeks ago in Ottawa I had a chat which went like this:
“Why have you gone overboard for Chretien’s government and his senior sage, Mitchell Sharp?”
It was a fair question, given the recent relish here on Chretien’s fine start as PM and the wisdom at his side in Sharp, age 82. The needle was from a writer who’s been five decades around the Hill.
“So far okay,” I replied. “Smaller cabinet, smaller staffs and no brag. As for Sharp, I’ve liked him from his first days in ’63 as a minister. He was plain and low-key, an antidote to Walter Gordon’s arrogance and Paul Hellyer’s certainties.”
“Yeah! But that modest public servant stuff’s a front. After your years here you have to know what the alternative is to the partisan patronage of the Mulroney crowd.”
“You mean bureaucratic patronage,” I replied.
“Yes, and Grits and mandarins are often identical or interchangeable. Those extolled clerks of the privy council and deputy ministers whom historians give credit for the great golden age of Ottawa were masters at placing and raising their friends, proteges and offspring in the mandarinate. You’d find Sharp fits that pattern. Just go back over his career. Note the sweet place at the federal trough he found in ’78. He quit as MP for a 10-year float as commissioner of an agency for a northern pipeline which was never going to be built. Did your soul of integrity do that as a dollar-a-year man?”
He went on: “And surely you’re not hooked on this guff about disbanding the partisan claques of ministers and restoring to deputy ministers their proper functions: That is, running the ministries day to day and counselling ministers with advice and policies worked out within their ministry.”
I protested: “I think Mulroney’s ministers overdid the politicizing of ministerial offices. And Mulroney furthered the trend begun by Trudeau which put more policy-making and decisions away from ministers and their departments and into the PMO and the privy council office.”
“Look, I’m not longing for Mulroney,” said the veteran, “but do you prefer that bureaucrats make policies and decisions, or politicians? It’s like the question: Should the Supreme Court or Parliament make our laws? I’m for the politicians. We can get rid of them. You read now like a true Grit, strong on bureaucrats and judges.
“Remember. These are the Liberals. We’ve known them. Chretien’s been a working Grit around here for most of 30 years, Sharp for almost 60. Don’t get starry-eyed, even for a month. Take the big build-up of Marcel Masse as minister for federal renewal. You say he’s so sensible. He’s also been a senior mandarin for 20 years. He has served both Clark and Mulroney in office. Now like Pickersgill, Sharp, and Drury before him, he’s revealed he was a Grit as a mandarin, and yearned to have them back. What an impartial public service!
“You must be sharper, Fisher. This crew will outslick the Tories at patronage, and go easier with the bluster. I choked, and I thought you would, in print, at the pious guff from Sharp as grand inquisitor for his protege. He grilled prospective ministers on their pasts and possible ethical dilemmas. Several failed to meet his standards. Imagine, Fisher. Good enough for their voters in October but not in November for the incorruptible Sharp. Keep alert. Watch their ethics. Follow their appointments, grants, and contracts.”
After such needling I’ve been alert. Yes, I let the choice of the PM’s nephew to the top post in foreign affairs go by without a quiver. After all, Raymond Chretien has been a top-rung “External Affairs” guy for years.
I did wince at the score or more appointments to the Refugee Board in place of those whose terms were over. I winced, first at the self-praise from the minister, Sergio Marchi. I winced again when subsequent data revealed a goodly minority of these sterling picks were practising Grits.
Again, I winced when the Liberals didn’t reappoint the competent Patrick Reid as harbor-head at Vancouver and put in a campaign manager and fund-raiser of theirs. He sounds like a goer but that’s the stuff which made Mulroney infamous.
So was the announcement this week of a $27 million federal grant for a big hall in Quebec City, the first fruit of the Red Book’s infrastructure promise. Hours later a federal mandarin, noted as a Trudeau adulator in the early ’80s and in eclipse since ’84, emerged to admit there’d been some rush on this but it was for such a good cause, enobling the exit from the Quebec government of its main proponent, a Liberal minister.
When next I meet my needler I’ll have to say: “You were right. The Grits are not perfect.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 05, 1994
ID: 12143205
TAG: 199401040080
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
COLUMN: Fisher Report


The holidays gave a viewer at home a surfeit of sights and sounds of politicians and political issues, but as previously taped or filmed, not in live performances or accounts.
The new PM was on several channels in long interviews. In each he set a laconic, unemotional course with the direct frankness he’s adopted in office. He abjures flannel or the once familiar Jean Chretien who caricatured rough bonhomie.
In cliche, this Chretien neither gilds lilies nor plays games with interlocutors. He’s plain and serious. With no Churchillian grandeur he projects a need for blood, sweat, tears and patience from all. This understating politician isn’t what the public knew and liked so much in the mid-’80s. Even if it’s mostly subliminal, the contrast after years of the florid with Brian Mulroney and a long summer of provocativeness with Kim Campbell is welcomed. It shrinks expectations as it confirms steadiness.
Before this becomes adulation I recall that in the fall of ’84, even into early ’85, Mulroney was hurrahed as homey and natural, so different from Pierre Trudeau. Do you recall the premiers of ’84? After the first round table with the new PM they were ecstatic, much more than the present ones have been about Chretien. They heralded a new era of co-operation and an end of Ottawa arrogance.
My most dutiful viewing in the holidays ran long and was unexciting and not rewarding. CBC Newsworld ran stretches from a forum held at Queen’s to review the election vis-a-vis the media. The invitees were from the parties, the pollsters, a few of the dailies, a few from the private networks, one icon of left-wing dissent in columnist Rick Salutin and a numerous bevy from the Mother Corp. Salutin was provocative in a Richler fashion; otherwise no one talker dominated the continuity although two CBC giants did their best – the increasingly avuncular Peter Mansbridge and a news chief of Orson Wellesian proportions. Neither’s a stand-in for Elly Alboim or Mark Starowicz. My note-taking became largely adjectival – about the group rather on what was said.
How earnest, responsible, serious and narrowly focused they all were, especially the TV folk. Their duties were so vital to democracy, most notably for the CBCers. They bear the nation on their backs. The most fatuous discussion was on the worth and legitimacy of “groups” and “spokespersons” in relation to the “real” issues and what “the people” were thinking and wanting. The CBC’s panacea now is its “Town Halls” which, to me, were as hokey as the “streeters” so dear in a pinch to news editors of dailies and TV stations.
My favorite holiday program was Radio Canada’s Memoirs series on Trudeau. My minimal French meant an appreciation centred on much use of film from the past, particularly of the family. Excellent! If I’d known more of what was being said, my critique would have more bite, but that comes next week with the series in English on CBC.
What most struck me was, and is, Trudeau’s staginess and sense of style in apparel. Always playing a part! He’s seen much in buckskin, steely and taut, an elderly Clint Eastwood type, ready for the rapids as he coolly paddles his red canoe through autumn-tinted waters. A clip from the early ’60s has him more provocative and impolite than fellow interviewer Larry Zolf in pursuit of Rene Levesque. And for 1994 we see a modern, in-control ascetic, in tight head-to-waist shots set against “black,” the signature rose on a lapel of the lovely gray suit, the glittering eyes and a guttural, unpitched voice. A posed and poised man.
Why have I left the four-hour historical fiction Dieppe to last? Mostly because of too much reading. Historian Brian Villa on whose book, Unauthorized Action, the CBC based the film, has noted that Dieppe’s had more books than it merits when its scope and duration are set beside other actions, including later successes by Canadian troops in Italy and NW Europe. But somewhat abroad and very much at home, the volunteer army is symbolized in a bootless seven hours from first to last shot, and a subsequent cover-up in high places.
When the storyline of Dieppe stays with Villa’s research, i.e., with the generals, admirals, etc. and how this tragedy developed, it’s believable and entertaining. Hughes-Hallett, RN, is such a crafty villain, and our own “Ham” Roberts so sensitive, if slow . . . a tragic loser. However, the platoon fictions, in England before the beach assault, were bathetic and, during it, barely credible.
Post-showing, the CBC duded up Dieppe with meandering interviews, in turn by comperes Brian Stewart and Peter Mansbridge. Mostly they trolled for praise but Stewart did draw a few comments from two of the tank commanders which evoked the chaos and frustration better than the action stuff in the film.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 02, 1994
ID: 12142558
TAG: 199401020067
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: In Ottawa


The Liberals say 1994 is to be the year for reforming Parliament. Don’t disbelieve them. Be patient, and doubting. Why? Let me explain.
Talk of such reform has been on and off on Parliament Hill, but mostly on, since the ’58 election afflicted John Diefenbaker with 207 MPs or, put another way, with some 160 backbench MPs.
How could so many backbenchers be kept occupied or out of trouble for four years or more? Much has been tried. A change here, another there almost every year since 1958. Nevertheless the discontent with Parliament as-is has grown and grown, not just among most of those working as MPs but into the whole electorate.
If I sound positive there have been assays at reform and their general failure to realize great improvement in the importance and quality of the work by MPs, it’s because I became one of the loudest advocates of such reform in 1958.
For example, I was sure that if MPs were paid well and provided with good pensions after service, citizens with high talents and rich experience would be attracted to contest for a seat.
I was also sure that if MPs were provided free air travel to and from their ridings, long distance phone privileges, constituency offices and both secretaries and research help of their own, they would do better work and have more time for thought on good legislation and for scrutiny of federal spending.
I was also sure there should be much more assignment of work to House committees and that these should be smaller, meet more often, have research and legal counsel at hand in the Library of Parliament, and be given the boost in significance which would come by requiring a response from government within a specific period to reports and recommendations of committees.
I was also sure that the quality of attentiveness, preparedness, learnedness, and content in the performances of opposition party leaders and their caucuses as a whole would be markedly improved and lead to a more informed yet quicker dispatch of House bills and estimates once regular funds were provided for leader and caucus research staff.
All those reforms have come to pass over the past 35 years. Of course, I was just one of several score believers (and pushers) in such parliamentary reforms on the Hill. While all came to pass, the discontent on the Hill is as high as ever and far higher beyond it in the country.
Through reforms, Hill staffing is at least least four times as numerous and 40 times as costly as it was in 1958, the year of the first huge bulge of government MPs. I emphasize the “bulge” because until recently (as a result of Preston Manning’s attacks) the prime pressure within parliamentary politics for such reform has come more from disgruntled government backbenchers than from opposition ones. The latter have been able to have their open say and get “ink” and video bites out of parliamentary work.
The substantial Liberal majority now on hand, plus the much smaller cabinet, plus the promise of tightly restricted travel and an end to junkets augurs that more MPs than ever will be demanding real power or influence. At a guess, I can name about two score Grit backbenchers who will simply not be satisfied for long as mere constituency-mongers.
What will they want? What will they be supported in by the two main opposition parties, especially Reform? Nothing less than the open, observable input in the House and its committees by any or all backbench MPs in the development of policies and monies to be legislated. How may this be done? Not easily, not without experiment. It needs a vast diminution in “votes of confidence” in the government and a huge increase in “free votes.” Will such happen? This parliamentary reformer thinks there’s an even chance.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1994, SunMedia Corp.