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Doug’s Columns 1995 « Douglas Fisher

Fisher

 

Doug’s Columns 1995

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 31, 1995
ID: 12809739
TAG: 199512290122
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C6
COLUMN: Backgrounder
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

MORE OF THE SAME IN 1996//OUT WITH THE OLD AND IN WITH THE … OLD

Forecasting politics for 1996 has two particular difficulties. Firstly, the unity issue will seethe and swirl throughout the year, but is almost sure not to crystallize in Quebec with another referendum.
Secondly, prospective elections, federal or provincial (and, more recently, referendums) tend to shape a political year, and there will not be many votes in 1996. Yes, B.C. for sure, perhaps Alberta; otherwise unlikely. There is also a long shot possibility, to which we will circle back.
In B.C. the conventional wisdom foresees a Liberal victory with the NDP losing office. It would be the first time in over 50 years that Grits won power in B.C.
Aside from the further setback this would be for the New Democrats as a national force, the forecasts for the campaign itself are for much blame to be heaped on the federal Liberals for niggling treatment of the province which most over-contributes to equality across Canada. This emphasis is likely to push the provincial Liberals a goodly distance from the Chretien cabinet.
In short, a provincial Liberal victory in B.C. augurs little joy for the Ottawa gang.
And, at this stage, anyone who anticipates the Alberta Liberals winning, and then abetting the federal party is smoking pot. Thus, actual provincial votes are most unlikely to be a strong influence on federal politics except for exasperating discontent on the western flank of the country with the distant government in Ottawa.
My hunch is that most of the swirls in political doubt and debate ahead will be tied mostly to the leaders and administrations of our two largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec, or to the scenario in Ottawa, verging now into melodrama, on whether or not Jean Chretien has: a) any fresh strategy for dealing with Lucien Bouchard as both symbol and a power; or b) some more promising plans for job creation than his administration has developed so far.
It began two months or so ago: a sharper, tighter focus on the prime minister. At this stage it seems this focus will become ever more negative and less positive. Doubts about and criticisms of Jean Chretien will be the strongest theme of politics.
And the meaner focus on the prime minister could well lead to such a slide in his strongest rod so far – the Gallup polls – that the Liberals themselves may begin to consider engineering a succession. This would be a certainty if the Liberals had an obvious, captivating leader-in-waiting. But to stop fudging, I predict a grim 1996 for the prime minister. What will likely sustain him is that he has had very bad years before.
The first measure on how seriously Chretien himself takes his situation vis-a-vis Lucien Bouchard and Quebec should come early in the year with cabinet changes. Will it be largely musical chairs or a major overhaul?
The ministry is very mediocre, an uninspiring crew by and large. Half a dozen major excisions and a lot of new ministers mean Chretien realizes what his recent remarks have denied: that he doesn’t need better stuff on his staff and at the cabinet table even though he figuratively no longer walks on water.
Will he take some risks and bring in some of his bold, even contentious backbenchers like George Baker, Hedy Fry, John Bryden, David Walker, Dennis Mills and Patrick Gagnon?
My guess is the recasting of the ministry will not be adventurous, simply because Chretien and his personal cadre are not yet seized with his (and our) desperate dilemma. The current ministry has not so much grown old as it was dull, staid and predictable when created.
Already, in his talk about working with Lucien Bouchard on economic issues, Chretien has indicated the subject and its issues which he hopes to use to override and downgrade the immediacy in the spectre of separation. And any but a fool can see the economy is tilting toward recession and beginning to force forward once again the Keynesian sort of answer of more spending and less cutting.
Such stout economic leadership would risk outraging international financiers and the big players in our private business, but a prime minister with a nation on the splitting edge cannot bear a worsening recession and higher unemployment.
To counter this prospect, Chretien has to consider the U.S. situation. As our neighbor’s economy goes, usually so does ours. And normally the American economy is steady to bullish in an election year.
To close, let me touch on the longshot election possibility I referred to at the beginning. Simply put, it would be a surprise federal election, called by an exasperated but determined Chretien next fall.
What for? In particular to squelch Reform in the West, and – a longer shot – to get more MPs in Quebec. This would enable more aggressiveness on Quebec, in or out of Canada, thus enabling aggressive undertakings for dealing with Quebec in or out of Canada.
It would also signal a kinder set of policies for the many people out of work or in low-income jobs who are suffering most from restraint forced by debt and deficits.
Chretien seems too cautious for this, but desperate times make for desperate prime ministers. And 1996 seems not a year for marking time in Ottawa.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 29, 1995
ID: 12809483
TAG: 199512280250
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

THINNING LINES OF DEFENCE

If your thoughts turn to those less fortunate than yourself this season, spare some moments for those who serve in our armed forces.
The past year was rotten to those who stand on guard for thee. Abroad, some were killed or maimed while others were emotionally scarred by what they saw. Many struggled to hold families together despite repeated half-year tours overseas.
At home, instability has been the descriptive word. Constant budget cutting made job security a joke, while the repetitious revelations of misbehavior within the Airborne Regiment’s ranks and a host of other humiliating scandals undermined morale and made the military a topic for public ridicule.
Will things improve in 1996? Signs aren’t good. Peacekeeping where there was no peace is being replaced by peace enforcement without proper firepower. There were hopes that a new chief of defence staff might turn things around. Alas, the new CDS, air force general Jean Boyle is already under a cloud. Earlier this year, in handling the media’s Access to Information requests on Somalia he released documents which appeared to have been altered. Other papers he said did not exist have subsequently turned up bearing his signature.
With these matters still under investigation many are questioning Boyle’s appointment and its timing.
The best news in 1996 would be a new minister. The incumbent, David Collenette, is not up to the task of rebuilding the military, which is what is required if the drastic cuts in budget and personnel are to be implemented and the army’s badly shaken morale restored. Assuming Collenette goes, his successor and Gen. Boyle would do well to reflect on the experience of the American Caesar, Gen. Colin Powell, who is credited with curing the cancer that afflicted the U.S. armed services (especially the army) during and after the Vietnam war.
In his best-selling biography Powell attributed much of his army’s malaise to the bureaucratization introduced by former defence secretary Robert MacNamara and his team of young civilians, the so-called “best and brightest.” Armed with PhDs and MBAs, they arrived at the Pentagon certain that scientific management techniques would bring a new level of sophistication and efficiency to America’s military operations. Generals of World War II vintage who raised red flags over America’s growing involvement in Southeast Asia were pushed aside. Younger officers amenable to the new “business” culture at the Pentagon received rapid promotion and field commands in that “little war” on the other side of the globe.
DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES
Today even McNamara acknowledges the disastrous consequences of this civilianization of military decision-making: the drive to create quantifiable results that could be “scientifically analyzed” led to the disgraceful policy of “body counts;” the search for “sweet” technical solutions to problems resulted in billions spent on hi-tech systems, many of which proved to be unreliable, expensive and unsuited to the real world. Most importantly careerism destroyed the essential bond between men and their officers as the latter’s desire for promotion took precedence over duty, honor, country.
Canada, never to be outdone by the U.S., had her own “best and brightest” in the 1960s. Led by then-defence minister Paul Hellyer, their unique contribution was the unification of the armed forces, a model the world would surely follow. Imposed on a recalcitrant military, many senior officers resigned. Three decades later no other nation has followed our lead, and unification has in fact been rolled back in various ways.
At the end of the Vietnam era Canada made another change, institutionalizing here what MacNamara had wrought in the U.S. – a combined civil/military leadership. In 1973 our old military high command (a 19th Century Prussian invention) was replaced by a National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ) staffed by military personnel and civil servants, teamed together. The military became a small appendage on a much larger bureaucratic body, and its unique ethos was soon subsumed by a very different corporate culture.
This process was hastened by rank inflation. Following NDHQ’s creation, it was determined that the military types should receive approximately the same pay and perks as the civilians, lest jealosy rear its ugly head. The result was a grossly bloated officer corps, costly and inefficient. For many the military seems little more that a stage in a longer bureaucratic career: they move into the “civil” bureaucracy after mandatory retirement at 55.
So say a prayer for those standing on guard for thee. It may be all the support they get in the coming year.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 27, 1995
ID: 12809212
TAG: 199512260184
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

POPPY PLUCKING PAPER-PUSHERS

My chariness toward bureaucracy began half century ago in the army on meeting that odd bird, the officious paper shuffler for whom rules are everything.
Doing certain things (and not doing others) simply because some regulation said so seemed to fill an atavistic need for these poor souls. They got self-lustre from their power over others. Such an attitude, such types, have stuck in my craw ever since and made me sympathetic to those caught up in the “system” like flies in amber, as is this case of Callum Scott.
Scott, formerly a customs officer at Ottawa’s airport, is on a doctor’s ordered sick leave while his grievance awaits the attention of the Public Service Commission.
His case came to my attention in large part because it pivots on his wearing of a poppy on the job in November, 1994. Scott’s supervisor, a francophone woman, was offended by this breach of what she believed to be the dress regulations and ordered him to remove it. He demurred, and complained to all and sundry about this “policy,” with the Legion taking up his case with the government.
The latter, in the august form of the department’s deputy minister, ultimately determined that wearing the poppy to remember Canada’s war dead was not a violation of regulations, and that recognized medals and decorations could also be worn on certain special occasions.
The poppy incident was one in a series of clashes between Scott and his superiors.
Prior to this he had been on the carpet for providing a Canada Customs car to take singer Celine Dion from one part of the terminal to another so she could fill out the proper customs forms and pay her duty. Not only was this a breach of regulations, exposing the government to potential liability had anything happened to the famous chanteuse while in transit, but Scott had the nerve to have his photo taken with her. He was duly reprimanded, until an appeal brought to light the fact that he had, in fact, secured approval from a supervisor for his actions.
Scott was also accused of harassing one of his superiors (again, a francophone woman). In this case the bureaucratic machinery determined not only that her allegations of abuse and insubordination were unfounded, but that Scott may have been justified in his behavior toward her, given that others had felt the need to act in a similar fashion.
FILED A GRIEVANCE
Scott, feeling a bit persecuted himself, filed his own grievance regarding what he viewed as harassment by his superiors.
Among other things he cited the attempt by the supervisor in the poppy dispute to have his performance appraisal downgraded after it had been made. She had also taken him to task for not declaring outside private business interests which she felt might be potential conflicts of interest with his work as a customs officer. These include selling the flower pots he makes to an Ottawa-based chain of flower shops (which happens to import flowers) and operating a hot dog stand.
Scott’s response is that he did not file the relevant forms because he could not see how any conflict between these activities and his customs job might exist, and that on being hired he had declared these interests anyway, as a condition of employment.
The department cannot find these forms.
The government’s adjudication process determined that in the case of the supervisor who had accused him of harassment, Scott had indeed been subjected to improper behavior. But the senior managers, under whose eyes all this nonsense was going on, were exonerated, despite the department’s own longstanding conclusion that there were serious morale problems with the customs unit at the airport.
As you may have guessed, the file on all this is pretty thick and represents not only a lot of aggravation for Scott, but much wasted time and thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money.
Given the personality clashes at work, Scott had asked to be moved to another team, but at the time his request was turned down as impractical. Since then his bosses have seen fit to transfer him to a one-man job in a customs warehouse, hence his sick leave and grievance.
He feels he is being punished for standing up for himself. What do you think? My hunch is that underneath the dilemma is the intrinsic Canadian issue, put figuratively a century and a half ago as “two nations warring in the bosom of a single state.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 22, 1995
ID: 12808741
TAG: 199512210201
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

`UNITY’ CABINET ONLY A DREAM

Some journalists stretch my imagination – not least another columnist, Richard Gwyn of the Star. Today’s reaction is not from his provocative book Nationalism Without Walls but is prompted by two of his newspaper pieces.
One suggested it was time for Jean Chretien to resign. He’s too much a leader for yesteryear. The other column was wonderfully fanciful in advocating a “national unity” cabinet to which Chretien would draft some famous men like Jean Charest, Bob Rae, Peter Lougheed, Allan Blakeney and Don Mazankowski – all of them now outside federal electoral politics except for Charest, the federal Tory leader.
My first response to the Gwyn cabinet concept and the recruits of renown was to think: “What about Quebec, which needs the saving?”
Why not the still forceful, Pierre Trudeau, once a grand icon in Gwyn’s salon? And, surely, there’s still mileage galore in Marc Lalonde or in Robert Bourassa or Benoit Bouchard. Even in Claude Ryan, who led the No campaign in the first referendum. Surely any one of those stalwart Quebec federalists would be as good or better in working to rebuff Lucien Bouchard than Bob Rae or Peter Lougheed.
It’s a tad Torontocentric and upper bourgeois to press this promotion of Rae. In five years the NDP leader blew a huge majority in Ontario, flubbed what might have been a genunely unifying conception – a Canadian social contract – and never became popular nationally, not even in his own party.
Of course, Gwyn is being stimulating. He wants us to reflect on the leadership we need to save the country by underlining without harping on it the obvious inadequacy of Chretien as federal leader and his cabinet’s dearth of either alternatives or major regional presences.
The Star columnist has been too long a Canadian and a political writer not to know that political partisanship, in particular Liberal party partisanship, has an ingrained hostility to any evaluation that a ministry is inadequate in personnel and representativeness and must be infused with fresh talent drawn from across the board of parties and past experience.
Early in World War II, and repeatedly until the collapse of the conscription crisis of early 1945, Liberal PM Mackenzie King refused to consider the often reiterated suggestion of editorialists and some Conservatives and CCFers that the strains and dangers of the times required a truly national cabinet.
NATIONAL GOVERNMENT
Going back to the dreary frustrations of the Depression, the two prime ministers through its harrowing course were Tory R.B. Bennett and the aforesaid King. Many Canadians demanded a unity cabinet or a “national government” to get Canada going again. Neither man could see the sense in bringing in outsiders even in the face of fears about communism and the galloping socialism of the CCF.
Even the “Government” party, which the Conservative prime minister Robert Borden took into the 1917 federal election so as to hold Canada together as despair mounted over our terrible casualties in France, only gathered in a minority of Liberal MPs, with a strong core sticking to Wilfrid Laurier, the Liberal leader, including his successor, Mackenzie King.
So unity cabinets and parties have a poor track record in our federal politics, despite some success provincially (for example, in B.C. and Manitoba in order to quell the menace from the socialist left.) Aside from the practical horrors of trying to get byelection shots for Rae and Lougheed, the present Liberal administration still has too much confidence, even arrogance, about its representativeness and abilities to consider outside drafting. As for the PMO cadre, it has too much partisan contempt for the obvious source in the House for more representativeness against Bouchard’s threat to consider a more sensible source than Gwyn’s stars, i.e., Preston Manning and the Reformers.
Gwyn will find many away from the Hill will agree with his tag of “yesterday’s leader” for Jean Chretien but neither the PM nor most of his Liberal caucus or cabinet thinks this. One might say the blessing on a leader provided by several years of high opinion poll ratings far outweighs the considered wisdom of journalist aficionados.
Willy-nilly, we have Chretien where he is until the next referendum or the next federal election or unless his physical or mental health cracks. Willy-nilly, a stronger cabinet has to come from the Liberal backbench.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 20, 1995
ID: 12808489
TAG: 199512190111
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

TOO LATE FOR TOUGH LOVE?

Perhaps because of recent, negative reaction among federalist Quebecers the prime minister has once again (on CTV) dodged away from explaining his recent remarks about a different strategy for the next referendum, one using the authority of the “peace, order, and good government” clause of the Constitution.
Jean Chretien shouldn’t be able to behave as though what he said was innocuous or now, a week later, is without import.
Two sensible sentences (Dec. 14) by Don MacPherson, the Montreal Gazette’s Quebec affairs columnist, should set any federalist worrying what was (and may still be) in the mind of our prime minister on how he will keep Canada together.
The columnist wrote the following in response to Chretien’s recent maundering aloud on a CBC-TV Town Hall.
“After playing along with two referendums on sovereignty, Chretien has suddenly decided he doesn’t like the rules. This didn’t show much faith in the ability of the federalists to win another referendum on sovereignty, let alone in the judgment of Quebec voters.”
This seems the reaction of many federalists in Quebec, in particular the anglos. They think it is far too late for Chretien to address the issue with a “tough love” or “hardball” Plan B which is based on interventions regarding the wording of the question or details of the requirements to be met if the Quebec government’s proposition wins a majority.
It is too late for Chretien’s government to use the “peace, order and good government” clause, the Constitution’s highest residual, federal power to require the question be unequivocal about either getting out of Canada or staying in it, not some negotiable half-way status.
It is too late because Quebecers and Canadians as a whole have had the precedents of the two Quebec referendums in which the federalist side won, the first handlily, the second by a whisker. If these were not legitimate votes with questions acceptable to the public why didn’t the governments of first Pierre Trudeau and then Chretien intervene on the form of the question and procedures and requirements for what would have to come after a victory for Yes? And each vote brought a huge, democratic turnout.
SURE OF VICTORY
It is clear why Ottawa did not intervene although the consequences now seem diabolic. Ottawa didn’t intervene with its constitutional powers at the outset of the previous referendums because it was so sure beforehand federalism would win easily.
A second reason is as obvious. Interventions on such a scale by Ottawa could heighten resentment among many Quebec nationalists. Why raise the spectre of a very messy, complex separation when you want Quebecers to think more favorably of the federal government and the attitudes in the rest of Canada toward Quebec? Put colloquially, carrots are more useful than sticks.
Recall the question Preston Manning asked in early October which brought him epithets of disloyalty from the prime minister? He asked: if the result is 50% plus one does Canada split on such a margin? The Chretienites went into a rage at such a question. It not only cast doubt on federalist chances and strategy, it would confuse the issue and the voters in the referendum. And yet we are fairly sure in hindsight from various post-vote remarks by the PM that he would not have acquiesced at separation or a sovereignty association with Quebec following upon a mere 50% plus one for Yes.
Now it has became a vital question whether the acquiescences by past federalist leaders with two antecedent votes mean the federal government and Parliament have forfeited any direct intervention with federal powers in the next one. My argument would be not necessarily so, providing the interventions are developed beforehand by a prime minister who is backed by most Canadians and all the provincial governments (but Quebec’s, of course).
And if Chretien does decide to ignore his own and Liberal precedents, say by disallowing the referendum question, how could he ensure that Quebec doesn’t ignore such interventions and go ahead on the basis of Quebecers’ heady right to self-determination? Try a Supreme Court injunction? The armed forces?
As you can see, past behavior has made the Quebec box which federalists and Chretien are in a very tight one. Tough love toward Quebec when put into motion really means the end of “bonne ententism.” The masquerade is over that love and attention from the rest of Canada is the best and practical way to keep Quebec.
If it is to be tough love, let’s stop dodging around it. Get open discussion going, get most Canadians into it. We have much more to lose than the pride of Jean Chretien and his Liberals.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 17, 1995
ID: 12808142
TAG: 199512150061
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

CABINET PULLS TOGETHER AS THE PM FALLS APART//CHRETIEN’S DUFFERS DID A BIT BETTER IN THE FALL SESSION OF THE HOUSE

The MPs are scattering, mostly to their ridings, for the long, seven-week House break. Here are some comments on some of the government’s performers, other than the prime minister. He has had a grim autumn.
Let’s begin with Lloyd Axworthy, the minister who has been rejuvenated. By last summer he seemed to have foundered, mired after huge but repeatedly delayed legislative intentions. These were heralded as sweeping and inventive enough to change the standards and processes of the Canadian labor market (or “human resources” as the current euphemism now has it).
Through almost two years of waiting, the contribution Axworthy made to the House and public affairs became a travesty on his long- held reputation as the truly “liberal” inspiration of the Liberals, whether they were in office or out.
He took to ranting at opposition MPs who dared to query him. His responses repeatedly ran on into roaring rants without common sense. Gradually the “real” Liberals in the caucus, to whom he’d been a pole star and the minister who symbolized the social programs in danger from Paul Martin’s budget’s cuts, began to lose faith in him. There were rumors he wanted out, even an ambassador’s job.
Axworthy has managed his own resurrection through a fine, steady, controlled series of presentations and responses in the House and with reporters. In his expositions, long or brief, of the complex reform of the unemployment insurance system, despite an occasional reversion to bullheadedness, listeners and questioners were generally given clarity, balance and little insult or arrogance. Details always seemed at the minister’s tongue tip.
Everyone in politics knows how unpopular the reforms which limit payments and lengthen qualification periods are in the Atlantic provinces. And the BQ MPs were on the prod over the plan for funding those who get job training under the altered legislation.
The child care package totalling $730 million over three years which the minister announced last week may be far less golden than it seems, given the requirment of provinces matching dollars, but it also bespeaks the Axworthy recovery.
Comparatively speaking, the quality of the Axworthy performance was higher than that of a far more noticed one, that of Allan Rock, the justice minister, in getting through the contentious gun control legislation.
Rock had neither a handle on the future working of his Act, particularly the licensing system, nor had he spent enough time familiarizing himself with major opponents of licensing who are mostly far from rednecks, i.e., the native diaspora across the country and the many small communities of our vast hinterlands.
Well into the fall session the conventional wisdom on the Hill had two ministers tagged as very inept, if not hopeless – Diane Marleau (health), Michel Dupuy (heritage) – and five to six others as cabinet debits, not assets – Sergio Marchi (citizenship and immigration), David Collenette (defence), David Anderson (revenue), Sheila Copps (environment) and Ron Irwin (Indian affairs).
As well, there was a new minister, recruited through a byelection, in Lucienne Robillard. She was to lead the federal team in the Quebec referendum campaign, working with Daniel Johnson, the head of the No forces. Her time at the fore was brief. After an unfortunate blurt to reporters that forecast an orderly transition to separation if Yes got even a slight majority, she became a second-stringer. Now Robillard is largely innocuous as minister of labor.
All the other seeming duffers did a bit better this fall in the House, though in Dupuy’s case it was probably due to much less exposure. Marleau is marginally better, seeming less tentative and better briefed. Marchi has reversed his first expansionist fervor without trumpeting it and immigration is being tightened and more selective. Collenette hardly scintillated at defence but he seemed less lost or not so ponderous.
As B.C.’s lone cabinet minister, Anderson had a cruel autumn but this was less his own doing and more the meanness of the PM. Copps is no longer considered a major player but remains the Grits’ talisman for partisan counter-attacks.
This year Irwin turned a difficult corner as Indian affairs minister, assenting less to the litany of whining woe and bulling ahead with self-government, community by community, not by treaty group or any mighty first nations structure.
Douglas Young, the tart-tongued minister of transport, seems the minister who has had the largest accrual of respect among the Liberals, even as he’s presided over the dismantling of what was the most diverse and skilled federal department. He may be ready for a new challenge, probably Industry, if Brian Tobin doesn’t get there first. Industry is held by a quiet, inarticulate Ottawa lawyer, John Manley.
In sum, a very mediocre cabinet has been somewhat more credible this season. Fortunate, given a fading prime minister.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 15, 1995
ID: 12807847
TAG: 199512140150
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

REFORM LEADER TALKS SENSE

Preston Manning is awkward, in himself and for others, particularly awkward as a harsh appraiser of Jean Chretien and the federal Liberals as national saviors.
This piece, however, is somewhat of a defence of the Reform leader. Why? Because no matter how much he exasperates he has brought frank, direct discussion to half a dozen, prime, national issues – including Quebec – which over time the other federal parties have reduced to safe platitudes with a kind of tacit, rolling consensus that it was better to leave them lie.
The issues which the Reformers have really opened up are all ones that had developed a conventional political wisdom. Around them the Liberals, Tories and New Democrats always danced with political correctness. Such conventionalism was often a good distance from the majority opinions of the populace.
It’s simply true that before Reform hit the Hill candor never really reigned for more than odd moments in any debate over these touchy matters that the Manningites keep broaching.
1) The dubious contributions to Canada from most of the multicultural and bilingual programs which the establishment folk of the country praise but which agitate a lot of citizens who see them as divisive as well as costly.
2) Immigration policices which have been catering far more to the most costly immigrants in the “family” class and to dubious refugee claimants while passing over young, skilled immigrants already fluent in one of our official languages.
3) The extraordinary waste and tangled purposes of the taxpayers’ billions annually going on status Indians and Inuit, much of it with piffling results. And, even worse, the continual expansion of demands by Indian leaders which now predicate a Canada with a separate category of citizens, based on inherited blood lines and a speckle of apartheid “nation” territories across the country.
4) Some limits should be set to the changes in taxation, pensions, and legalized social behavior arising from sophisticated responses of politicians to the gender and sexual “revolutions,” in particular heading toward an endorsement of homosexual marriages and anal sexual relations, even with youths.
MAMMOTH DEBT LOAD
5) An insistence, always coupled with awareness of the mammoth federal debt load, that everything the federal government does in programs and capital spending should have frugality as an imperative, and this should constantly be conspicuously demonstrated by elected politicians and senior mandarins.
6) The insistence that in all constitutional approaches the provinces must be seen as equals. Along with this goes the argument that this is no affront to Quebec because the complementing thrust is to get the federal government out of every province’s way.
Each of those six subjects for Reform attacks and contrary ideas is intrinsically controversial, and that’s why the antecedent parties, tacitly rather then by direct collusion, walked carefully around them. For example, all federal parties, excepting the PQ and lately the BQ, have stood together for national unity behind the government in power. Well, Preston Manning’s blown that unity away on the plain argument it was leading to eventual disaster. Once you put aside your anger at his gimmicky appeal for a way to ditch Jean Chretien he got right at the core question. Has this prime minister a sensible, fresh plan to thwart Lucien Bouchard?
No, Chretien sems clueless and just playing for time in the hope that Bouchard self-destructs as Quebec premier.
Any prime minister who mumbles about using his ultimate constitutional power of maintaining “peace, order and good government” is irrational if the threat to use such extraordinary means isn’t made clear and sensible with “hows” and “wheres.”
Many in the political media, and probably a majority of citizens who regularly keep track of the parliamentary scenario, are as bothered as the Liberals by the Reform leader’s gaucheness in questions and demands. This was noticeable in the impatience and irritated manner of journalists who tilted with Manning about his “attack” on Chretien (e.g., Alison Smith on Newsworld.)
How could Manning be so rude, so extravagant as to seek the removal from office of a man not only duly and properly elected to the power but the prime salvation for national unity? Gosh, even Lucien Bouchard thought this was a crazy suggestion.
Let me argue that Canadians owe the Reform leader thanks. There’s something here of the tale of the emperor with no clothes, Manning has underlined that Chretien doesn’t seem to have any organized clues for this test of tests – except to wait and hope.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 13, 1995
ID: 12807658
TAG: 199512130006
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

PLAYING HARDBALL WITH QUEBEC

It was not a total disaster, but far from a success. Its real measure will be down the road a year or two, and this because of one big blip in all the chat.
That is my weighing of Jean Chretien’s performance on CBC-TV’s Town Hall show Monday night.
Before examining the prompt about the future in my opening, I’d wager the program drew an eventual reaction from viewers that I took from the postures and expressions in the audience and of the questioners. It was not so much hostile as skeptical; not really panicky but worried. The disillusion I sensed seemed more in sorrow than in frustration with Chretien’s flannelling on so many of the questions.
But early in the show, and with considerable vagueness, we got that alerting mention of “peace, order, and good government.”
And this, as I read it, was a clear indication of a Plan B for handling Lucien Bouchard and the government he will lead in Quebec. Chretien will unleash what is still the really overriding clause in the Constitution which gives the federal government the power to maintain “peace, order and good government” within Confederation.
When I heard the phrase from Chretien’s lips I instantly recalled the last federal politician who promised to use it, and what befell him and his party.
It was Robert Stanfield in 1974. He began an election campaign as favorite to win with an undertaking he would meet the national emergency of runaway inflation with a regime of wage and price controls across the country. This promise had the rider that if provincial co-operation was not forthcoming he would use emergency powers available to Ottawa through the “peace, order, and good government” clause in the Constitution (then primarily the BNA Act). At once David Lewis, the NDP leader, and unions across the land began a clamor over this threat to hard-won rights and freedoms. You may remember the defending prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, made popular the phrase: “Zap! You’re frozen!”
And so Canada never got the best prime minister Dalton Camp thinks it should have had.
IT COULD BOOMERANG
One must mention this precedent because it underlines what a powerful bomb – perhaps a boomerang bomb – Chretien is readying in his armory.
From “peace, order, etc.” my recall then jumped to what I hear sent shock waves through the Liberal caucus meeting on Dec. 5.
A senior member of the cabinet, so far successful as a minister and neither given to public philosophizing nor a publicity hound (unlike Sheila Copps or Brian Tobin) had stunned the gathering with the argument that the time had come for the government to unveil Plan B.
What would Plan B be? Some might call it a dose of “tough love” for Quebec. One listener said it squared on some points with Preston Manning’s proposals. Certainly, some political scientists (like Donald Rowat) and some columnists (like Jeffrey Simpson and myself) have touted a Plan B in which the federal government, speaking for all who know they are Canadians, would set out the necessary and practical responses of Ottawa and the other provinces before, not after, a possible separatist victory in the referendum Bouchard plans to hold in a year or two or three.
The plan should include such basics as the vital question being clear and unambiguous and a certain opportunity for all voters in Canada to register their response.
My informant thought the minister’s proposition of a Plan B was not engineered by the PMO, but subsequently the word around the caucus was that the boss now had ideas for far more than the “unity” package. Whatever the link with the minister’s proposition, the core of the Plan B strategy is out in the open. It is to use the ultimate power that a true national emergency provides – and, Lord knows, busting up Canada is such – to guarantee both an absolutely clear question for Quebec voters as well as the procedures to be used and the general terms of settlement.
Now, as a jock would say, they’re playing hardball.
At last – after three decades of pieties from on high about the sacred right of a people to self-determination and a consistent, bland optimism on the part of federal Liberals, Tories, and New Democrats that when the crunch came sensible Quebecois would reject separation from Canada.
The first doubt about such “hardball” begins in appraising Chretien as he seems. And that is “bushed.” Tired out after 32 years of hustling and partisan hassling. As an example, take one of his lines on Monday: “I have a very good cabinet.” Tripe!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 10, 1995
ID: 12807262
TAG: 199512080121
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

STOCKING STUFFERS FOR POLITICAL JUNKIES

There are good books available as Christmas gifts for those keen on politics. Here are my top six choices from recent publishing, none too academic as prose or from the constitutional bookshelf. (Much of the latter stuff has been looped by the shock from the October referendum and its aftermath.)
My first suggestion was swayed by the years I had in a close but often puzzled watch on the ROGUE TORY of Denis Smith’s biography (from MacFarlane Walter & Ross). It is subtitled The Life and Legend of John G. Diefenbaker and follows the Saskatchewan orator from his cradle in 1895 to the wondrous funeral train of 1979. It is drawn more from records and Hansard and has more judgments (often harsh but never cruel) than one finds in another biography which will be equally fascinating, perhaps even more so for young people, i.e., CHRETIEN, VOLUME 1, by Lawrence Martin (Lester Publishing).
A careful reader of both biographies can range synoptically over federal politicking from the eve of the Great War to the early 1990s, revealed through two ultra-ambitious, wilful, self-centred partisans, who each took three busy decades to reach the very top and did it despite little early money and several personal handicaps. Both men in their climbs had devoted, astute, wifely help. Each tale has a Horatio Alger rags-to-riches aspect even though neither of these long-distance runners was more than momentarily the good and godly hero archetype popularized by the once famous American novelist.
Memoirs by politicians, even when aided by researchers or writers, are rarely as durable and balanced as a good biography, but two of this season, despite their gaps and events untreated, should delight a lot of readers, in particular Dave Barrett’s BARRETT: A PASSIONATE POLITICAL LIFE, written with William Miller and published by Douglas & McIntyre. The former NDP premier of B.C. was less an Olivier than the Chief but on the platform he was as rousing and witty, and even more captivating in private talk.
He could also spoof himself. Even the strong anti-socialists in B.C. haven’t hated Dave Barrett. It takes a dour soul not to relish this pushy, rotund underdog as he savages our corporate and professional overdogs for their grasp of far more than their fair shares. With Barrett one also gets a B.C. mind-set, flourishing at this moment from being discounted once again in distant Ottawa.
BARRETT is both more substantial and interpretive than the other new memoir I recommend, that of Hamilton’s Ellen Fairclough, now 90 but in 1957 the first female minister of federal politics – and a capable, cheery one she was in the House of Commons through the Diefenbaker years in power. She was no favorite of the Chief’s and, loyal though she was through his hostility and his cabinet and caucus adversities, she often stood up to his bullying suspicions, having her say.
Her book, SATURDAY’S CHILD (from U of T Press) begs for more incidents and detail, such as of her ministerial work in Indian affairs. Unfortunately, she didn’t get well into her memoirs until her late 80s. What would make a longer second edition better is a scholarly appraisal of her ministries and her scrambling within a touchy, often fractured Tory party.
The last two recommendations are books by premier journalists who first won national recognition as political columnists in Ottawa, Peter Newman in the Diefenbaker-Pearson years and Richard Gwyn, particularly in the Trudeau years.
I found Newman’s THE CANADIAN REVOLUTION-FROM DEFERENCE TO DEFIANCE (Viking) more of a columnist’s reading romp than Gwyn’s NATIONALISM WITHOUT WALLS (M & S). But Gwyn’s main thesis that a new vista, more challenging and exciting than Quebec, awaits our attention runs deeper and is more closely argued than Newman’s repeated citing of evidence for recent “revolution” within our land. Take Gwyn for debating grist and mind-expanding; take Newman for some great reportage on the Mulroney decade, some of it in racily purple prose.
Neither of these star journalists and prolific authors is modest or, put another way, lacks daring in generalizations and sweeping interpretations. Each hangs his book on what he considers an epic decade for Canadian change. Each came to his project after being away from direct political watch on Ottawa – Gwyn abroad, Newman doing history. Each is certain we are far different from the last days of Trudeau.
Newman insists there was a genuine revolution, even layers of revolution, resulting in a citizenry which is irreverent about politicians and parties and determined to have more input in debate and decisions.
Gwyn describes us as in a crisis caused by “interest group” domination domestically and the pressures from a global economy and a corporate world view. Inequality is exasperating, here and beyond. He’s concerned Canada has lost the distinctive values of English Canadians as Charter politics of gender, sexuality, and ethnicity break down the hard-won, communal traditions of carefulness and modesty.
Gwyn’s book prods me into both general and personal analysis whereas the “revolution” theme of Newman seems too sweeping a reading of what essentially seems a long delayed counter-reformation, forced forward by a cataclysmic public debt and sheer exhaustion with the liberal proposals from 1963 to Charlottetown in 1992.
We threw borrowed money and agencies at so many advocacies of wants and needs. In short, if we did move from “deference to defiance” it was far less a revolution against government than a mass spasm against more debt and the incessant, organized clamor for more.
Anyway, you decide if we’ve just had a bloodless but real revolution.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 08, 1995
ID: 12807013
TAG: 199512070263
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

‘TIS THE SEASON TO BE GLOOMY

Yesterday I prompted a veteran who has daily contact with the elite of Ottawa’s politicians, mandarins and journalists by saying: “Does it seem to you a government is now falling apart before our eyes?” “Worse,” he added, “we’ve no alternatives.”
That last comment has a double meaning: there is no likely alternative to either Jean Chretien or the Liberals.
What brought on our unseasonable gloom? It’s just a response to the uneasy tempos and emerging group mood of the capital city.
This Christmas season on the Hill and in the community around it there are drearier anticipations than I’ve ever noted in nearly 40 years of working here. Ottawa suddenly seems a frail shadow of its “Fat City” heyday of the Trudeau years. Then, as Robert Campeau poured concrete for mountainous federal towers, taxpayers’ money was at hand for every likely cause and for regular, tidy annual increments. For so long it was onward and upward for Canada’s capital.
Today? As yet there isn’t panic on the Hill. Cabinet and caucuses are figuratively droning along, even as the shrinkage in certainty of purpose becomes more palpable. One sees reasons for the capital’s sliding morale in the downsizing triggered by Paul Martin’s last budget. This was a harsh preface to even harsher consequences in train now in the cruel “common sense” cuts ordered from Queen’s Park. Also, the pervading, post-referendum chill has been complemented by the early onslaught of blizzards. Most markets in the capital are down, from real estate to cars to entertainment to hockey.
Too much has been expected of the prime minister, so much so that few have been bothered by his very undistinguished cabinet. The Red Book, the most flaunted document in the land for over a year, is becoming an embarrassment to its sponsors. (See GST!) Although the prime minister and his handlers are still very much in charge of ministry and caucus and, so far as one divines, haven’t a fractious mandarinate, the suspicion is growing in what has been a rather favoring media pack, that Chretien hasn’t any fresh ideas or strategies and his handlers shield him and enforce control on what has been a docile caucus without an obvious successor to him. In short, the way ahead had seemed a glide to certain re-election, given Chretien’s popularity and the weak alternatives of either Reform or the Tories.
AN IDOL NO MORE
As I see it, since the referendum Chretien is no longer the idol of his own caucus. His “unity” package is dubious and fears of a slide in jobs are rising along with worries there’s no strategy for staying what seems an encroaching recession, abetted by the big drops in federal and provincial spending now under way. Literally, the prime minister is bushed – both physically and mentally.
A substantial distraction from a more public realization that the Chretien team has stalled has been the daily media pursuit of the Airbus story since the leak of documents revealed the justice minister and the RCMP seemed certain Brian Mulroney, when prime minister, was guilty of criminal behavior in taking money piped to him for expediting the sale of Airbus planes to Air Canada in 1988.
This daily melodrama prolongs the implicit contrast between Honest Jean and Sleazy Brian beyond what seemed possible given the Liberals’ own muffs and dubious ethics since they took power.
Some of my colleagues read the Airbus affair as confirmation the massive public rejection of Mulroney extends to an urge he be punished. Without denying the mass antipathy I prefer to see the Airbus case as a good example of what a dedicated production team with CBC-TV’s great resources can do, linking documentary and news expositions, to keep a story going, even to keep on hand for weeks an “insider” source about the bank accounts in Georgio Pelossi. Co-ordinate network news with the weekly 5th Estate’s prime dossier and the tale rolls and rolls, forcing competitors to join the hue and cry.
Despite titanic leg-work 5th Estate was unable to present proof that Mulroney personally toll-gated the Airbus deal. However, the suspicions aroused by Swiss bank accounts and Frank Moores, the dodgy lobbyist, convinced Allan Rock and the Horsemen to act.
Few outside the CBC know the zealot in the Airbus pursuit. If it peters out he may never be a household word. If the jackpot evidence is found he becomes the latest Canadian Woodward/Bernstein. He is Harvey Cashore, an engaging young man in his 30s who came east a decade ago from B.C. (where his father is a cabinet minister) and got work as an aide to John Sawatsky in his long preparation of the 1991 best-seller. Mulroney: The Politics of Ambition. Then Cashore moved to CBC-TV and eventually reached 5th Estate, still with a fix on Mulroney, He, more than Mulroney’s best known nemesis, Stevie Cameron (of On the Take) has made Airbus the staple story for this winter. I’d wager 5-1 the Mulroney jackpot won’t be found.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 06, 1995
ID: 12806697
TAG: 199512050073
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

ONCE MORE INTO THE BREECH

Would you care to despair of the House of Commons as the major font of political awareness and informed partisanship? If so, read the “debate” last Monday on the dispatch of troops to join the 60,000-strong peacekeeping force in Yugoslavia. There was barely a quorum’s guard of MPs on hand. Here are my notes on the contributions from Liberal, Bloc and Reform MPs.
David Collenette, the defence minister, spent the last half of his speech in a petty attack on the “incessant criticism” by Reform MPs of the forces’ “administrative lapses” and their calling into question the morale of the army. Reformers don’t care about the military and the damaging effects of their comments. (The minister didn’t make anything, one way or the other, that proportionately more Reform than Liberal MPs have served in our military.)
His key points were: as a member of NATO, Canada must serve beside her allies in this obligation and, having already invested three years, 10 lives and over $500 million, we should see the mission through to its conclusion because “peace is within sight” in the Balkans. Failure in Bosnia opened the spectre of flames from the Aegean to the Alps. He preened to the Liberals’ democratic vision, projected in the Red Book, of “consulting Parliament” before dispatching troops overseas, in contrast to the practice of the Mulroney government.
This brag was derided as farce by both Bloc and Reform speakers who noted Jean Chretien’s comments abroad implying a commitment has been made, and wire stories from NATO sources setting the scale of the Canadian contribution. In short, this is a done deal. To dilate in the House on either the dispatch or the makeup of the force that is going is bootless.
In the U.S, the focus of debate has been been on “the rules of engagement” – when and why can the Yanks shoot back. In our House the concern was the opposite. Many were concerned that such “enforcement” provisons would sully the “traditional” reputation of Canadians as peacekeepers. The Bloc’s Jean-Marc Jacob accepted that we should participate for all the Liberals’ reasons, but hoped Canadians won’t gain expertise at imposing peace. So, peace enforcement if necessary but not necessarily peace enforcement.
BRIEFINGS `A JOKE’
The lead Reformer, Bob Mills, was mushy almost to incoherence. The “consultation” was a farce. He cited Reform’s three-point letter to Chretien last week, seeking his proposals, a full military briefing, and a free vote. The PM had ignored the letter. The briefings offered were “a joke.” And the motion before the House (for which there would be no vote) merely welcomed the government’s intentions rather than citing specifics of what it would do.
Mills listed a series of issues and questions which the government hasn’t addressed, ranging from lack of solid estimates on the cost and likely duration of the mission to what role Canadians might have in rounding up war criminals. Other Reformers, Jim Hart and Lee Morrison, were more cogent, arguing that because its equipment, morale and leadership are poor, Canada’s army should not take on a combat role in Bosnia, though it might send support personnel. So rear echelon soldiers, not fighting soldiers.
Reform MP David Chatters, who pointedly noted he has a son in the forces, joined his colleagues in adamantly insisting their comments were not an invidious reflection on the military, as Liberal members insisted, but rather an indictment of the decline the military has endured through years of Liberal mismanagement.
The finest speech and the best point made in the debate came from Morrison. He called on the Liberals to follow their own defence white paper, which says there will be peace missions Canada will have to pass on, because of resource shortages or the unsuitability of our forces to their particular requirements. Bosnia fits both criteria, and Canada should sit this one out.
The Reformers were pushed toward this quite arguable posture by former admiral Fred Mifflin, Collenette’s parliamentary secretary, who insisted they had been fudging. One is entitled to speculate that Reform has a few isolationists in its ranks who hesitate about a supportive position because they prefer Canada stay out of overseas military commitments.
An honorable mention should go to Beth Phinney, Liberal MP for Hamilton Mountain, who showed a bit of courage in complementing the Reformers’ concerns over our army’s lack of combat readiness, citing a discussion with a Bosnian veteran about pitiful equipment.
In the next year questions and remarks in Parliament on Yugoslavia may be few if all goes well there – as the Liberals will pray – but if it doesn’t the large U.S. element in the NATO contingent is sure to be at the core of crisis or hubbub, not our slim crew.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 03, 1995
ID: 12806349
TAG: 199512010080
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C4
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

TORIES’ INVISIBLE MAN SHOULD STAY THAT WAY

Recently a few readers, and some who heard a comment of mine on TV about Jean Charest, have let me know I have been unfair to one they see as a genuine, future leader for Canada, a young man who deserves and gets respect and affection on each side of this country’s cultural divide.
I wondered at such a reaction to my opinion that Charest has “too many flaws.” Despite his youth, charm, common sense and fluency in both languages, he remains virtually invisible after two years at the Tory party’s helm. And it remains moribund, so devastated by its rout in ’93 that resurgence of Tory parties in several provinces has meant trifling gains for the federal party. Further, the Brian Mulroney curse is far from fading away.
Fans of Charest had high hopes for his referendum performance. In the campaign he would prove to doubters like me how talented he was and so less stodgy and outdated than Prime Minister Jean Chretien has become. The Tory leader did generate passion for the No side and garnered good reviews, even from many in the Yes camp. Wouldn’t I desist in my criticism?
No. Though Charest displayed fine oratorical skills last month he failed to persuade even those in his own constituency to “vote for Canada.” As a prominent person in the gang which missed losing the country by a hair’s breadth, why should he be any more above reproach than Chretien or Quebec Liberal Leader Daniel Johnson?
Charest as a politician appealed to me well before Mulroney told me in late 1984 that this was the ablest young MP in his caucus. Such admirable qualities: honesty; openness; a fervent belief in a united Canada; and a desire to accommodate. At that time these qualities seem to destine him for greatness. But the times have changed for Canada and the federal Tories.
Charest’s statements to date on Quebec give no indication he possesses a master plan for putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. His ideological stance gets in the way of rebuilding the Tories as a national force. Even some admirers acknowledge this: witness their call for him to take over the Quebec Liberal leadership. Would there be any such suggestion if he had prospects for 24 Sussex Dr.?
The hostile response of Western premiers and Reformers to Chretien’s “non-constitutional” constitutional proposals show how popular “talking tough” on Quebec has become. Compromise is a dirty word.
Where does this leave Charest, with his Quebec roots? Can he bridge the gulf between the Two Solitudes, when those outside his home province want a champion to read Quebec the Riot Act? If he cannot, his leadership is doomed. And with it, perhaps, the party. How ironic this would be: that a party denied power for most of this century because it had no base in Quebec should vanish from the political map because it had become little more than a Quebec rump.
On Wednesday Charest released a brief response to Chretien’s proposals. Like most of his offerings, it lacked substance. He says Canada needs a unity agenda based on jobs and the economy; a federal-provincial meeting should establish common deficit- and debt-reduction priorities, especially in areas of shared jurisdiction; a co-ordinated devolution and de-centralization agenda is required. These are reasonable suggestions but won’t placate those who voted Yes.
He skipped lightly over constitutional changes though noting any such agenda should be as “concise” as possible (no more Charlottetowns), recognize Quebec’s “specific identity,” and focus on matters requiring the approval of only seven provinces and 50% of the population.
Given the sensitivities to it in Alberta and B.C., the “regional” vetoes issue should be considered by a joint Senate/House of Commons committee, and may have to be dropped.
Finally, in the absence of any overall plan from Ottawa, he urged the provinces to organize their own meeting to agree on a national agenda for change.
Most of this is process. On the touchy issues Charest passed the buck to others, offering no ideas of his own.
The Tory leader’s other great liability endears him to some – like Dalton Camp. He is to the left of most of the party’s former supporters. On Premier Mike Harris’ first visit to Ottawa he pointedly met with Preston Manning, passing on the leader of the Tory’s national wing. This past week Harris was again in Ottawa for a speech, and though Charest was invited, the event’s bumph referred to “John Charest.”
Petty indignities like these show the chasm between the federal PC leadership and the successful provincial operations in Ontario and Alberta. The latter have studiously avoided employing refugees from the national party’s ’93 debacle and give every sign of sticking to their deficit-cutting agendas.
How can federal Tories, with only two seats and an empty treasury, hope to rebuild without a lot of help from the best organized and funded provincial wings? How to secure such aid when Charest’s views on the scale of social programs and the role of the national government in them contradict the perceived wisdom of these premiers?
So I say to my critics: Jean Charest looks ready to justify the adage that nice guys finish last. It may not be fair, but …

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, December 01, 1995
ID: 12806119
TAG: 199511300161
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

IT’S THAT DREADED `C’ WORD AGAIN

Saving Canada is getting tougher and more dubious.
Consider the substantially hostile reception this week to Jean Chretien’s response to a referendum campaign promise to Quebec. Witness the quavering presentation and inchoate arguments of the PM. Even a loyal, clamorous backbench couldn’t lift him or his distinct society and veto propositions above tedium.
This Parliament has become permanently nasty toward Chretien as he fights a war on two fronts – in his own province and across the West. So, in less than six weeks, a leader and party cruising on waves of opinion poll approval have been brutalized and all of us who are caught up in “whither Canada” are back to the most mind-numbing complexity of our life over the past 30 years – the Constitution!
Before the 1950s we had remarkably little public discussion or popular concern over the Canadian Constitution, even in Quebec, although there are some regrets so much of it was unwritten (on the British example). It’s true some scholars frowned at judicial interpretation of the British North America Act by the Privy Council in Britain which had tilted toward provincial rights. Some people, but far from a crowd, thought it colonial that our Constitution’s core was an Act of the British Parliament and felt it should be brought home or patriated. Public interest in such opinions was slight, except modestly in Quebec where occasionally the respective powers of the federal and provincial governments were debated.
The Constitution was neither a grand issue nor a simple one well before Lester Pearson’s Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism checked into the state of French-English relations in the mid-1960s. The B and B hearings tracked alongside the so-called Quiet Revolution led by Jean Lesage in Quebec and a first, open flowering of French Canadians who asserted their right to determine if they should have a nation of their own.
It bears constant repetition today that Pearson as prime minister made it clear the federal government accepted the right of a people to self-determination, which was in the United Nations Charter, and so French Canadians could separate if it was done democratically and without the use of force.
CANADA WAS DIVISIBLE
None of the federal political parties at that time – Liberal, Progressive Conservative, New Democratic or Social Credit – nor any others since, quarrelled with this top level acceptance that Canada was divisible. Pierre Trudeau confirmed this when he followed Pearson as prime minister in 1968. Before this, an avowedly separatist party in Quebec led by Rene Levesque had been formed and, within a decade, it became first the Official Opposition in Quebec, and shortly the province’s governing party.
Two points are plain from the constitutional scenario since the advent of the PQ and the Liberals’ choice of Trudeau as prime minister through to the referendum results of last Oct. 30.
1) Federal politicians have always insisted Quebecers would not choose to separate when the advantages of Canada were made clear. To meet Quebec’s needs the federalists were ready to make sensible changes to the Constitution and federal-provincial processes.
2) The practical checkmate to the aims of the PQ was to have a federal prime minister from Quebec. Trudeau’s appeal to Liberals and many others was that he would handle Levesque and bring Quebec nationalism within a vision of Canada open from sea to sea for French and French Canadians.
Roughly put, we now see there is no ready consensus in Quebec or outside it on point No. 1, the “sensible”” changes to the Constitution.
On point No. 2, we may have filled the years through the series of manoeuvres on the Constitution led by Trudeau and then Brian Mulroney, but the advantages of a prime minister from Quebec now seem bootless. We have had one for 27 of the past 28 years. Many of us in the early 1980s thought Trudeau had won constitutional peace for our time. A decade later Mulroney almost brought off his bold venture but he failed, and far more beyond Quebec than in it.
In retrospect, both the Meech and Charlottetown endeavors seem more credible as well as more substantial than this week’s gambit by Chretien. Parliament is sure to pass his package but to what purpose beyond confirming: a) the PM has fulfilled a promise; and b) the PQ government and the BQ MPs reject any offers of constitutional change and scheme for their next testing of Quebec opinion?
The rest of us? We wait. Almost all our hopes are vested in a federal leader who has stood well with us for a long time. But not only can he not hack it at home, he seems without his old vim or a hard strategy for mastering Lucien Bouchard.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 29, 1995
ID: 12805841
TAG: 199511280099
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

SOME SURPRISE…OUR SPIES SPY

Regular readers know my jaundiced view of most of Canada’s internationalist gambits, largely because they radiate a halo of boy scout do-goodism which underestimates the nastiness in our world. To foreign aid and defence policy and immigration, Canada brings a touchingly naive faith in the goodness and perfectibility of the human race.
This “goodness” runs so deep that if Canada shows a harder edge, such as announcing a weapons purchase for her military, many Canadians are shocked. Does Canada expect her troops to kill?
Similarly, the idea that Canada’s intelligence organizations, CSIS and the Communications Security Establishment, might actually spy strikes some as pernicous. Canadian naivete on defence matters keeps putting relations with our allies at risk but our immaturity about internal security also poses a threat, one closer to home.
A fortnight ago CTV News reported on Jane Shorten, a former CSE employee, that the agency is spying on ordinary Canadians. In the course of CSE’s routine interception of the communications flowing into and out of foreign embassies and consulates based here, our electronic snoopers pick up the chatter of Canadians employed by them and of those Canadians seeking information and assistance from them.
Shorten thinks this violates the law against spying on ordinary citizens. She described her outrage to her superiors at listening in on fellow citizens’ private affairs (including one woman’s gynecological problems). Unimpressed, Shorten’s employers terminated her work.
She took her accusations to MP Derek Lee, head of the Commons committee responsible for such matters. When his response was slow she went to the media. Shorten has spiced her tales of domestic spying with details of the CSE’s snooping on our allies and trading partners, thus ensuring some international attention for herself. It didn’t seem to register with her that these latter activities do not seem to endanger the liberties of Canadians and might even assist them economically.
There are real problems with Shorten’s interpretations of events. There is a vacuum cleaner-like nature to electronic eavesdropping. How does the CSE fulfil its mandate to monitor the communications of foreign governments without picking up Canadians in its net? Once recorded, how can the talk of Canadians be filtered out without at least cursory listening? (Significantly, Shorten’s allegations did not include any compiling of specific dossiers on citizens.)
INTERCEPTED GOSSIP
The rights and wrongs of spying are more complicated than this ex-spook is willing to grant. For example, how would she handle the intercepted gossip of a Canadian employee of a foreign embassy which indicated a certain foreign national, once an officer of that embassy, is back in Canada under a different name and new guise?
Given the source’s citizenship, should our spooks erase this conversation and ignore its content – as Shorten’s interpretation of the law would have it? Suppose the foreign national was already suspected of “pursuing activities contrary to the national interest?”
Even those cynical about what our spooks once were up to in their “red” hunts must recognize much of what they have sought to know about foreign actions and intentions vis-a-vis Canada would be useful to our government. The state does need to track the activities of certain foreign nationals and governments hostile to our interests and those of our closest allies. Shock that Canada does such things is silly. Closer supervision may be required, but Shorten’s particular allegations do not make a convincing case. As for commercial spying, everybody does it. Why should Canada be a chump?
CTV’s big spy scoop was outshone by the CBC’s Airbus scandal and its lure to Canadians of more on their loathed former PM. This is unfortunate. We need a broad examination of the whole issue of internal security, particularly in the wake of the referendum vote.
Beyond accepting how nasty foreigners can be, even our allies, Canadians should ponder whether they’re adequately protected from snoops closer to home. At times the PQ has had a direct line into the highest councils of Ottawa. Recall the so-called Kirby memorandum of 1980. It outlined the federal strategy for patriating and amending the Constitution. It was leaked – not to the media, but to Rene Levesque’s government. Since then Ottawa has been ineffective at keeping private its internal papers and strategies on Quebec.
If we take the constitutional route again what would you bet against Team Canada’s playbook turning up in Lucien Bouchard’s hands? The apparent inability of the federal government to protect this vital element of the national interest is one of the doziest unmentionables in Ottawa. To raise it may earn me the tag of McCarthyism, but, given the stakes, silence is folly.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 26, 1995
ID: 11970371
TAG: 199511240081
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C4
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

WHAT A WEEK IT WAS IN CANADIAN POLITICS

This past week there were suddenly various happenings of political force after three flat weeks in the referendum’s aftermath – and almost all are open-ended.
The most serious news, probably fateful for Canada, was Lucien Bouchard’s decision to succeed Jacques Parizeau as Quebec premier. It will snap and pop for at least four years, probably longer.
One difference from the previous crisis of Canada-Quebec is the way those of us outside Quebec tend to appraise Bouchard as compared to the earlier messiah, Rene Levesque. It was hard for even the touchiest federalist to detest Levesque. Not so Bouchard. He promises to reach monster stature as an evil genius in the rest of Canada.
The week’s most beguiling story – of Brian Mulroney’s libel suit against the government over inquiries into the Airbus deal – and its pairing of the former PM with Frank Moores as toll-gaters – should spin out for months, but not nearly as long as will the persistent demonizing of the former prime minister by most Canadians.
For one like me with personal roots back in the railway age the stunning story of the week was the announcement by the president of Canadian Pacific, our most important company historically. (Yes, more than the Hudson Bay Co.)
CP is moving head office and a lot of workers from Montreal to Calgary. When you couple this with the privatization of Canadian National, the oldest Crown corporation, and with the rapid sale of the huge CN stock issue this month, it’s obvious the longest running story in our federation’s political history after our heritage from Wolfe’s victory on the Plains of Abraham two centuries ago has become a minor one.
In 1965, when I first joined the parliamentary press gallery, Buck Crump of the CPR and Donald Gordon of the CNR were the two largest public personalities for most reporters after PM Lester Pearson and his arch enemy, John Diefenbaker. Few today even know the railway presidents or realize the inexorable westward trend of our economy.
What historian Donald Creighton depicted as “the commercial empire of the St. Lawrence” is gone. The CN headquarters would follow the CP’s west if it weren’t pinned in Montreal by federal law. The railways’ actuality, now and ahead, has the extractive resource industries as their fundamental reason for being, and more and more most of this freight originates in the West and moves to the Pacific or south into the U.S.
The crotchety social issue in this week’s news has been the passage of the Chretien government’s gun control legislation. Hailed by gender groups as a victory for protection of women and children from redneck males, the act sets a computer-based file which will have almost quarterly monitoring by the media of gun registrations until the next federal election.
Each of the five westerly provincial governments and most First Nation groups are loath to co-operate with the Act, which makes for a running saga. Federally the Act may not cost the Grits seats or make Reform a greater power, but arguing over gun control in the campaign is guaranteed. And, afterwards, controversy is likely to continue until the seven-year period of grace ends and prosecutions begin for those who have refused to register.
The CBC, French and English, has become by far the largest news-gathering and interpretation agency in the country so it was not surprising that behind Bouchard and Mulroney, the No. 3 story of the week was the announcement by Perrin Beatty, head of the CBC, of its response to smaller appropriations. He gave figures of job losses, leaner spending envelopes, ditched executives, offices for sale and some task-widening urges for union members.
And at once the many organized “friends” of the CBC were crying against the cuts on CBC-TV, not taking it out on Beatty, the former Tory, but zeroing in on Chretien, Paul Martin and crew as no better than Mulroneyites in continuing the devious abandonment of our most able unifier and interpreter. One consequence seems obvious: more and more Newsworld stuff of talk and phone chatter about politics will be on network prime time because you can’t get Canadian programming any cheaper.
What short years ago was just behind the finance minister’s budget as the big Hill story of the year broke last week. The bulky, diverse report of the auditor general won little TV time and not much press space. This speaks more to the competing stories of note than to the complexity and heaviness of what the AG featured, i.e., appraisals in depth of failures to get value for the taxpayers’ money from a number of large spending programs or agencies, for example from the Liberals’ pride – the infrastructure program – or from the hundreds of millions poured into enterprises by or for aboriginals with skimpy results in jobs, plant or going concerns. For the frugal citizen the main hope such horrors may be openly examined now rests on Reform MPs who may use the AG’s data in House committees.
One prays the tiniest political story of the week may grow in the next few years into an end-of-century glory story. Some nationalists, including Toronto MPs Dennis Mills and John Nunziata, are circulating a proposition, Building a Better Canada, that calls for those with ideas to send them forth. By week’s end their binder had more than 100 such ideas. Great!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, November 24, 1995
ID: 11969831
TAG: 199511230152
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

CANADA NEEDS A BATTLE PLAN

Lucien Bouchard’s decision to be Quebec’s premier should be fateful for Canada. By 1999 he will either have led the Quebecois to their “promised land” or the federation will go on with its present parts.
To put it simply, in French or English Bouchard is an exceptional talker with such an edge on Jean Chretien, his prime rival, that as premier he makes a divided Canada better than a 50-50 wager.
Canadians have several more years of waiting and wondering, and, one prays, of being sensible enough to plan and work openly on both how to keep Quebec and how to do without it.
Those of us with a bent to history think the past contributions of the federation to Quebec have been large and the separatists’ grievances exaggerated. Such assessments are useless with Bouchard and the PQ. So is any argument they should accept the result of the next referendum on separation as binding. Such obduracy creates a temptation for federalists: To cut Quebec loose as totally and severely as possible. Leave the republic to its very dreary prospects.
But we should not anticipate, either pessimistically or optimistically the next referendum’s result. Parliament, the provincial legislatures, and the citizens of the rest of Canada cannot desert the half or more of Quebecers who don’t want to leave Canada. We must wrestle on with the issue put by Lord Durham 155 years ago as “Two nations warring in the bosom of a single state.”
Since we cannot walk away from the Quebec now crystallizing under the arguments and passion of Lucien Bouchard, how should federalists handle him in the crucial four years ahead? Above all – by not underrating him.
We must recognize that federalists have two leaders almost sure to remain in place for the next four years: Prime Minister Chretien and Daniel Johnson, leading the opposition to Bouchard in the Quebec National Assembly. To be blunt, neither Chretien nor Johnson is a dud but separately or in concert they seem less than a match for Bouchard if one has in mind the voters of Quebec.
NEEDS FRESH ADVISERS
Federalists must go on with Chretien. He has the entitlement and no strong alternative is in sight, let alone handy. But he seems to need some fresh, able advisers and handlers.
Take his cabinet committee under Marcel Masse to produce a Quebec plan. A pathetic crew! He could be ahead by dropping half this cabinet and restocking from a diverse backbench. He might disperse all his handlers (but his wife) and draft the energies and ideas of a caucus crew gone to seed.
Fresh personnel around Chretien is important but even more so is some choice of plans. The program for a three or four year war with the separatists should be thorough and some options or choices ought to be opened up for debate and decisions very quickly.
Long before another referendum Ottawa should let Quebec know it will not accept the result of any referendum in which it and Parliament has not had a chance to approve the wording of the question.
All of us should know long before the vote is called what the federation’s minimum terms will be for agreeing to separation by Quebec.
Should the federation be prepared to negotiate some kind of “associate” status along the lines of Bouchard’s ploy in the recent referendum campaign? My inclination would be to say “no,” that such is unworkable. A total, utter break with a minimum in future relationships would probably be better and more popular.
Canada’s provisional terms of agreement on Quebec separation should make some paramount points: on debt-splitting; use of currency; the transfers of capital assets and property; modes for determination of the destiny for aboriginal nations in Quebec; and repatriating arrangements for citizens of either federalist and separatist persuasions.
With Quebec in mind, should Ottawa work on fresh propositions of constitutional change for the federal-provincial conclave that has to be held in 1997? It seems sensible, but not a do-or die necessity.
Should these propositions be developed in a very open process with all the provinces? (Of course, the PQ refuses to take part.) Yes, because doing it secretly just means leaks, and this time there must not be belated naysayers like Clyde Wells and Elijah Harper.
If Ottawa fails to get the needed provincial backing for changes that meet previous Quebec demands what should be its fall-back position? Surely to be frank that the rest of Canada doesn’t want Quebec on such terms. If a special constitutional status for Quebec doesn’t fly with enough provinces then a national referendum might be used to sanction or reject the proposition.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 22, 1995
ID: 11969288
TAG: 199511210076
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

POLITICS ALSO ABHORS A VACUUM

The turn in the Chretien government’s fortunes may have pivoted on the exposure of its lack of leadership in the face of Lucien Bouchard’s brilliant referendum performance, but the Liberals’ comeuppance was inevitable.
As one found in high school science, nature abhors a vacuum. When politicians deliberately create one they are inviting others to fill it. Witness the curious course of the Airbus scandal and the sweetest break Brian Mulroney has had in three years.
If one believes the statements of Jean Chretien, Allan Rock and Herb Gray (and I do), all knew virtually nothing about the RCMP’s allegations that Mulroney conspired to extract bribes for the awarding of this and other contracts.
The justice minister has preened on being a candid, well-briefed leader. Now he trumpets his ignorance on this case, insisting he deliberately avoided a request by one of Mulroney’s lawyers to discuss the wording of the letter his department sent to the Swiss government. Rock insists he was correct to do so. This case, he says, is like any other and has been so treated.
Like any other? Does Rock not see that allegations a European consortium (much of it state-owned) paid bribes to a serving Canadian prime minister could have serious diplomatic as well as domestic political repercussions worthy of his and the cabinet’s consideration?
His insistence that the justice department was just doing its duty by its client, the RCMP, in forwarding the request for Swiss assistance is a ridiculous assertion. It is unworthy of one trained in the law.
Rock’s department routinely demands clarification of such requests before pursuing them further, often insisting they be rewritten. Justice is also duty bound to reject requests it deems ill-considered.
What are all those justice lawyers for if not to assess such things? It is part of the justice minister’s duties to see that his department is rigorous in such vetting.
NOTHING TO BOAST ABOUT
In this instance it appears to have forwarded a crude request to a foreign government based on distorted assessments of allegations made in the media (by the CBC’s Fifth Estate and Germany’s Der Speigel magazine). The most cursory of investigations would have exposed this. Rock should hardly boast that such inquiries weren’t made.
The assertion of ignorance in the ministry about the Airbus case reminds me of the Reagan White House’s infamous policy of “plausible deniability” – that is, the boss doesn’t want to know.
Like Ronald Reagan, Chretien has been a master at expressing amiable ignorance about the affairs of his government, and has gotten away with it, to the frustration of the media and opposition. But Reagan had his Iran/Contra scandal, and the chickens may now be coming home to roost for the “petit gars” with the public now exposed to a $50 million libel suit.
The question remains: how did Mulroney get dragged into the hoary allegations that have encircled his old political ally and lobbyist extraordinaire, Frank Moores, given the paucity of evidence?
Tory Sen. Marjorie Lebreton hints darkly at a Grit conspiracy, linking the RCMP investigation’s timing to the Senate’s inquiry into the Pearson Airport contract cancellation. This seems a stretch. The Senate hearings have revealed that Robert Nixon’s “inquiry” was crass and crude but the media’s disinclination to report anything which might rehabilitate the Tories or their corporate allies has guaranteed the committee’s work has been largely unnoticed and not damaging to the goverment.
More plausible than Liberals being Machiavellan as initiators of the Airbus hunt, is that the zeal of certain senior RCMP officers was left unchecked by a political apparatus that is happy to let the wheels of bureaucracy turn.
Many senior Mounties were offended by what they saw as a cozy relationship between former RCMP deputy commissioner Henry Jensen and Mulroney’s PMO. They came to believe that investigations into the former government’s corrupt practices were stymied by political interference. Laissez-faire by Chretien, Gray and Rock opened the door to a resumed search for rot at the highest levels, unfettered by oversight.
Now ask yourself: would Rock be so content to sit on the sidelines if it was Lester Pearson or Pierre Trudeau who was being tarred with the broad brush of corruption by his department’s letter to Geneva?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 19, 1995
ID: 11968650
TAG: 199511170118
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C7
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

MANNING’S MEDIA IMAGE SINKS TO A NEW LOW

It didn’t seem possible, but among those whom I read and observe on television there is an even higher level of exasperation with Preston Manning and the Reform Party than before the Quebec referendum.
The scorn is laced with anger because the Reformers are exploiting federalist difficulties with the PQ and the charisma of Lucien Bouchard. A senior journalist snarled about Manning: “He’s stabbing Chretien in the back.”
It has really set many on edge that Reformers are insisting the country has been almost lost without the Canadian people having a chance to contribute.
Of course, Manning doesn’t just fault Jean Chretien even though his incompetence became clear in the near disaster of the No campaign. Chretien has been following a cumulation of failures by his predecessors – Brian Mulroney, Pierre Trudeau and Lester Pearson. They also failed at handling relations with Quebec through most of 30 tortuous years.
Manning demostrates the absolute failure of federal strategy and tactics with references to the lengthy record of inquiries, commissions, committees, conferences, consultations, and agreements. These have produced piles and piles of written constitutional blather – a bureaucratric and academic industry!
A huge, costly apparatus to serve official bilingualism across Canada has been created which Quebec never demanded, and it’s ridiculous in provinces where less than 5% of the populace speaks French. And there have been so many concessions to Quebec like placing federal institutions such as the NFB there, and giving Radio-Canada an inordinate share of CBC spending, and providing “sweetheart” funding arrangements (e.g. for absorbing immigrants or sustaining companies like Bombardier). All this to make federalism and federal governments more acceptable to the people of the province.
It has been “profitable federalism” for Quebec, as former premier Robert Bourassa once put it, but Reformers assert that beyond being ineffective with Quebecers it has frustrated those in other provinces and regions, especially the West.
Nor has having prime ministers from Quebec been effective, given that even Jean Chretien’s own riding region voted for sovereignty.
The seething frustration at the failure of all the federal ploys and the persistence of the Quebec crisis spurs the animosity in the rest of Canada, especially west of Ontario, against any constitutional provisions which would provide recognition to particular distinctiveness and rights, and which became so clear with the vote on the Charlottetown agreement.
Therefore, Manning posits, we cannot waste any more time and money on repeating failed approaches to the Quebec problem. There are too many other matters of critical seriousness. Take the imperative need to restore the integrity to public finances. To give tax relief and get on with tax reform. To repair the criminal justice system.
Both in the House and in his formal speeches outside it the Reform leader has been scathing in his judgment of the prime minister’s capabilities and disrespectful of his ministers’ judgments. He emphasizes the leadership vacuum is most notable in Ottawa but it’s not encouraging to scan the politicians of the provinces because they have such disparate constitutional ideas for saving Canada.
Reformers cannot waste any more time being courteous or pretending to co-operate with a crew so ineffective as Chretien’s. Reformers have issued a straightforward 20-point program to rescue Canada.
They must surge out beyond the Hill with it. Before the next federal election the people must understand the proposals.
Meanwhile, all Canadians, including the Chretien government, should consider the simple wisdom in what Reform puts forward to deal with Quebec. It is most valuable because it opens the way to handling other crucial problems created by Ottawa’s over-reaching, excessive spending and teeming bureaucracy without any special provisions, constitutional or otherwise, for Quebec.
It seems to me that nothing Manning has said contributes more to the scorn for him and the widespread rejection I encounter against Reform among so many, particularly in journalism and the universities, than his simple prescription of devolution.
Devolve onto the provinces a lot of the federal programs. Let governments closer to the people who can serve them more quickly and cheaply have most federal programs and almost all joint federal-provincial programs. Get the federal government out of education and cultural activities of all sorts. Reduce the federal writ in manpower training and medicare and in policing rights and languages. Let all federal operations with a commercial aspect go to private enterprise.
These, say Reform, are all propositions that appeal to Quebecers determined to preserve their own language, culture, and identity and to shape their economy. Such devolution requires little or no constitutional change. It lets Quebec pursue its purposes with very little federal participation or intrusions, and its frees all the other provinces to better manage their affairs.
It seems to me the Manning critique of Ottawa’s failures is rather undeservedly responsible for more of the greater nastiness towards him than his super-confidence that devolution will dissolve the unity issue. There’s also chagrin that the long Chretien honeymoon has ended and Preston Manning has made this so abundantly clear.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, November 17, 1995
ID: 11968102
TAG: 199511160188
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

CANADA’S ALLIES AREN’T IMPRESSED

Last week I wrote that the federal mandarinate has concluded the days of preparing Canada’s military for war are past and our only international security role should be that of peacekeeper, with the proviso that we would only take missions where the use of force is ruled out in advance. All this despite last year’s defence white paper in which Canada’s longstanding commitment to collective defence arrangements and the maintenance of balanced, fully capable combat forces was reiterated. How did I reach such a conclusion?
Various letters and calls, most from men with close ties to our military and diplomatic bureaucracies, have presented this case to me. They argue that while the 1994 defence policy contained a balanced set of priorities for the military, decisions taken since then make a shambles of them. Instead of being guided by the white paper, Canada is embracing a defence policy remarkably like that outlined by the so-called Canada 21 group last year.
This self-appointed group of experts contended that Canada had made a unique contribution to international security over the past four decades by inventing and staunchly supporting peacekeeping. Accordingly, Canada ought to press her traditional allies to acknowledge this, and with the Cold War over, take the next logical step: specialize in security roles; become the world’s lead peacekeeper with armed forces designed to match. Let our allies, preparing for war, field more conventional forces as their contribution to peacekeeping when armed might is appropriate.
With peacekeeping as their justification, assuring their good-guys reputation, Canada’s forces could forego the expensive re-equipping needed to bring the army up to date. Further, much of the navy and air force’s hi-tech weaponry could be disposed of. Media response to Canada 21 was enthusiastic, the Globe’s editorialists finding the concept reasonable.
Does the Canada 21 view hold sway in the Pearson building? My sources say yes, pointing to the wide gap between stated policy goals and resources allocated to them. Salient facts: defence has been cut by $29 billion since the late ’80s. Between now and 1997-98 10% more of the budget must be trimmed. The regular forces, soon to be about half their 1960s’ size, are expected to fulfil similar responsibilities; and the reserves are being cut 20%. Our air force, once one of NATO’s most powerful with hundreds of fighters, will be lucky to have 60 after the cuts (Sweden fields approximately 400.) The special commission on Canada’s reserves has just underlined the military’s plight, warning it cannot be cut further and still function effectively.
MORE BATTLE TAXIS
Recent equipment decisions are very revealing. Most nations are now replacing their Vietnam-era armored personnel carriers (APCs) with infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs). The name difference reflects more than just the soldier’s love of nomenclature. APCs have been called battle taxis because they transport troops under armor protection to the edge of the battlefield, depositing them there to fend for themselves. IFVs take infantry into battle at speed alongside tanks, allow the troops to fight from within the vehicle if necessary and provide fire support for those who’ve dismounted. IFVs are faster, better armed and armored than their APC predecessors.
Canada is foregoing tracked IFVs, spending millions instead upgrading a fleet of 1960s-vintage M113 APCs, and acquiring more of the wheeled APCs used by our troops in Somalia and Bosnia. It is no denigration of the latter (built in London, Ont.) to note that they are considered suitable only for light forces in low threat areas (ie. peacekeeping), or in special situations where reinforcement by heavier forces is sure to follow, e.g., a U.S. Marines landing.
Does the Chretien government believe our allies (and possible opponents) are all wrong about the nature of the modern battlefield? Unlikely. Yet despite claims of maintaining fully capable land forces, the way the government is equipping them leaves little doubt they are never to take part in a modern, hi-tech battle. Our forces lack attack helicopters and will soon lose their few tanks. Sending Canadians into a full-blown battle with such limited kit would be murder.
My correspondents insist that our allies have not fallen for this charade although the Canadian public has. The allies are not impressed with the idea Canada should cherry pick the role she likes (one which is cheap and entails the least risk of heavy casualties). They are giving us the cold shoulder. Witness our isolation from the Bosnian peace process, our lack of official support in the Cod war, and the chilly responses to our proposals for a standing UN peacekeeping force. In a world where global trade is the key to prosperity, and good international standing vital to securing one’s interests, fibbing and sticking it to your oldest friends is stupid.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 15, 1995
ID: 11967532
TAG: 199511140089
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

ONE-OF-A-KIND CANADIANS

It’s time for me to be grateful for two colleagues, one of whom, Dave McIntosh, has left us forever; the other, Lubor Zink, has just been decorated with the highest award of the new Czech republic.
Both were members of the parliamentary press gallery for more than three decades, McIntosh largely as a reporter on defence and international affairs for The Canadian Press, Zink as political columnist, first for the Telegram, then for the Sun.
Both men were war veterans. Their battle honors suggest they were war heroes, but neither had much time for being thought of as exceptional. In fact, the best-known book McIntosh wrote, Terror in the Starboard Seat, spoofed heroes – in this case himself and the Mosquito pilot he served as navigator, a fearless one, always ready for another and harder target to strafe or bomb.
Many young journalists on the Hill found both men crusty, if not curmudgeonly. Both had an intense earnestness, well laced with scepticism. Neither cared for the flower children generation’s antics and themes. I most admired them for their stubborn bravery in the face of critical reactions from politicians or publishers to what they wrote. Neither would back up or recant.
In the 1960s a whole ministry, led by Lester Pearson, urged on by defence minister Paul Hellyer, sought to have McIntosh squelched at CP for his tough, thorough analysis of the scheme to unify the armed services. In retrospect, we all should have taken the critique very seriously, given the costly disaster that enterprise “to get more bang for the buck” turned out to be.
Last year one of the Hill’s lions, Charles Lynch, died. Columnist, TV pundit, and harmonica player, Charles was nationally known and we all relished how he planned his own funeral service (another John Diefenbaker!) and how it was brought off. That’s our Charlie, we said, leaving the stage his way. Ah, how different was our Dave. No funeral, no memorial, nought! A few weeks before his death I met him; his usual cranky self, he said: “Don’t dare ask me how I am.”
I said I did want to know about his latest book and he simply swore.
“What’s up? I asked.
“You know damn well what’s up. I can’t get a publisher with guts enough to print it.” I suggested self-publishing and wondered if I could help.
“No, I haven’t the time.”
WASN’T PUBLISHED
Remember this about the draft book that wasn’t published: McIntosh wasn’t new to authorship, having half a dozen books to his credit, two of which on the war had sold fairly well. I knew about his draft because I’d supplied him with a few smidgins of information for it. It was the story, as McIntosh saw it, of the expulson of the Japanese and Japanese-Canadians – some 22,000 – from the B.C. coast in 1942 at a time the Pacific war against Japan was going badly. I cannot vouch absolutely, because we only talked about his research, but my understanding was his book argued the decision to expel was a sound one, supportable by evidence of some disaffection among those exiled and considerable loyalty among adults to the emperor.
Liberals thought McIntosh a closet Tory and the Tories at times thought him a Grit. My own reading was of a sceptical, conservatively minded neutral who by temperament couldn’t dote on anyone -politician or otherwise. He did delight in Pierre Trudeau anecdotes that gave the lie to that worthy’s reputation for intellectual briliance or emphasized how frugal a millionaire he was with his own money but not with ours. But then Dave would wince and cringe when recalling Brian Mulroney’s smarm and blarney.
Of course, Lubor Zink never disguised his political line or mission. He is a persistent, vigorous anti-Communist and, even more, anti-Russian, understandably since he escaped the Russians and death in 1948 by the skin of his teeth. After he began his ceaseless columns here, warning of the USSR as mankind’s threat, he became the target of Russian abuse, a lot of it scornful from Canadian fellow-travellers. Most Canadians won’t appreciate the signal honor represented by the gold medal pinned on Lubor by Czech President Vaclav Havel for his service to “democracy and the cause of freedom.”
Original Canadians I’ve been fortunate to observe and know -Dave McIntosh and Lubor Zink.
Note: I made a grievous error in previous copy. Lawrence Martin, author of the new, readable biography, Chretien, was never an American (as I wrote). He was born in Scotland, grew up in Canada, studied in New England, and reported from Washington but he was not an American, although in his 1993 book, Pledge of Allegience, he foresaw the union of Canada and the U.S. as inevitable.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 12, 1995
ID: 11966897
TAG: 199511100089
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

EXPLAINING OUR DILEMMA

If you as a citizen feel ill-informed on our unity crisis, both libraries and book stores have at hand much in print about its cause and course. So much, in fact, one needs more than this column’s length just to list by author, title and publisher the books of the past five years on some or all aspects of the “two nations” dilemma.
Roughly two-thirds of such books that I’ve noted are from professors of law, history, political science, economics, journalism or sociology – almost all of whom are earnest and learned (pronounced learn-ED). Today, however, three of the books most displayed in bookstores that seem bang on the subject are by journalists. Two should become best-sellers: Peter Newman’s The Canadian Revolution, 1985-1995: From Deference to Defiance (Penguin Books) and Lawrence Martin’s Chretien: The Will to Win (Lester Publishing).
A third is by Ron Graham, a writer who won great repute as the ghost-writer of Chretien’s famous Straight from the Heart. This time with All the King’s Horses: Politics Among the Ruins (Macfarlane Walter & Ross) I think Graham has a dud, largely because he bobs around too much and his quasi-case histories are uneven in value.
In subsequent column I’ll explain why I think Newman overspins his thesis that Canada has just had a “revolution” and has rejected its politicians and their values and behavior. But any reader of The Canadian Revolution can zip past the thesis and revel in the snoopy reporting and vivid metaphors.
I would recommend a fourth book as the best of this bunch for those seeking understanding of the box Canada is in. It’s not as titillating in anecdote or deductive leaps as Newman’s book nor has it the intimacy with and about Jean Chretien which Martin so nicely creates, but it’s clear, has pace, and such coherence by its close to have you aware of a few ways we might take to get out of the box.
The title is Canada and Quebec: Two Histories (UBC Press). It was assembled by Robert Bothwell, a Toronto historian, from snips of radio interviews he did with scores of people in and around politics. Most readers should be convinced, at least through Bothwell’s emphasis on the sheer primacy of the relationship between Canada and Quebec that the latter is not, and never has been, a province like the others.
NOT ALL PUFF
Lawrence Martin’s first volume on Jean Chretien is kindly and warm but not all a puff for its “populist” hero. The author came here from the U.S. as a youth, did well as a Globe reporter, wrote several political books, including a comparative on presidents and prime ministers, and gave hockey fans a neat work on the game in Russia. His American origins seem clear in his un-Canadian lack of hesitancy in making firm judgments on our politics and problems, using a much sharper focus on personalities than on institutions and processes.
While reading Chretien I found no quarrel with the facts about a politician I know well. As I got well into it I got thinking on the similarities of Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney and Chretien. Each was a mere youth when he decided to go all the way in politics. Each was most modestly educated. Each as a speaker had much confidence, just a bare minimum of charisma but a great ear for partisan platitudes. None was caught up by either our history or political philosophy. Getting ahead and ever upwards was everything. For this each man has had much in will power, energy, stamina, self-confidence, ego, ambition and a readiness to socialize, but not much in ideas of grandeur. Remarkably, none of the three came into politics with personal wealth or family connections of great use in politics.
Such success suggests how open our partisan politics have been since Trudeau, a polymath with ideas who figuratively came from nowhere to be prime minister. It sets you wondering why ideas and analysis are so relatively unimportant now in politics. TV perhaps? That is, TV in its function as the main continuum of politics for most people and with such a paramount emphasis on personality. Yet it was hardly TV that made Jean Chretien in his long drive through three decades, say, compared to his own persistence and stamina.
As the authority on the PM, Martin’s been much heard since the near debacle of the referendum, insisting Chretien won and has not been hurt or downgraded by the public. Fair enough. He’s clearly Martin’s hero. And he may not be “done” as a leader but surely the slap-happy Red Book times are over. He must deliver – soon. And one must worry whether he has a new clue on what to do with Quebec.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, November 10, 1995
ID: 11966337
TAG: 199511090126
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

OLD REGIMENTS MAY FADE AWAY

Canada’s storied militia units, the most senior element of her armed forces, have stoically endured wars and the peacetime parsimony of a nation little interested in military affairs.
Today these units are set to do battle once more, this time with each other, in a fight to the finish. Losers will fade into military history, done in by friendly fire. Ironically, those instigating the fratricidal conflict are supporters in general of our reserves but believe such steps are imperative if they are to be effective into the 21st century.
This spring Defence Minister David Collenette commissioned a trio to examine restructuring Canada’s reserves in light of last year’s defence white paper: former chief justice Brian Dickson (a World War II veteran), the ubiquitous author and historian, Jack Granatstein, and Gen. Charles Belzile (a recent retiree). Their chore was: how could the reserves be made more efficient and effective, given the 20% cut in personnel imposed on them (from 29,000 to 23,000). On Tuesday they presented their findings (on time and under budget).
Their report is brief about both the naval and air reserve components. The naval reserve was found to be in good shape, possessing its own vessels (including new coastal defence ships) and clearly defined tasks. The air reserve (like its regular air force counterpart) is now working through difficulties of diminished flying opportunities caused by the white paper’s dramatic cuts in aircraft. In response it has created new roles for itself in providing ground-based medical, engineering and airfield defence forces, and this appears to be working well.
Most of the commission’s focus was on the problems plaguing the land reserves. Many militia units are very small (one has only 27 members), with limited opportunites for promotion and leadership training.
With much of their time and resources tied up in basics such as teaching drill to new recruits, they fail to offer the advanced skills that would help to attract and hold recruits. This circle is made most vicious in the many units in rural locales. So many units were founded when most Canadians lived on the farm. Today they have trouble finding members, who often travel long distances to reach training facilities, leading to high absenteeism.
WASTED RESOURCES
As Dickson put it, such wasted resources cannot be tolerated when spending cuts mean a military slashed to the bone. The solution is simple: consolidate the militia. Instead of the current 14 headquarters, a more streamlined organization of 7 brigade HQs, each with 9-11 units, is proposed. Today’s 133 units would be consolidated into approximately 75, virtually doubling average unit size.
The commissioners emphasized to the press and to MPs of the House defence committee that the identity of some additional units could be preserved by giving them some support service roles within brigade HQ. Nevertheless, some famous names will disappear.
The limited media and partisan response to the report has focused on the likely hostile reaction to such disappearances. For those ignorant about the militia it may seem surprising that its units have large extended “families” vigorous in their defence. The commissioners believe the acrimony can be limited, pointing to the Atlantic and Pacific militia areas, where the 1994 cuts have led the heads of local units to work together to prepare for the inevitable.
They also noted that while public hearings showed unit identity is very strong, younger militia members were most interested in improved training and active service opportunities.
Dickson and company have set out criteria and a process they believe will allow units to be judged fairly. Key factors include the unit’s present ability to field troops, their supportability in terms of proximity to training areas and regular force units, their links to the local community and their historical significance.
The commissioners were careful to note their mandate was very restricted. Nonethless, they made some intriguing comments beyond the mandate. Dickson spoke for all in stating that the armed forces are stretched to the limit and must not be cut further.
Granatstein voiced their strong opinion that the militia’s traditional role as the mobilization base for war should be restored. It had been dropped in the 1994 white paper without any explanations why this change was made. A clue to this excision may be in the commissioners’ reference to the “two cultures” problems between the reserves and their regular force colleagues.
The defence department’s apparent dismissal of a need for a mobilization base raises the far larger military issue which seems to be emerging among our foreign policy experts. They believe wars are a thing of the past for Canadians, except as sometime peacekeepers.
Next week I’ll go further into this idealistic vision.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 08, 1995
ID: 11965839
TAG: 199511070082
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

FOUR WAYS AHEAD, WHICH TO CHOOSE?

Few who are fair would deny Jean Chretien the days of grace he is getting abroad before the open dealing that is ahead of him in the aftermath of the Quebec referendum. As he left Canada we found out that his wife is courageous as well as smart. When he returns, a range of choices face him, none certain to deliver him and us from a divisible Canada for the next decade, let alone in perpetuity.
In line with what’s been there in my own contacts a sampler of MPs who’ve been in their ridings confirms we have gone through a unique 10 days for modern Canada.
Almost everyone, young or old, has been wondering what should be done or must not be done. A Canada in doubt has everyone fuming or fretting, and searching for ways around what seems a certain and repetitious impasse.
In this welter of canvassing ways and means, much of it at odds, there seem four clear, different views of what should be done, given the likelihood of a third referendum bid by the separatists.
One view, postulated by the Reform Party, is plain: the rest of Canada will never buy Quebec as a distinct society but Quebec would buy a more decentralized federation and so will the public and most of the provincial governments.
The second view is blunt: let Quebec go; even encourage the parting. The separatists will never quit. Let’s get away from them, summarily. Make the process peremptory and the negotiations tough without promises on dual citizenship or use of the Canadian passport or dollar. This view has big backing west of Manitoba and very little in the Atlantic provinces.
The third view may become that of the Chretien government, perhaps backed by most premiers. One says “may” because the PM used a tougher tone in Toronto a few days after his beseeching on TV on the night of the vote.
This view would carriy forward the late-in-the-day promises of “changes” that Chretien made. It argues that the Quebecois (and, therefore, Quebec) constitute a “people” and merit a “distinct” status within Canada as a society and as a unique partner within the federation.
LOVE CANADA, LOVE QUEBEC
Those who argue this third view (which those who hold the first two views think is total appeasement) believe we must stop being negative or partial about offering the Quebecois what they think they need for the future survival and sanctity of their society, culture, language, etc. Such generosity fits with the love Quebec, love Canada theme with which the federalists closed the campaign. This new deal for Quebec should be put in a reasoned statement which eventually could be the core of constitutional changes. Many with this view are of the chattering castes who backed the Charlottetown agreement.
There is a fourth general view, held by patient people who would fit the Mackenzie King tradition. They think the federal government should not do much of anything for some time, squatting in quiet satisfaction on the victory just won.
Most of those who advocate waiting think the separatists can never again reach so high a crest. Why not? Because Lucien Bouchard, charisma and all, won’t be so mesmerizing next time. Meanwhile, the PQ government, whether led by Bouchard or not, must deal with the severe difficulties caused by its high deficit and debt costs. Ottawa and most other provinces have already tackled these problems. The PQ’s social democratic ideology cribs its assays at restraint; so do the demands of the many interest groups (such as unions) which back their initiatives to get out of Canada. With or without Bouchard, the PQ’s popularity is almost sure to wane. The long-range demographics – i.e., immigration and a low Quebecois birth- rate – are also federalist advantages.
Also, next time the PQ should not be able to get away with a dodgy question. The Chretien government now knows how vital it is that all Quebecers realize there never will be “sovereignty association” and that separation will not be graced with mutual esteem or generosity. Before the next run federalists will know enough to use boldly in Quebec such merciless critiques as Pierre Trudeau’s of Lucien Bouchard’s “lies about the past” which the former PM presented in Ottawa a fortnight too late.
Which, if any of these four views is yours? I am ambivalent between letting them go and being patient and waiting.
I think giving in generously won’t work well in the rest of Canada. As for more power to all the provinces, no Quebec party will buy it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 05, 1995
ID: 11965215
TAG: 199511030223
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

SOLD DOWN THE RIVER BY LIBERAL STRATEGY

It is said that those who fail to understand history are doomed to repeat it. If, like me, you now feel a queasy sense of deja vu, you might wish to cast your mind back to the events surrounding the 1980 referendum, for our response to that poll played a part in determining Monday’s result.
Recall the strange confluence of events that saw Pierre Trudeau return to power just in time to face Rene Levesque’s referendum on sovereignty association.
Trudeau planned to defeat the separatists once and for all through constitutional reform.
“We will immediately take action to renew the Constitution and we will not stop until we have done that,” he said.
Trudeau argued that all Canadians, but especially Quebecers, were demeaned by a Constitution which lay dusty and forgotten in the British archives. His government had already rid Canada of many of the trappings of her humiliating colonial past (the Royal Mail, the Royal Canadian Air Force and Navy) to ensure that French speaking and ethnic citizens would feel at home.
Patriating and “renewing” the Constitution was another step along this well travelled road, and would allow Canada to steal the march on the separatists.
Faced with strong opposition from a majority of the provinces who objected to his made-in-Ottawa document, Trudeau attempted to unilaterally patriate the Constitution, but was blocked by the Supreme Court’s ruling that such an action, while technically legal, violated constitutional convention.
Although forced back to the bargaining table, Trudeau had won an important victory over his opponents in Quebec, for the court decision implicitly denied the notion of a Quebec constitutional veto, something the sovereignists (and many others) firmly believed in. This was to have a profound effect on what was to follow.
In November, 1980, with the talks again deadlocked and Levesque proposing a national referendum on the new Constitution, Jean Chretien, Trudeau’s right hand man, met after hours with the attorneys general of Saskatchewan and Ontario in hopes of breaking the impasse. In a disused pantry they fashioned a compromise which was passed on to the premiers, excepting Stirling Lyon of Manitoba, off on the campaign trail, and Levesque, then dining with his delegation.
The following day Levesque greeted the “compromise proposal” with outrage, characterizing it as an underhanded attempt to isolate Quebec.
Despite this the discussions continued, and after a few more changes to accommodate the other provinces the deal was done – with Quebec left on the sidelines.
Levesque’s warnings that Quebecers would not forget this betrayal were dismissed as sour grapes. Those involved defended their actions by claiming that the Pequistes would have rejected any agreement, so what did it matter?
The events of the past month show that it mattered a great deal.
How was it that a process initiated to satisfy Quebec’s aspirations and defeat the separatist threat resulted in the isolation of that province?
Why did those in the rest of Canada so readily join in “the night of the long knives”? Would it not have been better for Canada to have waited until a non-sovereignist government was returned to the National Assembly before patriating and amending the Constitution?
In 1980 the original goal of the constitutional enterprise was forgotten as various players pursued their own agendas (the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords bogged down for similar reasons).
Those of us outside Quebec, lacking any real understanding of the province, put our faith in those Quebecers whose views most closely matched our own. Accepting the assurances of Trudeau and Chretien that they spoke for Quebec, we stiffed Levesque and his followers. (Would we have been so dismissive of any other provincial leader?)
Since 1980 we have continued this self-delusion, comforted by the continuing blandishments of Chretien and his old master that the best way to deal with the sovereignists is to ignore them.
Last week Quebec journalist Lise Bissonette posited that for Quebecers the Trudeau “vision” died in 1980, and with it any real federal Grit influence in the province beyond anglophone and allophone ridings.
As evidence she offered the party’s failure to achieve any sort of recovery in the last three federal elections.
Yet neither this nor the arrival of the Bloc Quebecois in Ottawa awakened the rest of Canada to the fact that Chretien had become a stranger in his own province. His assurances that Quebecers were as sick of constitutional wrangling as the rest of us proved too tempting, the habit of accepting on faith too ingrained.
Back in 1980, as a great divide was opening in Quebec, the rest of Canada bet that Trudeau and Chretien represented the true feelings of the francophone population. In doing so we failed to consider the possibility that the judgment of these men might have been clouded by their desire to crush old enemies, or that they might be out of touch. Hindsight shows how disastrous the constitutional isolation of Quebec they gleefully engineered was.
Today the Constitution that was supposed to defeat separatism is Bouchard’s main weapon, used to expose the chasm that exists between Quebecers and the rest of us.
Protestations of affection, how-ever honest or well-intentioned, and the shuffling of programs and services will not bridge it. Perhaps nothing can.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, November 03, 1995
ID: 11964598
TAG: 199511020136
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

PM’S POPULARITY HAS PLUMMETED

No prime minister in modern times has suffered such a free fall, a plummet in a fortnight from a long grace and favor with a generous majority of Canadians.
At once questions flourished: how and why had Jean Chretien misjudged the referendum, both as a national issue and as a contest within Quebec? And such stuff brings speculation: how long can the PM last? Could he ever regain the giant stature of short weeks ago? If he cannnot rally national confidence who could?
It’s possible though not likely that Chretien may claw upwards to where he could lead his government to re-election. One reason he may well get the time to do this is because no prime alternative is at hand, in part because he has a very dreary cabinet.
Paul Martin’s grim portfolio make him less than a grand choice to succeed Chretien. And after Martin it is hard to pinpoint an obvious successor in the party, certainly no one in Quebec.
One sees the succession dilemma best – but darkly – by scanning the Ontario cabinet stock. My list is in ascending order from the political pits to modest mediocrity: Diane Marleau, Sergio Marchi, Ron Irwin, Sheila Copps, David Collenette, Roy MacLaren, John Manley, Allan Rock, Art Eggleton and Herb Gray. Gray could be a suitable interim leader for a half-year or so. Rock has practical French, and in time may be a good choice, but he’s still more lawyer than politician.
No, the cabinet hasn’t anyone, say with the skills and acumen of Jean Charest. Some would contradict this, pointing to Brian Tobin, an ex-Rat Packer. There’s a flair for TV in him, and the usual Newfoundland gift of gab, but as yet not much gravitas. Beyond the caucus, the best bet (and the most mentioned by Liberals) is New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna, a man of common sense, hard work, and not much magnetism.
Despite two years in power the Liberals face the penalty of few excellent prospects because Chretien rewarded so many backers and ignored many talented MPs as too green. He also made his a very PMO-centred gang in strategizing and execution, rather than cabinet-centred. The result is a most infertile ministry and a large caucus herd.
For two years the prime minister has revelled in the acclaim of English-speaking Canada and flaunted the Red Book. His stock has been so high, especially within the party, that he could use dragoon’s discipline against what he perceived as disloyalty. Such meanness to earnest MPs like George Baker and Warren Allmand has not been challenged. No minister and no band in the caucus would tackle him head-on over such pettiness.
FLACCID COMMONS
Matching a large government caucus quite unsynchronized with cabinet and leader is a most flaccid House of Commons.
Already devoid of courtesy, little appreciation flows over its party lines. The BQ uses the House as a stage for Quebec’s slights and demands while the Reform leader prefers stumping the country to day-by-day parliamentary work.
Once question period’s farce is done the House lapses back to a morgue’s quiescence. This Parliament is far from being either the mind or heart of Canada. It is not a forum for assaying changes for the “new Canada” which conventional wisdom insists we must have now to deal with the Quebec challenge.
Two years ago Chretien took seriously advice from Mitchell Sharp to play back to the golden age of the mandarins. Then ministers listened to their deputies. Senior officials were the source of ideas and choices, particularly those in finance and the Privy Council. Not only has this meant many ministers looking like ventriloquists’ dummies – e.g. Collenette, Marleau, and Manley – it has denied any major purpose to the gamut of Liberal MPs except obedience and tailing a PM the country sees as both a worthy contrast in modesty and frugality to Brian Mulroney and superbly suited to continue Pierre Trudeau’s grand design for Quebec in its proper place in Canada.
The Liberals were unready for Chretien’s free fall. They see but can’t grasp that the majority of his French compatriots have rejected him – twice! They are dumbfounded he was perceived as wise and guileful. He has to stay – for a time. They must back him, even outrageously, as he fumbles towards whatever the “changes” will be to meet the needs Quebec is perceived to have, and which the PQ and the BQ will deride.
And to bottom all this out, whatever Jacques Parizeau’s departure may signify in Quebec, it’s clear we have a cast of premiers that rivals Chretien’s cabinet for dreariness and for uncoordinated views.
Really! Woe is Ottawa.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 29, 1995
ID: 11963465
TAG: 199510270093
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C6
COLUMN: Backgrounder
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

HARD QUESTONS, GRIM ANSWERS//BEING CANADIAN, HAVE WE LEFT IT TOO LATE TO SHOUT OUR LOVE OF COUNTRY?

How is it going to go? My wager has always been on No. It still is, but that’s far from the certainty it seemed a short month ago.
As polling has put Yes and No backing so close together, an array of grim choices seems almost certain and we have some desperate questions, beginning with: Is there anything we can do to keep Canada intact?
What should Jean Chretien do if the worst comes tomorrow night? Has he any obvious choices?
Last time, Pierre Trudeau as PM said before the vote that he would resign if the majority of voters in Quebec voted Yes. So far Chretien has not done this. Should he? Should he tell Quebecers a Yes win deprives he and Paul Martin of the legal and moral authority to deal for all Canadians with a PQ government holding a Yes mandate?
It now seems likely Chretien won’t copy Trudeau perhaps because he believes he has one or more eventualities to pursue. So we should consider what they might be.
If Yes wins, would it make sense for Chretien to call a federal election at once and refuse any negotiations until he and his government have a truly national mandate, including real backing in Quebec, before he can deal openly and completely with Jacques Parizeau’s PQ government?
Might not Chretien also run a referendum question with the general election for all Canada, asking: Do you approve of the separation of Quebec?
Or is there another possibility? Should or could the prime minister use the constitutional vacuum on rules and processes for secession to delay it by refusing to negotiate anything until it has been determined by the highest courts, even international ones, what the fair process should be? And could he ask for a ruling on the right to self-determination of the Cree and Inuit (with their territories) in Quebec? Lucien Bouchard insists the PM must negotiate the new relationship of a sovereign Quebec. Must he? Should he?
In short, can Chretien go forward as though he has the authority to negotiate a settlement of Quebec’s relationship as a sovereign state with Canada, including the disposition of debts and properties?
If he should decide to do so, dare he do it without getting the backing of all the premiers other than Parizeau?
Whether or not he does – and I anticipate he would seek their counsel immediately – should he then choose a contentious or a friendly course with Quebec? Hard issues like debt share, trade treaties and treatment of refugees who want to remain Canadian will spawn demands and animosities.
Should Chretien and the premiers let all this reach the stage where the PQ government will try to take over all governmental responsibilities and properties in Quebec or until a plummeting dollar and chaos in interest rates have brought Quebecers to see the dreadful consequences of separation and demand a chance for another vote?
Or, in line with a large vein of opinion in the so-called Rest of Canada, should a Yes vote be accepted quietly, if sadly, to the refrain of “Let’s get on with it”? Should he let them go, without recrimination but confronting them with a tough self-regard for New Canada’s interests?
Of course, if it’s Yes, whether or not Chretien chooses to be out of it the premiers will be fundamental. Any arrangements made with Parizeau’s chosen ambassador might affect their citizens’ interests. But are they the ones in some sort of council to either do the dealing or recreate the new Canada? And is there some important part to be played in the separation and the new creation by the MPs and senators and their parties who do not represent Quebec?
Could or should the other premiers agree to put the negotiations of Quebec with “the rest of Canada” into Chretien’s hands?
To repeat an earlier question in a sharper way, if Chretien and/or the other premiers choose to negotiate if the referendum favors the PQ, should it be broadly accepted by Canadians that negotiations be carried through without bitterness, blame, and deadlock simply because discord and delay would further damage an economy in terrible jeopardy?
If No wins, but by very little, what steps can the federal government and Parliament as a whole take to ensure that the issue is not shortly raised again within Quebec? And should there be one more earnest effort at constitutional reform?
Could any common sense moves be made to ensure that those who advocate an end to Canada as constituted are not to have the right to seats in her Parliament?
There you have some questions, given either a Yes victory or a squeaker for No. Some may seem silly, but I’ve heard them in one form or another in talking with a lot of Canadians, some of them far from Ottawa. Of course, one can see the motive power behind all of them is anguish about the breakup of Canada and among most – though far from all – there is a rage at separatists in general and Bouchard and Parizeau in particular.
The anguish is deeper than it should be because so many of us have rarely if ever let ourselves go in open surges of national feeling and love of country. Such tight-lipped patriotism has a penchant for modest expression and a stress on practicalities, both of which are defied by this crisis. Like Chretien, most of us thought in terms of bread and butter. A whole Canada has to be a safer and more practical choice for all who live in it than a separate Quebec and a broken Canada. Doesn’t it?
This past week Lucien Bouchard as Quebec’s hero has swept aside the bread and butter stuff.
We knew French Canadians were more emotional and romantic about their community and its destiny than we were. But our trust in the core pragmatism of the Quebecois has been shattered. Our reactions range from disbelief to rage, from fears for our economic well-being to a querulous canvass of what happens after a Yes.
And, finally, with the denouement almost on us there is a desperate casting around for what we as individuals might do in the final hours to keep Canada intact and a going concern.
The result is at least a cataclysmic plea of hope such as never heard before.
Long ago, when I was much among Americans, I found they were different. They were ever ready with declarations of affection for their country and pride in it as “the greatest” or “the best” in all the world. I and almost all the Canadians I knew couldn’t or didn’t show such open assurance for Canada. If we did try to cherish and praise Canada openly most of us felt awkward and mawkish. In short, a huge proportion of us (in my opinion) were and still are hesitant about rolling out the superlatives for Canada. We do love it, but it is so hard to cut away from the long restraint and its engrained traditions and let our emotions go. We know, even without comparisons, that it is good to be a Canadian and Friday in Montreal we shouted it out.
It was as long ago as the mid-1960s that I was captivated by the persona and behavior of Jean Chretien. In truth, I was rather embarrassed for him at his gall and bravery. He was so ready to shout out the greatness of our country with his now famous “I love Canada” speech. I hope the rest of us haven’t left it to long to demonstrate openly what he has shouted for so long. And, if we get a renewed chance, may we never again be backward about letting ourselves and all others know that what we share is too good to divide.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 27, 1995
ID: 11962817
TAG: 199510260215
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

THE BEGINNINGS OF FRENCH UNREST

Some folk of little faith and less patience say we’ve lived live too long under the Quebec threat. Whatever the result Monday they want an end to this hassle.
Some hope. But a short review of the Quebec issue as I saw it emerge may be timely. The origin of the crisis may have been Wolfe’s victory on the Plains of Abraham in 1759, but when I came to Ottawa as an MP in 1957 the issue of Quebec and separatism was neither to be seen or heard. John Diefenbaker had a minority government. Premier Maurice Duplessis, the autonomist Union Nationale leader, was still in power in a Quebec which seemed deeply and durably Roman Catholic and socially and economically conservative and backward looking. Although a PM from Quebec had just been defeated there seemed neither shame nor grief about that in Quebec.
My first seat in the ’57 House was beside that of a Liberal MP, Jean Lesage. He was to resign as an MP next spring to lead the Liberal party in Quebec. Much as I respected him through much chafing chat, it never occurred to me he could be leader of any revolution, either “quiet” or noisy.
And there was only a scatter of very small parliamentary omens into the early ’60s that troubles were surging upwards in Quebec, even though the Union Nationale had been succeeded by the aforesaid Lesage in mid-1960. He and his cabinet, even his most mercurial minister, Rene Levesque, were not off the mark with a strong anti-Ottawa, anti-federalist kick. A few open separatists were being heard, among them even a handful of federal civil servants.
It’s true the Chief faced much discontent in his caucus from Quebec MPs, hurt by their lack of recognition and the slow pace of bilingualism in the public service. But despite such evidence the Quebec issue didn’t burst into high awareness across Canada till the day after the ’62 federal election which returned Diefenbaker but deprived him of a majority and the Liberals of power, mostly because of the startling success of Social Credit in Quebec.
How to explain Real Caouette with 26 Creditiste MPs, most from the boondocks and none from Montreal?
Suddenly, electrically, the issues of French language and fair shares for Quebec were the grist on the Hill. Immediately Lester Pearson’s Opposition Liberals took up the Creditiste themes.
RIOTS AND DEMONSTRATIONS
One incident that led to open riots and demonstrations in Montreal marked the change which was to lead to Pearson’s big decision after he became PM next year (with a minority, which made Creditiste backing an imperative). He spoke of a “a new federalism” and launched the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.
The crucial, causal happening that really opened the long melodrama that climaxes on Monday was a quarrel in a House committee room. It put CNR president Donald Gordon against a Creditiste MP, Gilles Gregoire. The latter challenged Gordon: why was none of the 17 top executives of the Crown corporation a French Canadian? Gordon’s brutal response that there wouldn’t be any until he found one able enough for such responsibility brought French students into the streets to protest.
To mix images, the public burning of effigies of Gordon in Montreal loosed the tiger of French Quebecers’ emotions about their worth and rights. The Hill has never been the same. Since then, Pearson, Pierre Trudeau, Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney and now Jean Chretien have all seen Quebec as our key issue.
Most of the Creditistes were federalists, particularly Caouette. It happens Gregoire was not. Ironically, Gregoire was the most sophisticated speaker, the best educated and most literate of the Creditistes. The twist, in retrospect, is in the similarity between Gregoire’s attributes and those of Lucien Bouchard and the similarity in Chretien’s rough-hewn style with those of Caouette and almost all the other Creditistes. This aspect of Chretien as a “garcon” from Shawinigan was much noted when Pearson made him a minister in ’67.
As the uproar over the CN’s indifference to French Canadians flared and then simmered a minor but parallel hassle developed over the pursuit of Quebec independence by a federal scientist, Marcel Chaput. Wasn’t this treasonable?
Questions brought Prime Minister Pearson to say that Canada supported the UN’s credo on the right of a people to self-determination. Thus, he couldn’t be categorical our federation was indivisible as Lincoln had been about the American union a century before.
Naturally, Pearson was sure Canadians would never face division. We had the Liberal party and its long understanding of Quebec.
This last may console many through Monday and beyond. We still have the Liberals, led by a Pearson disciple.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 25, 1995
ID: 11864124
TAG: 199510240129
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

IT’S A FIGHT TO THE FINISH

Demagogue: A popular leader or orator who espouses the cause of the people against any other party in the state; a political agitator who appeals to the passions and prejudices of the mob in order to obtain power or further his own interests.
– Oxford English Dictionary
Lucien Bouchard’s assumption of the sovereignist leadership changed a too familiar, tit for tat controversy into a grand struggle for the hearts of Quebecois. A certain No victory a fortnight ago now seems a fight to the finish. Signs of federalist panic multiplied. The usually careful Paul Martin said that a Yes vote put in peril a million jobs. Though Daniel Johnson and Sheila Copps rallied behind Martin, asserting technical accuracy for his statement, their discomfort was palpable.
Ironically, Copps’ comment that 400,000 Ontario jobs depend on trade with Quebec confirmed Bouchard’s claim the rest of Canada would have no option but negotiating economic union after a Yes vote. To do otherwise would be suicidal.
Bouchard is a most difficult target for those sponsoring No.
His arguments are as mythic as he is, hence almost invulnerable to assault by numbers, even accurate ones.
His speeches are a litany of perceived indignities suffered by the Quebecois at the hands of les maudits Anglais, with a running counterpoint of tales of triumph over such adversaries.
His followers see his life as in parallel with their themes. At one time he supported Pierre Trudeau (and Canada). Then he saw the justice in Rene Levesque’s demand for freedom from the stifling English influence. Then, despite his bitterness over Levesque’s “betrayal” in 1982, he gave Canada another chance, first as Brian Mulroney’s ambassador to France and then as a major federal minister. Then the defeat of the Meech Lake accord symbolized for him English Canada’s rejection of all he believes in.
Of course, his image as a martyr for his people was enhanced when he came back after escaping from a rare, killer disease.
The Bloc leader is most masterful at mixing an intoxicating elixir of pride and humiliation, a paradox that has sustained generations of Quebecois over three centuries. He builds passion for an independent Quebec by playing on this duality.
NATIONALIST FERVOR
No more humiliations! English Canadians hardly see much of this as “history,” but that only shows history, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Anglo Canadian politics are often tagged as passionless in contrast to those of la belle province. Quebec had the rough and tumble of the Duplessis era, the not-so-Quiet Revolution, and the romantic, nationalist fervor of Levesque.
Resentment of the anglos has always been there but rarely orchestrated with such deft oratorical skill as Bouchard possesses. He weaves the mythic web of destiny and independence, twisting strands of pride and humiliation. Facts are only distractions. Witness the Bouchard response to various PQ commissioned studies that found high economic risks in sovereignty: “Those aren’t my studies!”
Conventional wisdom holds that Bouchard’s remark on Quebecers being a “white race” was a bad gaffe. To me it was consistent with Bouchard’s overall strategy. The key is his explanation that he used the phrase in a “demographic” sense. His reference to birthrate has little to do with the women of Quebec being denied the right to procreate by Ottawa. Rather, it was a sharp reminder that the changing composition of Quebec is threatening the sovereignist dream.
First, non-French in the province resist sovereignist blandishments; second, their birthrate is so much higher than the Quebecois’ their numbers shall soon block any hope in a future Yes vote. Recall! It was this bleak scenario that occasioned Pierre Bourgault’s musing earlier this year that it would be dangerous if a majority Yes vote by those of “pure stock” should be defeated by the No votes of allophones. (Shortly, Jacques Parizeau sacked Bourgault as an adviser.)
Bouchard’s statement was really another upping of the emotional ante, reminding Quebecois that they must act now because soon they can never become masters in their own house.
Bouchard’s comments (and his refusal to apologize for them, though he regrets if they offend) indicate he and his colleagues are not wasting any more effort in pursuing allophone votes. All energies are focused on taking as much of the francophone vote as possible through passionate appeals to a shared sense of grievance, even if this alienates other Quebecers. Oddly, this is an admission of defeat – that the sovereignists cannot gain the support of their allophone neighbors in their great project. But it may be a winning strategy, and Lucien with his passionate closedmindedness presents it superbly.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 22, 1995
ID: 11863469
TAG: 199510200151
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

HANDS-OFF STRATEGY COULD COST US QUEBEC

What’s going wrong in Quebec? Is one superbly persuasive talker carrying Yes to victory?
Poll after poll shows a tight race. This maddens millions of us who want a robust No vote. Put in sporting terms, we are on the sidelines without even the outlet or influence of being noisy fans for our side. We are outside the referendum process.
And so, with the margin between Yes and No shrinking, federalists in Ottawa were not oozing confidence this weekend. The grim idea arises that with some final flourishing of humiliations and their challenges to pride, Lucien Bouchard could triumph. Perhaps worse, he could come so close that tensions within Canada would tighten, not slacken.
Already, if tentatively, second-guessing of federal strategy is under way. The confident assumption of a wider margin of victory than last time was twinned with counsel from high places that those outside Quebec must play it quietly, even unto the prime minister being low-key and above the fray, leaving the fight for Canada as a whole primarily to the federalists in Quebec’s provincial politics.
Now it becomes more obvious the No side needs more than a margin of 3% or 4% on Oct. 30 if there is to be even a temporary surcease in “Whither Quebec?”
One need not be a Liberal to dread the prospect which Jean Chretien as a Quebecer and prime minister faces in a grave loss of moral authority if the Yes vote should be close to 50%. Such a result means a tidy majority of the genuine “pur laine” Quebecois will have voted against federalism and their compatriot, the prime minister. It would also mean the Bloc Quebecois MPs remain in the present House with Lucien Bouchard continuing to lead the loyal, official Opposition.
This would force the prime minister to ponder a federal election to regain his moral authority through more Liberal seats in Quebec and a reaffirmed confidence in him by Canadians beyond Quebec.
One wants to compare the two referendum scenarios for differences which could explain Yes doing better this time. Last time the federal Liberals held 74 of Quebec’s seats in the House. There were no pro-separatist MPs. Now the Liberals have but 20 MPs, the separatists 52. This makes a great difference in the capabilities of Yes and No in local and regional organizations for the vote. Perhaps worse for federalism in 1995, few in the Liberals’ score of MPs are outstanding personalities and most represent Montreal ridings heavy in anglophones and allophones.
Last time Pierre Trudeau as prime minister had such stalwarts as Marc Lalonde and Jean Chretien on the ground in Quebec to lead the horde of MPs. It’s already clear Lucienne Robillard is not a strong surrogate for the likes of Marc Lalonde or Chretien. As for Daniel Johnson, the nominal federalist leader, when compared to Claude Ryan who had his role in 1980, it’s a toss-up rather than an advantage this time.
Last time Rene Levesque as premier led the Yes side, a beloved leader through most of Quebec, who was a stronger asset for separatists in both personal appeal and content than is Premier Jacques Parizeau. But this referendum one must shift from Parizeau to the real leader for Yes, Lucien Bouchard. He led a Trojan horse into Parliament, there effectively attaining and displaying through both himself and his crew what has registered in Quebec through TV an understanding of federalism and what’s wrong with it for Quebec. Through the sitting weeks of this Parliament regular “bites” have presented a separatist twist of federal reality from its source, a factor missing in 1980.
Aside from the way the BQ has distorted or overlaid federalism there has been so much exposure of the captivating genius of Bouchard in both oratory and argumentation (somewhat reminiscent for anglos of John Diefenbaker in his prime). Also, two rather contrary factors are in play this time to the advantage of Yes.
First, there is more confidence among Quebecois simply through an increased penetration of the elites in finance, business and industry than last time. Second, the greater power today of Bouchard’s argument that changing demographics through birthrates, immigration, migration, and language usage make this referendum on independence the last best chance for it.
All this seems I am ready to give the palm to Bouchard and Yes. He may get it, but I think Chretien had it right. “Bread and butter” will be on enough voters’ minds for a clear No win.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 20, 1995
ID: 11862500
TAG: 199510190118
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

RECOMMENDED READING …

The usual rush of pre-Christmas books from publishers was under way before I had noticed some earlier arrivals which I wanted to recommend to readers for the reasons which follow the data on title and author.
ABORIGINAL HEALTH IN CANADA: HISTORICAL, CULTURAL & EPIDEMOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES, by James Waldrum, D. Ann Herring and T. Kue Young (paperback; U of T Press).
Far more than a health study essay, this is an excellent introduction to native history and medicine, present living conditions and developing health provisions, plus about the choices in improving aboriginals’ well-being.
NORTHERN SANDLOTS: A SOCIAL HISTORY OF MARITIMES BASEBALL, by Colin D. Howell (paperback; U of T Press).
A serious, scholarly study that will make older Maritimers nostalgic and give nationalistic sport fans a better understanding how continental expansion in “big league” team games linked to widespread, regular TV coverage sucked away competition and the intimacy, spirit and rivalries through local and regional leagues and players across Canada.
OTTAWA AND THE OUTER PROVINCES; THE CHALLENGE OF REGIONAL INTEGRATION IN CANADA, by Stephen Tomblin (paperback; Lorimer Publishers).
If Canada is shifting toward a more decentralized federation – as seems certain however Quebec votes – there will be pressure for an Atlantic union of the four provinces and Tomblin, a Newfoundland academic, examines its likelihood and its pros and cons.
THE VANDAL`S CROWN: HOW REBEL CURRENCY TRADERS OVERSTHREW THE WORLD’S CENTRAL BANKS, by Gregory J. Millman (The Free Press, N.Y.).
Racy, scary, and complicated accounts of speculative traders in currency such as George Soros, a hedge funds manager and “the most notorious speculator in the world,” who in 1992 made $1 billion in a day. The cases and examples are more understandable than the reasons why such unfettered dealings in national currencies are legal and acceptable rather than blocked.
CONFESSIONS OF A SOCIETY COLUMNIST, by Rosemary Sexton (paperback; Macmillan).
More grist than I expected, especially on odd happenings in recent years at “the national newspaper.” Sexton is blunt and most incorrect politically in this comment on the Globe and Mail as “the fag rag” under editor Williaim Thorsell: “There is a disproportionate amount of coverage being given to gay rights in the Globe these days, perhaps squeezing out other concerns … Thorsell gets away with his agenda because the Thomson people couldn’t care less what goes in the paper, so long as they’re making the profits they want.”
THE GUNS OF NORMANDY: A SOLDIER’S EYE-VIEW, FRANCE 1944, by George C. Blackburn (McClelland & Stewart).
The most realistic and breathtaking account of what front-line action was like in World War II that I’ve read, not just by a Canadian soldier who was there, but by any combatant, Allied or Axis.
DRAGONS OF STEEL; THE STORY OF CANADIAN ARMOR IN TWO WORLD WARS, by Maj. John F.Wallace, M.C. (paperback; General Store Publishers).
The account of designing, equipping, and training explains well why Canada had a lot of armor, most of it undergunned, but the most engaging thread is the running critique of how Canadians learned to use tanks in battle.
YANKEE DOODLE DANDY: BRIAN MULRONEY AND THE AMERICAN AGENDA, by Marcie Mcdonald (Stoddart).
Given the animosity toward Brian Mulroney still surging across Canada this long, detailed trashing of him as a leader dedicated to accommodating presidents Reagan and Bush should be as big a seller as Stevie Cameron’s On the Take.
THE INFERNAL MACHINE; INVESTIGATING THE LOYALTY OF CANADA’S CITIZENS, by Larry Hannant (U of T Press).
The author, a historian, is incensed but not so angry he distorts a studious analysis of the Canadian security system and its covert processes and obsession with communists. By and large the system was in RCMP hands from the 1920s to the 1980s, with an institutionalized disregard for civil liberties that was accepted without close examination by all but a very few MPs.
Finally, a tip to those who are inveterate political buffs. Put aside some money for a present to yourself. In a fortnight or so publishers MacFarlane Walter & Ross will release for sale a biography by political scientist Denis Smith titled Rogue Tory: The Life and Legend of John G. Diefenbaker. What I’ve read so far indicates a great biography – fair, thorough, tough, close to the bone and gripping.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 18, 1995
ID: 11862414
TAG: 199510170053
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

I NEED A NEW CRYSTAL BALL

Why should I, let alone readers, take seriously predictions of a handy win by the No side in the Quebec referendum from a columnist who foresaw the decision in the federal NDP’s leadership vote as a tight one between Svend Robinson and Lorne Nystrom?
Even worse for my self-aplomb was a response to this question by a magazine writer: “From your knowledge of CCF-NDP history, what seems most significant in this NDP convention?”
My instant answer was: “It’s clearly the last hurrah of the Lewis family, for six full decades the pre-eminent force in the CCF-NDP.”
Yes, and another cow flew by!
The odd convention result which saw victory for Alexa McDonough without a direct balloting demonstrated that the Lewis cadre continues to be the ultimate influence within the federal NDP.
I first met “the cadre” as a CCF MP from the bush boondocks. It was after the ’58 sweep by John Diefenbaker cut the CCF caucus in the House down to eight and defeated the party’s leader. In stepped the intrinsic force in the party, David Lewis. He managed the selection of a Hazen Argue as interim leader. Then, to take advantage of the Chief’s decimation of the Liberal party, Lewis launched a process to create a “new” party for “all liberally-minded Canadians.”
Around that time, somewhat to my shock, a political science professor described the CCF as a “cadre party,” i.e., one dominated by a small group of like-minded people bonded by shared altruistic purposes and good educations rather than by a vision of a mass party whose members would generate in democratic fashion the ideas for legislation and the winning of power.
With both the creation of the New Democratic Party and the elevation of Hazen Argue I soon appreciated there was a cadre, a rather small one revolving around the Lewis family, the Grubes, the Cadburys, the Brewins, the Knowles, and the Shaws. And in a few years it was clear the founding of the NDP had merely extended the size of the cadre, co-opting a few union leaders but not changing the basic mastery of the cadre in determining both leadership and programs.
It was a cadre whose members knew their own significance within the party and they vetted new recruits for both character and the nature and quality of their ideas.
NOT BAD PEOPLE
If the way I have related this emphasis on the cadre and the Lewis family seems critical or rather nasty I have done it badly. This is the way the world was, and is, in the CCF-NDP. The cadre has not been composed of bad people but of those prompted by intellect and idealism to be high-minded and zealous for the public good. Of course, they’ve been convinced of their own rightness (not “righteousness,” though bordering on it).
Certainly the cadre does not have an absolute faith in the good sense of citizens by the million. Its members are not populists. In fact in shaping this win by a daughter of one of the original cadre 60 years ago, they brushed by a primary process that was prelude to the convention. In its results party members voted and ranked the cadre’s candidate third among the four aspirants.
I was awry in current information through an over-simple appreciation of what has been happening to the NDP since David Lewis was its leader. What I had noted, and now find I misjudged, was the slow but obvious disappearance from the front rank of NDP intentions on economic issues.
Once the party gave primacy to a direct managment of the economy by the government, not just through fiscal and monetary policy, but through its own agencies of ownership and with close union co-operation. What developed slowly but surely to replace the priority of these once basic intentions has been a menu provided by a rainbow of interest group associations. These have put particular emphasis on such matters as gender, sexuality, ethnicity, peace, the environment, “first nations,” American military and economic influences on Canada, and a true equity in educational and cultural opportunities for Canadians.
Svend Robinson seemed to me the most effective and symbolic of all the NDP’s politicians as the party has become more a collection of aggressive interest groups and less a left-wing socialist party that knows the economy and its control and development is fundamental.
The cadre found the B.C. MP wanting, one must suppose with doubts over his reliability and lifestyle. Early on, the cadre preferred McDonough over Lorne Nystrom because she was of them and somewhat the more magnetic. Now we wait to see if the cadre can equip her with a fresh but basic economic program which does not ignore debt-loads.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 15, 1995
ID: 11829160
TAG: 199510150215
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

PERCEPTION OF PM NEEDS REALITY CHECK

Recently I posited that “nice guy” Jean Chretien is an often mean politician, as seen in his treatment of caucus dissent. His backbenchers have had a rough lesson, embodied in being dispatched to Coventry for the temerity of openly disagreeing with his dictums. Yet such petty harshness has not had any discernable impact on his remarkable popularity, a recent poll showing Canadians faith in plain Jean so great that a majority thought he should stay at the helm even if Quebec votes Yes.
The inherent contradiction of a Quebecer negotiating for Canada the terms of Quebec’s separation did not seem to register. This is popularity of a most unusual order. To explain it, Chretien’s personal frugality is often cited; so is a belief that he is a cautious minder of the public purse. Here, as with the nice guy image, perception and reality differ.
Two years on, the little guy from Shawinigan is still proud of cancelling Tory contracts for both the privatization of Pearson Airport and new navy helicopters as quick decision-making which saved money. But on close examination these cancellations look ill-considered, not decisive, notably so far because of significant financial fallout. And what stands out is the motivation: Scoring easy partisan points!
The Senate inquiry into the Pearson affair has shown how hurried was Robert Nixon’s report – on which the PM says he based his decision. Despite over a million dollars of legal support to prepare Nixon for his appearance before the committee, he came across as really ignorant of the contract’s details and the events which led to its signing in the Tory regime’s dying days. During his “investigation,” the PM’s friend did not take notes, nor did he bother to learn the names or political affiliations (if any) of many of those involved in the winning consortium. Yet he damned all of them with his allegations of patronage. Interestingly, there are now persistent reports (officially denied) that a settlement with the aggrieved parties is being pursued. This would keep the matter out of the courts, where the stakes for Nixon and friend would be much higher, and the media’s scrutiny much more critical (the Senate inquiry is seen as a Tory kangaroo court by many reporters). Speculation has it a settlement will involve huge sums of money – just exactly what the bureaucracy warned Nixon (and Chretien) of before the contract was cancelled.
$800 MILLION PENALTIES
The helicopter cancellation is even more disturbing, with estimated penalties as high as $800 million and not a single machine to show for it. In this case the government didn’t dare try to block court action as it did in the Pearson deal. Stripping Don Matthews and other Canadians of their rights looked easy, and a popular way to punish hated Tory businessmen. Doing this to powerful state-owned British and Italian aerospace companies was another matter.
In cancelling both contracts the government acted without having any fall back position. Pearson remains in limbo, as the local municipalities continue to bicker over who should control what (the reason the Tories decided to privatize it in the first place.) And the need to replace our aging helicopters grows ever more desperate.
Many observers believe the EH 101 – the machine the Grits cancelled – remains the best one for the job. Don’t expect the PM to embarrass himself by buying a machine he attacked in the past.
But that is not what Chretien promised, and delivering on an ill-conceived election commitment was more important.
There are other examples of the PM’s image being maintained at your expense. The PM’s humble Chevy is well known. Less well-publicized is its cost: $250,000 (an American firm modified it for prime ministerial duty). The garage was full of Cadillacs, already paid for, but these suffered from the Mulroney taint. So too did the so-called flying Taj Mahal (the transport plane fitted with an executive interior), though Mulroney never flew in it. Ripping out the millions of dollars worth of communications gear and comfortable furniture in it saved no money, but won the PM raves.
Then there was the so-called Chevy summit. Building on his plebian image, Chretien hosted the G-7 in Halifax, and contrasted his summit with Mulroney’s glitzy affair in Toronto. As it happens, Mulroney’s cost less, but it’s the image that counts. Jean’s folksiness is often expensive and sometimes a fraud. Who paid attention last week when Lucien Bouchard underlined what Mulroney and Chretien share – the hospitality and companionship of Paul Desmarais, head of mighty Power Corp.
Which returns us to the question of the PM’s popularity. Is the Canadian public’s love blind?
Well, it’s patient love.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 13, 1995
ID: 11828425
TAG: 199510120151
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

NDP DARLING OF THE MEDIA

Some old-timers with CCF roots will be wryly amused that one of the candidates at the current leadership convention of the NDP has the open backing of at least three political columnists of some renown. And, as I judge the tenor of most reports on CBC news and even in the “wire copy,” a lot of political reporters favor the same candidate – Svend Robinson – and seem to have an emotional commitment to a strong federal revival of the NDP.
Through all the CCF years and most of the NDP’s history, both the editorial wings and the reporting wings of the press were chilly towards “the socialists.” In the late ’50s, as a CCF MP, I gave a speech to the newspaper editors of Canada about the parliamentary press gallery in which I categorized members by their partisan leanings or tilt. There were a few neutrals or indecipherables, a scad of Grits, a handful of Tories and just two CCF possibles. Foolishly, I named the latter and shortly several editors threw tantrums in dissent. Damned if they’d acknowledge a socialist on their working string.
While David Lewis was party leader, despite his great gifts of argument and oratory, neither he nor his party were taken to the press breasts. Sometime during the regime of Ed Broadbent as NDP leader, approval among those who covert politics – usually tacit but sometimes openly – shifted enough to put the NDP almost on a par with the Liberals in reportorial favor. It had less to do with Broadbent than a choking over Brian Mulroney and John Turner. It also had a lot to do with the ascent of gender issues touching feminism and homosexuality, matters in which the NDP, through policy and personalities, was in the forefront. The advent of these interests and their capacity at organizing and seizing time and space in the media more than compensated for a slide in the esteem in which the public held the organized labor unions who were tied by its leaders in English Canada to the NDP at its founding in 1961.
More recently two other factors have emerged to energize those so taken back at the federal NDP’s near total eclipse in the House of Commons. Firstly, the abrupt rise to a front-row sort of media prominence by the Reform Party of Preston Manning has been a double anathema of redneck reaction insofar as most political journalists are concerned.
PROFOUND SHOCK
Secondly, to those whose prime allegiance went to the Liberals with the New Democrats seen more as Liberals in a hurry than as the Liberals’ enemy, there has been a profound shock (to use Stephen Lewis’ key word) at the cut-spending, cut-programs, cut-staff determination of Chretien-Martin in office.
Another profound concern is the clear Liberal message of devolution of programs to the provinces, a retreat from the high role of Ottawa as the locale of national management of both the economy and our array of social, health, and cultural systems and traditions.
And so like a fair proportion of activists in the NDP an even larger proportion of journalists (comparatively-speaking) wants an NDP revival and cannot help but see this means a leader who is a certainty to make headlines and lead items on telecasts. The obvious candidate is Svend Robinson. Never mind that a lot of voters, particularly “blue collar” ones, are put off by the prominence he gives his homosexuality. Never mind that in 16 years within the Ottawa caucus he has been unable to attract a single MP as a disciple, let alone a comfortable working pattern with his fellow members.
What counts is his media savvy, his boldness, his radicalism on environmental, native, and gender issues, and his often demonstrated anti-Americanism. Oh such a vivid contrast to the political pallor and well-worn predictability of Alexis McDonough and Lorne Nystrom. What a scalpel to lance the Reform boil and to slice the Grits at their debt-minding.
Now, if you have taken this open assertion of bias within the working media on behalf of the NDP and especially toward Svend Robinson as really a right-handed denial that either he or the party is really significant in the longer future, you have it wrong. There needs to be a national party through which the particular interests that speak up for underdogs of all sorts are sure of some voices in our legislatures, particularly in the years just ahead when the familiar ingenuities of the Liberal Party are snuffed in trying to meet the billions of interest on our debt.

Correction of bad error in my last column about a book on military history. It should have read Dragons of Steel: Canadian Armour in Two World Wars, by Major John F. Wallace, MC, published at Burnstown (K0J 1G0) by General Store Publishing.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 11, 1995
ID: 11827927
TAG: 199510100094
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

WAR CRITICS MUST CONSIDER THE TIMES

It may be five decades or more since it all happened but this question bothers me: What are Canadians making of the many recent films and books which deal with Canada at war so long ago?
As one who was around in the 1939-45 period, I am hooked on what is offered but I am often critical of both content and themes. And so I wonder what impressions the rash of works about the war are making on Generation X or the Boomer group? Is their patriotism affected? Are they fixed more on peace and less on war? Do they see that what they have today took most of its shape then?
Some of the films (for TV) and many of the books have had very controversial interpretations of the Canadian government and the three military services. The films have drawn more noisy flak than the books. The prime examples of this have been the bitter uproars over a National Film Board film which mocked the bravery and honesty of Billie Bishop, V.C., our ace fighter pilot in World War I, and the trilogy of films by the McKenna brothers for the CBC and the NFB, titled The Valor and the Horror (in particular the segment which scorned both the ethics and achievements in the Allied bombing of Nazi Germany). Columnist Allan Fotheringham recently wrote that a new film series showing on BRAVO! TV, titled No Price Too High, was sponsored by war veterans as “their answer” to the McKennas’ interpretations of their attitudes and missions. It was warming for me as a veteran to read his praise for the new series as wonderfully done. However, he saw in its origins and production “a generational battle.”
Tony Atherton, a TV columnist for the Ottawa Citizen, and John Bemrose, a reviewer for Maclean’s, both recently appraised the McKennas’ new two-part series The War at Sea and in doing so advanced somewhat similar capsule judgments of veterans as wanting both to defend their war-time actions and deny latter-day critics the right to criticize them.
The first part of the new McKenna series ran on the CBC last night. It largely pivots on a serious crisis which rocked the Canadian navy in 1942 and into 1943. High convoy losses in the western Atlantic forced the Allied high command to withdraw Canadian escorts for more training and much re-equipping. War-time security concealed most of this crisis and its scope and severity (and those with responsibilities) were not revealed until several academic historians published their studies over 30 years later.
LEADERS NOT OPENLY CENSURED
Of course the long interval between crisis and a full revelation of its details meant that several top-level leaders were not censured openly in their life-time for misjudgments, for example, the cabinet minister responsible for the RCN and the head of the National Research Council, responsible for developing anti-submarine devices. Bemrose thought the McKennas’ new film, like its predecessors, “stresses a profound gap between the struggle of those under fire and the sometimes misguided actions of their top brass. ” Mr. Atherton thought veterans were somewhat holier than they should be, “appalled by the McKennas’ willingness to consider atrocities committed by both sides in the combat, and to criticize sometimes quite personally the Allied commanders who made decisions which have since been questioned.”
Books are still being written and published that re-examine in whole or in part the World War II disasters for Canadian soldiers at Hong Kong and Dieppe. Just this week I have in hand two new books with tough analyses of two particular Canadian roles. One by Robert Halford is a serious readable account of a great success story that has largely been forgotten, titled The Unknown Navy – Canada’s World War II Merchant Navy. The other by a veteran tank commander, Jack Wallace, is called Iron Dragons and it chronicles the development and war-time work of the Canadian armored corps.
Their criticisms fit with my reading of how veterans react as more and more studies and revisions of causes and effects in World War II emerge. And we are not as out of sync as Fotheringham, Bemrose, and Atherton think. What I as a veteran wish is not a stopper on those who have come later. Keep examining Canada in World War II. But try to be fair, balanced, and honest as you revise or recast deeds and reputations.
To repeat, the bulk of the factual data and the gist of analyses in most of the films about Canada and the wars comes by and large from a book or books, many by authors who were veterans. What distinguished No Price Too High was its basis in what participants and their families and friends actually did or said or wrote at the time.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 08, 1995
ID: 11827339
TAG: 199510060151
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

OCTOBER CRISIS ALL BUT FORGOTTEN

Why so little cherishing by anyone of this October’s 25th anniversary? So far, even in the Quebec referendum, no one pro or con in the campaign has made much of the national crisis and the tense confusions which gripped all Canada in 1970.
It was tagged when underway as “the FLQ crisis” (after the Quebec Liberation Movement) but shortly it became “the October Crisis.”
In retrospect it became clear that few in either politics or political journalism kept cool and behaved sensibly throughout the crisis. By the end of 1970, after the two small, separate clusters of kidnapping terrorists were either arrested or dealt with by exile, roughly three general opinions about the crisis began to take real shape and have endured. The first view emerged most clearly in political Ottawa and journalistic Toronto, the other two developed more in Quebec.
Firstly, it became the intellectuals’ conventional wisdom that Pierre Trudeau’s federal government had overreacted in responding to the fright and the fears of Robert Bourassa’s Quebec government and Mayor Jean Drapeau of Montreal by implementing the enormous powers of the War Measures Act (WMA) before even discussing or presenting this decision for Parliament’s approval.
It was what Tommy Douglas called cracking a peanut with a sledgehammer.
Over 400 arrests and some 3,000 searches brought ridiculously scant results. A month after the WMA powers were invoked the Trudeau government had the highest favor ever registered in a regular Gallup poll but such approval didn’t endure. Two years later Trudeau barely survived a federal election. His hailed decisiveness had faded – and even more in what we now call the Rest of Canada than in Quebec.
Secondly, in Quebec where the agonies had been most severe, it became clear (though few made much of it) that Premier Bourassa and most of his cabinet had panicked after the kidnapping of their colleague, Pierre Laporte. They were much prompted by Mayor Drapeau and poorly advised by an ill-informed police. An “apprehended insurrection” was a vast distortion of the situation although that is what the WMA’s invocation implied. For prideful Qubec nationalists their government had been ignoble in its responses to the two kidnappings (of James Cross, the British diplomat, and Laporte).
LACKED FORTITUDE
Bourassa and company had lacked courage and fortitude in the face of FLQ demands and threats, and created a legacy too shameful to be remembered by suing so abjectly for military aid and authoritarian powers to Ottawa, and in having such obvious, overwhleming support from Quebecers.
Thirdly, the FLQ turned out to be a tiny, tawdry, ill-assorted crew as terrorists for the cause of nationalism. They were not to become martyrs in Quebec. And it became obvious rather quickly that they were without a clear base or real connections with the hundreds of open advocates for Quebec separation or sovereignty who were led at that time by Rene Levesque and his new Parti Quebecois.
Levesque rejected the FLQ as “cruel and inhuman.” He had left the Bourassa ministry in 1967, where he had been a close colleague of Laporte, and he rejected violence. While the “crisis” deepened the gulf between Levesque and Trudeau.
The PM, although revealed as ready and ruthless in applying federal power on Quebec, had acted as demanded by both the Quebec government and most Quebec citizens.
In my retrospect, as one who was both a close bystander and sometimes a participant in the politico-media circus through the dramatic month 25 years ago, the main significance one may see today in the October Crisis is the jolt it gave everyone outside Quebec about Quebec.
More than anything that had gone before, more than the conscription crisis of 1944-45, more than the sudden, shocking advent in Parliament in 1962 of Real Caouette and his Creditistes, more than the symbolic lynching by a Montreal mob of the CNR’s president, Donald Gordon, more than Lester Pearson’s highminded Bilingualism and Biculturalism Commission, even more than Charles de Gaulle’s notorious “Vive le Quebec libre!” the October Crisis engrained an awareness of Quebec as everybody’s nagging problem, one still with us and in need of resolution more than ever.
And as we hope it goes away for a while at the end of this October, we make little of the past crisis or indulge in reprises on whether it was handled well or poorly. In short, it was a truly transfixing drama to millions of Canadians but one that now neither warms nor steels most of us.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, October 06, 1995
ID: 11826898
TAG: 199510050164
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

AIRING THE ARMY’S DIRTY LAUNDRY

The hearings have just begun and already the Somalia inquiry seems sure to be a nasty piece of political theatre as new allegations of violence and cover-ups surface almost daily.
Once all of these are on the chairman’s table the finger-pointing by the various brass hats implicated (abetted by their lawyers) will ensure a persistent acrimony in the proceedings.
The allegations of racism and official cover-up – such sexy and familiar topics to the press corps – have attracted the most attention. Yet other issues underlie both: the relations between the military and civilian leadership; the forces’ command structure and ethos; the goals of the Somalia mission; the situation on the ground there; and the suitability of the rules of engagement.
Many current and former military personnel (including Col. Michel Drapeau and Scott Taylor of Esprit de Corps magazine) are ashamed of the conduct of a few soldiers in Somalia and at national defence headquarters. They believe the mess to be the almost inevitable result of an officer corps increasingly out of touch with what it means to be an officer, and a civilian leadership with no experience of (or interest in) military matters.
Despite the public’s appetite for scapegoats, these critics hope the three commissioners will deal with these broader concerns, thus turning the airing of the army’s dirty laundry into a therapeutic first step towards the restoration of military professionalism.
This is not to deny that in many respects our forces remain very professional. Recently on Newsworld the U.S. general commanding UN forces in Somalia said that as an infantryman he was very impressed with the Airborne’s aggressive patrolling there, and remarked that the humanitarian projects it undertook (including building schools and assisting Somali hospitals) were the most ambitious of any UN contingent. He also confirmed its operational area was one of the most dangerous.
UN MISADVENTURE
It is worth recalling that the Somali operation was a misadventure for all of the participating nations. Many lost troops, and soldiers of other nationalities also shot Somali civilians in circumstances similar to those involving the Canadians.
The American general explained the basic dilemma facing the UN forces this way: given the existence of armed factions hostile to the UN’s presence anyone sneaking through the perimeters at night had to be considered a threat until proven otherwise. Thus, while shooting of looters as such was not justified, firing on mysterious figures penetrating camp lines in the dark sometimes was. This situation needed close supervision of those standing guard. The order given by Airborne officers that looters caught infiltrating our lines should be beaten so as to dissuade further incursions should have resulted in a similar level of scrutiny. Leaving aside for the moment the legality of such a command, once given it was up to the officers involved to ensure that such “punishments” did not go too far.
To leave the implementation of such a questionable order to the discretion of a master corporal was a recipe for disaster.
The military critics of DND believe, however, that the seeds of the Somalia debacle were sown long before this order.
For far too long disobedient and reckless behavior on the part of a few (not just in the Airborne but also in the units from which it drew its members) was tolerated by officers who either did not recognize it as such or did not know how to counter it. The result was that one of the Airborne’s three commandos suffered from disciplinary and training problems, as the commander who was preparing it for deployment to Somalia explained to his superiors. For his troubles he was relieved of command, and the Airborne went on to infamy.
Our politicians share the blame for all this. In Washington and many European capitals the ignominious UN withdrawal from Somalia brought political recriminations over the decision to dispatch troops to such a chaotic cauldron of clan animosities without a coherent plan to deal with them. In Canada the Airborne’s misbehaviour has diverted attention from this question of whether our forces should have been sent there in the first place. Moreover, the failure of various ministers to get to the bottom of the Somalia imbroglio reflects not only stonewalling by the defence department, but also the politicians’ dearth of military savvy.
It is apt and sad, not mean, to summarize Defence Minister David Collenette’s performance as spokesman and as the political leader of our defence establishment as comparable to his Tory predecessors. It seems fortuitous for him and rather unfair to the several ministers before him, that the commission’s terms of reference preclude it from looking into his stint at the helm.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 04, 1995
ID: 11826400
TAG: 199510030138
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

TOUGH CHOICES FOR THE NDP

What analysis can an interested observer give federal New Democrats as they consider which leadership candidate can do best in raising the party from the ruins left by the ’93 election?
The NDP is choosing a new leader from three well-worn hopefuls. Although the list is shorter than usual, the choices are hard, particularly for veterans of the party.
Each of Svend Robinson, 43, Lorne Nystrom, 49, and Alexis McDonough, 51, is presentable and a truly professional politician with a long, open record in the party and in electoral politics. The two men are good at understanding French and fair at speaking it. Each aspirant has remarkable stamina, that basic for a party leader, and each has a broad familiarity with the economy, demography and political history of Canada as a whole. For what it’s worth, there are few mysteries about this trio. What the party is likely to get from each one as its leader is predictable in terms of public behavior and style.
What is less certain is how each will appeal to Canadians who are not party activists or loyalists.
None of the three aspirants is a truly magnetic speaker in the House or in the hustings’ halls, certainly not in the league of those hallowed heroes of the NDP-CCF past, J.S. Woodworth, M.J. Coldwell, Tommy Douglas and David Lewis. But none of them is a bad speaker or talker, and I would rate each as a peformer on a par with Ed Broadbent in his latter days as a leader, and somewhat more appealing and less aggravating to an audience than Audrey McLaughlin. For TV, either one-on-one or on a panel, none is a star although Robinson may have the chance – through the quickness of his mind – to become one once he shucks a bent to be arch or smart-alecky and stops using the phrase “you know.” He also has the worst record of the three in getting along with colleagues and staff.
Nystrom is a real Prairie sort, unpretentious and usually candid in the intimacy TV sometimes creates – rather like Jean Chretien. But 25 years as a busybody in the House has left him a very commonplace phrasing and vocabulary. He is probably the most widely informed of all past and present opposition MPs across the whole range of federal subjects and issues, for what that’s worth, but he has no specialty in depth beyond an expertise at party organization for campaigns.
Some party members may fret about any continuing harm to Nystrom’s acceptability to citizens generally because of his arrest years ago for shoplifting. It seems an unfair and stupid worry, but it is there, although not as pervasive a factor in delegates’ minds as the homosexuality of Robinson (and his aggressive use of it).
NEGATIVE ATTRACTION
It may be in line with both NDP beliefs and needed values in our society for the party to be ready and proud, not chary, of either a female or a homosexual leader. The party was ready for the one and suffered; it should be ready for the other. But as I read the electorate, homosexuality is far from a positive attraction.
For greeting and for TV, Alexis McDonough has a grand smile. She radiates friendliness. Thus, in snippets she can be engagingly effective. But in speeches or extended conversation she tends to go on and on. She hasn’t forgotten any of the cliches and platitudes of Canadian social democrats she has heard in a lifetime inside the party’s inner cadre. (Her dad was a CCF researcher in the ’40s and her sponsorship by the offspring of David and Sophie Lewis will influence some delegates.)
McDonough’s debits will be clear to the delegates. She is outside the House and unless she leaves Nova Scotia (most unlikely) she will have a very hard time getting into it. (Robinson has the boon of a seat in this House that will be safe in the future. Nystrom’s a good bet to regain his former seat in the next general election.)
The worst of all for McDonough, in part because no one wishes to mull openly about it, is the message which electors’ rebuffs to Audrey McLaughlin and Lyn McLeod have sent forth. Much of McLaughlin’s leadership win came because so many NDP women convinced so many delegates at the last convention that Canada was more than ready for a woman party leader.
Every NDP leadership has had much talk on who is really “left” or the “real” socialist. In economics none of the three is a radical socialist, Nystrom least of all. But Robinson’s attributed radicalism is more in social issues, environmentalism and anti-Americanism than on turning Canada away from a market-driven economy. He has the most potential for surprise and for growth in skills and argumentation, but he is also the riskiest or least safe choice. My hunch is Robinson will win, narrowly.
And in the short-term he will have impact. Short-term!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 01, 1995
ID: 11825848
TAG: 199509290193
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C4
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

CHRETIEN, HARRIS STRANGE SOULMATES

It is a political cliche with substance that more often than not the government of Ontario since the days of Leslie Frost has gotten along with the government of Canada – often very well and rarely in a continuous antagonism across a range of subjects.
Since his advent to power Premier Mike Harris has seemed to fit the cliche, not setting up Ottawa as an enemy. Thus far, aside from the decision to oppose the gun registry legislation (sponsored by Allan Rock and now under study in the Senate), the new government has not set itself against the Chretien Liberals and its throne speech doesn’t radiate any such hostility. So why get into speculation about the future of Harris-Jean Chretien relations?
Are not both determined on drastic cuts in spending and bureaucratic numbers? Yes! Haven’t both been seized with a mastering downwards of annual deficits until debt burden itself can be reduced? Yes! Don’t both governments stand foursquare on the issue of Quebec separation? Yes! Has it been a prime argument of the Common Sense Revolution that there must be substantial devolution of programs from Ottawa to the provinces? No!
In a general way the Harris program seemed more fixed on looking critically at municipal governments and school boards and at the Metro Toronto colossus than toward the power and reach of the federal government.
These questions and answers suggest that Harris and his advisers are neither seeking national attention nor working up grievances against the feds or excuses for what they do or, more importantly, cannot do. Yet there always is some inter-play and jousting in the regions and the constituencies between the parties of Ontario and of Canada.
Ontario Liberal MPs hold 98 of the province’s 99 seats in the House of Commons and most of them threw themselves into the Ontario campaign. Believe me, the federal Grits were thoroughly shocked and rocked by the Ontario result, but less that their traditional rival party had won power than with both the stark program of cut and restraint with which it won and its destruction of their instant myth of ’93 that Liberalism with a big “L” was back for a long engagement.
True, the Harris program has remarkable similarities with what the federal government is committed to through the last Martin budget. And the delayed features in this budget, including a huge rearrangment of the social system, will be coming into effect and causing strong reactions from those organizations whose interests are gored almost in tandem with those of the Harris revolution.
In my experience few tags exasperate Ontario Liberals – federal and provincial – more than “reactionary” or “conservative.” In large measure the Chretien Liberals have escaped such tags, in part because they are made to seem less reactionary or conservative by the Reform Party.
LIBERAL DILEMMA
One could sketch the Ontario dilemma for the federal Liberals this way. How do they distinguish their slashes in spending and public service jobs from those of the Harris Tories? How long can they escape the animosity ranging on to fury which on election night flared openly against Harris from both the organized interest groups in the fields of welfare, health, labor, education, and which has been continued by so many of the opinion-makers in the media? The burden of the judgment of Harris is that he’s ignorant and stupid, mindless and heartless. As one journalist expressed it to me last week, “Really, he’s an even bigger dummy than Ralph Klein.”
The well-organized rage and calculated enmity which fuelled the charge at the doors of Queen’s Park on Wednesday is a scary portent of their own post-referendum fate to the Chretien Liberals. Parliament Hill’s an even grander stage for raging opposition to cuts and jobs lost. It won’t be easy for the Liberals to paint themselves as truly caring for society’s underdogs and disadvantaged when their deeds match those of the horrible Harris crew.
But given a similar track and goals how do they distinguish themselves? Far better a resurrected Tory party led by Jean Charest than facing a Reform Party campaigning in Ontario with an imprimatur of sorts from Mike Harris. One Ontario Liberal MP, aware of the dilemma Harris causes him and the federal party, thinks Chretien has thought it out to this extent. He is ready to lose a goodly number of Ontario seats, particularly to the Charest Tories, because he expects to regain the old Liberal mastery over Quebec once the BQ is blown back. But he also says the pressure is already rising within the caucus to put off a lot of the federal cuts and to pick some fights, say involving medicare, with the Ontario government.
Although the scenario of Harris-Chretien is not predictable, it will be fascinating as it unrolls.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, September 29, 1995
ID: 11825345
TAG: 199509280210
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

DEFENCE POLICY JUST A SHELL GAME

Jack Granatstein, York University’s well-known contributor to CBC’s coverage of various World War II commemorations, spent his off-air time this summer touring the country as a member of a royal commission soliciting opinions on the future role of Canada’s reserves. He was a natural choice given his historian’s interest in Canada’s storied militia units and his talent for popularizing military subjects.
The professor believes ignorance and a lack of debate breeds bad policy so he had worked hard to encourage a broad discussion of the Chretien government’s present plans to further cut our already small force of reserves. As he told me recently, his commission has met with mixed success.
The commission has been pleased with the response of small communities and the interest shown by those with connections to our reserves, but Granatstein lamented that the recent media coverage of Canada’s heroic military past does not seem to have generated a broader appreciation of defence issues across the land. Witness the commission’s press briefing in Ottawa, which attracted only one reporter. By contrast, the preliminaries to the Somalia inquiry have been well attended – 20-plus reporters and half a dozen TV cameras.
While the commissioners’ toil has gone unnoticed, the bureaucrats’ and politicians’ work has not. In a widely reported speech to the UN on Tuesday Foreign Minister Andre Ouellet outlined Canada’s views on international security. Building on last year’s defence white paper theme that more of our defence eggs should go into the UN basket, Ouellet called for the establishment of a permanent UN quick reaction force to respond to crises like Rwanda.
To those who pointed to UN fumbling in Bosnia, Ouellet responded that this stemmed from an overly complex decision-making apparatus in New York which can be easily streamlined. (Really?)
What is driving these changes? Canada’s diplomatic professionals have long been uncomfortable with the implicit dependence of our collective defence arrangements on the U.S. They believe the Cold War’s end created an “opportunity” to escape America’s long shadow. And this focus on UN operations comes while our commitment to traditional defence relationships (NATO and NORAD) in terms of our forces assigned to them has become paper thin.
UN FIRE BRIGADE
The proposed UN fire brigade also responds to two apparently contradictory concerns about the U.S. – that in this new era she may dominate the world stage (as the sole remaining superpower) or decide to withdraw from it (given the lack of any real threat to her vital interests). It is hard to see the proposed UN force as an effective response to either.
While Canada may be sanguine about turning her troops over to the world body with no strings attached the U.S. is extremely hostile to placing her forces under UN command. (And few other states are enthusiastic.) Even if the U.S. and the other permanent members of the security council gave the secretary general cart blanche to employ such a force, most scenarios for its use would require U.S. logistical support to move it and sustain it. Should it get into trouble, the U.S. would be called on to bail it out, as it has done in Bosnia.
So much for creating a counter to U.S. dominance, or encouraging U.S. participation in collective action.
Our policy is a shell game: Tell Canadians we are refocusing our defence efforts on peacekeeping and they won’t notice our military capability is fast disappearing. A close examination of what has happened in Bosnia exposes the fraud.
While small countries like the Netherlands and Spain have joined in the air campaign, our air force is sitting it out. (Soon it won’t have anything to send.) The Nordic countries, so popular with left-leaning Canadians for their social programs, have shown a remarkable commitment to both defence and peacekeeping. Tiny Norway (4.3 million people) now provides as many troops to Bosnian operations as we do, joining with fellow NATO ally Denmark and neutral Sweden to form a Nordic battalion. All three nations have re-equipment programs underway to retain a broad range of combat capabilities despite domestic pressures to reduce defence spending.
Sweden (8.8 million people) is fielding her sixth generation of top notch home-grown jet fighters (remember the Arrow?). All three nations intend to maintain strong reserves as part of their response to a changing world. Canada’s military performance and future capability pale in comparison.
So, as Granatstein and company soldier on, is the government likely to pay them any more heed than the media have?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 27, 1995
ID: 11824855
TAG: 199509260066
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

SIGNS OF TROUBLE ON GRIT BENCHES

Paddy Torsney and George Baker are backbench Liberal MPs with nothing much in common that is obvious. But their recent readiness to talk before cameras and notebooks are signs of the times in the large government caucus. Signs of restiveness and frustration.
Baker symbolizes more prospective trouble for his leader (and keener interest from reporters) simply because Torsney’s partisanship is so strong her loyalty to the beloved leader will never be in doubt, at least not in this Parliament.
Torsney is very mindful of Sheila Copps when that vivid worthy burst onto the Hill in 1984. Copps did have a far handier platform for sound-offs as she quickly showed as an opposition Rat Packer. Torsney and Copps were both near 30 when they first won their seats and both had been aides at Queen’s Park to leaders of the Ontario Liberal party. The younger woman represents Burlington and is a Roman Catholic like her neighbor in Hamilton.
While Torsney is lankier and more composed physically and in speech than Copps, there is a common confidence and a quite strenuous aggressiveness. Each is what “scrum” reporters call a “troller.”
One of Copps most successful ploys for progress upward into Grit iconship was playing off the sardonic phrasing of John Crosbie, even unto a title for a quickie book. Remember her catch phrase: “I’m nobody’s baby?” Few incidents better witness the use of feminism’s arguments in partisan political warfare. One must not suffer but chasten patronizing males.
The Crosbie incident as Copps used it was also another step away from what is now an almost lost meaning for the word “feminine” – one of sensitivity and delicacy.
Ironically, it was a rather old-fashioned, rather pre-feminism, political person whom Paddy Torsney has taken the lead in defending by demanding procedural action and House discipline for the Reform MP, Dr. Grant Hill, who in the House both mimicked the voice and argumentative patterns of Diane Marleau, the minister of health, and found addressing her like speaking to a two by four.
Outside the House, after apologizing inside at the Speaker’s prompting, Dr. Hill further outraged the proprieties Tornsey defends by describing Marleau as an “empty drum.”
INEFFECTIVE IN PUBLIC
Marleau has competition from half a dozen in the cabinet for ineffectiveness in public as a minister. (This surely is one of the most lacklustre ministries since the Diefenbaker years.) And if Torsney could be candid she would acknowledge that scores of Liberals have been writing at the vapidity and meandering of Marleau’s remarks in and out of the House. Marleau is in the older sense “feminine.” She’s ladylike, courteous, decent and rarely very partisan, let alone mean or snide. The person to blame for leaving her exposed as she has bumbled along for so many months is the prime minister, not Grant Hill or the Reform MPs who are so frustrated by her seeming lack of command of her portfolio and its crucial issues.
The real significance in the conniptions of Torsney, as she thrusts herself before the cameras, and in indications the Liberals may be ready to clamp down on free-wheeling criticism that has any personal aspects, is simply the rising frustration of so many Liberal MPs at the toughened and better organized persistence against the ministry and the government’s policies (or lack of them) by the Reformers.
Given the iron grip of budget cuts and restraint in spending foreseeable in this mandate, there isn’t much that is substantial or positive in legislation for the Grit MPs to glory in. So a lot of them are becoming super-sensitive about Reform as it becomes more apparent that Preston Manning and company will be their serious opposition in the next election.
George Baker, a Liberal MP for 21 years, has never been one to suffer in silence. He speaks of “real Liberalism” and being “a real Liberal.” His frustrations and emergent critique of his own leadership are much like Warren Allmand’s and his attack on Paul Martin’s budget. For a Newfoundlander and a Grit the cuts coming in UI benefits and eligibility are unacceptable. The witty Baker is especially exasperated because the official Opposition doesn’t really care about Canada and what the cabinet’s doing to the social system and the Reformers push Martin for ever more cuts and program devolutions to the provinces.
Torsney has merely a passing issue in her challenge of Reform as a party which ridicules women, but Baker is stirring an issue of social conscience within his Liberal colleagues. He has something sure to test loyalties in the Liberal caucus when the referendum is over and Lloyd Axworthy brings in his legislation on UI.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 24, 1995
ID: 11824047
TAG: 199509220108
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C4
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

THE FORGOTTEN MAN OF THE UNITY DEBATE//PITY POOR JEAN CHAREST

As the opening salvos were exchanged this week in what promises to be a rugged parliamentary session, an early loser emerged – Jean Charest.
Remember him? As the Tories desperately sought a silver lining to their disastrous performance in the 1993 election they found solace in the fact their young leader was a popular figure in his native Quebec.
With parents on both sides of the cultural divide, a fluidity in both official languages and an open mind to Quebec’s aspirations, he appealed to a confident new generation of Quebecers, and represented a stark contrast to that tired old warrior, Jean Chretien, despised at home for his role in the “night of long knives” back in 1982.
Given Chretien’s unpopularity, in any showdown with the separatists the Liberals would be forced to make use of Charest, and his performance (it was confidently predicted) would show Canadians that despite reduced circumstances the party of John A. Macdonald remains a national political force. Such were the hopes.
As with many scenarios for Tory renewal (i.e. a Reform meltdown), this has turned out to be wishful thinking.
To the surprise of many (including Liberals) the prime minister has enjoyed something of a political resurrection in his home province, his steady-as-she-goes government proving as popular there as elsewhere. And Chretien’s strategy of calming the waters while awaiting a No vote that he perceives to be inevitble has left Charest little opportunity to show his stuff.
As a result, the Tory leader’s profile in Quebec is little higher than elsewhere, and his few appearances there have garnered little media attention and few accolades.
Yet even if Charest had been given a better stage it is not obvious that he could have used it to save his party from its present obscurity. Aside from patriotic bluster he has had little to offer Quebecers, other than vague words about how the federal government’s financial difficulties “offer the very real opportunity to tackle the too-long ignored issue of federal-provincial overlap and entangle.” This devolution of services to the provinces is inevitable and ongoing, and noting this does not represent a constitutional stand.
The party’s recent policy discussion paper intended to foster debate within its ranks did not even mention Quebec in its section on the future of federalism. At first such reticence seems remarkable for a party that devoted so much of its time in office to seeking a constitutional accord with Quebec. Yet it is in the failed Meech Lake and Charlottetown efforts that one finds the source of Tory silence.
The Tories paid a terrible price for their attempts to fulfil Pierre Trudeau’s promise to Quebec that once she elected a non-separatist government she would be brought fully into the new constitutional arrangements.
The Reform Party’s success in the last election owes much to the feeling in Western Canada that Quebec’s constitutional demands were not only unwarranted, but by dominating the national agenda for so long they had in fact become as much a threat to the federation as separatism itself, as other issues of crucial import, especially the national debt crisis, were left unattended.
As I noted in a recent column, the heated debate between the Liberals and Reformers this past week over how to handle the separatist challenge has set into stark relief the split between the old orthodox view that Quebec must be won over with talk of undying affection and implied willingness to accomodate its concerns in a new deal (see Daniel Johnson’s views on what should follow a No vote) and the start of a growing number of those in the rest of Canada that the constitutional wrangling must end.
The Liberals claim the Reform stand is dangerous and divisive. As Manning noted, the Liberals, Tories, and New Democrats have been handling matters their way for a long time and look at what it has brought us.
Whatever his shortcomings, Manning last week firmly established himself as the spokesman for those in the rest of Canada for whom the referendum must not be simply another round in a never-ending game of constitutional roulette. His demand that the government make this clear to Quebecers has great resonance outside the province, and Reform has set itself up as a real alternative to the status quo as represented by the Liberals, Tories and New Democrats.
The challenge for Charest is to come up with a stand that sets his party apart from the Liberals “we’ll muddle through – trust us” and Reform’s “enough is enough.” The current silence is no solution for a party that remains in the wilderness, its absence from the political scene apparently unlamented.
For whom does Jean Charest speak?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, September 22, 1995
ID: 12869596
TAG: 199509210138
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

MEANEST MAN ON THE HILL

The day the House came back to the Hill I got a prompt for this piece about Liberal caucus discipline. This was before the geyser of media sympathy for Warren Allmand at his punishment for opposing Paul Martin’s last budget.
The idea came from a middle-aged Liberal with a long memory who told me this:
“Jean Chretien’s the meanest prime minister in modern times. And his shadow, Eddie Goldenberg, makes Jim Coutts seem a pussycat.”
I asked if his “meanest” was a euphemism for “toughest.”
“Oh, he’s tough all right but I meant MEAN. You go his way. If you don’t, and do it openly, he squashes.”
My decades of watching Chretien operate tend to confirm such a characterization.
So does a quick reflection on those postwar prime ministers with more than a few months of office.
Chretien was mean long before Warren Allmand was punished and a dozen or so other backbenchers were bounced or shuffled from committee roles.
What Chretien did after he lost the leadership to John Turner to unhorse that worthy was surely mean. But long before that he had sharp elbows in working forward and upward in the mid-’60s when the Liberal caucus was rich in ambitious, well-educated backbenchers, many from Quebec with greater grace in French and English than he had.
Take Maurice Sauve or Jean-Luc Pepin as examples. Chretien became the successful survivor through a very long, difficult and often desperate pursuit of power and every higher office.
In contrast, Pierre Trudeau figuratively romped into the top job three years after coming to the Hill.
As PM he quickly got a deserved reputation for meanness with the media but so much of that was because he found this a ploy the public relished. He was not that cruel or even much involved with his backbenchers.
Two of the MPs who jumped his caucus – Perry Ryan and Raymond Rock – complained, along with criticism of their leader’s left wing ideology, that he paid scant attention to his MPs. It was first Marc Lalonde and then pussycat Coutts who monitored the caucus line for most of the Trudeau years, not the PM himself.
CLOSELY WATCHED CAUCUS
This was a particular point my Liberal acquaintance made.
“Chretien and Goldenberg vet the caucus closely, and far more for reliability and loyalty than for ideas and ability. Look at the cabinet – so many in it are only there because they backed him years ago.”
On “mean” prime ministers, it’s true John Diefenbaker had a broad streak of meanness. He often put down fellow Conservatives but he was not a mean policeman of his caucuses, nor was he guided by tough handlers like Chretien’s Goldenberg. His last cabinet fell apart because he wasn’t ruthless with some ministers and MPs long before the killing vote in the house.
The Chief’s successor as PM, Lester Pearson, could be petty with those in his party entourage who exasperated him but he was not mean mean! For years he suffered Ralph Cowan, a Toronto Grit MP who openly and repeatedly denigrated him.
The two Tory MPs who jumped the caucus during the Brian Mulroney period were Albertans, David Kilgour and Alex Kindy, and Mulroney had delegated caucus discipline beyond his Quebec MPs to Don Mazankowski.
Yes, one could find a lot of “off the record” criticism of their leader from Tory backbenchers, but not that he was very mean or that he cracked the whip over his team.
So there is an argument of sorts and it’s not hyperbole to think Jean Chretien may be the meanest prime minister since Mackenzie King. And it’s hard to forecast the eventual electoral harm his meanness toward the likes of Warren Allmand will cause him. Not much, I believe, if the No forces win big and Martin’s budget forecasts prove up.
And if such ensues, watch the Liberals’ constituency nominations for the next election for more memorable rebukes of those Grits who’ve disagreed with or embarrassed their boss.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 20, 1995
ID: 12869389
TAG: 199509190103
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 12
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

QUEBECOIS MUST BE TOLD HOW CANADA FEELS

DATELINE: OTTAWA
Those chewing over how the Quebec referendum campaign may be played out in the House of Commons have emphasized how different the partisan situation is for the cabinet than the last such referendum (when Pierre Trudeau was prime minister).
This time the two larger opposition parties are critical of the government – the BQ as expected, the Reform Party somewhat surprisingly to some federalists. What’s been given much less notice, in part because it’s less tangible, in larger part because of its potential for making Jean Chretien’s campaign awkward, is the prevalence of a substantial, critical attitude toward Quebec as a whole.
In Referendum One, although Trudeau had a margin in the House of only a dozen seats, both the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats in opposition stood four square with him and backed his government’s line and strategy in support of the Quebec federalists, then led by Claude Ryan. In consequence, Parliament idled in a general atmosphere of unity throughout the campaign, almost every MP a vocal Canadian patriot.
Of course, the Reformers are federalists but they’re also moderately suspicious of Chretien’s strategy, particularly where he seems to be fudging or ambiguous on what his government plans to do after the vote, given that this has three different likelihoods: 1) The Yes side wins handily; 2) the No side wins handily; 3) it’s a very tight result, neither Yes nor No having any real margin of advantage.
What Manning seems to be after is twofold: a denial there could be a close economic association after a Yes vote; and what the PM could do if the third possibility occurs, i.e. a virtual tie. If this should be, will the PM confirm it by a federal vote – perhaps a rederendum, perhaps a general federal election fought on a platform of “Henceforth, Canada is indivisible.”
In the previous referendum campaign there was a lot of what the late Abbe Maheux called “bonne ententism.” It was manifested in a public gush of talk by the political, clerical, academic and business elite of English Canada, both in and beyond Quebec, expressing their affection and appreciation of what French Canadians and Quebec as a province had brought to Canada as a fascinating culture with a language, values and attitudes which had saved Canada from figuratively sliding into the lap of the United States.
During the campaigns to sell the Meech Lake accord and then the Charlottetown proposals, there was a lot of such supporting “ententism” from both distinguished and lesser-known Canadians. Frankly, there isn’t much of it left, or at least it hasn’t yet surfaced in strength. The reasons for the dearth are a host of exasperations over Quebec now well ingrained in many minds in the Rest of Canada.
The immediate exasperation has been a long choke at the BQ, out to break Canada, being “the loyal Opposition” in Parliament.
Another major gripe is a pervading concern that Canada faces far more relevant issues and needs than Quebec’s sovereignty. See how Chretien also belabors this point, talking jobs and social security because he realizes the huge impatience with separatist talk across the whole country and with Quebec as the culprit outside it.
How to judge if outbreaks of such broad antagonism to Quebecois aspirations affects or might affect the referendum result?
Most federal Liberals seem to think it hurts the federalist cause and they’re already angry that Reform is making a particular representation of such attitudes.
My opinion is the reverse. A keen awareness of the anger and frustration will give impetus to the No vote in Quebec, not stimulate support of sovereignty, because it should make very clear what Chretien seems to want: that this vote is about a distinct separation. After a Yes vote a renewed economic association won’t wash in the Rest of Canada.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Monday, September 18, 1995
ID: 12869162
TAG: 199509170180
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

NERVES FRAYED AS 1997 APPROACHES

DATELINE: HONG KONG
1997? How China behaves when it regains jurisdiction over Hong Kong from once-Great Britain after a pause of 154 years may be the biggest, unanswerable political question in the world today.
And after the eternal question about Quebec and Canada, the biggest unanswerable political question in Ottawa may be just how generous the federal government would be to fleeing Hong Kong Chinese if relations between China and the Hong Kong Chinese sour.
Hong Kong’s 6.5 million Chinese generally put a brave face on their dilemma. Few publicly express anxiety. Even fewer will say anything bad for the record about what they call Red China.
But tellingly, about one million of the Crown colony’s wealthiest and best-educated citizens have already left for good, or left for long enough to acquire another passport to escape a second time if things don’t work out the way China has promised they will.
Countries such as Canada and Australia saw a huge jump in immigration requests after China brutally suppressed unarmed demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. A recent Newsweek article suggested that as many as three million Hong Kong Chinese are set to leave if there is similar trouble here.
Officials at the Canadian Commission confirmed to me a few weeks ago that Canada has quietly developed a contingency plan to deal with a possible influx of political refugees from Hong Kong.
The commission’s senior immigration officer, Brian Davis, stressed that Canada “is confident the transition will go smoothly.”
Alvin Lee, executive director of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, said that as a businessman “I hope it will work out. We do see China already investing a lot of public and private money here and wanting to have a role in the decision-making process. Time will tell how the two systems get along together. I don’t know what the outcome will be. No one does. But I’m optimistic.”
It is obviously in China’s economic and diplomatic interest for things to work out. But as China demonstrated during the Cultural Revolution and at many other times since Mao took over in 1949, it doesn’t always do things that outsiders think are in its own economic or diplomatic interest.
SIGNS OF CHANGE
There are already signs that China will not allow Hong Kong to enjoy anything like the freebooting ways that currently prevail here.
When a Hong Kong company inadvertently left Taiwan off a map of China that was part of a poster celebrating this city’s annual mid-autumn festival, the Peking-based Xinhua News Agency demanded that the posters be immediately replaced. And they were at a cost of nearly $50,000 (Cdn.) to the company.
The UN women’s conference in Beijing provided an even more chilling display of state paranoia. Security was oppressive, public dissent was squelched, average citizens were kept away from everything and taxi drivers in the capital were apparently ordered to prevent visitors from having a look at Tiananmen Square.
Given China’s human rights record and free speech over the past 46 years and its recent behavior, it’s hardly surprising that, with a few notable exceptions, candidates for yesterday’s legislative council elections in Hong Kong said nothing to offend the rulers in Beijing.
They may not say much publicly, but everything China does is being closely scrutinized by everyone in Hong Kong.
A thoughtful man I know here who has worked with Chinese companies and government officials since before Beijing began political reforms in 1979 said he would gladly share his opinions with me but only if I gave a solemn promise to not use his name because “of how China might react.”
This Everyman told me: “I love China and will always think of her as my mother country. I’ve seen the economic progress and am happy that more people are getting above the poverty line. But I have also seen dictatorship and lies ever since 1949. Yes, I fear 1997. The Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen Square scared me. The Chinese government thinks differently than the people here.
“A great number of security people from China are already here. I’ve had the feeling since 1984 that they have infiltrated into businesses, into financing and into politics. I’d bet you money that what I say is true and I know that I wouldn’t lose the bet.”
The man intends to emigrate to Canada in 1997 with his wife and children. He already has more than enough money invested there to make his acceptance by Canadian authorities a mere formality.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 17, 1995
ID: 12869069
TAG: 199509150126
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C4
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

ROCK HAS GONE SOFT ON NATIVE CRIMINALS

Prior to this summer’s parliamentary recess, Justice Minister Allan Rock was a ubiquitous presence on our TV screens and front pages – facing down opposition from the gun lobby and various premiers and provincial attorneys general to push through legislation establishing a national firearms registry.
By living up to his name, Rock won kudos from many editorialists who at last had a hero for our post-Mulroney times: an articulate, no-nonsense, law-and-order politician who understood the public’s growing concern about crime and was unafraid of stepping on toes to respond to it. Some even mused on likely prime ministerial ambitions.
But since the gun legislation moved on to the Senate this fresh hero has been strangely, even distressingly, silent.
One says “distressingly” because a flurry of events in the past few weeks have disturbing implications for the maintenance of public order and security in this country: motorcycle gang warfare on the streets of Montreal and Toronto; another child sex slaying by a parolee; armed standoffs with police by natives in Ontario and B.C., where the use of automatic weapons and camouflauge suits is reminiscent of Oka, itself back in the news thanks to the release of the coroner’s report on the killing of a police officer there in 1990. And where is our articulate, tough minister?
Rock did put in a brief public appearance to comment on the ongoing turf war to control criminal enterprises in our two largest cities. He dismissed suggestions he develop legislative initiatives aimed at the motorcycle gangs on the grounds that the Charter of Rights ties his hands. Curious that the Charter should prevent the targeting of criminal organizations, yet leave law-abiding gun owners wide open to the state’s ministrations. Surely the minister’s imagination is constipated. American legislators with two centuries of dealing with constitutionally guaranteed individual rights have managed to create a number of legal instruments to deal with organized crime (such as the well-known RICO Act) which have been effective in putting top racketeers into prisons.
Surely a man of Rock’s intellect and education is capable of as much?
Rock, normally available to the media, was also uncharacteristically reticent about responding to the coroner’s report on the killing of the police officer during the 1990 encounter at the Oka barricades. (Completed years ago, its release was delayed due to concerns about likely public reaction.)
Media attention focused on the report’s criticism of the police and the previous (Liberal) government. Lost in this shuffle of coverage were the coroner’s conclusions that the natives fired first, that the killing of the officer was premeditated (he was ambushed) and that the killer was one of six men identified as being armed with Soviet AK-47 asssault rifles that day. At the end of the siege the murderer and his fellow “warriors” burned their weapons so as to hinder attempts to determine his identity, and he remains at large.
While these crimes are technically provincial matters, overall responsibility for natives is not – and armed native radicalism is most assuredly a prime federal concern and clearly a matter of law and order.
Given the national interests involved, the justice minister ought to have responded to the report’s release by assuring Canadians that his government is doing everything in its power to assist in bringing the killer to justice and reiterated its determination to punish those who choose to use violence to achieve their aims.
Finally, he might have commented on the distressing ease with which natives acquire automatic weapons (prohibited under current laws) and parade them so openly. What measures has he instituted to intercept this traffic, given that it makes a mockery of his gun control intentions?
Instead of responding to the currency of his issues, Rock decided to let sleeping dogs lie, taking advantage of the media’s preoccupation with the police and alleged provincial government bumbling. The hazards of such an approach should be obvious to all now, given the happenings at Gustafsen Lake. Still, I don’t expect the killer at Oka will ever be charged. Who says you can’t get away with murder?
Taking on the gun lobby looked easy and popular, at least for a time. Gun owners are an inviting target to the media and most city dwellers. Natives, even armed ones, are another matter. No great opportunities for positive op-ed coverage there. At least that’s how I explain Rock’s recent silence.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, September 15, 1995
ID: 12868811
TAG: 199509140169
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

QUEBEC MASKS BIGGER PROBLEMS

Naturally, the dominant issue for MPs returning to the House is the Quebec referendum. Its pros and cons will be featured in each question period and star Lucien Bouchard and his rather talented crew.
Such testy stuff will somewhat mask a bit longer the reign of restraint and its rein on bold bills and new spending first made clear in the budget last winter.
A lucid, candid speech by Paul Martin, given on Sept. 1 to American bankers in Wyoming, states and reiterates his determination, totally backed by Jean Chretien, to keep fixed on the rather boring national crisis that crept over us from big annual deficits and a towering debt.
Before some succinct lines from Martin that posit a deliberately do-little government for several years, here’s a small insight on Bouchard and the Bloc Quebecois in the House.
Lucien Bouchard’s proven an able parliamentarian and no abuser of the rules the House, but the scenario in which he and his MPs operate was abetted by Liberal strategy toward Reform.
The Grit planners conceived Preston Manning’s crew as a greater long-run electoral threat than the BQ. They preferred the BQ as the official Opposition and reinforced their status as against the other parties. At almost every turn they knocked back the Reformers, denigrating and mocking. The BQ got much more time and recognition out of this strategy.
The Liberals have ridiculed Manning and the Reformers while going comparatively easy on Bouchard and some easily targeted BQ MPs. Aside from the boost this has been for the BQ on the Hill, and a big edge over Reform in TV and print coverage in English, it has given the charismatic Bochard and his crew a lot of useful French language coverage and a grand status in Quebec – more than Chretien got as head of the official Opposition.
For the next seven weeks the federalist side needs more than the backing of the Reformers in the House, it needs some care in what is said to not overdo the rising antagonism in the West to Jacques Parizeau and Bouchard or on what must follow the referendum result regarding Quebec whether it’s in or out of Canada.
MISPLACED SCEPTICISM
Now here are some remarks by Finace Minister Martin which bear on the future of federalism and the certain extension of frugality, and a lot of what I’d call “marking time” through this Liberal mandate. He said:
“Given the history of federal governments, some in the financial community remain sceptical the government will stay the course for as long as it takes. I can assure you, that scepticism is misplaced.
“Our commitment to stay the course of fiscal recovery is unequivocal, and the foundations for that recovery are already solidly in place … And what we have really launched is a fundamental reappraisal of the appropriate role of the national government.
“The point is that those of us who are committed to a pro-active role for government in both the social and economic domains also have a responsibility to begin distinguishing clearly those things a government can do from those it cannot. It’s time to come clean and stop creating unrealistic expections.
“We must do all we can to boost productivity because it is the foundation of competitiveness, and international competitiveness is the only dependable route to economic independence, growth and jobs. Seen in this light our fiscal strategy is a strategy to safeguard Canada’s independence. But it is also true that the restraint associated with the strategy is leading to a government that is smaller, at least by the measure of head-count and spending volume.
“For us smaller government is a means to an end … achieving the transformation still posts a very large challenge. This is because the habits and incentives of bureaucrats and politicians, and the institutions they have created over the past 50 years, have all been adapted to the fiscal growth of government … What is called for is not only a change in attitude: it is a sea-change in the nature of politics as it has been practised in affluent democracies over the past five decades.”
“Creating a public sector where `less is more’ is the greatest challenge we face.”
Surely Martin’s aim is sound and right, but the effect of it on the course of Parliament does little in the short-run for the No campaign. Or in the long run for a truly liberal legislative agenda.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Thursday, September 14, 1995
ID: 12868676
TAG: 199509130113
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

THE NEW SEASON’S GIFT OF GAB

One wonders where TV news and public affairs programs will get the people for all the interviews and reactions in this coming television year.
Led by CBC Newsworld and its extensions and shifts, there’s more time than ever allotted for talk, talk-back, and interviews. This continues and also accelerates a trend to less straight news and to ever more opinion.
Other trends go on: to ever more professors, authors, lobbyists and surrogates for politicians. Ever more voices from the biggest cities and from Ottawa, ever fewer from small-town and boondocks Canada.
To the larger array of “experts” and “spokespersons” add even more columnist types like such CBC-TV pioneers as Joe Schlesinger, Brian Stewart and Rex Murphy.

Just a few days of Bruce Cameron as new morning anchor for Newsworld and we know we’re in for daily, judgmental, “correct” moralizing. His ethical severity will have its complement on late evening Newsworld, going by Pamela Wallin’s questions and interjections in her time Tuesday with Paul Martin, Jr.
The swing to women as questioners and interlocutors is more noticeable.
The rota of Wallin, Ann Petrie, Allison Smith, Hanna Gartner, Nancy Wilson and Judy Rebick holds forth daily. Soon male reporters and presenters must clamor for employment equity.
To my mind none of these women is inadequate at her tasks, but as a bundle (with a slight nod of apology to Petrie) one might tag the lot as “too earnest.” To ease such a tag, none of the women is as lugubrious as Stewart and Gartner’s a nice break from that bad match of Wallin and Peter Mansbridge.
It’s also apparent we’re in for even more chats on all the networks by news anchors with reporters on location, opened with such insightful prods as “What’s the mood there?” or “How’s the community reacting?”
The ones between Lloyd Robertson and Craig Oliver are jewels of a kind. Lloyd lobs a slow pitch and Craig whistles back an instant and very simple opinion -straight-from-the-mouth TV.
My favorites of the one-on-ones have been any CBC anchor with Eve Savory, surely CBC’s most tremulous voice of concern over such as the salmon fishery, the clear-cuts, and the various “sacred” grounds.
Naturally, TV’s nature and competitiveness will drum toward a crisis in the next seven weeks until a majority of Quebecers vote No. Once that’s out of the way, with the Homolka deal fading, O.J. released or convicted or waiting for another trial, the weather too cold for Warrior blockades, and our peacekeepsrs mostly home, it should be back to normal content, i.e. to more Hill stuff – cabinet shuffles, pre-budget scuffling and musing whether or not bills on Pearson airport and the gun register will ever come into effect.

I regret to seem such a jaded viewer even as I hold firmly and often to my channel changer, so let me tout a current pleasure from TV. It’s on the BRAVO! channel and it’s a showing of Dick Nielsen’s series titled No Price Too High.
A lot of war veterans will find this a belated antidote to the ideology and truth-twisting of the CBC-NFB’s notorious film series The Valor and the Horror.
Nielsen and his aides, in particular former politician Barney Danson, set out to preserve for posterity the thoughts and feelings of those who were there in World War II, using many of the techniques that made Ken Burns’ PBS documentary on the U.S. Civil War so memorable.
The story unfolds largely through remarkably ranging choices from contemporary letters and diaries, read by actors. Arthur Kent’s narration ties this together and ocasionally historian Terry Copps fleshes out an historical point. Neither is intrusive nor didactic. And the home front comes through.
Now this series should be in schools and shown on TV Ontario too.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 10, 1995
ID: 12868243
TAG: 199509080145
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

MOST VIOLENCE TARGETS MEN

Occasionally a column sparks strong responses, some approving, others negative. Two recent pieces on the leadership which lesbians have given the feminist movement through a relentless stress on masculine violence brought many replies. Some missed my irony and read me as advocating lesbianism.
One letter was from a male college student who has had his problems with violence. His material made me understand better my own doubts about the data feminists toss around.
The conventional wisdom, reinforced by recent StatsCan surveys, is that violence against women is endemic in our society and clear witness that Canadian women are much oppressed and have far to go to secure their legitimate rights. My student correspondent shares the feminist belief that we must closely examine violence in our society to understand the issues, but he has a different starting point and very different conclusion.
He argues that by defining violence as simple physical assaults and harassments and focusing solely on its female victims, feminists fail to identify the real origins and miss the broader implications of their cause. He believes any definition of violence must begin with society’s willingness to sacrifice the lives and health of individuals to the public good.
“Human society requires violence as an ongoing social resource. As anyone who has ever worked in mining, forestry, farming and construction can attest, doing the work of Canadian society is a far greater threat to one’s physical wellbeing than are other humans.”
Last year in Canada more people were killed by their work (758) than were murdered (596) and injuries on the job far outstripped those stemming from assault. Almost all the hazardous occupations are male ghettos. In the U.S. 95% of workplace fatalities are male. StatsCan hasn’t a gender breakdown but 1994 saw 619 men killed on the job versus 39 women.
This callous attitude to male lives is reflected in other statistics. Men make up the bulk of murder victims (341 to 198) and they are mostly the homeless, the suicides, and those in prison.
Finally, it is men who have traditionally been considered expendable when Canada has gone to war. Looked at in this way violence reveals a peculiar anomaly about a patriarchy that ostensibly runs society for the benefit of men: males constitute the overwhelming majority of victims of violence.
VITAL POINT MISSED
Feminists persist in focusing on male violence against women (a small part of violence in our society) because it corresponds to their world view which holds that male-female relations have at their root a master-slave paradigm. By doing so, my correspondent argues, they are missing a vital point. What is most significant about violence in our society is how differently we view it, depending on who it is directed against.
Men are expected to be its victims. Women and children are not. We are less affected and concerned by violence against men than against women and children.
My correspondent believes this expectation is rooted in the patriarchal view that the lives of women and children are ultimately of more value because it is through them that the patrilineal family lines are maintained.
Through scores of generations men have been expected to both face and use violence so as to feed and protect the “weaker” members of society and, if necessary, to sacrifice themselves for them.
“Masculinity then becomes a socially constructed hierarchy with the man most willing to engage in violence at the top. This hierarchy from which women were politically excluded is patriarchy in its purest, most basic form.”
This notion of “women and children first” did not die out with the Victorians or after the Titanic disaster. It is still shared today, by feminists and non-feminists alike – even given some women who want women in the military’s combat roles and the men who consider this stupid. As long as this casual attitude of acceptance regarding men’s lives prevails so will male violence, threatening those it was once meant to protect – women and children.
The writer notes the old maxim that violence begets violence and concludes: “If society wishes males to be less violent, it must first commit less violence against them.” Only then will security of the person for women be achievable.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, September 08, 1995
ID: 12867950
TAG: 199509070154
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

A FOND FAREWELL TO A FINE MAN

The smiler is gone … at 70. Jean-Luc Pepin was droll and energetic, a political scientist who did well as a politician. He leaves warm memories and an odd, fruitful career. He was busy, a great talker, and though often frustrated never a moaner.
Like Jean Chretien he was a protege of Mitchell Sharp and might have become PM if Jean Marchand hadn’t come to Ottawa in 1965 with Pierre Trudeau at his side and if Jean-Luc hadn’t had two dangerous qualities in candor and humor (that Pierre lacked).
Jean-Luc would always divine the ironies in life and politics. Recently he chortled to me over the swing back to his vision of how to cope with Quebecers’ aspirations. In the mid-’60s it was called “co-operative federalism” and taken up by Lester Pearson as PM. Trudeau was to reject it twice as prime minister: on succeeding Pearson in 1968; and in 1977 when he ignored the recommendations of the Pepin-Robarts task force on national unity which he’d commissioned.
Pepin did more than any pre-Trudeau Liberal to define “co-operative” or “flexible federalism.” But the policy didn’t square with Trudeau’s determination Quebec was not unique and must be a province like the others.
The Trudeau scenario for Canada had more public appeal than Pepin’s, particularly to English Canadians. In ’68, as a loyal minister, Jean-Luc Pepin, filed away his speeches and essays on co-operative federalism. Some day he hoped it would be resurrected as a practical, adjustable system if Canada wasn’t sundered. And it’s been happening. It’s there in the Chretien government’s program of devolutions to the provinces. Even neater with Jean-Luc’s sense of humor is Jacques Parizeau’s latest “sovereignty” gambit. The close economic association with Canada the PQ leader envisages is a twisted form of co-operative federalism.
My ties with Jean-Luc began before he made the House in 1963 and as we worked together on writing and presenting a TV documentary on a federal role in education I found him frank and modest. We’d common ground as late night readers, and when I’d phone him around midnight he’d answer, “Yes, Doug?”
I cherish his candor but as a fellow minister once told me: “Poor Jean-Luc, he can’t lie in public.”
In 1964, after remarks I’d made in the House on how to deal with Quebec, he wrote me this note.
“Doug: You made a good point when you asked with whom are we going to negotiate … Levesque, Lesage, federal MPs? But the question could be turned around. With whom are we French Canadians going to negotiate … Dief, Pearson, Wacky Bennett, Fisher? My answer is `among moderates’ (and I think you one). But you brought up something which to me is fundamental: a group of French Canadians on the federal level must emerge, grow, assert itself and conquer the confidence of both French and English Canada.”
ATHLETIC ORIGINS
In 1972, when minister of industry, trade and commerce, Jean-Luc sketched his origins for me.
“There were nine kids in the Pepin family. My dad was a freight clerk in Drummondville for the CN. He’d been a fine athlete and all five boys inherited this. My brother Bobby was a star with the Montreal Royals. Yvon was one of Canada’s best tennis players. At 18 I was doing well in hockey; then my nose was badly smashed, converting me at one blow, says Bobby, from athlete to intellectual.
“Dad’s job was steady and in the ’30s this made us a privileged family. It was my mother and grandmother who were the big influences on us, not my dad. Both were Anglomaniacs and teachers. English language and literature and conversation were more than necessities, grandmother insisted education had primacy. Around our big family table everyone wanted to talk, so I developed the Pepin qualities of aggressiveness, enjoying debate and talking fast. You got opinions off quickly or you went unheard and you had to take your lumps. This explains my lack of partisanship and my respect for the means of accomplishing goals. Few matters are black and white.
“It is only partly true that I work hard at my present job because I want to prove French Canadians can handle a big economic task. It was more a matter of disappearing alternatives.”
“If Trudeau has not been a constitutional expert, or Marchand had not been a great syndicalist, if Maurice Sauve had not been eclipsed in 1968, if Pelletier’s field had not been culture, who knows where Pepin might have settled.”
“Let me repeat, I am not profound but I work hard to be informed and then to explain matters. And I enjoy it. It is not mere duty.”
Jean-Luc Pepin, a fine and fun Canadian.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 06, 1995
ID: 12867697
TAG: 199509050092
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

TWO LIVES WELL LIVED

The deaths of two very different characters, both Alberta-born and in their 90s, take me back to both postwar politics and to romances: Earl Birney and Blytha Pearkes.
To me Birney wrote the best, and surely the funniest, novel by a Canadian about World War II – Turvey, a tale which humanizes our volunteer army as it makes fun of it.
Pearkes, widow of the late Gen. George Pearkes, V.C. and long-time Tory MP, was, on the one hand, the wife of a hero of the Great War, then mother, grandmother and great grandmother. She also happened to be one of the most useful and effective wives of a politician I ever observed.
In particular, for those who knew Blytha and George on Parliament Hill through the late ’50s there was joy in seeing them together. When they married (70 years ago last month) she had been 23 and he 37. His job, surely earned because of his V.C., was as an officer in our tiny permanent army. Their engagement came swiftly, just a week after George and Blytha first met after a church service at Saanich, B.C.
In 1945, after George had spent much of the war commanding our forces on the Pacific rim, he became the MP for Esquimalt-Saanich and held the seat until 1960, resigning it to become Lieutenant-Governor of B.C.
Parliament Hill as a microcosm of Canada has had its modicum of love affairs and broken hearts, even if the focus of its relentlessly passing show is not love and romance. On the Hill the Pearkes were romantic, improbable though it might seem given their ages and responsibilities. I recall them as the best matched couple I have seen in federal politics and one of the happiest.
The match-up was most obvious in their walks. They were walkers, in fair or foul weather, hot or below zero. Even with limousines at hand for George as minister of national defence (1957-60) he and Blytha would each day walk the Hill’s environs and nearby streets. Their manner of walking on these brisk constitutionals symbolized togetherness.
George was not much taller than Blytha. Neither was slight and each broached toward the stout. Their joint vigor made it hard to believe he had been seriously wounded five times in the Great War. They stood side by side as they began their walk. Each put an arm around the other’s waist. Then they’d stride off in unison and quickly find a rhythm. (Try it. It’s a challenge.) As they strode they’d chat and they’d nod or wave to those they met. Rarely would they break stride, and they covered much ground very briskly.
NO SWEETER SIGHT
One day I was visiting an MP who had an observant secretary and an office overlooking the square below the Peace Tower. The secretary broke into our talk with: “Come to the window. Look at the Pearkes.” As we marvelled at the pace and rhythm of the pair passing below she asked if we’d ever seen a sweeter sight: love through middle age; 30 years together and still intense.
The Pearkes as B.C.’s vice-regal couple widened their popularity as they ranged the province for almost a decade without pretensions. After reading Blytha’s death notice I turned to Reginald Roy’s biography of George Pearkes, For Most Conspicuous Bravery, published in 1977. Near its close the travel around B.C. by the Pearkes is described, including visits to the Kootenays. This struck a chord about a far different ex-soldier but also well-known in B.C. as poet and English professor Earl Birney, author of my pet novel Turvey.
From his enlistment day onward Pvt. Thomas Leadbetter Turvey, the novel’s picaresque hero, was bound to fight with the Kootenay Highlanders, then in Britain and later on the continent. The Kootenays were fictitious but such regional regiments were the mold, and Turvey was archetypal because most volunteers wanted to belong to an outfit with chaps they knew or from the same town or valley. Turvey spent over three years trying to reach the Kootenays, never despairing through rebuffs rising from his bumbling awkwardness and obviously low IQ.
If George Pearkes, V.C., symbolized Canadian bravery and success in battle, Thomas Turvey symbolized the citizen clown as soldier whom events make a wise fool who perseveres through all the blither of an army’s hierarchy and very Canadian fudging.
In his late 80s Earl Birney was as indefatigable romantically as Turvey was in trying to reach the Kootenays, and he found love and his poetic muse again with a woman half a century younger.
Given last love like Birney’s and the long love of the Pearkes, in Canada it’s ne’er too late.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 03, 1995
ID: 12867408
TAG: 199509010080
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C4
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

FEDERAL TORIES, NDP ARE ENDANGERED SPECIES

Argument about the future is heating up in both the federal New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservative party.
Once the Parti Quebecois’ referendum choice is rebuffed the way will be clear for the most open battle over ideas within federal parties since the 1960s. The outcomes will determine if these parties continue on the national scene into the 21st century, and they may fuel divisions of left and right within the Liberals, who are now (as so often) hogging a broad centre.
To shape its internal debate the federal Tories recently released “Developing a Conservative Agenda for Canadians.” The paper mirrors the attitudes of the party’s present leadership. It doesn’t challenge the past policies of the party but it attempts to marry popular, right wing issues like public security, fiscal restraint and tax reform with familiar Red Tory concerns for culture, sustainable development and government sponsorship of “employment opportunities.”
The authors show a remarkable faith in the ability of interventionist governments to handle a wide variety of issues, once these are properly identified and adequate resources are allocated to them. It seems lost on the authors that such views are almost anathema to voters in general and former Tory voters in particular.
It’s probably this steady-as-she-goes attitude of the federal Tories that prompted Premier Mike Harris last week to meet with Reform Leader Preston Manning to discuss Ontario’s federal interests, not with PC Leader Jean Charest. Manning and Harris share a much narrower view of government’s role. Should their meeting presage mutual co-operation it bodes badly for Charest and company.
It’s ironic the NDP is further down the road to ideological reform than the Tories because its party leadership is not so well ensconced and self-assured, enabling a more frank debate. Chris Axworthy, an NDP MP and almost a leadership candidate, recently called on his colleagues to admit that in many ways government as an institution has failed and voters have a right to be angry.
Until the party can explain why government went so wrong and offer credible assurances that it won’t in future it cannot expect to win many converts to its usual faith in intervention. That said, it didn’t seem to me Axworthy had the answers, except to call for more rigor in the managing and monitoring of governments.
The lack of such rigor is brought home to anyone examining the recent series of papers on our unemployment insurance system. UI is far off the rails. Far from being insurance against unforeseen loss of one’s job, it’s now a regional development program, a business subsidy and a quasi-welfare system all in one. Today much UI money goes to top up middle-class incomes of those in seasonal industries, helping their employers retain a ready labor pool at your expense.
And, as many have argued, UI has become a huge disincentive to movement of workers from areas of few jobs to where opportunities are better. Many of these problems grew from political manipulation of UI to solve other problems. The challenge is how such behavior can be prevented.
How is it that major programs like UI, developed and run by so many talented and well-paid people, can operate for decades without any ongoing evaluations as to efficiency and unintended impacts on the economy? Why has government after government backed away from real reform of UI?
Those rejecting interventionist politics feel government is such a behemoth it doesn’t know what effects its actions will have until it is too late. These UI reports confirm such suspicion.
Some consequences are well known: a fishery without fish, and the costliest educational system in the world turning out young people ill-suited for a radically changing economy.
To return to the basic question both the NDP and the PC’s must address: why has interventionist government so often failed?
Today’s cynics hold that those in government – both politicians and officials – are only in it for themselves, that the expertise of our public managers falls far short of their reach and the havoc created by those who abuse government programs is all too real. Thus, government should be as narrow in scope as possible.
Unfortunately for those who see a larger canvas for state activity, to date the evidence seems all on the cynics’ side. Axworthy is correct that only by responding to these scornful charges can those who believe in the interventionist state (as most New Democrats and Red Tories do) persuade the voters they have a sound plan for their future.
This may prove easier for the NDP, because on the left they have no rival party.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, September 01, 1995
ID: 12867156
TAG: 199508310131
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

NATIVES EXEMPT FROM RULE OF LAW

A reader with an ironic tilt thinks this column should press Parliament to pass a simple law as soon as possible to legalize illegal acts by natives that have become familiar from well beyond the Oka circus.
His argument? Law itself becomes a mockery when some laws are not applied whenever natives and their supporters claim a grievance or mistreatment regarding their rights or customs and traditions. As has been showcased once again in the B.C. interior, firearms are used to threaten, public roads and streams are blocked and in many locales contraband is smuggled and sold, property torched and fish and game regulations ignored – almost always with impunity from arrest and prosecution.
When such repetitious criminality is not treated as such a lot of citizens become confused. Why is “the rule of law,” a prideful feature of our “peaceable Kingdom,” ignored by the authorities?
Obviously our politicians should legalize what is evidently not illegal when done by aboriginals. Pass a law with a simple clause that the Criminal Code does not have relevance in any situation where natives have a grievance or a cause for action.
My reader thinks the melodrama that’s been underway over “sacred ground” in B.C. creates a perfect opportunity for the most vigilant, articulate minister in Jean Chretien’s cabinet. Yes, Allan Rock, the reform-minded justice minister, seems the perfect advocate for a law approving the common practices of police and prosecutors when dealing with natives with a grievance.
When I responded that such suggestions were sardonic, underlining a paradox but impossible for a government to act upon, he disagreed. Just consider how the Chretien government has changed the Constitution regarding aboriginal rights.
Of course, he was referring to the declaration in the famous Liberal Red Book that a Liberal government would act as though the inherent right of aboriginal self-government was constitutional, even though it is neither explicit in the Constitution nor has it been fully confirmed by the courts.
Surely, he argued, that declaration in the Red Book is no more sweeping than the bill he thinks Rock should champion.
LIBERAL PROCLAMATION
It’s true there’s been remarkably little criticism, editorially or by other political parties, of the Red Book proclamation that aboriginals have the right to self-government even though the form and scope of such self-government has not been defined. And last month after Ron Irwin and Anne McLellan, ministers respectively for Indian affairs and for Metis and non-status Indians, announced a fresh, “pragmatic” program of negotiating native self-government, band by band, there was no national outcry of protest even though the plan made some native chiefs unhappy.
The two ministers insisted there was no specific definition of self-government. There could be quite a range in what emerged from various completed negotiations with bands. But basic in the whole exercise is the constitutional decision already made – and not by Parliament and provincial legislatures or the Supreme Court. It’s in the Red Book.
My ironical reader thinks that with such a precedent it would not shake the earth for the Liberals to put through a bill to abjure charges whenever natives do what seems patently illegal in defence of their ancient customs and rights. I countered that the precedent did not suggest a law but merely an insertion of an addendum to the Red Book by the Liberal party.
He thought a law was preferable. When some laws are flaunted, all law is jeopardized. He pointed out that more than Ottawa and the natives are involved.
We’ve had countless first ministers’ conferences and papers on the aboriginal situation since the Trudeau government withdrew its grand plan for Indians in 1969 after the chiefs insisted it would mean assimilation. Most times premiers and their ministers have been involved. In total the provinces now spend about as much annually on native matters as Ottawa does (almost $7 billion). Further, the provinces are responsible for enforcing the Criminal Code offences which the natives seem to commit with impunity. The law, said my reader, would erase the perception provincial authorities condone law-breaking.
Of course, my reader and I know his idea won’t fly – its sense is too obvious. But considering it sets one wondering what’s in store for a federation dedicated constitutionally to “peace, order, and good government.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 30, 1995
ID: 12866853
TAG: 199508290117
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

LESBIANISM NOW A POLITICAL FORCE

A recent CBC Radio commentary on Canada at the UN’s fourth World Congress on Women in Beijing emphasized our front rank status in women’s causes. Both idealists and pragmatic activity have won laws on rights and programs for equity.
The item included some purposeful phrases from Sheila Finestone, Jean Chretien’s minister for women’s affairs. Dedicated and determined though she and her delegation may be at Beijing, Finestone said Canada doesn’t go there free from faults. Recent studies of women’s lives by StatsCan show a third of all Canadian females have suffered physical abuse and/or sexual harassment.
Those StatsCan studies have been taken apart by several academics. I thought them tommyrot, given the tilted survey questions. I checked with contacts in the agency who told me there was much internal shame among statisticians over the “abuse” figures. The shame is muffled because the StatsCan mandarinate is either petrified or mesmerized by the group who set up and carried out the studies.
My sources say several militant lesbians ran this show.
When I referred to this lesbian factor in a column an executive of the agency wrote the Sun scorning the idea there was either a lesbian provenance or tilted data in the violence studies.
Fair enough. But I do repeat the blemish – male mistreatment of females – which Finestone acknowledges has put on Canada’s reputation and leadership in women’s affairs. Why? Because it underlines the success of lesbians as coaches and quarterbacks in the officially approved women’s organizations of Canada.
The official group and most of the unofficial Canadians on the Beijing junket continue the causes worked up by women’s “libbers.” The most forceful of such activists have been lesbians, pushing an agenda to attain such as quotas for gender balance, wage and job parity, fertility control (by women) and the legal recognition of lesbian marriages.
In short, there is a serious, effective lesbian program under way in our politics even though that aspect of it has drawn little notice. The book I reviewed in my last column – The House that Jill Built, by historian Becki Ross – confirms lesbian leadership and that Jills don’t need Jacks.
Ross sketches why and how organized lesbianism emerged in Canada in the 1970s and ’80s within and alongside the women’s liberation movement.
ON THE BEACHHEADS
Lesbians were among those on the beachheads the libbers gained in community colleges, universities and key governmental agencies (like StatsCan and Sports Canada). They came to the front of many lobby groups, notably those largely funded by government.
For example, NAC (the National Action Committee on the Status of Women) is largely a sample and a symbol of lesbian achievement. “Women’s studies” have burgeoned; so has the ratio of women to men in law. Lesbian lawyers have been in the van of many Charter of Rights actions and led the lobbying for both same-sex rights and for equal status of native women under the Indian Act.
Early on some of the most vigorous feminists were Marxist or Trotskyite in their politics but found even the radical left had just a peripheral place for their cause. So the strategy developed of coupling women’s needs with their intrinsic worth and abilities to fashion their own platform of gender feminism.
Gender feminism’s goal is at least a 50-50 world. It now argues human sexuality is imposed by society. It is a social construct, therefore alterable. The dominance of male sexuality with its violence, callousness and competitiveness can be looped and subsumed by separating and advancing female sexuality with its caring, touching and linking.
As lesbians have organized and come forward they carry the word that the traditional relationships of men and women have always been flawed and unfair because of the male’s oppressive and exploitive nature. Many women who are not lesbians agree much must be done in law, policing, education and rights maintenance to counter male violence.
The critique of masculinity has been even more to the fore in lesbians’ papers, pickets and lobbying than the more elemental and prior pursuit of legal and social recognition for female homosexuality. Lesbians are often put off in joint activity with gays for the recognition of homosexuality because of gay promiscuity, even in the light of AIDS. More male irresponsibility and inconstancy!
It’s my hunch that lesbians and their gender feminism will be more celebrated and controversial in the next decade than gays and their causes have been in the last one.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 27, 1995
ID: 12866624
TAG: 199508250115
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

LESBIAN POLITICS OUT OF THE CLOSET

Lesbianism or, more specifically, lesbian politics in Canada, has been neither a familiar nor magnetic topic for me as a journalist or as an older male. This has changed recently through reading, notably a new book from University of Toronto Press by an historian, Becki L. Ross. It is titled The House that Jill Built, subtitled A Lesbian Nation in Formation.
The book is much more a sketch of organized lesbian activity in Canada than what it purports to be, i.e. an examination of the rise and decline in the ’70s of LOOT, the Lesbian Organization of Toronto. The book has made me realize that I and most other political writers have missed the political genius of lesbians and their influence on political activity, legislation and public opinion.
Putting it succinctly, lesbians, mostly in big cities, most notably in Toronto, became the spine of the feminist movement here in Canada and the core creators of its aims and strategies; for example, its stress on the high, harsh incidence of the physical abuse of women by men.
Particularly for one who has read widely for decades, it is hard to explain how late awareness and any knowledge of female homosexuality came to me. I met (to know it) my first homosexual male when 18. I encountered my first lesbian at 25 in a London pub, and because I was baffled by the woman’s behavior a kindly barmaid defined the words “butch” and “dyke” for me.
As I recall the times, my World War II generation was not so much anti-homosexual as uninformed and uninterested and unaware – and this comes from one who matured figuratively speaking in mine bunkhouses and army huts.
A consequence with me was to ignore the subject of homosexuality. When it began to surface in the 1960s and ’70s in debate regarding the Criminal Code (well before AIDS) it seemed a peripheral issue, one easily passed over by a columnist.
No more. Not since AIDS became the loudest global alarm since the grim truth of the Holocaust was sounded. But AIDS has seemed more about male homosexuality or affecting gay males and not female homosexuals or lesbians. Nonetheless, AIDS mushroomed awareness and a conflict of views regarding homosexuality. It also brought more gays out of the so-called closet, creating dramas, literature, and stimulating joint political activity by homosexuals of both sexes.
FEMINIST SURGE IN WESTERN WORLD
Of course what I and many others through ignorance or evasion were missing about homosexuality and lesbianism did not hold for feminism as it was flowering so strongly in the western world. Who could miss its surge, given the work of the Voice of Women and Lester Pearson’s royal commission on the status of women in Canada and best-sellers by Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem?
Scores of often ad hoc groups of “women’s libbers” emerged and disappeared, melded and split, almost always creating a spate of articles, pamphlets, briefs and newsletters on feminist themes.
Such materials are recorded in the huge bibliography of The House that Jill Built. Even more witness to the intensive discussion, writing and exchanging can be found in the bibliography of another new U of T book, A Diversity of Women: Ontario, 1945-1980, edited by Joy Parr. It has 10 long essays. One is by Nancy Adamson, now at Carleton University, a lesbian and once member of LOOT. Her title is graphic: “Feminists, Libbers, Lefties, and Radicals: The Emergence of the Women’s Liberation Movement.”
Before reading these two books I hadn’t appreciated what drive and verve a few score uncloseted lesbians had given the feminist movement. Their bravado and political muscularity underpinned confrontational politics and strident demands for rights, equity and fairness.
Of course, I had noticed such militancy emerging over a decade ago in NAC (the National Action Committee on the Status of Women). It was exhibited by leaders like Judy Rebick as they chewed at attitudes, practices and legislation that sustained a male-dominated society and the brutalizing with force and other harassments of a large proportion of Canadian women. But I hadn’t read the NAC scenario or other pressures and gains by the women’s movement as owing so much (symbolically) to women who loved women and who disliked or had little trust in men and the institutions and values which men controlled.
Next column, on Wednesday, some particulars from The House that Jill Built on lesbianism, including the difficulties in joint lobbying by gays and lesbians.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, August 25, 1995
ID: 12866373
TAG: 199508240195
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

CABINET BALKS AT DEFENCE UPGRADES

Minor revolts in the Liberal caucus have had a lot of media notice, but a cabinet split over defence policy has not been much remarked on.
Nor has a PM quick to punish any MP bold enough to balk at spending cuts or gun control been willing to discipline ministers who undercut his government’s defence policies.
Thus, one must wonder if we have a defence policy and, if so, why Jean Chretien doesn’t back it.
A white paper last December stated our defence priorities for the post-Cold War era. It posited a leaner, more efficient military: personnel would be cut and bases closed, with savings channelled to various re-equipment programs. These included updating armored personnel carriers (APCs), replacing shipborne multi-role and land-based search and rescue helicopters and replacing our aging conventional submarines.
Do you recall these re-equipments were leaked to the Globe, precipitating the early release of the white paper? My DND contacts saw the leak as a bid by cabinet left-wingers to rouse public opposition to any orders before DND had a chance to put them in context.
The leaking and the squabbling has continued. Stories popped up on the Globe front page every time the DND “wish list” went to cabinet. Perhaps not coincidentally, the decisions kept being put off – until last week when the defence minister was able to announce a little progress. DND will buy 240 new APCs from GM in London and APCs now in service will be modernized. As context the minister explained some Third World armies have better equipment and our APCs in Bosnia are 30 years old.
Do these orders indicate the cabinet’s left wing recognizes our military seeks bare necessities, not a wish list? Hardly!
The timing shows some factors beyond military imperatives were key. The GM order was needed to keep the production line open beyond 1998, and farming the refurbishment work to Chatham, N.B., was a boost to Premier Frank McKenna’s election campaign. More significantly, Defence Minister David Collenette could not say when our decrepit helicopters and submarines, of the same vintage as the APCs, might be replaced.
INTERNATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT
The cabinet’s defence dithering should be an international embarrassment. Last year the British offered us four virtually new Upholder class submarines to replace three Oberons, so old they are prohibited from deep diving. For a small cash payment and the continued use of various training facilities we would get the most advanced conventional subs there are. The advantages of immediate acquisition and little capital outlay were not enough to win cabinet approval.
The British, fed up, announced they would wait no more and now plan to sell to Chile.
Collenette still wants subs but this seems unlikely. The import of his failure goes beyond missing a good deal. Editorialists may characterize subs as relics of the Cold War but they’ve been selling well since the Berlin Wall fell. Many regional powers have acquired them or expressed interest in doing so. (Iran, India, and Thailand come to mind.) Despite this market the Brits wanted to sell to sell to us. Why?
First, such sophisticated boats deserve experienced users. But more important, since early in World War II Canada, the U.K., and the U.S. have shared he task of keeping Atlantic shipping lanes open and this has meant training to hunt subs of all types. Yet neither of our closest allies today operates conventional subs, which are quieter and harder to find than their nuclear cousins.
By selling to us the British assure their own anti-sub forces and those of the U.S. the opportunity of regular training against such vessels. The spread of conventional submarines to such areas of strategic concern to the western allies as the Persian Gulf, the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea means that Russian subs rusting in ports may no longer be a concern but those of other navies may soon be.
The end of the Cold war did not end the need for anti-submarine capability, it just made the possible threat less immediate and changed its geographic focus to the Pacific (an area our defence white paper says Canada must give more attention). If we abandon a conventional submarine capability our closest allies must look elsewhere. Should we be comfortable with the British and U.S. navies turning to the Chileans?
The defence white paper set out a new policy and a procurement program to match, both at bare minimums. Savings from cuts and closings were to go for re-equipping. Clearly on submarines, and almost certainly on helicopters, the cabinet has decided otherwise. Jean Chretien has not stood behind David Collenette and what purportedly was government policy.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 23, 1995
ID: 12866103
TAG: 199508220090
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

ROCK’S GUN LAW HITS A BRICK WALL

It is likely Allan Rock, the federal justice minister, will have more success in both effect and in his own enhancement for a grander political role with his campaign against deadbeat dads than with his gun registry legislation.
Few have realized it but the latter, though not quite dead, is unlikely to ever be realized in a full and thorough operation. This has little to do with what Tory senators may do with the bill passed by the House but to governmental and public opinion factors.
With the newish Ontario government joining the Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta governments against the registration system in prospect and with its maintenance, it has become obvious it will take an extraordinary compromise by the Chretien government – like assuming the entire cost – to ever get the system running and the law effective.
Meanwhile, the antagonism to Rock has not abated in those furious about the law – particularly in the some 100 largely hinterland or mostly rural ridings, about half of which are held by Liberal MPs.
If some Liberals, notably in Metro, see Rock as the top prospect in ability and style to succeed Jean Chretien when he chooses to retire, others I think more numerous but less concentrated and away from the great “action” centre of Canada, have the plain but busy premier of New Brunswick in mind as their next federal leader.
Frank McKenna, at 47, is five months younger than Rock. Polls indicate he will be easily re-elected despite some mettlesome attackers. Federal Liberals know the premier is not running against a patsy in Bernard Valcourt, the new Conservative leader in New Brunswick. When Valcourt was a forceful member of the Brian Mulroney cabinets some bystanders (myself included) thought him as impressive a talent as Jean Charest.
Thus far, this quite quiet summer has neither dimmed nor brightened the status in the party and across the land of the only other Liberal now much considered as an heir apparent to the PM – Paul Martin, the minister of finance. He wears well.
NO LIGHTNING ROD
What is a bit unusual about the attitudes to him I detect among both his elected and staff colleagues is a dearth of either disparagement or furies over cuts or restraints or negatives attributed to him and his mandarins. Usually the minister of finance is a lightning rod for considerable bitching, especially by the lower, inner ranks. Martin is not yet a well-loved colleague but certainly he is a very well-liked one.
The only other members of the Chretien cabinet who have ever been mooted as prospective prime ministers by either gossip or their past, open intentions are Sheila Copps, Lloyd Axworthy and Brian Tobin.
Fisheries Minister Tobin has surprised a lot of us by never saying anything openly about the ultimate post while more than hinting he wants to succeed Clyde Wells as premier of Newfoundland. Tobin is a grand talker and a House and hustings firebrand, but if he chooses to remain in Ottawa he needs accomplishments in a social portfolio with more national implications than fisheries and oceans has.
I hesitate to appraise where Copps stands in either caucus or the public’s regard. It has depressed me beyond reason that such a loudmouth, know-little could be taken as a serious contender for her party’s leadership and even become the deputy prime minister of Canada.
Nevertheless, nothing I have heard the past year on the Hill from her colleagues or officials has been positive.
It is not the same story for Axworthy. A pocket of Liberal MPs remains hopeful and fancies a resurrection to renown for Axworthy, not as actual leader of the government but as the determined advocate for the country’s underdogs. For them he represents continuity back to the Liberals’ reforming, nationalistic days when the late Walter Gordon (and the Toronto Star) was a mighty influence.

Although rumors of cabinet changes have subsided, probably till after Labor Day, external forces have been roiling three significant subject areas this summer and making more dubious the usefulness of the present federal ministers with some responsibility in them: first, Diane Marleau and the renewed debate over some privatization of medicare; second, David Collenette and reorienting the use of our military abroad; third, Michel Dupuy and the broad future of telecommunications, not just the CBC or changing roles for satellite and cable.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 20, 1995
ID: 12666981
TAG: 199508180117
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

COOL HAND CHRETIEN KNOWS OUR MOODS//THE PM HAS DEMONSTRATED A GENIUS FOR READING THE VOTERS IN CANADA’S MANY REGIONS

DATELINE: OTTAWA
Why shouldn’t the federalists talk future constitutional changes?
Confident, almost swaggering, the separatists are away on the Quebec referendum campaign. They exploit the contradiction between Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s refusal to talk Constitution and Quebec Liberal Leader Daniel Johnson’s assurance that after a No vote at least two adjustments must follow: recognition of Quebec as a distinct society and as having a veto on any constitutional proposals.
Why has Chretien so determinedly refused to discuss the Constitution since taking power? Why especially, given that even federalists in Quebec provincial politics such as Johnson and his predecessor, Robert Bourassa, have insisted there must be some changes. They’ve pushed this ever since the Trudeau government in 1981 attained some major change without the concurrence of the Quebec government or the National Assembly.
What follows concludes with my personal reason for accepting Chretien’s stand against discussing change in the Constitution before the referendum vote. The prelude recites what I am sure is Chretien’s thinking on his theme.
His most repeated explanation has some merit. It is that such discussion at once opens a mine field of arguments that Quebec voters would have to dodge through. It would divert them from the gut decision: in Canada, or out of Canada. Once in Canada has triumphed then there may come, and probably will come, initiatives on the Constitution.
Recent, open maunderings about Quebec and the Parti Quebecois-Bloc Quebecois initiatives by two premiers, Ontario’s Mike Harris and Alberta’s Ralph Klein, indicate that attaining a consensus of all premiers but Jacques Parizeau on what Johnson has just suggested would make for chaos among the federalists. It is too late for such a consensus although it was hardly possible, given Chretien’s obduracy and the overshadowing of federal politics last year by the Quebec election and this year by the Ontario election.
What continues to impress me after 32 years of familiarity with Chretien the politician is his acuity in reading public moods in all of Canada and the accuracy of his appraisal of Quebecers vis-a-vis Canada. He first propounded the latter to me in 1966.
He was the parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance and had made a speech in Quebec that got little notice elsewhere. A wire story had the young MP from St. Maurice-Lafleche saying Quebecers were too realistic on bread and butter matters like jobs and pensions to choose separation from Canada, even if they had a right to such a determination.
Of course, Chretien often reiterated his appraisal after 1966. At home it bought him tags of “vendu” and “white nigger.” In the rest of Canada it has buttressed a long popularity as a plain, frank guy. And he can point, and has, to the referendum which Rene Levesque, the messiah of independence lost, and to the remarkable, steady support of federalism in Quebec as shown by opinion polling for many years and as recently as this week.
I think the PM has been reading “the rest of Canada,” and the West in particular since the Charlottetown agreement was so wholeheartedly rejected despite its powerful auspices as follows:
Worse than being bored or exhausted by constitutional stuff, the rest of Canada wants no more of it. Overwhelmingly it is so fed up with Quebec as the ceaseless dilemma that if it chooses not to stay, then to hell with Quebec and Quebecers.
The PM knows his standing will plummet toward Brian Mulroney’s at its worst if he makes any assays on the Constitution such as Mulroney pushed with the Meech deal and then with the Charlottetown accord.
So Chretien waits without broaching possibilities, absolutely sure Quebecers will demonstrate his original analysis of 30 years ago still stands up in 1995. It should.
I recall arguing with him in the late ’70s that separatism’s victory was inevitable. An ever-larger swatch of young people were becoming voters who had been taught by nationalists and were fascinated by Levesque’s personality.
Time proved me wrong.
I remember Chretien insisted that the young people knew they and Quebec were prospering and would come to share their parents’ insight that some of this was from being Canadian.
Chretien’s not my all-purpose politician, but what a cool head and hands he has as prime minister. If he is wrong and the PQ-BQ hits 50% of the vote he is dead politically, at once. He could not negotiate (nor can his ministry) a new relationship between the other provinces and what’s left of Parliament and the federal system with Jacques Parizeau.
I’m sure he’s losing no sleep at such a possibility.
Forecast? Federalism by at least 10 points.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, August 18, 1995
ID: 12666738
TAG: 199508170120
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

SELF-GOVERNMENT THAT MAKES SENSE

There were glimmers of good reasoning in the plans for native self-government put out by Ron Irwin, minister for Indian and northern affairs and Ann McLennan, Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s interlocutor with Metis and non-status Indians.
And the ministers were smart to move before the final report of Brian Mulroney’s long, costly royal commission on aboriginal concerns came out with more expensive ways to make up for the white man’s guilt.
It is clear the new proposals dowse the over-puffed grandeur of first nation aspirations as presented by the last three grand chiefs, Ovide Mercredi, George Erasmus and Dave Ahenikew. Gone is an idea of a third form of government and aboriginal seats at the United Nations and dual citizens who would have both a non-native and a native prime minister. Instead, on scores of present reserves over years we will get many municipal-like communities which will be closer to their provincial government than to Ottawa.
Much was missing from the new paper Aboriginal Self-government. For example, it was without reference to the rapidly altering demographics and cultural trends among natives. These are drastically changing the aboriginal issue and ruining the economic prospects of most reserves. Above all, the trends undercut the optimism fostered by the attempts to revive heritage and ceremonies which anthropologists and sociologists have so encouraged.
The prospects are ever worse, not better, for retaining and strengthening a distinctive Indian culture and way of life. It may be possible on isolated reserves, or in the territories with huge lands and few people, but the worsening is widespread simply because members of so many bands are choosing to live in cities.
FEW SPECIFICS
What censuses, band registrations and the Metis and non-status native organizations indicate is that Canada has from 750,000 to 900,000 people who will claim to be aboriginal. Over half of such numbers do not live with bands or on reserves. For these many thousands the new program has few specifics on how the recognized “right of self-government” will work for them, although it is clear much depends on provincial governments and their municipal creatures with their services and standards in education, training, health, child welfare and housing.
Also, the new program has nothing on how the disparate realities across a spectrum of over 500 bands may be evened. There are big spreads in membership, land holdings, and in locales where real participation in local and regional economies is possible.
Neither the white nor native politicians have chosen to notice that thousands of young “status” Indians have been voting with their feet and choosing city life. More striking, though less quantifiable, is their growing immersion in popular North American culture – music, sport, dress, style and socializing (including drugs and drink) and their disinterest in the mooted wisdom of their elders, tribal language or the once prime native vocations of trapping, fishing and hunting.
The explanations by Irwin and McLennan of their plans put such emphasis on pragmatism and “tri-partite” arrangements for the services, laws and regulations of the provinces that I was reminded of Pierre Trudeau’s “bronze” paper of 1969. It foresaw the disappearance of the Indian Act and the Indian affairs department; natives were to be citizens like all the rest of us, served more by provincial and municipal systems than by the federal government. Trudeau dropped the program when many Indian leaders objected it meant assimilation and repudiated their relationship as wards of the Crown and their status as a distinctive people.
Shortly after abandoning full, integrated citizenship for Indians the Trudeau government took up a continuing review of Indian treaties and the idea there should be generous land settlements in line with past occupation and in light of current needs. And then, as purposeful, constitutional change seized Trudeau an attitude crystallized among our political, bureaucratic and editorial elite that Indians must have a regular role in constitutional discussion and a position (limited, of course) at first ministers’ conferences on Confederation and its future.
The Chretien government is abandoning constitutional grandeur in native affairs. Land settlements and treaty discussion will inch along, but now the main aim is pushing bands to govern their own communities like other villages and towns.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 16, 1995
ID: 12666513
TAG: 199508150069
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

VJ-DAY ANSWERED SOLDIERS’ PRAYERS

On Aug. 15, 1945, a small liner docked at Quebec City after a voyage from Liverpool carrying Canadian soldiers. Like me, most of them were second-time volunteers, this time to fight in the Pacific against Japan.
Quebec was en fete because it was VJ-Day. Our welcome was negligible but our joy was high as we marched off below the cliffs to the waiting trains. Suddenly we were free from more battles and being killed or wounded.
Just out of Liverpool we heard of “the bomb” being dropped on Hiroshima, and shortly on Nagasaki. Those like me who had read secret army “I” reports knew a unique bomb was in the works. But given Japanese pride, unity and courage we were not sure the bomb’s fearful force would make the emperor ask for peace. I also remembered the faith Hitler and Goebbels had had that their V-1 and V-2 rockets would decide the war. Anyway, we prayed and we anticipated. And shortly after Father’s Point was passed we heard Hirohito had sued for peace.
For me this was to mean not a slot in the 6th Canadian Division but one within seven weeks at Ryerson, where began a six-year assay in studying history and archives, underwritten by the Veterans’ Charter.
Given this past and a long immersion in reading all I could about World War II you may understand why I reject the revisionism of some historians, mainly left-wing Americans, that Harry Truman’s decision to drop the bombs was unwarranted and had more to do with checkmating Stalin than saving the lives of those who would have had to storm Japan’s home islands.
Nothing I could see then or know now from reading, including the anti-bomb revisionists’ books, has changed my opinion nor my gratitude to Truman.
Long ago, however, my animus and ferocity against the Japanese ebbed away and I have marvelled at what they have wrought since they came under the enlightened tutelage of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. But the stiff pride they continue to show in refusing to apologize formally or give redress to the victims of their rampages in China and South East Asia and their cruelty to prisoners and subject peoples does remind me what a tough, vicious and proud enemy they were to us. And I have trouble with those who now insist their defeat was sure and inevitable. It did not seem so in 1942.
And that bleak remembrance brings me to the most stupid, bootless profligacy of the Mulroney government. It spent just short of $400 million, paying $21,000 a head to those Japanese and Japanese Canadians and their offspring whom our government removed (legally!) from the B.C. coast in early 1942.
FEAR OF SABOTAGE
The open reason given was fear of both sabotage and a potential, potent “fifth column.” Many were fishermen who knew the intricate channels well through which a then triumphant Japanese navy might come to land forces or bombard our shores. A less open but substantial reason was the deep antagonism of so many in the B.C. population against this ethnic group of approximately 22,000. Combine such animosity with the fears of attacks on the coast after the devastation of Pearl Harbor and the romps of Japanese divisions and fleets at Hong Kong and Singapore and in Java, Burma, Malaya and the Philippines.
It was wise to intern and remove.
(Of course, Mulroney’s costly assuaging of a very dubious guilt – dubious given sound reasons for the evacuation – became a precedent for demands from those Canada interned in one or both of two world wars – Italians, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Galicians, etc. The Chretien government has been wise to state it shall not imitate Mulroney’s Japanese precedent.)
My joy as we landed in Quebec that it was VJ-Day had added flavor because the regiment I had fought with in Europe had been the first rushed from Ontario to Vancouver Island after Pearl Harbor.
In my opinion our cause against the Axis powers seemed grim to hopeless until the late summer of 1942. As we dug gun pits on island beaches the Germans were within shelling range of Moscow and Egypt seemed ready for their plucking. The Japanese had walloped the U.S. fleet, sunk Britain’s best big ships and gobbled up most of Oceania.
Believe me, for months as soldiers we feared the worst. So did the civilians along the straits we were to defend with archaic rifles, few machineguns and no real armor. Both for our confidence and their own safety the evacuation of the Japanese, citizens or not, was not a vengeful deprivation of human rights but sensible in the war’s circumstances from December, 1941 until far into 1942. And it was well into 1943 before we realized the tide was not running with the Axis.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 13, 1995
ID: 12666226
TAG: 199508110126
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

A WAY OUT OF THE BALKAN BOG

This past week one of the warring parties in what was Yugoslavia took matters into its own hands, contemptuously brushing aside UN forces put there to keep them from their opponents’ throats (and vice versa).
The willingness of those with guns to use them has exposed again the pointlessness of the West’s serial attempts at negotiated settlement.
Without a peace to keep, the blue helmets have again been overrun, detained and, according to some sources, even used as human shields. A few even paid the ultimate price, though fortunately not Canadians. They suffered nothing worse than bruised egos at being pushed aside for the umpteenth time. Today our forces are in search of a sensible mandate, their own blown away by the Croatian victory in Krajina.
Yet the Croatian push has been welcomed by many commentators in the West, happy at any rebuff of the Serbs. Gwynne Dyer, one-time Cold War expert for the CBC, says “We have reached the endgame,” that we can expect the various clashes in the region to be settled in the near future.
Editorials in Canada and throughout the West which a fortnight ago were despairing of the Bosnian situation are hard pressed to dampen their glee at Croatian victories. Even the U.S. secretary of defence has let it out that now he’s cautiously optimistic on the chances of resolving the various struggles in the Balkan cockpit.
How is it that our latest humiliation is seen as “fortunate”?
The Serbs have long been the bogeyman in the West’s Balkan nightmares. Fairly or not, they are cast as the principal aggressor in the conflicts, the leading abuser of women and children, the strongest advocate of ethnic cleansing. So what should have been more despair at the UN’s impotence in Krajina has been subsumed by an atavistic delight at the far greater humiliation of the Serbs. What else explains silence at the outrageous treatment of the peacekeepers by the Croats?
Where were the calls for air strikes or intervention by the ironically named Rapid Reaction Force?
The reaction of the West underlines the deep desire to have an end to the Balkan turmoil no matter how such a settlement is reached or what its particulars should encompass, provided it does not appear to give the Serbs everything they want.
FEELING GUILTY
Guilty feelings seem endemic in the West. Over the past year opinion in the media, including letters to the editor, has had a remarkable focus on our misery at the never-ending images of misery in the Balkans. Oh, how we want an end to feeling guilty and impotent. Hence the relief at the notion a deal may be in the works between Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic and Croatia’s Franjo Tudjman. That such a settlement would likely split much of Muslim Bosnia between them seems unlikely to shake western consciences – provided the killing stops.
Dyer, in a piece for the Montreal Gazette, acknowledged this and urged the Bosnian Muslims to launch an all-out assault on the Bosnian Serbs while the latter are shaken by the rout of their allies in Krajina. (Such bloodthirstiness from Dyer may explain his recent absence from the CBC.)
What can we expect from our government in all this? More of what we’ve had, which is absolutely nothing.
Although Foreign Minister Andre Ouellet has said all the parties in the conflict should be locked in a room, this fits with the lift in opinion provided by Croatian arms but it’s neither analytical nor constructive.
On the steamrolling of our troops by the Croats, Ouellet said “Their mission is seriously compromised and we have to review – depending on what happens in the next few days – what we should do with our peackeeping mission.” A spokesman for our hapless defence minister (who cannot even get cabinet permission to spend his own budget) noted that, “Clearly the mandate has to evolve to reflect the changes.”
How expert we’ve become at evolving mandates. Our service people have invested sweat and blood in helping out in the Balkans and as taxpayers we’ve put millions into the Balkan morass. Throughout, our government has had nothing to offer in initiatives. Too often it has played weak sister, set against stronger actions by our allies because our forces are too vulnerable and we are unable to either strengthen or remove them.
The best one can say is that Canadian leaders have said so little about what they believe a just peace should contain it will hard to accuse them of hypocrisy if the settlement that may be in the works proves expedient, leaving the Muslims in the lurch.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, August 11, 1995
ID: 12665987
TAG: 199508100135
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

PM’S IRON FIST RILES CANADIANS

The Hill Times asked three Liberal MPs in Ottawa for a mid-week caucus: “What’s the most important issue for your constituents this summer?”
Their answers didn’t quite match what I heard from those I met on a ramble by car through many constituencies.
Not that the MPs were swanning for answers. One said the top issue was the need for more jobs; one said it was deep concern over the Bosnian crisis; the third said his voters talked most about the backlash from Allan Rock’s gun control measure.
Fair enough. But the priorities of those whom I talked with were the following: Liberal caucus discipline; MPs’ pensions; concern over whatever “harmonization of the GST” means; and what is going to happen to the CN and CP rail lines?
No person first brought up Quebec or the separation referendum, and only a minority ever got around to it.
The most mentioned grievance was somewhat but not wholly related to gun control. The responses were usually couched in either anger or puzzlement.
Such feelings were roused by the disciplining of various Liberal MPs for jumping the party line in the House or its committees, in particular the case of veteran Warren Allmand, whacked by the whip for speaking against what Paul Martin’s budget did to Liberal liberalism.
Almost everyone I spoke with had views which ranged from fair, to good, to high about Jean Chretien as prime minister, but as one said: “How can such a common sense guy punish an MP for saying what he believes or what he finds most of his constituents believe?”
I’d make the point that before the disciplining, which began with a rural Ontario MP being dropped from a committee for speaking against the gun bill, the PM had made clear in caucus and outside to reporters that he expected those who had run as Liberals on the Liberal program would not act and speak against the programs and legislation which he and the cabinet had decided should go forward. He warned that he considered such disloyalty serious enough to deny a dissenter his confirmation as a Liberal for re-election.
Such an explanation – an excuse if you will – for Chretien just made those objecting angrier. Damn it all, they wanted their MP to be more than just an automatic vote for everything the government proposed.
THE TOP CONCERN
You may wonder why I make much of this issue from a small, casual sampling of views. But it’s odd, after decades of experience with political parties, that in a score of conversations with people from different places this topic came up so much, usually at or near the top of concerns.
A retired farmer from Saskatchewan, aware I had once been an MP (CCF-NDP, 1957-65) got me going by saying: “As I remember, you as an MP didn’t toe your party’s line all the time.”
It wasn’t that simple, I told him.
First, I emphasized that I’d been an opposition MP, not one supporting a government. Any view put forward by an opposition MP can hardly hazard a majority government.
Second, I said it pained me to admit it but in all my risings to vote in the House in eight years I had never voted contrary to a decision taken by the majority of caucus, even though the NDP caucus had agreed this was all right on a matter of personal conscience.
Why hadn’t I? Because I had run on the party ticket, accepted both the party’s election platform and the caucus process in which there was discussion, then a decision by vote on how the caucus would vote in the House.
More than any PM since Mackenzie King, Chretien knows that governments move toward their defeats largely through the cumulative impression from the behavior of ministers and MPs in Parliament. He’s a very tough survivor of electoral battles and of contests within the caucus and the party, for example, consider how he undermined the solidarity of John Turner’s caucus.
Today Chretien has overwhelming numbers with him in the House, but he knows that caucus unity can disintegrate. When internal divisions on issues burst into the open and go unchecked the leader looks weaker and the government looks confused. He isn’t having it.
My hunch is that he hasn’t done it as well as he could, in part by not explaining to the public why loyalty is the foundation of a party in power, in part by not setting instances in which contrary views would be acceptable to him.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 02, 1995
ID: 12665014
TAG: 199508010059
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

REVISING PET’S WARTIME PAST

A lot of us with many years to look back on will review some of our actions and work up explanations, and, as some would say, excuses. One might call it personal revisionism which, of course, is sometimes done by relatives and friends.
A recent happening to a prominent public person connects me with the topic.
There has been an adjustment from 1945 to 1946 of Pierre Trudeau’s graduation from Harvard. It was noted and analyzed by my colleague, Michel Gratton, in the Sun July 28.
Why at this late date (he’s 75) would Trudeau shift his Harvard graduation a year backward? Gratton also noted previous revisions by the former PM, particularly the backing of his birthdate from 1921 to 1919, after his true age was revealed.
Gratton speculated – sensibly I think – that the original reason why PET dated his graduation at 1945 was to put a less critical retrospect on a personal decision he had made not to give active service in the war for Canada.
The young Trudeau was of prime age and in fine health when Canada introduced national service, effective in 1941, when the war was going badly for Canada. When he emerged in 1968 as a candidate to lead the Liberals, one dashing episode of his past had him roaring around wartime Montreal on a motorcycle with a swastika on his helmet.
How did he miss being conscripted?
A healthy male in his 20s needed acceptable reasons such as work valuable to the war effort, say on a farm, or as a machinist, or being close to completing an education significant to the war.
Trudeau suggested in his memoirs of two years ago that, like most French Canadians, he had been cool and detached about Canada at war. He hadn’t appreciated its global enormity and significance for humanity until he got to Harvard for his graduate work – in 1945 if he graduated in 1946, in 1944 if he graduated in 1945. A listener could believe that in Boston Trudeau came to regret he was not in Canada’s armed forces fighting fascism.
Of course the truth is that he was … in a way! Such a way that enabled him to keep going to school and even get to Boston in 1944, the crucial year of the war in Western Europe. It was the year when all Canada discovered it had a manpower problem which blew up into a national crisis.
STAGGERING CASUALTIES
Infantry casualties in Europe had been staggering. There weren’t enough reinforcements to bring companies up to strength. Most regiments from Quebec were even shorter of reinforcements than those from the rest of Canada – for example like the Fusiliers of Montreal (the FMRs) and the famed Van Doos.
Trudeau was not conscripted because he was already in the army. He held an officer’s commission from the King. He was in the second or “reserve” regiment of the FMRs. For almost two years before he went to Boston he had trained, in uniform, at the regiment’s Montreal armory where there would have been an emphasis that the training was to support the “first” FMRs overseas with trained reinforcements from home.
I have not seen the military records which show the duties and time served by 2nd Lieut. Trudeau, but a bona fide historian told me years ago that Trudeau had taken enough part in FMR work not to be struck off strength or to have his freedom from conscription for service within Canada ended.
It beggars credulity that a young man as bright as Trudeau with ties and access to both French and English Montrealers would not be seized with the enormity of the conflict until after he, literally a Canadian army officer, got to study at Harvard.
The supposition which makes sense is that he decided some time fairly early in the war not to go and fight but instead of heading for the woods, say like Real Caouette, or taking another route to the war through the American military like Rene Levesque, he would bypass conscripted service by the simple attainment of a “reserve” commission.
Such a bypass followed from Trudeau being in college in Quebec and training within the officer training programs set up for undergraduates. Of course, a bypass of such a sort was clever, but it wasn’t the stuff to fit a legend of a French Canadian rejecting the idea of fighting Britain’s wars. Even at anniversary events in Normandy cemeteries where many of his fellow FMRs are buried PET never mentioned his ties with the regiment.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 30, 1995
ID: 12664723
TAG: 199507280070
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

REVISED HISTORY A BATTLE GROUND

Revisionism is the tag put on latter-day re-evaluations of major events and episodes in history. It should be commonplace that some in almost every generation in most Western countries will try to change interpretations of what did happen and why so, and will sometimes succeed.
Often such fresh appreciations are fiercely fought over because they contradict, mock and alter long-cherished appreciations. Take two recent examples of revisionism’s impact regarding World War II.
In the U.S., the Enola Gay exhibit in Washington on the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb was drastically altered after veterans and congressman objected to interpretation that the bombing was unnecessary and inordinately cruel.
Here we’ve had The Valour and the Horror, a TV series sponsored by the CBC and the NFB. It was extolled by many (creative!); others ridiculed it as biased and untrue.
Some RCAF veterans of Bomber Command sued the producers and sponsors of The Valour for group libel. Last month the Ontario court of appeal, the decision written by well-known judge Rosie Abella, dismissed the appeal against a lower court dismissal of the case.
In her summary, Abella said the film is aptly named and does nothing to hurt the perception the crews were heroic or that a victory for Nazi Germany would have been cataclysmic. Some matters raised, she said, “may be painfully provocative … but one cannot and should not inhibit the ongoing scrutiny of historical events … Searching through the past will provide a continuous yield of information which … will provide a continuous yield of historical opinion. The exploration and continuous curiosity about history is inevitable and desirable, however much we may quarrel with any given historian’s application of historical opinion to historical fact.”
If one reflects back to World War II and its origins, course, and consequences, the particular themes that victory came in large part through bombing are important but not nearly as much as another happening which still reverberates around the world: The Holocaust.
MANY POST-WAR CONSEQUENCES
It seems to many (myself included) the most brutal, terrible, deliberate tragedy in history. Millions of European Jews were exterminated, victims of Nazi anti-Semitism. The post-war consequences have been many, including the development and sustaining of Israel and the determination by Jews that “never again” should Jews be without a homeland.
Last May I wrote a column commenting on statements by Irving Abella, retiring head of the Canadian Jewish Congress, on a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Canada and “new peddlers of intolerance” whose “weapon is Holocaust denial.” Such denial, Abella said, is “the organizing metaphor of the new and frightening anti-Jewish movements of this decade.”
My opinions last May were that there seemed much less, not more, anti-Semitism in Canada and that I had not been encountering people who denied the Holocaust or dismissed either its evil or its scale.
After the column Sol Littman, Canadian representative of the Simon Weisenthal Centre sent me a copy of the Centre’s booklet Holocaust Denial: Bigotry in the guise of scholarship, which explodes the phoney research and twisting of reason by those who revise and distort the most awful massacre of all.
The Holocaust as it’s been accepted generally is vital in sustaining the raison d’etre and continued existence of Israel in the face of bitter regional enemies. It is the foundation stone on which anti-racism policies and programs stand. The Holocaust must not be revised into a fable.
Littman needled me when he wrote: “Granted that few people in the enlightened circles you encounter … find Holocaust denial.” My circle is too plain and ordinary in education, occupation, and interests to be classed as “enlightened” but I repeat that for all my limited reach I don’t see anti-Semitism on a roll in Canada.
Of course I realize why Abella and Littman want the gist of the Holocaust to stand. But they might read Rosie Abella’s judgment on The Valor and appreciate how glibly deceits in re-interpreting the past may be justified, even praised.
Yes, Irving Abella, a historian, is the husband of Justice Rosie Abella who validated the worth of continuous historical revision and the particular re-interpretation of a cruel “Bomber” Harris slaughtering German civilians barbarically, ineffectually (i.e., strategically), and at a bitter price in his pawns, the air crews.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, July 28, 1995
ID: 12664494
TAG: 199507270161
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

TIME FOR NEW NATIVE POLICY

This column leads into the ideas of B.C. lawyer Mel Smith in his new book Our Home or Native Land? The work springs from West Coast experience but its view is of a serious national dilemma. The forward by Rafe Mair, a celebrated B.C. talk show host in Vancouver suggests the topicality of Smith’s arguments.
In B.C. there’s more public awareness and critical opinion on native issues than elsewhere in Canada – even than in Quebec where the northern Cree threaten secession. Why so? The sum of native claims for land in B.C. is larger than all B.C. Also a goodly part of the 95,000 status Indians there live close to or in the big cities, not mostly in the hinterlands. There’s also been intense controversy on the coast over natives over-fishing (perhaps poaching?) salmon. And one lower mainland band at Secheldt has been in Parliament’s van and has created its own constitution and government on municipal, not provincial or “nation” lines.
Other reasons for B.C.’s edge in concern go back to before white colonization. Compared to Laurentian shield and prairie natives, the coast natives had a higher standard of living and more sophistication from their dealings with white seafarers. And neither before Confederation nor later were so-called treaties entered into with west coast natives like those framed and signed in the Canadas and across the prairies. Being outside treaties makes B.C. a hard nut to crack for band lawyers.
Smith argues crisis because the map of Canada is being redrawn and few are watching. Huge tracts of public lands are going forever to relatively few aborigines (who make up about 2% of Canadians). Aborginal rights are being extended which courts have denied. Billions go each year to seemingly ineffective native programs. Governments (federal and provincial) grant to native leaders the inherent right of self-government where no courts have found such rights.
Smith insists there must be an end to 125 years of flawed native policies and an end to the shackles of dependency. We must insist natives be equal with all other Canadians and have full and free participation in our affairs. Their segregation and quasi-apartheid must end. We must stop trying to finance the recreation of societies which have long been gone, which like mere subsistence societies everywhere were brutal in terms of disease and mortality, and which have little utility and nil prospects of progress as part of the on-going society and economy of Canada as a whole.
RESERVES CUT OFF
The author recapitulates how appeasing the broad guilt felt for the past treatment of natives and their marginality in our minds and in society in general has become the foundation both for throwing money at the dilemma and the ceaseless litany of wrongs we now get from native leaders. And they use this as justification for threats, blockades, “warriors,” smuggling, poaching, and a right to sponsor and profit from gambling. Meantime most natives on reserves are cut off from the market place and public affairs and are so dependent on welfare, with their kids increasingly heading for the cities.
The first cornerstone of a fresh, different native policy must be a far greater self-reliance on the part of natives themselves. The second stone to be put in place is equality before the law.
Smith proposes what he calls jurisdictional integration of natives and their communities with the governmental services and institutions and the communities around them.
He says the thicket of laws, regulations, and procedures which separate natives from their fellow Canadians must be cut away. Today’s native leadership is so often undemocratic and irresponsible because it is cocooned by the thicket, much of whose growth comes from the paternalistic Indian Act. Both the act (and the tax exemptions it grants) and the department of Indian Affairs must be done away with.
Equality under the law simply means there should be no special privileges based on race or ethnicity, a simple necessity if Canada is not to become a crazy quilt has not been much talked about.
Of course, the new policy must honor existing rights and aboriginal interests as defined by law. Keep reserves intact if natives want them and are determined to continue or develop permanent communities on them. Rationalize the reserves of the country to see each has adequate acreage and access. If the native communities (municipalities) include non-native Canadians they must be protected by the rule of law.
I think Smith is right in saying present native leaders, many deluded by grandeur and First Nation politics, will reject his ideas but ordinary natives will not.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 26, 1995
ID: 12664252
TAG: 199507250081
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

NATIVE POLICIES TOO RICH TO KEEP

At last a book by a credible author which addresses Ottawa’s most unexamined spending scandals and then argues how to scotch them. The writer is Melvin Smith, a B.C. lawyer and a veteran of constitutional negotiations. His Our Home or Native Land is easy to read and its sub-title is apt: What governments’ aboriginal policy is doing to Canada. (Crown Western of Victoria is the publisher).
Today I set out the cost factors in aboriginal affairs, as I see them, as a context for Smith’s critique which will be abstracted in the next column and includes his suggested remedies for a grim, worsening situation across the land.
Direct federal spending on natives has hit $6 billion a year (six times that spent on the CBC) but few in journalism have been harsh about the largesse. The tag for me as one who has, has been “racist.” Aside from William Johnson of the Montreal Gazette, no other regular columnist covering Ottawa has repeatedly gone after the high price and usual, stupid consequences of Ottawa’s native policies.
Only in the past year has a smatter of editorial criticism on native matters flowered, for example, over antics of Ovide Mercredi, the grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations, or over the growing penchant for road blocks here and there, or over the farce of the costliest royal commission ever. Even so, the general view remains that reiterated by the natives plus the lawyers, sociologists and anthropologists who staff the native industry’s research, planning, and negotiations. Generations of whites are guilty of marginalizing, debauching, and cheating the native people. That’s why they – the original Canadians – are the lowest in the land in economic and educational respects.
The guilt syndrome has subdued useful, sharp criticism of the massive government spending by politicians, the media, and the academe.
The annual bill for native affairs to federal taxpayers has multiplied a hundredfold since 1957 – my first year in Ottawa. Then it was close to $60 million; this year it’s pushing $6 billion.
(That’s only federal spending for specifically native programs; it covers neither the transfers open to ordinary citizens such as old age pensions nor provincial spending on services for natives which is running now to about $1.2 billion a year.)
ESCALATION OF COSTS
Native affairs is the one federal spending area which as yet hasn’t been capped by Paul Martin. To put the huge escalation of its costs in perspective consider that in the late 1950s the annual federal budget was reaching $6 billion. It is now 30 times that at about $180 billion, whereas native affairs spending multiplied a hundred times since 1957.
Since the last federal election a few straws about the inordinate spending on natives with its waste elements have begun to blow in the partisan winds, notably in the House of Commons. Reform MPs have been the first concerted group in modern times to question hard the spending programs of the industry and the inadequate results. They’ve gone after the agreements and land settlements already entered into or under negotiation. They stress that these postulate ever grander funding in the 21st century. Reformers have also repeated warnings of several auditors-general about the haywire accounts of so many native programs.
To my knowledge, however, neither Reformers nor any other federal politicians have been so bold as to stake out the core argument which Mel Smith presents against the apparent goals of our native programs and where these programs are taking the whole country.
Taking Canada where? Well, the recognition by the Chretien government of an inherent right to self-government of native bands means two brands or grades of citizenship. We’re now moving fast to a broad scatter of social and economic apartheids, each with lands. Those in them will have entitlement for themselves and their offspring in perpetuity through their aboriginal bloodlines.
Indians with status – now some 500,000 – are entitled to all the benefits and privileges of Canada without having to pay income and sales taxes so long as they live with their nation.
They also have or will have the usage of their nation’s lands and resources, including the dower of settlement funds promised by the federal government. Mel Smith’s book underlines both the extremely high costs ahead and the divisiveness such a program perpetuates.
My next column (in Friday’s Sun) covers his recommended “way out” from apartheids, two grades of citizenship and “nations” at welfare into infinity.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 23, 1995
ID: 12663939
TAG: 199507210072
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

MCDONOUGH KEY TO NDP

Come fall the federal NDP votes in a new leader. Four credible aspirants have been in the race for weeks, and it now seems unlikely major figures will come forward – say such as ex-premier Bob Rae or Bob White of union fame. It’s fair to say that, as yet, few citizens across the land are fascinated by the contest, and as far as I can find from now vestigial ties to party activists, the membership base is not yet much worked up for or against any candidate.
If there is a favorite among the four, it’s Svend Robinson, going by media inches, minutes, and content. Svend, the 43- year-old MP for Burnaby-Kingsway, in 16 years in the House has been a prize generator of controversy and news analysis. In my book he’s done better at this than any other NDP MP since Stanley Knowles retired, and through the ’80s and the ’90s so far not even Grit live-wire Dennis Mills or Don Blenkarn has had so much attention. Of course, most of such notice has not been for the bread and butter stuff of the economy and jobs but on social and environmental matters like homosexual and aboriginal rights and saving virgin forests.
One member of the NDP caucus who chose not to run after long thought and much canvassing of prospects has told me he estimated he’d need at least $120,000 “raised” money to enter the race. He couldn’t find it. He was not bitter when he said the sum was a modest necessity, given the backing which the big three candidates – Robinson, Alexis McDonough, and Lorne Nystrom – have in the bag.
Where had these three got their backing?
He said there was neither mystery nor chicanery in it. Svend Robinson was a magnet for donations from the homosexual constituency across Canada which is relatively well-to-do and which he leads and inspires.
Lorne Nystrom is not only an old-boy MP with 25 years in the House, he’s always had a practised knack at organizing and fundraising within the Saskatchewan NDP and a career co-terminus with his friend, Roy Romanow. Once Chris Axworthy, the MP for Saskatoon-Clark’s Crossing, chose not to run Nystrom got a lock on official and unofficial party backing in Saskatchewan and to a degree from Manitoba. Although not the media rouser Robinson has been, Nystrom’s never been reticent or quirky with reporters and he has had far more experience and study of economic issues than Robinson.
BACKING IN PEOPLE AND MONEY
My informant described Alexis McDonough, the former leader of the party in Nova Scotia, as an attractive symbol in her person and manner for the educated high-mindedness in the CCF-NDP heritage. Her father, Lloyd Shaw, was the first research director hired for the CCF by David Lewis in the days when the saintly J.S. Woodsworth led the party. It’s been the children of the late Lewis, creator of the NDP and a former leader, who gathered the backing in people and money to convince McDonough to join the race. The Lewis clan has been a key to power in the party for years, notably in Ontario and with some of the union leaders.
The debits of McDonough in this contest are not her platform skills – they’re good – or her knowledge of national issues, including economic ones. Given the NDP’s slight successes federally in Nova Scotia, her obvious problems in winning a seat in the House; that, and the edgy but topical matter of another woman leader after the grim electoral failure, associated with Audrey McLaughlin.
On the imperative of the new leader being in the House, Robinson already fills the bill. Nystrom will have an excellent chance of returning to it at the next election or even in a possible by-election. He also has an advantage from his Prairie base of taking on Preston Manning with social democratic critiques of the Reform’s policies.
No one I’ve heard or read gives a chance to Herschel Hardin, the fourth candidate and the second from B.C. His failure to make ripples as yet seems sad for without question he’s to the left but not the far left and he’s shown high intellectual qualities and argumentative ability in his books and as a panelist on TV. His titles suggest his themes and expertise: A Nation Unaware: The Canadian Economic Culture, The Sellout of Canadian TV, the New Bureaucracy, and The Privatization Putsch.
There’s no candidate from Ontario. For that McDonough seems the surrogate, given Bob Rae’s refusal of a draft. My hunch goes like this: Much bitterness between Robinson and Nystrom, 1-2 on the first ballot, and then either McDonough as everybody’s second choice or a swing of her backers to try to stop Svend.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, July 21, 1995
ID: 12663688
TAG: 199507200153
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

HIGHS AND LOWS IN LIBERAL CABINET

The responses a columnist gets are often informal and not for attribution, especially from those in the Parliament Hill group of politicians and staff. My recent pieces on good and bad Liberal performers brought me much of such comment. Here’s a sampling. From who? People in Liberal staff posts.
First of all no one disagreed with my plain opinion that this is not a distinguished Liberal cabinet compared to some of its predecessors. And most went past acknowledging the state of grace period had been unusually long because the memories of Mulroney were so strong.
The end of such grace is near. As one put it: “Once Quebec rejects Parizeau’s referendum it will get much meaner for us.”
One aide with a long CV told me I had made too much of the wealth of ambitious talent behind the ministry.
“It’s not a bad thing having some donkeys in the cabinet, particularly ones who lack ambition and ideas. Imagine, say, if this cabinet had within it the personalities of such pushing MPs as Dennis Mills and John Bryden, George Baker and John Nunziata, Patrick Gagnon and Barry Campbell, Bill Graham and Tom Wappel. Confusion – civil war – chaos!”
One Grit expediter who called me has seen many cabinet ministers come and go. I’ve found him fair and his forecasts good. He had much to say about some ministers, beginning with David Dingwall, the public works minister under heavy opposition and media criticism for patronage and contract-switching in his Nova Scotia bailiwick.
“The case is building among journalists that Dingwall’s a dingbat, an embarrassment like Michel Dupuy for Chretien. He’s a politician; Dupuy’s a stray from bureaucracy. Dingwall’s private defence for what he’s done would be he’s doing what his mentor and hero, Allan MacEachen, did as Nova Scotia’s man in the cabinet. Not long ago that would make sense to most Liberals. It still does to most Nova Scotians. But Dingwall’s big contrast to Dupuy is in the part he plays in cabinet. It’s true he’s tight with Chretien and he has enemies in caucus from his days as a domineering chief whip in opposition. The last is a useful legacy for his boss – ready to enforce a command with the waverers and the dilettantes.
READINESS, INFLUENCE
“But Dingwall has been unusually good in cabinet sessions. He’s the best prepared minister on most items. He’s not verbose but he speaks up and is decisive. He rates in the top five of cabinet for such readiness and his influence with his peers.”
I wondered who the other “top” ones would be. After some beating around, this cast seemed to be Paul Martin (finance), Herb Gray (house leader), Doug Young (transport), and Marcel Masse (intergovernmental affairs and public service renewal).
What about the titular No. 2, Sheila Copps (deputy PM and environment) or the journalists’ favorite, Allan Rock (justice)?
The staffer said Rock’s been doing well but with such a legislative load he’s not had a wide grip across the range of government business. With the caucus, many are more critical of Rock than they should be, given what he was assigned by the prime minister.
Rock is a quick study and talks well and with care in public but he’s short on both parliamentary and party experience compared to, say, Ralph Goodale (agriculture) or Doug Young (transport), each strong in his department and in cabinet. Sheila is still Sheila of the Rat Pack. A great temperament for opposition. She worries the PMO people and has exasperated some colleagues in turf squabbles.
I asked the man what there was to press comment alleging Copps was jealous of Rock over the many stories citing him as the prime minister-in-waiting. He replied: “Surely even Sheila isn’t so unaware and egocentric as to see herself now as a future party leader and prime minister.”
Which ministers would he tip to me as sure for more advancement or larger responsibilities? His first choice was Alfonso Gagliano, now deputy House leader. Art Eggleton (treasury board) has been “far better than we expected.”
What about those who should be beached? He wouldn’t name names but he did say: “The press hasn’t been wrong on most of those fingered as inept or worse. But remember, despite his obvious quickness in a physical sense, Chretien is very patient.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 19, 1995
ID: 12663425
TAG: 199507180058
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

QUALITY COUNTS IN IMMIGRATION

The MPs and senators are away from the Hill but the details in print of their recent work, much of which went unnoticed, keeps coming out. Today we have a sampling (with comment) on two such papers now at hand.
One report confirms what’s been obvious but not much emphasized – where most immigrants settle. The second fixes on what seems the core of a windy explanation of our present turmoil about the CBC, cable, and satellite TV from Keith Spicer, head of the CRTC, the telecommunications regulator.
On May 2, a subcommittee of the House Citizenship and Immigration Committee heard from federal experts who carry out “strategic research and analysis” for Sergio Marchi, the minister responsible for immigration. The director of the group, Meyer Burstein, was quite candid when queried by MPs for the BQ and Reform parties. Notably, he made clear so-called independent immigrants generally give Canada better value in terms of lower costs and sounder adjustments within our economy and society than either so-called family immigrants or refugees.
Further, Burstein underlined a view I haven’t heard from his boss that it’s more sensible to measure the value of immigrants by the per capita level of GNP, than by the gross level of the GNP. Or, put another way, a policy that goes hard for a bigger Canada will get it and while swelling the GNP will also lower the per capita share of it. In short, the quality of immigrants should rank ahead of their quantity, and care in selecting and screening immigrants and refugees is imperative and also costs less.
A BQ MP wanted hard figures on how many people pull out of Canada each year. There are none. StatsCan’s estimate for ’94 was 44,000. Most of those who go are not native Canadians but former immigrants. The ratio is eight times higher for the latter.
The researchers had few positive insights for dealing with the dilemma of the place of settlement. In recent years only two provinces, B.C. and Ontario, have been net gainers of population from immigration. Quebec has been losing a lot of its immigrants; and that’s why it’s been trying to be more selective and why it spends more money on immigrant adjustment. Also, 90% of those who come to Quebec concentrate in Montreal.
NATIONAL POLICY BEST
As Burstein put it: “They go where the jobs are.” He sees little point in separate immigration policies and programs by province, better a national policy which accepts a reality of the past and for the future: The most desirable or useful immigrants will go where they can make a living.
These are a few points from the long witness of Keith Spicer of the CRTC, before the House Committee on National Heritage, on May 16. My selection is to remind you that the familiar game goes on: Our government saves us from the surfeit of American popular culture while most of us seek as much of it as we can get.
Spicer itemed the “three forces at work today in the communication world.” One is the technological explosion; the second is market forces, such as take-overs and mergers; and the third force is “the changing and rising expectation of consumers.”
Given these forces, Spicer thinks the CRTC’s main chores in the next five years are: (1) “playing umpire and referee in keeping a level playing field among the players; in short, maintaining an honest, transparent system”; (2) “standing up for the Canadian identity”; and (3) “dealing with social issues of television violence, for example, gender portrayal, protection of children, etc.”
The CRTC head insisted: “It’s absolutely untrue we are mired in a protectionist mentality … The fact is, because of the Broadcasting Act, we have to find this constant balance between culture and competition. Competition isn’t everything. A lot of people say it is. I think the trendy sloganeers who get a good idea rattling around in their heads say competition is great. We have to do it. The Americans say it’s everything. They forget Canadians are more than consumers; they’re also citizen of Canada …We have to decide how much longer we want a country. It doesn’t mean we have to be stupidly protectionist. We have to be more flexibly Canadian.”
Certainly, in over two decades of observing Spicer closely, mostly as a top officer of federal agencies, I have found him ever voluble. He’s perfect in fulfilling an aim of being “more flexibly Canadian.” Indeed “Flexibly Canadian” is a neat slogan for the Chretien government.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 16, 1995
ID: 12663105
TAG: 199507140074
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

LIBERALS HAVE MILES TO GO

A compensation in the recent Carleton University’s annual How Ottawa Spends, for those who read a lot on day-to-day politics, is its indifference to Parliament and question period, or to relative abilities of party leaders and cabinet ministers.
The fix is far more on the Liberal’s first intentions and the problems met or still ahead in carrying them out.
As I said in my last column, overall the essays of the book seem modestly approving of the Liberals, and particularly of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. But there’s also much strong criticism. Here is a sampling of such:
– Of Allan Rock and his “get tougher” laws for a crime crisis that doesn’t exist;
– Of Lloyd Axworthy for muffing social reform and failing thus far to get any sensible redesign of welfare underway;
– Of this government for continuing and extending inadequate and very costly programs for mastering the unemployment crisis in Atlantic Canada created by the cod failure;
– Of Paul Martin for propounding a new pattern (with much less money) for funding national health and social programs and which may devastate the quality of services in some provinces;
– Of neither doing much about the GST nor explaining clearly why it’s intact and a low priority;
– Of figuratively turning-away from long ballyhooed federal plans for environmental reform;
– Of ignoring child care commitments even though economic growth reached the specification in the Red Book;
– Of accelerating a shifting of full financing of post-secondary education to the provincial governments and to students and teachers;
– Of failing in much of consequence for fostering small and medium businesses with clusters and networks of entrepreneurial co-operation in locales and levels beyond the reach of big corporations;
– And of not standing by international commitments on foreign aid levels and on abetting the observance of human rights in many of the countries with which Canada deals.
Good Lord, you may say: What a litany of failure and inaction. But that’s neither the sum nor the major specifics about the achievements of the Chretien ministry thus far or as they may be possible or improbable in the last three years of its run.
The failures to act or the very slow pace in following stated intentions are repeatedly related to the two overriding imperatives of the government’s two “metaproblems” as it took office: (i) Dealing with a huge deficit and a horrendous interest load; and (ii) Responding to a renewed challenge from Quebec, in Ottawa from a well-led official opposition of separatists, and also because of an election that eventually installed the party dedicated to taking Quebec out of Canada. What positive aspects of Grit performance in office are noted in the annual?
PM SEEMINGLY OPEN AND AVAILABLE
The most remarked one is the success of Chretien on the regrettable and serious issue of integrity. Integrity is now so paramount because politics and politicians have fallen so far in esteem. The PM’s done well on it through being plain, unpretentious and seemingly both open and available. His strategy has been threefold: To promote virtue; to shrink government and its spending radically; and to posit rules for good behavior.
Chretien is credited with doing well at overlaying the wide belief in a perpetual catalogue of sleaze and wrongdoing in Ottawa with a leaner, cost-conscious, and more straighforward government in which ministers have had more scope from PMO direction than was the case. Sleaze had become synonymous with the unlamented Mulroney administration. Its legacy still magnifies a hostile attention and much petty media coverage of quite mundane work and needs of ministers and plain MPs.
In the annual, Chretien is rated more highly for proving a welcome, admirable contrast to Brian Mulroney than he is for his limited moves thus far on regulating ethics and wiping out patronage.
Although lack of money has blocked major job creation plans and the thorough reform of our labor market system (e.g., of unemployment insurance and job retraining) the “Canada Infrastructure” program is reviewed as having done modestly well at job creation and effective in developing patterns for co-operation with many municipalities and their provincial governments.
It seems to me that a number of those weighing the Chretien government in How Ottawa Spends are saying: “So far so good, especially in light of deficits and Quebec, but what’s dubious and worrisome is whether the Liberals can get government right.”
That is, the Liberals seem politically deft but managerially they have miles to go.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, July 14, 1995
ID: 12966286
TAG: 199507130176
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

LIBERALS FARE WELL IN ANNUAL CRITIQUE

For the 16th year Carleton University’s School of Public Administration has published the annual, How Ottawa Spends. The title is inadequate but a better one, such as The Present State of Federal Policies, Programs and Mistakes, is not as grabby. The book is usually issued after both the federal budget and the bundle of annual estimates of federal spending have been at hand for study.
I have found How Ottawa Spends useful but felt its quality and relevance has varied from year to year. Perhaps Brian Mulroney was a cause. Academics detested him, and most of those in How Ottawa Spends have had a liberal or social democratic tilt. So it is in this issue but the book as a whole is a useful melange of critiques. Today and in the next column I give the gist of many judgments in the essays. The overall view is more favorable than unfavorable to Jean Chretien and his administration. Like so many Canadians, these profs are still enjoying the contrast between squareshooter Jean and a villainous Brian.
The 1995-’96 edition is 412 pages long. Eighteen scholars have written 14 essays, from an opening overview by Susan Phillips titled The Liberals Mid-Life Crisis to a closer about the cod catastrophe by Susan McCorquodale titled Federal Spending on the Atlantic Fisheries.
Today let me touch on the two themes most of us have been noticing since the Chretien ministry took office late in 1993. They make repeated items in the media. The annual cites them as the two “metaproblems” whose difficulties are creating somewhat of a “mid-term crisis” for Jean Chretien.
The first metaproblem has been the domination over the array of Liberal intentions in the Red Book by Paul Martin, the finance minister, determined to grasp and control the grave deficit-debt problems. The Mulroney government popularized them but did not get far in managing them.
The second metaproblem is Quebec: Within, or outside Canada? It’s examined by Reg Whitaker, a York University professor and a real authority on the Liberal party. His essay is sobering for those who figure (as I have) on a sharp referendum rebuke of the PQ this fall, followed by a fading away of the issue (which Lord Durham described a century and a half ago as “two nations warring in the bosom of a single state.”
Whitaker emphasizes what becomes more obvious: In the wake of the Meech and Charlottetown debacles Chretien cannot offer “renewed federalism,” nor has he either a united front of premiers for i,t or a populace in the rest of Canada who’d agree to it. He hasn’t the money for big spending to influence Quebec. With Lucien Bouchard and the BQ’s major presence in the House he cannot claim “to be the authentic voice of Quebec in Canada as Pierre Trudeau could.”
UNITY ISSUE WILL SURGE AGAIN
As for the PQ, it faces short- and long-term problems with the aboriginals who insist they’ll leave a sovereign Quebec with their lands. Whitaker anticipates an unco-operative Quebec in the decade after a referendum defeat. Other provinces will see Quebec as just a province like the others. In short, the national unity issue may recede but it will surge back again.
The annual review praises Paul Martin’s second budget even as it doubts that the mastering of the deficit-debt dilemma is really underway. The budget is described as “the most far-reaching of any presented in Canada during the post-war period.” Internationally, in our business community, and with most citizens polled about it, Martin is seen as “on the right track.”
The appraisal of the budget stresses Liberal astuteness: First in being modest in assumptions on growth and interest rates, leaving room for bleak contingencies; second in staging cuts in programs and spending over three years; third, in spreading the pain across all regions and almost every government service and economic sector.
The immediacy of the budget shocks have been eased by the staging but by the end of 1997-’98 fiscal year the drops in federal spending and the public service will be so major one must ask if they have caused structural changes that end Ottawa’s capacity to shape national economic and social programs and continue equalizing between “have” and “have not” provinces.
Susan Phillips in her conclusion anticipates a weakening in Canadians’ resolve to have deficits knocked and she warns: “The Liberals must not avoid tackling the tough issues and making hard choices in the remainder of their mandate.”
My next piece on the annual has more from the essayists who are critical of Paul Martin’s dominance thus far.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 12, 1995
ID: 12966012
TAG: 199507110066
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

NUTS AND BOLTS OF CABINETS

DATELINE: OTTAWA
We know, through Jean Chretien’s aides, his keeping ineffectual ministers like Michel Dupuy and Dianne Marleau comes from a determination not to be seen as losing ministers as Brian Mulroney did.
At a comparative 20 months into his first mandate, Mulroney had received or taken resignations from ministers Bob Coates (defence), John Fraser (fisheries), Susan Blais-Grenier (minister of state, transport), and Sinclair Stevens (industrial expansion). None were in pretty circumstances even if hindsight suggests Coates and Fraser were more victims of appearances and a jumpy PM than having made mistakes of grave import.
Since Mr. Mulroney’s departure from office and the consequent slaughter of Tories at the polls in ’93, his taint and curse have been pervasive in the country with a largely undiscussed effect of projecting an image of the Mulroney ministries in their entirety as incompetent and sleazy. This view is so widespread that some readers and many reporters will choke on what follows: By ministry and names, a comparison of the the first Mulroney cabinet and Chretien’s crew. Perfect matching of the two rosters is impossible.
Deputy PM: Sheila Copps or Erik Nielsen. Take Nielson because he was respected (and feared).
House Leader: Herb Gray or Ray Hnatyshyn. Clear edge to Gray, particularly on appreciating legislative hurdles.
Solicitor General: Herb Gray or Elmer MacKay. Small edge to Gray.
Foreign Affairs: Andre Ouellet or Joe Clark. Marked edge to Clark since he got through to Canadians on foreign issues better than Ouellet.
National Revenue: David Anderson or Perrin Beatty. Beatty was Teflon in this role. Marked edge to Beatty.
Human Resources: Lloyd Axworthy or Flora MacDonald. He holds wider responsibilities but comparatively, at this stage, she was doing better than Axworthy.
Defence: David Collenette or Robert Coates. A toss-up between misplaced men. Tiny margin to Collenette.
Public Works: David Dingwall or Roch La Salle. Both low and easily valued. Advantage to Dingwall.
Agriculture: Ralph Goodale or John Wise. Wise wasn’t a poor minister of agriculture; Goodale’s a good one. Edge to Liberal.
Indian Affairs: Ron Irwin or David Crombie. A tie. Two men with great confidence and no common sense.
STRENGTHS IN EAST, WEST
Fisheries: Brian Tobin or John Fraser. On the east coast Tobin’s done better; Fraser did better on the Pacific. Slight edge to Tobin.
Senate Leader: Joyce Fairbairn or Duff Roblin. Small edge to Roblin, the former Manitoba premier.
Environment: Sheila Copps or Blais-Grenier. Advantage to Copps but she’s been poor in the role, whereas Blais-Grenier was a menace.
International Trade: Roy MacLaren or James Kelleher. Clearly, MacLaren, in large part on sheer poise.
Citizenship and Immigration: Sergio Marchi or Flora MacDonald. Big margin to Flora.
Industry: John Manley or Sinclair Stevens. Manley’s had little impact but hasn’t boobed badly. Stevens was a goer but too unconventional. A draw.
Health: Diane Marleau or Jake Epp. Epp all the way.
Finance: Paul Martin, Jr. or Mike Wilson. Edge to Liberal but at comparative stage Wilson was standing up well, despite Mulroney’s desertion of seniors.
Transport: Doug Young or Don Mazankowski. Big edge to Mazankowski, arguably ablest of all Mulroney ministers .
Heritage: Michel Dupuy or Walter McLean. Latter was secretary of state with a narrower load. McLean was not the disaster Dupuy has been. Margin to Tory.
Treasury Board: Art Eggleton or Bob de Cotret. A toss-up between moderate competents.
Natural Resources. Ann McLellan or Pat Carney. One very adroit and not mean. Edge to Liberal.
Justice: Allan Rock or John Crosbie. Each excellent in role. A toss-up.
Labor: Lucienne Robillard or Bill McKnight. The Tory was fine at this task; Robillard’s just into it and she also has anti-PQ duties. Give her slight edge.
That’s enough in contrasts to make my point that the Chretien cabinet has much mediocrity and a core of fine ministers, as did the first Mulroney crew.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 09, 1995
ID: 12965707
TAG: 199507070143
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

PRESS GALLERY PLAYS THE RATINGS GAME

Thirty years ago in the old Tely I began occasional ratings of the federal cabinet ministers on their performances and their status in the parliamentary community.
I’d use the teacher’s A+, to B to C to D to F (for failure) and consider factors like oratory, partisan skills and adroitness or the lack of it in question period. In a few years other columnists and bureau chiefs took up occasional appraisals of ministries.
In recent weeks I’ve noted three runs through the Chretien cabinet: a devilish one by Michel Vastel in LeSoleil June 28; a full-scale review, sketches and grade marks, by Bob Fife for Sun papers on July 2; and a summary on the cabinet by Edward Greenspon and Susan Delacourt in the Globe and Mail June 23.
I’ll run through the cabinet by order of precedent giving the ratings this way, including my own: Vastel – MV; Fife – BF; Fisher – DF; and the Globe pair’s judgments under GM as fine; good; neutral; or poor.
Beforehand, note the following:
1) Vastel, heavy with his usual irony, refused to mark the quartet of Roy MacLaren, Ann McLellan, John Manley and David Anderson because he thinks their portfolios – external trade, energy, industry and national revenue – shouldn’t exist and, respectively, are redundant because of free trade, de-regulation, laissez-faire and the dominance of the finance ministry. He thinks Chretien has more than repaid his debts for past support from Sergio Marchi, Ron Irwin, David Dingwall and Michel Dupuy, each of whom he thinks has earned dismissal from cabinet.
2) Fife’s opinions owe much (as I see it) to his many interviews with ministers and the close attention he’s paid to ministers as they’re being “scrummed.”
3) The Greenspon-Delacourt piece in the Globe ran June 23 and its leading premises were on who in the cabinet might be or should be moved or left as he or she might be.
In his review, Michel Vastel argues that two ministers of state are more talented and useful than most of those in the cabinet: Raymond Chan, a Chinese-Canadian MP from Vancouver. whose responsibility is Asia-Pacific affairs; and Alfonso Gagliano, an Italo-Canadien from Montreal who is the deputy House leader for the government.
I can’t say he’s right on Chan but he is on Gagliano, a very shrewd straight-shooter.
Where I seem to be out in left field is on Doug Young of transport. Others think he’s among Chretien’s best; I think he’s too mean-mouthed for that ranking. But I was encouraged that others think as I do, that Sheila Copps and Lloyd Axworthy have been poor ministers.
If there are promotions coming I think two MPs who should get them are now able parliamentary secretaries: David Walker, a Manitoban with Paul Martin in finance; and Russ MacLellan, a Nova Scotian with Allan Rock in justice.
HERB GRAY, solicitor general and House leader: MV – B; BF – A-; DF – B+; GM – neutral.
ANDRE OUELLET, foreign affairs: MV – A-; BF – C; DF – B+; GM – neutral.
LLOYD AXWORTHY, human resources: MV – C-; BF – C-; DF – F; GM – neutral.
DAVID COLLENETTE, defence: MV – C+; BF – B; DF – C; GM – neutral.
ROY MacLAREN, external trade: MV – 0; BF – B+; DF – B-; GM – good.
DAVID ANDERSON, national revenue: MV – 0; BF – F; DF – D; GM – good.
RALPH GOODALE, agricul-ture: MV – A+; BF – B; DF – A; GM – good.
DAVID DINGWALL, public works: MV – F; BF – F; DF – C; GM – poor.
RON IRWIN, Indian affairs: MV – F; BF – B-; DF – F; GM – good.
BRIAN TOBIN, fisheries: MV – B-; BF – A+; DF – B; GM – fine.
JOYCE FAIRBAIRN, Senate leader: MV – 0; BF – C-; DF – B; GM – fine.
SHEILA COPPS, environment, Deputy PM: MV – C+; BF – C-; DF – F; GM – neutral.
SERGIO MARCHI, immigra-tion: MV – F; BF – C-; DF – D; GM – neutral.
JOHN MANLEY, industry, MV – 0; BF – B-; DF – C; GM – poor.
DIANE MARLEAU, health, MV – 0; BF – F; DF – F; GM – poor.
PAUL MARTIN, finance: MV – A-; BF – A-; DF – A; GM – fine.
DOUG YOUNG, transport: MV – A+; BF – A; DF – C+; GM – fine.
MICHEL DUPUY, heritage: MV – F; BF – F; DF – F; GM – poor.
ART EGGLETON, treasury board: MV – A-; BF – B; DF – B; GM – fine.
MARCEL MASSE, inter-governmental affairs: MV – C-; BF – B; DF – B+; GM – neutral.
ANN McLELLAN, energy: MV – 0; BF – B; DF – B+; GM – fine.
ALLAN ROCK, justice: MV – A-; BF – A-; DF – A; GM – fine.
LUCIENNE ROBILLARD, lab-or: MV – D; BF – B; DF – B; GM – neutral.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, July 07, 1995
ID: 12965502
TAG: 199507060170
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

TOO MANY MPS, TOO FEW REWARDS

It’s a rare MP in a major party who doesn’t hope or plan for more than being good enough to retain his riding next election. Able party leaders, most notably the prime minister, know this and must always allow for such aspirations and the difficulties their competition creates for a caucus team and its discipline.
I recall that a half-hour after I first met Jean Chretien on an empty Hill following his first election in 1963 I pointed out the back row in the chamber where he’d be first sitting as an MP. He pointed to the front row and asked how he could get there “quick.”
Keeping such thrusters in mind, let’s look at some figures which figure in how the PM uses his power of appointment to cope positively with his upwardly mobile MPs. My hunch is Chretien’s now rambling back and forth over his whole roster.
This PM has 176 MPs behind him, and so a comfortable margin of 28 votes in this mandate. The cushion is plusher than it looks because of the rare chances the BQ and Reform will vote as one.
The PM has 22 MPs as cabinet ministers; a further nine are non-cabinet ministers (of state); and there are 21 parliamentary secretaries (what the PM in ’93 called “my B team”). Total: 52.
Add four MPs enhanced as the Speaker, Deputy-Speaker, and the chairs of the House. Total: 56.
Add the chief whip and his deputy for two more forward-looking appointments. Total: 58.
Add 10 posts as the chairs of the really significant House committees (e.g., justice or finance or health.)
The grand total comes to 68 appointments for MPs which have to do with the ministry and the House. A substantial number? Yes. A key element in the PM’s power? Indubitably!
But 108 Liberal MPs have not yet had anything of such substance on the path – if there is one for them – to the front row. In my observation of 13 Parliaments there’s not been a government caucus with as many ambitious backbenchers as this one.
Since the Diefenbaker cabinets two long-considered factors in making appointments from the government caucus have fallen away. These were the need for both religious and provincial balance in the appointments of ministers, secretaries, etc. Religion stopped being significant in the ’60s. For example, one Trudeau cabinet had some 19 Roman Catholics, a disbalance which would have shocked Mackenzie King. And provincial balance receded because governing Liberal caucuses were often without MPs in one or more provinces.
EASTERN BIAS
For example, Chretien has six B.C. MPs and four Alberta MPs, yet these third and fourth most populous provinces have only one MP as member of the cabinet. B.C. also has a minister of state and two parliamentary secretaries, nonetheless these two great provinces with a sum of 58 ridings have but 10 posts in Chretien’s top 52 whereas the Atlantic provinces have nine posts and Ontario 24.
In fact, Metro Toronto has 11 of such posts (one more than the province of Quebec).
It’s hard to believe Mackenzie King as PM went for years without a single Toronto minister.
Of course, we expect a PM like Chretien to reward his strengths but, comparing Metro’s 11 MPs in the clover to Alberta’s one, has the PM been fair in his allotments?
The newish factors affecting the advancement of MPs with more priority than their religion or geography have come from the surge of feminism and the adoption of official multiculturalism – i.e. gender and ethnicity and/or “visibility.”
Only five members of the Chretien cabinet are women, and one of these is a senator. This handful is not out of line with the proportion of women in the caucus but it has been repeatedly commented on critically and future changes will surely not reduce the number. To anticipate the critique of a paucity of women, the PM put three women on his slate of nine ministers of state and five on his slate of 23 secretaries.
In his full ministry Jean Chretien has only eight French Canadians, including himself, and just six of these are from Quebec. His ministry does include one MP of Chinese origin and one of native stock; however, the roster of parliamentary secretaries is rich in ethnics and people of color: four “visibles” and seven ethnics, including three Italo-Canadians. (The latter are the staunchest capital “L” Liberal ethnicity in the land.)
I end this consideration of Chretien’s 68 appointments of MPs (thus far) out of his 176 with this opinion: as he considers ministerial changes his concern is more to allay the ambitions behind him than to upgrade the mediocrity beside him.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 05, 1995
ID: 12965246
TAG: 199507040047
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

DEBATE ON DEATH STILL HANGING ON

Preston Manning and his Reformers are bringing forward capital punishment as an issue, arguing a goodly portion of the electorate has been influenced by recent trials for horrid murders and wants death for those guilty of brutal killings.
At the next federal election Manning wants “a binding referendum” after “an honest, rational debate” on the issue.
As one who was around on three prior occasions of such debate in Canada and for several “free” votes that eventually brought an end to capital punishment here, I wish the issue had been left where it has been for a decade and a half. For much of my times, especially when I was an MP, I’ve mind- and conscience-wrestled with the right or wrong of official executions and over the arguments and statistics on whether executions reduce murders – and whether the prospect chastens those who might kill.
Given the past witness from opinion polling, the Reformers are likely to be proved right if ever the issue gets to a referendum – the majority will vote in favor of a death penalty.
But what a tearing, dividing discussion there will be, reverberating in almost every household. Some of the discussion, perhaps an aspect of the referendum details, will pivot on the ghoulish matter of the method of execution.
Should death come by hanging or a form of garroting or by firing-squad or even by a guillotine’s blade? Each of these seems likelier to influence a would-be murderer than death by lethal injection or electrical shock.
It always seemed to me that if executions have importance as a deterrence they should have a public presentation, probably through televising, and also have a brutal element to them. Otherwise they seem remote and as clinically detached as a doctor-assisted suicide in a hospital ward.
I recall from the time when Canada executed murderers by hanging that some of my fellow Canadians approved of the method because to them it was a horrible, crude, hurting death that compensated vengefully for a literally awful crime.
AGONIZING DECISION
Also, there’s the matter of clemency. Who should have the right to exercise it? In effect, when we had executions, clemency was exercised by the minister of justice, usually guided by a cabinet’s advice. Several ministers of justice in the ’50s and two prime ministers, John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson, told me how agonizing they found clemency reviews.
Since abolition the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has come into force, and so many final decisions have become a matter for the Supreme Court of Canada. One may be sure the human rights of the first person sentenced to death will be taken through to the final court in the land. In short, more complications, and more argument.
Those who lose the referendum are not going to forget their cause and lose their zeal. They won’t accept the vote as “binding” if it goes against them. Manning insists this would be a “binding” decision, and if lost not ever to be retried.
Manning begins his initiative with the belief that executions “will save lives by precluding the possibility of a repeated offence and act as a deterrence to others.”
He prefaces his argument by submitting that just first-degree murderers would be eligible for execution, and not even one of them if the evidence that convicts is only circumstantial. He argues that it would be understood that after the referendum there would be some definition of the circumstances in murders and of the quality of evidence for the trial of the murderer which would determine whether he or she should be executed if found guilty.
That may seem easy with the Clifford Olsons of infamy who have horrified us all. But murder comes in much variety, particularly in family crimes and passion crimes, and Manning’s process in prospect almost demands a “points” system or something mathematical.
Reform will go on with this cause but, for all the positives it may have as a response to what the people want, it resurrects an issue for debate best left alone. It will bedevil our prospects for serenity and public poise when we’re under test by more serious economic and social issues.

Two readers caught a large goof of mine in a piece in honor of the late Charles Ritchie and fuller obituaries. Of course, it was Elizabeth Smart, not Elizabeth Sharp, whom the diarist wrote about so well. The mistake was silly and careless.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 02, 1995
ID: 12964947
TAG: 199506300090
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

PM OUTSHINES HIS CABINET

It’s clear to political people our federal ministry is far from a galaxy of stars. In fact, since World War II Ottawa has had few more lacklustre ministries.
So, soon – probably this summer rather than next year – Jean Chretien will reorganize his ministry. Some 23 cabinet members and nine secretaries of state will be dropped, perhaps to the Senate or an ambassadorship, even to the backbenches; some will go to another ministerial duty. Most speculation has fixed on those six or seven ministers tagged as dodos by reporters. This column is not about the dodos but is more on how ministers get the reputations which presage elevation or switch or dismissal.
First, these four axioms about cabinet changes have substance:
1) PMs almost never relish making really major ministerial change in mid-mandate;
2) Always remember a PM is most considerate of those right with him or her in the bid for the party leadership (present examples are Ron Irwin, Sergio Marchi, David Dingwall);
3) A PM’s own handlers always have ratings of ministers for various performances and attributes, in particular their knack at keeping out of trouble and in getting along with their deputies and the PMO;
4) Most ministerial reputations are won or lost largely through open appraisals by the media and the opposition of oral performances in the House, notably in the daily question period (QP).
The significance given QP responses has sometimes an unfortunate, even unfair, primacy. Cabinet careers get snuffed which may have had hidden worths.
What ministerial worths are these? Take administrative genius and smart use of the mandarinate (present example: Ralph Goodale). Take strong “in camera” contributions to cabinet and treasury board (Marcel Masse). Take adroit handling by a minister of affairs in his or her region and province (Anne McLellan). Take a minister who keeps in close touch with his own MPs and gives the requests of opposition MPs courtesy and priority (Paul Martin Jr.).
QP usually exposes to ridicule or satire a minister with a scratchy voice (see Diane Marleau) or a dithery manner (Michel Dupuy) or hesitant phrasing of muddled argument (David Collenette). It can somewhat over-inflate an all-round worth for a minister who combines aplomb with excellent diction (Allan Rock) or a minister with a mix of gall, gab, and partisan ferocity (Brian Tobin) who devastates opposition prodders.
Nevertheless, performance or, rather, embarrassing perfor-mances in the oral question period provide the main standard of judging a minister’s worth. Fair or not that’s been the way on the Hill for a long time.
One feature of most cabinets since Lester Pearson took power in 1963 has not yet appeared in the Chretien era – the minister who is far more important as a linch-pin for cabinet and caucus and/or as the PM’s second in command than any other minister or even an eminence in the PMO (such as Chretien’s Eddie Goldenberg or Trudeau’s Michael Pitfield.)
Obviously, in this Parliament the deputy PM, Sheila Copps, doesn’t have such significance. Neither she nor anyone else in cabinet – certainly not Paul Martin, key though finance may be, or even Herb Gray with his immense seniority – has anything like the second-line dominance of this government that Don Mazankowski and, before him, Erik Nielsen had in the Mulroney administrations or that Marc Lalonde and, before him, Jean Marchand had in the Trudeau era.
The mention of Martin and the lack of a second in command to this stage in the Chretien regime reminds me of two features about this ministry to note in one’s expectations for the next shuffle.
First, we have the most hands-on PM in a long time: always on the move, rarely holed up in an office by day or night; a close observer who touches so many bases, ever ready as catalyst and critic around the House and the ministry, rarely dodging the top-of-the-news and day-to-day agenda of national politics. Chretien seems to believe he can literally carry and manage a ministry which has a clutch of dodo members.
Second, every modern era finance minister has been a paramount figure even though it’s clear from our debt burden that most of them didn’t dominate the consensus in their cabinets. Much more than most, Martin has got the consensus. It’s on the imperative of restraint. It should last for another year and a half.
This suggests that brilliant backbenchers rife with great proposals will not be at the head of the queue for cabinet.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, June 30, 1995
ID: 12964705
TAG: 199506290185
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

IT’S STILL GOOD TO BE CANADIAN

A check of past columns for this date in the year reminds me that without intention each was an assay of good and bad portents for Canada as we celebrate its founding and what we are.
So, again to begin the banal: it’s good to be a Canadian. I go boldly beyond to assert most Canadians feel this is so.
Before this sweeping assumption I thought of what may be dubious in my `bona fides,’ like living so long and not without a job through five decades. Clearly, a more confusing future in terms of work and forming a family faces the generation now in their 20s and 30s from what my generation of that range did in and after World War II.
Not only is steady employment hard to get these days, those young people who get work will find it less stable than most of us found through our working years. Worse, we had the optimism which is possible when your country is really at the beginning of what we (who thought ourselves forward-looking) called “social and economic planning.”
A reality which the generations now just into or soon to join the labor force must meet (for much longer than we older people) are governmental structures in disarray and political parties in confusion – federally, provincially, and municipally. As a collectivity, we’re heavily in debt. High deficits are still a plague for Ottawa and the three biggest provinces.
The grim legacy in debt of so much of the past social and economic planning is forcing a dismantling of agencies and programs. This is disheartening, particularly to young people looking for work. The debt is also blocking new initiatives by politicians.
Despite the widespread recognition and responses to debts and deficits, there’s still an emotionally strong and numerous “left” in Canada, which has both the tongues and the craft to put its case to the public and to politicians. Its unity is not solid, however, because of its remarkably diverse set of interest groups and associations.
SMALLER GOVERNMENTS
Much more than at any time since the mid-’30s the left is literally facing a more determined “right” with its demands that frugal and smaller government be the sine qua non of our times. And more because of the debt burden and deficits than from straight conviction, the politicians have been swinging right, as have recent electorates.
What I try to keep in mind about our left-right clashes is the imperative of balance. We must not think our social system is being destroyed and our politics Americanized. What’s on, and it’s very simple, are serious but rather disorganized moves to master the debt loads and regain some amplitude for spending. Yes, a severe shakedown; massive rearrangements and a steady eye on reducing deficits. It’s not a mass glorying in the efficacious wonders of the free market and individual freedom, American style.
Of course this is both unprovable and an intangible: that the particular genius of Canada and Canadians is moderation in public matters.
An aspect of this moderation, praise the Lord, is an unwillingness or unreadiness to seek and find an earthly messiah or messiahs.
A classic example of our national moderation is being played out this very year, not just in Quebec where a neat majority of its voters will be moderate and choose to abide in Canada but beyond Quebec. No one of note or notoriety is talking either civil war and revenge or is ready to promise Quebecers the sun and the moon.
THE LEFT’S MORTAL ENEMY
Our diverse array on the left has just turned to a fresh, mortal enemy at Queen’s Park. But most elements of the left have been portraying the Chretien government, particularly because of Paul Martin’s last budget measures, as a betrayal of real liberalism, much as more certain personalities in the left like Mel Watkins, the Waffler, and columnist Tom Walkom, jeered at Bob Rae and his government in Ontario for betraying socialism.
Given the repulse of the PQ’s referendum this fall the Chretien government should retain enough public support, provable by opinion polling, to push on for another year with spending restraint and civil service reductions in order to get some mastery over our national finances without precipitating a serious recession.
The alienated left might, but won’t take consolation if it develops that Canada is reeling in recession a year from now. With alacrity, Jean Chretien will swing the apex point of his government from centre-right to the left of centre. He’s the archetypal Canadian: moderate, not an ideologue.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 28, 1995
ID: 12964472
TAG: 199506270133
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

SPEAKERS PASS WITH FLYING COLORS

The Hill is without the House for 12 weeks, a fair time to appraise some MPs’ work – in today’s case that of the occupants of the Speaker’s chair.
It seems small praise to say the four occupants have not done badly. On duty, one of them, Bob Kilger, has been an unexpected wonder, and another, David Kilgour, is the quickest mind in the chair since Jim Jerome, House Speaker from 1974-81.
None of the four chairpersons, in particular their chief, Speaker Gilbert Parent, is excellent in every respect when managing the assembly, but they’ve had 224 sittings without a breakdown of good order or the festering of a big procedural sore. A good indicator of such competence is the absence of eruptions of rage or frustration by Bloc MPs over their treatment by the chair.
Of course, this House hasn’t had any imitators of the infamous Grit Rat Pack of the mid-’80s, although a few Reformers really burn the governing host. (Examples: Jan Brown, Deborah Grey, Myron Thompson and Randy White.)
It’s made it easier for Speaker Parent (who usually handles question period) that both Lucien Bouchard and Preston Manning are generally courteous and respectful of the rules for order, and the remnant of nine NDP MPs has been most docile.
The Reform MPs, however, began to come on more argumentatively last winter in question period, anchored by a new whip, Jim Silye, a jaunty ex-footballer. Their attacks in both oral questions and comments on others’ speeches became pointed and co-ordinated about a year ago.
Such impertinence has been more and more galling to the Liberals, in particular to the newish backbenchers.
CAUCUS DISCONTENT
Last week a veteran Liberal sketched for me the causes of a now sizable discontent in the government caucus. For example, a PM too lenient with some embarrassingly ineffective ministers, or the maladroit handling of the bills on gun registration, sexual orientation and MPs’ pensions, or the disheartening dearth of money for programs and the aggravating daily jibes and ethical sermons from the Reformers.
The latter have been far more dispiriting to the greener MPs than the repetitious anti-Ottawa themes from the Bloc.
In terms of aiding the chair and the continuing civility of this Parliament, there’s been astute, unobtrusive leadership on the floor from Alfonso Gagliano, the Liberals’ deputy House leader, and Don Boudria, the government whip. They’ve kept a lid on potential uproar against the Reformers, helped by the relish with which Jean Chretien mocks the third party.
In passing, although Whip Boudria has been the bearer of ukases for those who bolt on House votes he’s not taken by the backbench as more than an instrument for Chretien’s determination to have obedience.
The recent increase in racketing repartee and interruptions, with more venom about rivals, has meant the need for a tight but sane grip by the man or woman in the chair. And it’s been there, particularly through Deputy Speaker Kilgour, a veteran MP from Edmonton, a former Tory and adroitly bilingual, and through the assistant deputy chairman of committees of the whole House, Bob Kilger, the MP for Stormont-Dundas.
Kilgour has won respect from opposition MPs by putting down several of the Liberals they find obnoxious – for example, Stanley Keyes, an ex-reporter from Hamilton, and the articulate and mean-minded Halifax MP Mary Clancy, a most protective secretary to Sergio Marchi, the immigration minister.
FORMER HOCKEY REFEREE
Kilger’s a former pro hockey referee. As an MP from 1988-93 he showed nothing on the floor of the House to suggest he was cut out for running it with aplomb. But he does.
He seems born for the chair. His personality simply posits presence with either the bent toward the pompous of Parent or the swift, sharp put-downs of Kilgour. For example, he kept in its proper, petty proportion the accusation from Pierrette Ringuette-Maltais, a New Brunswick Liberal, that Deborah Grey had deliberately attacked her physically on the House floor over the issue of MPs’ pensions.
Shirley Maheu, a Montrealer in her 60s, and also an MP since ’88, is the fourth of the chair’s occupants. Although she’s not nearly so deft as Kilgour or Kilger, she gets through her hours with a stoney manner and crisp, perfect miming aloud of the sotto voce instructions from the clerks of the House.
At this stage it’s just my hunch that the four chairpersons will face far more testy and rancorous sittings in the next several hundred. If so, those who must keep their heads and the House going seem likely to be up to it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 25, 1995
ID: 12964097
TAG: 199506230077
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

A RARE TRIBUTE FOR A RARE MAN

The death notices for Charles Ritchie, diplomat and diarist, who died on June 8, have been unusual for quality and variety. Few get such literary tributes, let alone statements of regret and praise from the prime minister and a minister of foreign affairs.
Such recognition was not shocking given Ritchie’s career and wonderful personality, but comparable time, space and analysis are rarely the lot for most notables who pass on. In this we are far back of the British. Consider the following deceased whose personalities and careers would have drawn far more savoring on a British stage than they got here.
– John Aird, once a senator and also a lieutenant-governor, and a truly benign man.
– G.H. Wood (who created “Sanitation for the Nation”) and almost got through his 100th year.
– Wally Halder, happy sportsman and backer of young Olympians.
– Rev. Lawrence Shook, a wonderful teacher and surely the figurative heart of St. Michael’s College for a long generation.
– Nora McCullough, who died two years ago at 90, her long promotion and nurture of art and painters through the Depression and long after largely forgotten.
So many lives merit more recall than our stock obituaries provide.
Not long ago Mary Ellen Gillan, a Vancouver writer, published a paperback entitled Obits: The Way We Say Goodbye. It’s mostly a selection of obituaries of “ordinary Canadians,” prefaced with some analysis of form and variety in the genre.
Gillan collected several thousand obits over two decades of scanning. Most are succinct and prosaic. But she found enough expressive and captivating ones for a fascinating book which raises this very Canadian question: Why are so many obituaries short on evaluation and description?
The author-editor hopes Obits will stimulate keener appraisals of the significance to family and community of the deceased. Her samples came from across the country but those I found most moving and pungent were on British Columbians.
She noted something I’d realized as a war veteran: because Canadians haven’t a penchant for display of patriotism and national pride, and rather few memoirs or histories of grand deeds, our younger generations would be hard put to know a million Canadians served in the forces in World War II. Those in their prime in the 1940s are into or through their 70s, the mortality years! While most of the obituaries of veterans do note in what, and where, the man or woman served Canada, it almost always is done tersely. So such service was prideful and worth noting, but not made much of.
NO ONE WOULD THINK HIM LONELY
And this brings me back to the starting point – Charles Ritchie.
He lived nearby. Daily, lean and erect, rain or shine, he stalked the sidewalks. His vertical line and the deliberateness of his stride reminded me of the blue heron. He was usually alone but no one looking at him would think him a lonely or disconsolate man.
I see Charles as one of the most positive of all my countrymen. Over many years I interviewed him five times, one-on-one, for my half-hour TV program, None of some thousand such guests, not even great talkers like J.K. Galbraith or Robin McNeil were more engaging for me as host or drew as much favorable comment from viewers. Once a woman caller suggested: “Let him do the program. You’re unnecessary.”
His diaries are great reading and a wide window onto several societies, a half-dozen great locales and scores of persons, notable and not notable at all.
But better than the diaries was Charles Ritchie in chat. He could be snobbish, but never pompous or evasive. He didn’t hint of mysteries to be left unsaid about any person or subject. He’d readily sketch a colleague such as Mike Pearson to a harrowed beauty of his early years, writer Elizabeth Sharp, or his love in Britain through the war, Elizabeth Bowen, a superb novelist.
But Ritchie wouldn’t be pushed. He rebuffed me, politely of course, when I sought news of discord, for example on the affair which turned a young George Grant (later a philosopher) so harshly against Pearson. He could be very candid but rarely vicious about the politicians and mandarins he’d known. I was intrigued with the clear demarcation he drew between his life as a public servant and his personal pleasures and interests.
Above all else I saw Charles Ritchie as one who loved girls and women, figuratively and literally. And he was so open and graceful in doing it. He got responses in attention and good company. He told me he’d realized as a boy that women were more vital and important for him than men. His insight bears memorializing, eh?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, June 23, 1995
ID: 12963834
TAG: 199506220166
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

A DISSENTING VIEW OF PARLIAMENT

Over the last year some specific wisdom which I would dispute has become conventional among most political journalists. Although some express this largely in appraisals of leaders, others use the recognized parties in the House as their frame.
The first group asserts the people and the country are unfortunate because neither Lucien Bouchard nor Preston Manning is a possible alternative to Jean Chretien as prime minister. For example, Dalton Camp of the Toronto Star keeps reiterating this wisdom, usually with particular derision for the Reform Party leader.
A second group asserts that the problem abides in the split of seats among the parties which has created a long mandate with only one national party dominant in a House without an alternative of country-wide scope. The BQ only speaks for matters key to Quebec. The Reform Party only resonates to the Canada that lies west of the Ottawa River.
Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe and Mail has repeated this appreciation over months, sometimes wrily, sometimes regretfully. Usually he notes how Parliament, the government, and the country are lacking a forceful critique from the left, usually provided by the NDP, and this has been doubly unfortunate because the more radical Liberals like Lloyd Axworthy and Sheila Copps have been muted by budget realities.
The two interpretations overlap, of course, and crystallized a widespread opinion, especially among citizens somewhat interested in politics and governance in Ottawa but without the time or urge to monitor the course of legislative initiatives in Ottawa or the work of the opposition parties or of MPs as individuals (rather than as caucus instruments).
Put bluntly, the reigning wisdom is of an unfortunate Parliament and a ministry without serious, continuing examination of worth with real form and consistency. Tragically absent are both the idealism on behalf of the underdogs from the NDP and the long, national experience usually provided by the Conservatives.
MORE HOUSE CLASHES
I think the wisdom’s superficial. However sensible, even accurate, it seems because of caucus numbers or the huge reach of Chretien which opinion polls keep verifying, I find this Parliament has developed more open debating clashes across a far wider range of knotty issues than the last ones did. This has become clear, not just in the oral question period but in the debating hours and in so many committee hearings and reports.
Most bills and much administration has been appraised as competently as in any of the first sessions of previous parliaments. And the excellent, fresh talent on both the Grit backbench and in the Reform and BQ caucuses seems more impressive to me than in any House of the past two decades.
Witness to strong individual opinions in this House is found in more than the unusual number of dissenting speeches and votes by some government MPs over gun control, sexual orientation and the dismantling of the social system.
Take the following lively examples:
1) The well-researched push of John Bryden, a Liberal MP, to curb the power and influence of many interest group lobbies, in particular those funded in part by the government;
2) The several initiatives of another Liberal MP, John Nunziata, against multicultural policies and for a public inquiry into the Air India disaster;
3) The emphasis on sexual orientation now affecting Quebecers through the moves of Real Menard, a Bloc MP, since he became the second open homosexual in the history of the House;
4) The astute work of Tory Sen. John Lynch-Staunton in forcing the Chretien government to reshape its ways and means of dealing with the Pearson airport contract’s cancellation.
WEAK CABINET ROSTER
By this summer’s recess the opposition has been able enough to expose a weak cabinet roster. Five ministers are literally pathetic; another half-dozen are passengers or ciphers. Such exposure reflects an opposition at work, not just bad choices by Chretien.
Another bonus in this House so far comes from the prime minister. He has given it more personal time and participation than either Brian Mulroney or Pierre Trudeau ever did.
And my closing point on this Parliament being a good one with cabinet and government policies tested, particularly for goofs, omissions, and fudged promises, is about Bouchard and Manning. Oh, how different they are but each has been abler and more thoughtful when on his feet than the country yet realizes. Their high intelligence and diligence are obvious, their arguments clear.
And the rest of this Parliament’s term should be even better.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 21, 1995
ID: 12963589
TAG: 199506200106
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

OBEDIENCE SCHOOL FOR LIBERAL MPS

In modern Ottawa “jumping the whip” has not been uncommon in the House of Commons. But it’s been rare enough not to be much emphasized.
Certainly it’s rarely a continuing problem on the government side of the House, given this exception: the split in 1963 of the last John Diefenbaker cabinet and caucus over atomic warheads that forced an election.
On occasion opposition caucuses have been hurt by dissidents, e.g., in the Robert Stanfield years Tory caucuses had many MPs against the party’s line in favor of official bilingualism.
Clearly there are several new elements in the latest swatch of rejections by an MP or MPs of the caucus’ dictum on House votes. The general one is that Canada’s affairs are into an era where verities approved by all parties on most issues have been breaking up. In short, the so-called surge to the right, dictated in large part by big deficits and a huge debt load.
Even more of the new dissidence among MPs comes through the members in this House from two new parties with unusual missions.
But the prime grabber in today’s discipline dilemmas is leadership-driven. Leaders being tough always gets high notice on the Hill’s community and, of course, from a media fascinated by the top dogs.
Jean Chretien didn’t delegate the task of warning would-be jumpers to ministers or a House leader or the party whip, as Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau did on the several occasions when there were threats of bolts from obedience in their caucuses. With grim firmness Chretien has been explicit about the powers he will use against those who vote against the party in the House, including the ultimate one of denying an MP his or her renomination as a Liberal.
VOTE WITH CONSTITUENTS
The newest element in dissidence comes from the implicit policy of the Reform Party that predicates an MP should not vote for a measure in the House which is rejected by a majority of his or her constituents.
And so, Jim Silye, of all things the Reform whip, votes for the gun control bill to keep in line with his electors’ views, even though he dislikes the bill and its requirement that all guns be registered, and even though the majority of the Reform caucus decided to fight the bill and did so through hours of committee hearings and House debates.
And Reform has been frustrating the Liberal hierarchy, for example, from disciplining Warren Allmand for voting against Paul Martin’s last budget because it undoes what he thinks the Liberal party both stood for and created.
Reform is also encouraging all Liberal MPs whenever they put their own principles or those of their constituents ahead of the dictates of their leader.
Of course, this is showboating. It’s far harder for leaders of the governing party to brook dissenters behind them than it is for those leading opposition parties. Nonetheless, Canadians tend toward those brave enough to sacrifice position by standing up for principles or against blunt authority.
Chretien is proving to be more of a “hands on” prime minister than we’ve been used to, a bush-pilot kind of PM. Of course, aside from punishments he has rich rewards for loyal followers at his command, from cabinet posts to Senate sinecures to honors and global travel.
TROOPS ARE RESTLESS
Despite the hurt and the glory he dispenses, several of his government’s initiatives have many of his troops restless – in truth considerably more than have voted with the opposition. You know their reasons thus far, particularly the gun control register, and to a lesser degree any more legitimatizing of homosexuality and, to a very minor degree, the modest reforms to parliamentary pensions.
My hunch is that Chretien has risked his basic popularity by appearing like a Pope, always ready to excommunicate. His infallibility must be recognized at all times by each of the faithful. Forget constituents. Forget personal beliefs. Being a Liberal MP begins with always saying “aye” at the leader’s command.
So Chretien wants a docile caucus. Is this so imperative? His majority is very large because it comes from many regions. Some of these regions cherish values and opinions that are disparate or out of tune with the metropolitan wisdom so dominant in the Liberal party’s elite.
Are there such severe tests of caucus unity ahead the PM must establish his absolutes now? They are not easy to see. One can hardly foresee any over Quebec’s sovereignty. Perhaps it’s the next budget. More and more, rumor suggests its reductions will make the last one seem easy.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 18, 1995
ID: 12963266
TAG: 199506160174
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

QUEBEC’S GOT TO BE KIDDING

“We … formally propose a new economic and political partnership with Canada, aimed among other things at consolidating the existing economic space.” (from an agreement by Jacques Parizeau, Lucien Bouchard, and Mario Dumont, Quebec City, June 12.)
Given the gall of this proposition, the slight reaction to it of most Canadians is astonishing. The disinterest may stem from sheer constitutional boredom. Perhaps a long run of opinion poll data has convinced us the Quebec electorate will reject sovereignty or separation. Certainly a lot of us no longer give a damn if Quebec goes or stays.
Whatever the reasons, there’ve been few serious responses beyond Quebec to the “common agreement to be submitted in the referendum” which Messrs. Parizeau, Bouchard and Dumont have signed.
It may be a good thing the rest of Canada is not reacting strongly. The holding of the long-mooted referendum is not arrogant, but the proposals in this agreement are insufferably presumptuous. For example, the trio assumes the politicians and ministries, federal and provincial, would enter negotiations for a new system of two adjoining, associated states.
One must suppose that the logic in such proposals comes from the separatists’ acceptance they cannot get a majority because of the fears of many Quebecers about the economic costs to them when Quebec leaves Canada.
The repetitious polling data has changed the separatists’ reluctance for anything less than a clear break from Canada. But do they realize the setup they’ll put to the vote would earn a quick exit from office of any federalist outside Quebec who took it seriously.
To appreciate the effrontery in the Parizeau-Bouchard-Dumont plan consider this gist of it.
“Our joint project breaks with the Canadian status quo, rejected by the overwhelming majority of Quebecers. It is true to the aspirations of Quebecers to autonomy and enables Quebec to become sovereign: to collect all its taxes, pass all its laws, sign all of its treaties.
“Our project also incorporates the wish of Quebecers to maintain a fair and flexible tie with our Canadian neighbors, in order to jointly manage the economic space, particularly by means of joint institutions, including institutions of a political nature.
“We are convinced that this proposal reflects both the interests of Quebec and Canada, but we cannot of course predict the decision that Canadians will take in this regard.”
Well, let me predict. Overwhelmingly, Canadians would reject negotiations, let alone the proposal.
NEW INSTITUTIONS FOR THE PARTNERSHIP
The agreement details that after an affirmative referendum a year will be allowed for negotiations with Canada. It states that, “It will be to the advantage of both states to sign a formal treaty of economic and political partnership.” The treaty will divide the federal assets and agree on how to manage the common debt. It will create the new institutions for the economic and political partnership of Quebec and Canada and “provide for the establishment of a Council, a Secretariat and Assembly and a Dispute Resolution Tribunal.”
The areas for joint action by “the Partnership” will include a customs union, the free flow of goods, individuals, services and capital between the two states, monetary policy, labor mobility, citizenship, international trade agreements, and defence arrangements such as NATO and NORAD.
The new Quebec and the reduced Canada would have much to do in their Council, Secretariat, and Assembly. Although the Council would be “equally made up of ministers from the two states” Quebec would only have 25% of the seats in the assembly.
The “orientation and supervision committee” to negotiate the new regimes will be made up of “independent personalities agreed upon by the three parties,” i.e., the PQ, the BQ and the ADQ. Reassuring, eh?
I have to label this project to be put by referendum to Quebecers as laughable madness. An impossibility! Over half of Quebecers may vote for it but the anticipated negotiations and institutions haven’t a hope of fruition.
The day after this Quebec agreement a reporter asked Lucien Bouchard why he thought Jean Chretien, the prime minister, would ever consider negotiating such a deal. The BQ leader said Chretien would have to, that was his responsibility.
What a failure of common sense. Even if he would – which he won’t – Chretien, a Quebecer, could not negotiate with a sovereign Quebec for the rest of Canada.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, June 16, 1995
ID: 12962973
TAG: 199506150205
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS GONE

Here, today, PC stands for “political correctness,” not Progressive Conservative. PC in Canada has been much battered lately, praise be. Examples are the Mike Harris sweep to power in Ontario and this week’s rugged, forceful debates in the House of Commons over gun control and homosexuality. In both debates, topics which politicians usually tip-toe around were hit head-on.
Those at the figurative “Last Supper” of Bob Rae’s big caucus whined about the “undercurrents of sexism, racism and bigotry” in the Tory agenda. Mike Harris played on voters’ biases. He had been deliberately incorrect, and won.
As the Ontario election campaign began I forecast the Tory surge, but I did not break out of PC with the leading reason for my forecast. I was finding many voters who didn’t want Bob Rae didn’t want a female premier. They wouldn’t say so for publication but I was sure many wouldn’t vote Liberal because of a female leader.
Why wouldn’t they say so? For the same reason I wasn’t open about it. One doesn’t want to be taken as anti-female or sexist. Somehow to say Lyn McLeod was a loser because of her sex brands one as unfair or politically incorrect. PI is the reverse of PC.
With a week of the campaign left I mentioned the “woman” factor, the Kim-Audrey-Lyn syndrome. Immediately McLeod was asked if there was anything in it. She hoped not. But the day after the election both she and her campaign director acknowledged there was.
NOT A PERSONAL BIAS
Of course, once in print with the idea the callers came after me as a sexist, even though my opinion was not a personal bias against women leaders.
A new book is at hand on PC, done by a clutch of academics, mostly Canadian, and sociologists. Their vocabularies and modes of argument mean the book, Beyond Political Correctness: Toward the Inclusive University (edited by Stephen Richer and Lorna Weir, and published by the U of T Press) will not get a wide readership.
Let me give a sampling. It’s on the guarantee of equal treatment for all citizens with respect to government services under the Ontario Human Rights Code – in this case, education.
“Persistent comments or behavior in the classroom that are offensive, intimidating, hostile or unwelcome on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin, color, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, family status, receipt of public assistance, record of provincial offences or pardoned federal offences constitute human rights violations in the province of Ontario.”
It’s a pity there isn’t a plain English edition of the book because it’s a thorough witness to the ideological grist of the academic left in Canada. In the book one sees the origins of many legislative thrusts since the 1960s and particularly of the Rae government in Ontario. For example, the enforcement of employment equity for women, the disabled, aborigines, and other visible minorities.
ENEMY OF FREEDOM AND MERIT
The editors acknowledge that the idea of a society that is politically attuned to the fundamental of fairness in services, the courts, and the economy was often the target of fun and satire for being over-zealous and rigid. But it was American neo-conservatives, most of whom were Republicans, who saw the great advantage they could take of PC by depicting it as intolerant, fanatic, oppressive, and un-American. To a large degree they’ve succeeded in the U.S. in making PC seem the successor to communism as the enemy of freedom and merit. (Note the huge success of House Speaker Newt Gingrich.)
These sociologists insist that PC in the U.S. and increasingly in Canada has become a hammer for breaking those who advocate a society and a economy which tries to give a fair share to everyone. Certainly those inclined to be liberals or social democrats in Canada have had much success, inspired by feminism or the demands of blacks, natives and homosexuals for equity and redress. This was particularly so within the parties of the federal Parliament before the Reformers arrived in 1993.
Reformers are very PI. Before they came an MP couldn’t criticize the goals of PC without getting the terrible tags of “racist” or “redneck” or “Neanderthal.” It’s inconceivable that in the past Parliament a real scatter of Grit MPs would bolt the whip on PC issues.
The Harris victory confirms the eclipse of PC in Canada. It might not last long. In my opinion, most of the politicians are ready to live with PI but most of the journalists are not.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 14, 1995
ID: 12962692
TAG: 199506130084
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

MINDLESS GRIT PARTISANSHIP

Petty things can show the acumen of a governing party.
Consider the use by the Chretien Liberals of the daily time of the House given to “statements” during the Ontario election campaign. From early in May to June 7 Grit MPs rose, early on to praise Lyn McLeod and later on, to belittle Mike Harris, now the Tory premier-elect.
Each day before oral questions the Speaker recognizes a dozen or so non-ministerial MPs for brief remarks (average about 150 words) on a subject of their choice. This period developed in the ’70s out of backbench frustration, mostly by government MPs who wanted a sure way to have an open say to show the home folks they were alive and perhaps even trigger a news item.
Often the topics of the MPs relate to their ridings. Sports victories or natural disasters or tourist events are examples. Sometimes it’s a noble deed of a constituent, sometimes a boost for a good cause. Often MPs hymn praise for their wondrous leader or the grand results from a government program. And usually opposition MPs will cudgel the government over ethics or failures. Reformers make pitches on the exorbitance of MPs’ pensions and Bloc Quebecois MPs often laud initiatives for sovereignty in Quebec.
Even recognizing the function of “statements” as a release valve for scores of pent-up MPs, one has to wonder why they bother. Yes, they get a videotaped record but seldom do they make the news or win strong applause or negative outrage from their peers.
In a democratic sense it is sad so few parts of the House day, aside from oral questions, are taken seriously beyond the chamber or catch attention of reporters or producers. By and large, oral statements are a daily continuum of mish-mash, largely of bootless ambition or mindless partisanship.
To illustrate the last point here are remarks by two Grit MPs, made on May 10.
DROOLING PRAISE FOR PM
Sarkis Assadourian (Don Valley North) prophesied that this time “Ontario voters will do it right.” He drooled about the prime minister; how he, guided by the good Red Book “has governed with integrity and honesty, as he said he would.
“Last week,” said Assadourian, “Lyn McLeod unveiled the Ontario Liberal plan, … On June 8 Premier Mcleod will be able to put the Liberal plan into action, as we did 18 months ago.”
Andy Mitchell (Parry Sound-Muskoka) began with praise for the many jobs created in Ontario by the Chretien government, and then said: “When Lyn McLeod is premier of this province, Ontarians stand to benefit even more. Lyn McLeod and her Liberal team are committed to job creation and will work in partnership with the federal government … ”
He went on and on in the same vein, and for a time so did other Ontario MPs.
But as the days in May ran out the MPs were getting some intelligence reports from the hustings. The splendid Lyn McLeod was not so splendid and the villainous Mike Harris was up. And so the shift to ripping Harris as a reactionary, Americanized menace. For example, Brenda Chamberlain, (Guelph-Wellington) on May 31 said Ontario voters were discovering where their leaders stood on issues.
“Recently on employment equity and disabled persons Conservative leader Mike Harris is quoted as saying: `Now here is a disabled person only 50% as good as an able-bodied worker, but you must hire them and you must pay them as much as an able-bodied one.’
UNINFORMED STATEMENTS
“To make such uninformed statements of the disabled person’s ability to compete is totally unacceptable. Liberals have always brought out the best in every Canadian. We have always celebrated and encouraged what every member can contribute to society. People with disabilities deserve better than this. The Common Sense Revolution only appears to be for the strong, the powerful and the fit, but above all it lacks common sense.”
The anti-Harris statements became more strident in the last week of the campaign. I thought their low point came when two highly intelligent Liberals emoted on Harris as a serious danger to Ontario and the country if he should become premier.
When MPs as able as Jane Stewart (Brant), the daughter of Bob Nixon and the granddaughter of an Ontario premier, and John English (Kitchener), a parliamentary secretary and the astute biographer of Lester Pearson, must rise to spout useless and vacuous criticism of a provincial leader of a party we have with us for several more years a collectively stupid, underemployed and very large government caucus.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 11, 1995
ID: 12962385
TAG: 199506090225
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

ALLMAND TASTES HIS OWN MEDICINE

Here is some context for matters in Parliament. Mostly it’s about the punishing of Warren Allmand, an MP since 1965, a Trudeau minister from 1972-79, who bolted party lines to vote against Paul Martin’s budget.
Secondly, this is about the rise in question period skirmishes over old-style, old party politics. Tipped by leaks from inside, Reform MPs are pecking away at the fragile ethics of the Chretien team and its parallels with the Mulroney gang’s ethics.
There’s a lot to admire in Allmand’s career as a Liberal MP, especially if one’s views, like his, are consistently left of centre.
In 1965 when Allmand, then 33, came to the House from a polyglot riding in Montreal many Liberal MPs were to the left, or, what one of them, Bryce Mackasey, called “real Liberals.” From 1963 to the end of the ’70s many of them made the Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau cabinets, much influencing legislation. Allmand was not immodest last week when he said he had to vote against a bill to destroy the social system he had helped put together.
Other “real Liberals” of his sort were Mackasey, Walter Gordon, John Munro, Judy LaMarsh, Joe Greene, Gene Whelan, Ron Basford, Eric Kierans, Herb Gray, John Roberts, Pierre De Bane and, ultimately, Charles Caccia and Lloyd Axworthy.
Allmand was first a minister as solicitor general, and he pursued prison reform with an emphasis on rehabilitation over punishment. He sought to open information sources and was critical of the intelligence service, then within the RCMP. After a brief year as minister for Indian and northern affairs he was switched to consumer and corporate affairs, as gossip put it, because he was “a patsy” for Indian demands. In his last ministry for Trudeau he bothered business, being seen as pro-consumer and anti-corporation.
When Trudeau regained power in 1980 he passed over Allmand, preferring Don Johnston, his lawyer acolyte from another Montreal riding.
Unlike many ex-ministers Allmand didn’t mope or seek the Senate haven. He careened along, an active MP, vigilant in opposition, then back on the government side. He’s been a fitness addict with remarkable energy. He tends to bypass much social action and caucus time-filling on the Hill. One corollary of his dedication and busy work is neither disciples nor a pack of caucus buddies. He’s a doer but a loner. He’s respected in the caucus but not adored.
However much I have disagreed with the constancy of Allmand on policies of bilingualism, multiculturalism and native rights I cannot find another MP who has matched his durability and persistence over the past three decades. He still has more willpower and particular purposes than most colleagues. And despite his biases – e.g., in favor of Allan Rock’s gun control law – he’s been a fair and able chairman of the justice committee in its many hearings on the bill.
FORMER CAUCUS POLICEMAN
On the issue of caucus discipline, however, one must be curious about Allmand’s responses. He himself has been a caucus policeman on his most intense cause – official bilingualism. He has demanded discipline for any Liberal MPs who’ve dared doubt bilingualism. He’s been hard on wayward colleagues.
Now, to the slow shredding of the mantle of integrity worn by the Chretien government when it took office. Something like this happens to every federal government with a goodly majority. Who can forget the Mulroney mandates?
Slowly, gradually, this government, close to two years in office, is suffering as Reform MPs gain contacts and adroitness at using what comes from them.
Hardly a week passes without some minister being nailed for patronage or dubious associations or some bureaucratic stupidity.
As examples: the PM on his ties to Paul Desmarais and Power Corp.; or David Dingwall with his road-building scam for his home folks in Nova Scotia; or David Anderson and Allan Rock with their joint continuance of the old log-rolling of legal work to party-backing lawyers; or Art Eggleton’s minute changes to the pensions and remuneration of MPs; or Sergio Marchi’s swatch of partisan additions to the refugee board; or the cumulation of bonehead ploys by Michel Dupuy on contracts and fund-raising.
The gloss of fairness and honesty of a newish government is usually marred first, and mostly, in the House. It seems inevitable, and it isn’t necessarily fatal. It is happening to the Liberals.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, June 09, 1995
ID: 12721621
TAG: 199506090017
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

ONTARIO VOTERS GO BACK TO THE FUTURE

Has Ontario moved back to its roots or to the far right? It has done both, as I see it.
The Progressive Conservatives have the longest, strongest traditions and most successful history of any of the parties. And in leader Mike Harris, and the strong program of reductions in taxes, programs, and spending, the PCs have the most conservative economic and social program of any Ontario party in my memory.
So Ontario’s gone back to a Tory government with a big majority, much as John Robarts and Leslie Frost and Howard Ferguson used to have.
Harris has enough MPPs to have four to five years without a threat of defeats in the House. On the other hand, both the Official Opposition Liberals and the New Democrats have caucuses large enough and with enough experienced talent (especially the NDP) to keep the Legislature lively and full of good criticism of legislation and spending.
No one’s much noted it but the new premier has some resemblances to Jean Chretien in being very unpretentious and a ready mixer with people at any level without embarrassment.
Harris has a large crew of very green MPPs behind him and few veterans. Remember that after the last election he only had a score of followers in the Legislature. Now he has over 80. He will have at hand a lot of not yet aged veterans of the Davis years for counsel and staff, so he shouldn’t make too many greenhorn goofs in getting under way.
Of course, he’ll need to be careful in the guides he seeks, for he must be aware a substantial number of long-time Conservatives, particularly those active in the federal party under Brian Mulroney, are quite critical of the so-called Americanization of his program.
Dalton Camp and Hugh Segal are two good examples.
BETTER TO HAVE LOST
It was hard not to feel sorry for Bob Rae and Lyn McLeod. Probably both in hindsight will decide it would have been preferable if they had lost their seats.
For Rae this may be so because he’s going to be tempted with the federal NDP leadership and because his experience is so wide and his presence attractive enough to open careers elsewhere than in legislative politics. Even last week I heard talk on the Hill that he would be a likely ambassador with a great chore – e.g., at the UN.
McLeod faces a grim period because there have been second-guessers in her party ever since she won the leadership. Less than two years ago the federal Liberals swept 98 of 99 Ontario seats, an augury, everyone thought, of an easy triumph in the Ontario election.
McLeod entered the campaign itself with a big edge in opinion polls, a well-funded party and a young, experienced, well-schooled crew of handlers and arrangers.
Nonetheless, she never made a sizeable impact, before or in the campaign.
I think it’s in large part a reflection of the unreadiness of too many voters in Ontario (and elsewhere in Canada too) for a female premier. She is not incompetent in the Legislature itself but neither is she a dynamic figure there, nor magnetic and dominant enough in attacking the Harris legislative programs to convert a reduced caucus into the obvious next government.
In short, the Ontario Grits will have to have a new leader or it’s likely the NDP may make the next comeback, not the Liberals.
FEDERAL IMPLICATIONS
The implications of the PC win in Ontario on federal politics are more for the federal Tory party than for anything like potential or certain divisiveness between the new administration at Queen’s Park and the Chretien cabinet. It means the federal Tory remnant has to settle the Red Tory/Blue Tory matter, probably by moving program attitudes toward both those of Mike Harris and the Reform Party.
One clear message in the Liberal washout in Ontario for Jean Chretien is that none of his Ontario ministers is a major personality for Ontario politics. None! Not even Allan Rock. And he has to get moving on a far better Ontario roster.
As the only columnist I know who forecast a Harris victory when the campaign was being called, let me use such foresight, not to be immodest, but to emphasize why I expected such a result.
Simply it’s this: I’ve been sure, ever since the Martin budget was swallowed so placidly by the country that all across the land the voters want deficits ended, the debt brought down and our finances put in order.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 07, 1995
ID: 12721316
TAG: 199506060117
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

A TORY MAJORITY, BUT NOT A SWEEP

The Ontario election now at hand raises more immediate questions than broad opinions on the province’s politics taken from past performances.
On the eve of the vote one wonders: will there be a majority government? Or which of the three parties will get enough seats to form the government? Is a sweep coming – like the federal Liberals’ capture of all but one of Ontario’s 99 seats in the House of Commons in 1993?
A sweep equivalent to the 95 out of 130 seats such as David Peterson won in 1987 is possible, but unlikely. The highest number should hardly be over 80 seats.
My bet is a clear, but not huge, majority for the Progressive Conservative party. History as much as recent opinion polling is my counsel. After all, there have been 26 provincial elections in Ontario this century and the Tories have won more seats than any other party in 20 of them.
The way things often break in Ontario ridings with tough three-way contests does cause some odd results, in particular favoring the NDP in regions where it has had a strong base (such as Northwestern and Northeastern Ontario and around the hub of Hamilton). In this campaign in which the NDP seems to be running third and well back, the party may pull out more seats than opinion polling indicates.
In this campaign the Liberals have had more of a leadership problem than a dearth of either money or enthusiasm in constituency groups, at least as one sees it in Eastern Ontario. I gather, however, from phoning west and north that a lot of Liberal candidates have been putting on strong, local campaigns. A minority fraction of them are ex-MPPs or former candidates.
MINORITY GOVERNMENT?
It may be the Liberal party will not roll to an absolute majority but if the NDP vote doesn’t collapse across the province, Lyn McLeod’s crew could gain the most seats and form and operate a minority government.
They might manage the latter by making a formal deal with the NDP remnant, much as David Peterson did in 1985, or they could even hang on without a formal nod from the other caucuses at Queen’s Park, as Bill Davis managed to do so cleverly through two minority mandates from 1975 to 1981.
Ever since the late historian Frank Underhill, bedevilled by Mackenzie King’s long run as PM in Ottawa, made the point some 40 years ago, it has been repeated and is being repeated right now. Underhill thought Ontario voters sought a balance between political forces and they got it by putting into power at Queen’s Park a party different than the one in power in Ottawa.
There are enough coincidences in election results to take the proposition seriously. For example, the vault of Peterson’s Liberals to 95 seats in 1985 a year after Brian Mulroney’s Tories picked up 211 federal seats. A few years before this, not long after Peterson became party leader, he was describing Pierre Trudeau as his main problem in moving to power. The Liberal PM was a cross Peterson carried in Ontario before Mulroney roared to victory.
It’s hard to see Jean Chretien as a heavy cross, dragging down McLeod in this campaign, but neither his magic nor the cachet of most of the 98 Grit MPs in Ontario seems to be at work for the Liberals. This I take from my observations and what some Liberal MPs tell me.
GOING FOR BALANCE
There was an odd corollary drawn by Underhill when he made his remarks about Ontario voters going for balance. He noted that neither Mitch Hepburn, a Liberal premier, nor George Drew, a Tory premier who succeeded him, was very successful in taking on Mackenzie King, the prime minister. Sensible Tory premiers realized their terms in office should not be filled with war talk against Ottawa.
By and large, Ontario premiers Leslie Frost, John Robarts and Bill Davis had few crises or deep animosities with prime ministers and federal ministers. And there are few expectations that Mike Harris as premier would see Jean Chretien and his government as a handy antithesis.
In fact, in this campaign Premier Bob Rae has backed away from what promised to be a stock line on cruelties wrought on Ontario by federal budgets and joint programs.
Over on the Grit side of the line, at no time has McLeod seemed lamer than when waving her copycat Red Book a few weeks ago. She seems to have given it up.
My rough guess on seats after Thursday is: PC 72; Liberal 48; NDP 10.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 04, 1995
ID: 12720960
TAG: 199506020169
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C7
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

CHRETIEN’S POPULARITY HIDES CAUCUS DISCONTENT

Here are a few opinions on matters current on Parliament Hill.
First, I see an irony in the governing party.
Gallup reports Jean Chretien to be the most popular prime minister since its polling began (some 50 years ago) surpassing John Diefenbaker’s high tide in ’58. But evidence is growing of a caucus which is increasingly critical of Chretien and the quality of his ministry, and of the cavalier discipline he’s sanctioned for those MPs who won’t vote for particular government bills.
And impatience is growing because nothing’s on the pike to fulfil big tickets of the campaign such as abolishing the GST, reforming the social system and altering, perhaps jettisoning, the trade agreements of Brian Mulroney.
The latest rating of the PM is not a phony, but a swatch of Liberal MPs wish it were. With Chretien’s popularity so sky-high his work as leader of the country and the party can hardly be challenged from below, even if he’s heading a do-little government and a ministry so lame it’s without a single all-purpose hero beyond the boss.
As a backbencher has put it: “All Jean is doing is pulling Mulroney’s past intentions out of the drawers.”
The rising caucus unhappiness has an Ontario core which has become focused from current experiences of MPs out campaigning in aid of their provincial sisters and brothers in the Ontario election. Neither Chretien’s nor their own coattails are dragging in electors for Lyn McLeod and company, and McLeod’s antics with her particular Red Book are generating lots of sarcasm about their own Red Book.
Another opinion: In recent months there’s been a profusion of comments by editorialists and columnists that the Liberals under Chretien are cinches to win the next federal election. I don’t believe it will be an easy win unless the economy shows marked improvement with the jobless down and strong evidence that some control of the deficit-debt burden is being attained.
Figure on this. If the Ontario Tories under Mike Harris win a clear majority, the resurgence of the federal Tories in Ontario is a given. And the Chretien Liberals have hardly been wrapping up the west. By ’97 or ’98 they will surely need but may not regain their traditional bedrock of most Quebec seats.
And as I see it, however big the defeat of the PQ’s referendum, there’s too much support for the BQ in Quebec for its big contingent of MPs to be wiped out.
A third opinion was reached after many hours spent reading the printed proceedings of the House justice committee on Allan Rock’s gun control bill. On balance, those witnesses against the bill have been more impressive to me than those for it and, on content, not just because they reveal a high scale of anger and frustration throughout the west, the north, and the rural south of the nation at the bill’s perpetual register system.
You may also have noticed more and more of those in the political media, who by and large have been strongly for the bill and have depicted Allan Rock as heroic and the prime minister in waiting, are turning and being critical of him and more sympathetic toward the several score Liberal backbenchers who are stressed by their constituents’ animosity to the registry.
To a degree, the rising skepticism pivots on whether it was wise for the PM and Rock to make so much of the bill. It’s created an immense and durable bitterness which will continue with implementation, and there’s meagre evidence this massive registration and its penalties will affect the availability or use of guns by criminals in the big cities.
The gun bill is almost sure to clear the House, but it promises to be in the Senate for many more hearings that will further emphasize the bootlessness, lack of urgency and high costs of such a registry.
Chretien and his Quebec ministers have been brushing by the fresh constitutional advice offered by Claude Ryan, long dean of Quebec commentators and a prominent federalist in Bourassa cabinets. Ryan wants Chretien to undertake the restoration of Quebec’s veto on any alteration to the Constitution affecting its rights and powers.
On the mere face of it such a move would be a big loser in the rest of Canada, and with polls showing the PQ unable to near a majority vote for sovereignty it seems necessary. But most separatists will never forgive or forget the “gangup” of premiers under Pierre Trudeau which was put together by Chretien and which isolated Quebec.
Why couldn’t the PM take up Ryan’s plea but add to it another constitutional provision that henceforth Canada shall be indivisible?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, June 02, 1995
ID: 12720700
TAG: 199506010141
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

LYN’S A VICTIM OF VOTER BIAS

As the campaign in Ontario nears the wire, two features of it intrigue me above others, and no one has said much on either one.
The first feature is one those inside of politics tend to stay away from. It’s the woman party leader as a loser all the way, with a lot of voters who wouldn’t say so.
The second feature is about “handlers,” in particular those who are handling Lyn McLeod and Mike Harris. Bob Rae hasn’t handlers, choosing in this run largely to do without the famous pair from a recent past, those extraordinary verbalists Damon Lewis and Pythias Kaplan.
A double-barrelled answer would be useful in the matter of who are the men or women handling Mcleod and Harris, and what their main aims and ideas are beyond guiding their leaders into office. So far as one can see none is a prominent MPP or a former minister of note.
Handlers and their roles and intentions have tended to be more an Ottawa than a Queen’s Park topic. (Yes, I remember Dalton Camp and Hugh Segal of the Davis years and Eddie Goodman and Ernie Jackson of the Robarts era.)
In the long ago, party leaders in power were often guided to a degree by one or more sages in their cabinets or by a strikingly able mandarin or two of the permanent public service such as clerks of the Privy Council. But increasingly, as the parties acquired the funding (mostly from the public purse), the cadre of apparatchiks around the leader has grown. These handlers have become rather like the staff officers of a senior general.
RESTLESS BACKBENCHERS
Just in recent weeks as discontent grows in the huge and increasingly restive Grit caucus in Ottawa, there’s talk of Jean Chretien’s one sage, Mitchell Sharp, and his closer handlers – Eddie Goldenberg, Gerard Pelletier, Peter Donolo – and their roles, particularly in the disciplinary rebuke of the three backbenchers who voted against Allan Rock’s gun control bill or in managing their boss so that little pressure of his backbench mob reaches him.
You must have noticed that neither in campaign advertising nor public performances has McLeod or Harris made much of their wonderful cabinet-to-be and its stellar components. Campaigning today seems to dictate lone stars, not the team or a bower of able people. It’s the star – and whoever is handling McLeod and Harris.
What you and I see on TV is nothing like the politician of a year or so ago. Now each is a product of intense shaping and handling.
Whether it’s McLeod or Harris as premier after June 8 you may be sure the prime curiosity about the premier’s office will be on who’s really picking the ministry and lining up the legislative priorities. And if something rare but not impossible like a minority Legislature results, who’s the behind-the-scenes strategist. It seems obvious to me it wouldn’t be either McLeod or Harris but their respective maker and shaper.
So the questions: who are these people and what are their characters?
Now, back to feature No. 1, the female leader syndrome.
TORY SURGE PREDICTED
Three weeks ago when I gave my reasons here for predicting a Tory surge and a good prospect of Mike Harris becoming premier, I left out a factor I kept encountering but didn’t want to highlight because I myself have no doubts about the capability of women in electoral politics. But a lot of voters do. And others won’t say it but they simply do not want a woman as premier or prime minister – whether the candidate is Liberal or Tory or New Democrat.
Surely some day this largely unexpressed block or rejection will disappear. But it’s still with us, and one gets the same hesitations and then the faint but clear damning of Lyn McLeod that I’ve heard before regarding Audrey McLaughlin and Kim Campbell, and even back to Sheila Copps and Flora MacDonald when they were would-be leaders of their parties.
Whatever Mcleod’s good attributes – and there must be some behind her bland assurance and underneath her reiterated garble – she’s not a pull but a drag on Liberal hopes.
It was ironic that I took this explanation of McLeod’s collapse as a leader on the roll to an easy victory to an acquaintance at the Lakehead who first primed me a decade ago on McLeod’s promise as a politician. And she said: “The Mcleod woman you’re seeing is not the one we knew. We don’t know what they’ve done to her but that’s no longer the one we liked and trusted.”
Of course, by “they” this woman meant McLeod’s handlers. Who are they?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 31, 1995
ID: 12720452
TAG: 199505300083
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

WE’RE NATO’S WEAK SISTER

Early this year a consort of David Collenette, irritated by my remarks on the Airborne fiasco said: “The trouble’s just with the dammed army. My minister’s au courant and doing well with the navy and air people but not the army guys.”
How right was he? An auditor of Collenette on the Bosnian schmozzle knows the defence minister has the office but no grasp on it.
The crisis of our army is of soldiers assailed on all sides, mostly by friendly fire from those whose charge is to care for them and haven’t – their officers and political chiefs. “Military leadership” applied to them is an oxymoronic phrase. The rot at the top remains and is a hard burden on the men and women put in harm’s way.
A few nights ago Global TV ran a thoughtful item on the rise and fall of the Airborne Regiment. Former members, including past commanders, were asked about the incidents of indecencies and indiscipline. All were adamant. They rejected such behavior as inexcusable. In their day it would not have been tolerated. An officer should know what his men were up to and what they were thinking. Those who failed in this duty should resign. They concluded a breakdown in basic leadership was at the root of the regiment’s problems.
While the Airborne is no more, its officers and men still serve. Since it was rated as our “best” and since its members were drawn from our three top infantry regiments, one assumes the problem of inadequate officers was not unique to the Airborne.
The views on leadership heard in the TV program match my experiences in the army half a century ago.
The force recently hailed for liberating Holland was a citizen’s army with few professionals in its ranks or officer corps. The target of snobbish criticism from “professional” Brits, our leadership at the unit level was in fact pretty good, and those who were given the responsibility took it very seriously.
SHAPE UP, OR ELSE
Just before my own unit went into action certain deficient officers were pulled aside by our commander and told they had to shape up fast. Once the fighting began there would be no room for slackers or cretins, and the men themselves would sort them out if they didn’t.
Perhaps it was harsh, but this was war.
One sign of how good Canadian junior officers could be was evident in those loaned to British regiments. These men put up a superb record of awards and honors for bravery but they also were known for taking more interest in their soldiers than was common with British officers. It’s a quality sadly lacking in our “professionals” of today.
Beyond just their lack of accountability in the Somali mess there are other revealing situations.
Canadians soldiers have been in the former Yugoslavia for three years. Some are on their third tour. And yet they still lack many vital pieces of kit.
Their body armor is even below the quality of media vests. Their usual helmets aren’t up to snuff because bureaucrats have stalled replacements. So the men when over there use U.S.-style headgear which they hand on to their replacements.
Requests for vehicles dedicated to clearing mines haven’t been met and we borrow from other UN outfits. Our troops ride in some of the oldest, most thinly armored vehicles in use, including wheeled ones originally bought for training in Canada.
The Chretien government may boast of the scale of our contribution but it lacks a Canadian field hospital. There again we rely on others better funded by their governments.
LEADERSHIP GAP
A few days ago on CBC Newsworld, the BBC’s Martin Bell, in Bosnia since the beginning, noted diplomatically that Canada has become something of a weak sister in the UN contingents. Would that our boasters in Ottawa, political and military, understood this.
But in Ottawa the leadership gap isn’t narrowing. The Brits, with soldiers held hostage, are sending heavy artillery and an air mobile brigade to support it. The British troops are backed! So are the French. France is sending a carrier into the Adriatic. And Canada?
Remember in 1992 when things got grim in Yugoslavia our government had our CF-18s practising their bombing, readying for deployment to Europe. Today a lot of these fighters are for sale, and those that are left aren’t going anywhere.
It’s true that Monday the government joined and dominated a divided opposition in an emergency House debate on the Serbian outrages. And in his remarks Collenette did reiterate the Chretien government’s commitment to our troops. But behind him were rows of empty chairs, as empty as his words of backing and succor.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 28, 1995
ID: 12720097
TAG: 199505260097
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

A NEW ANTI-SEMITISM?//FEARS OF GROWING INTOLERANCE IN CANADA

Few in either politics or journalism go readily into open discussions of racism. Why not? Because anything said or written is so often misconstrued. So I’ve hesitated before remarking on the analysis made by Irving Abella as he left the presidency of the Canadian Jewish Congress, in particular his worries over a “new” kind of anti-Semitism and a mounting intolerance in Canada, “the latest manifestation of which is the frightening backlash against multiculturalism and affirmative action programs.”
I suppose I’m part of the backlash at multiculturalism, but I did argue against it as a policy, before, during, and since its adoption in Canada in 1972. That’s when Pierre Trudeau appointed the first minister for multiculturalism.
On the “new anti-Semitism,” Abella is worried over its talk of Canadian Jews as too visible for their numbers: “Too wealthy, too educated, too integrated.” Too many, says the talk, are in high places in politics, law, medicine and education. Too many run corporations and dominate the media and entertainment fields.
“This,” in Abella’s view, “is the crux of the new anti-Semitism.” “Their weapon,” he said, “is Holocaust denial.”
Abella’s analysis sees that anti-Semitism has shifted toward envy and over-emphasis on the economic, social and political successes of Jews and that there’s less of the old hatreds and suspicions which have prevailed for so long throughout Christian history.
Someone isolated or foolish might deny hearing or reading about such widespread notice of achievements by Jews in our economy and society. Their successes have been, and are, remarkable, and often underlined.
But the moot question is how hurtful are such notices and remarks to Jews and how much do they undermine fairness and decency in our society? Do they translate, are they translating, into harassments and denials of opportunities and full citizenship to Jews?
I don’t believe it.
As for the latest weapon against Jews which Abella pinpoints as denial of the Holocaust, I do not find such denial is either widespread or convincing anybody in Canada.
Perhaps I’ve missed opinions in print or heard on radio or portrayed on television that the Canadian Jewish Congress has tapped into, but I’ve never heard or read denial of the Holocaust from anyone credible nor met any Canadian in public life who openly agrees with the likes of Ernst Zundel on such denial.
It seems to me there’s too much witness to the contrary through survivors, belated rescuers, and in film and documents.
I believe the concerns for today over racial and religious intolerance in Canada should no longer have their central focus on the role and place of Jews. They get nothing like the often, open animosity and belittling which I hear or see regarding two sometimes overlapping people and groupings: those of color – the so-called “visibles” and those of the Muslim faith.
The prejudices against them have been so virulent that I’m re-appraising my long opposition to multiculturalism as a national policy.
My advocacy has been for a common Canadian citizenship based on the democratic ideals and practices that developed and came to us in Canada through the laws and institutions of Britain, France and the U.S.
But I concede both our immigration and multicultural policies and programs, as well as the acceptance of the right to self-government by our aborigines, were all approved overwhelmingly by Parliament. The consequences have highlighted, almost consecrated, diversity and the continuing in Canada of many different heritages and values, none of which is officially superior or inferior to any other.
Multiculturalism posits that each ethnicity keeps its distinctiveness, figuratively, forever. I’ve thought this policy far too idealistic for us as human beings. It requires a huge patience and continuing acceptance of variety and differences. We must pass by values, customs, and behavior which annoy or enrage us. And more and more we haven’t been passing by. We’ve been picking at the “visibles” and Muslims of Canada.
Irving Abella sees both assimilation and anti-Semitism as “mortal enemies” of the Jewish community. Surely anti-Semitism is far less menacing than it was 40 or 50 years ago. As for “assimilation,” surely Canada needs some of it.
Maybe “accommodation” would be a more apt word for our need.
We have one fundamental division in Canada that is always testing us. I think we must have a considerable common canon of values and purposes. We no longer have it as sure and confidently as we once did.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, May 26, 1995
ID: 12719845
TAG: 199505250185
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

SENATE OVERSTEPPING TRADITIONAL BOUNDS?

No national dilemma, not even whither Quebec, is tougher than attaining aboriginal self-government. Thus, an unlikely initiative that’s popped out on the Senate’s agenda may be useful.
It’s Senate bill S-10, titled First Nations Government Bill. It’s been moved by a rookie white Tory senator, David Tkachuk of Saskatchewan, and seconded by another Tory, Walter Twinn, an Indian from Northern Alberta.
The bill has originated out of frustrations in many native bands at the slight progress in converting to reality their “inherent right” to self-government. And since the country rejected the Charlottetown accord, chances seem nil for major constitutional reform which would frame and define aboriginal self-government.
Bill S-10 would let many Indian bands and groups self-start their own governments, not through top-down negotiations with the Great White Father in Ottawa but at any of the 500 (plus!) locales across the country where the people of a band or tribe or “nation” live together on land held in common and wish to govern themselves.
This bill, if enacted, would “enable those communities, if they have the means and choose to do so, to create new constitutions for themselves, continue existing laws, make new laws and carry on their own government and laws.”
As the sponsors put it: “Both federal and provincial laws of general application would continue to apply to a community bringing itself under this enactment when those laws do not conflict with this enactment and the community’s constitution and laws as established pursuant to this enactment.”
ON THEIR OWN LANDS
To appreciate some consequences of such an enactment, begin with the data that only about 40% of the 700,000 or so people in Canada who seem to have a right to be treated as aborigines now live in bands or groups on their own lands. The rest are without such status, or have been away for years from a home band, or are Metis and with little but their own assertions of entitlement to their own governments.
One should recall that Ron Irwin, the Chretien ministry’s leader in this field, began with a promise of rapid movement to native self-government, as did most of his Tory predecessors after the Constitution “came home” in the early ’80s.
Cabinet papers recently leaked show the government now realizes that huge expectations have emerged among native people, encouraged by leaders like Ovide Mercredi of the Assembly of First Nations and several years of witness and claims at hearings of the royal commission on aboriginal issues.
The expectations are for large land settlements, mostly carved from provincial Crown lands, for massive long-term funding from the federal purse and for powers as envisaged by some chiefs that would rival those of provincial governments and the federal government.
Many native leaders (and their lawyers) see such native governments to come as in perpetuity, with aboriginal status and entitlement continuing through blood line as long as the sun shines and the rivers run.
If achieved by many bands, the enclaves governed by aborigines would bespeckle Canada. If done by means of an Act like S-10 it would be one-tier government, band by band, somewhat like municipal government, and not an over-arching native government or a federation of regional aboriginal governments.
RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES
Those natives who would get self-government through an Act like S-10 would be Canadian citizens plus. That is, with a particular identity and rights in their own locale but also having the rights and privileges of all Canadians such as old age, disability, and children’s benefits.
You can see there’s nothing simple and much that’s complex in attaining aboriginal self-government and making it work for the hundreds of bands, even through something like S-10. And S-10 does nothing for the diaspora of natives in our cities and towns. But it begins and would develop where many aborigines are who have their own territory.
At what stage in Parliament is bill S-10? It’s being held at second reading in the Senate, waiting a ruling by the Speaker on its legality, given a traditional limit on the Senate’s right to initiate so-called money bills.
If S-10 is not seen as a money bill, it will be debated in the Senate and perhaps approved, given the Tory majority. It cannot go anywhere in the House unless Ron Irwin and the cabinet see it as a heaven-sent means to get self-government going, band by band, and without grandeur.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 24, 1995
ID: 12719663
TAG: 199505240017
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

ORIGINAL THINKING ON SENATE AGENDA

The earliest advocates of our Senate’s utility cast it as “the chamber of sober, second thought” rather than the instigator of bold, legislative ideas. The latter should rise in the House, sponsored by the cabinet.
Well, today’s Senate, narrowly controlled by Tories, has one review underway (into the cancellation by Jean Chretien of the Pearson airport deal). Also, some senators are pressing individual ideas, two of which I want to advocate, one today, the other in a following column.
The proposal considered in the next piece would provide a way toward self-government for any Indian band already possessing its own land. It’s in a bill put forward by a Tory senator, David Tkachuk. He is one of Brian Mulroney’s last appointees (June, 1993) and a former aide to Grant Devine when he was premier of Saskatchewan.
The Tkachuk bill was seconded by Sen. Walter Twinn, an Indian from the Slave Lake region, made a senator in 1990. In contrast to the other bill sketched here, the Tkachuk-Twinn bill has remote chances of passage but its worth is the common sense its discussion may bring to a fouled-up, daunting and costly process.
Now to the Senate bill S-7, described as “an act to accelerate the use of alternative fuels for motor vehicles.” It was moved by a Liberal senator, Colin Kenny. It has been passed the Senate (in April). Not only is it on the House of Commons agenda, it probably will be passed by a big majority and eventually become law.
A TRUDEAU APPOINTMENT
Kenny, 51, was one of Pierre Trudeau’s last senatorial appointments (June, 1984). He took “Rideau” as his designation for his base. It’s apt. The Rideau River and canal run through the capital, falling into the Ottawa River only a long stone’s throw from the prime minister’s residence.
Colin Kenny is archetype of many modern senators, getting his Grail after much service in the party. By his mid-20s he was an official for the Ontario Grits. Then he served for nine years as an aide to Trudeau, gaining status enough to switch over to Dome Petroleum as an executive for five years.
His early presence in the Senate was in low profile at best, insofar as speeches on the record or forceful leadership in Senate committees. In the last few years, however, he’s come on strongly as an advocate of environmental improvements, and he’s even pushed such touchy propositions such as better remuneration and accommodations for senators.
The two main attractions in Sen. Kenny’s bill to accelerate the use of alternative fuels in vehicles are familiar to most of us: firstly, to cut down progress of the greenhouse effect, caused by emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases from vehicles using petroleum-based fuels; secondly, to reduce our national dependency on petroleum.
Both the research that has gone into the preparations for the senator’s bill and the wide sweep of his preliminary representations and consequent lobbying impress me very much.
For over a decade those of us in Hill journalism have become sated, then cynical, with the idealism of environmentalism, usually laced with threats of doom. Minister after minister for the environment has sponsored fancy brochures and conferences and seminars with aims of grandeur and global scope.
A LONG-RANGE PLAN
The senator’s plan is particular, finite, and long-range (e.g., its implementation date is 2004). But it seems specific and it’s “doable” because its focus is the fleet, some 30,000 vehicles strong, of federal departments, agencies, and Crown companies.
He has already lobbied MPs of all parties, the provincial municipal governments, the big auto-makers, and literally a host of companies engaged in vehicle technology and research in and production of alternative fuels such as propane, natural gas, ethanol, methanol, hydrogen and electricity.
He has found enthusiasm and backing almost everywhere but in the higher federal mandarinate. Some senior officials argue Kenny’s purpose can be achieved through regulations and departmental instructions, whereas a law with dates for reaching goals by percentages of federal vehicles is inflexible and confining.
Sen. Kenny is sure a law is a better guarantor of deeds that will be done (and so am I). Vehicles would be modified to use an alternative fuel or bought with such a capability. The scale is large and continuous enough to spur manufacturers and research into applications. In short, this should be both a useful, practical law and one which won’t cost us the proverbial arm and a leg.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 21, 1995
ID: 12719242
TAG: 199505190096
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C5
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

ONE GRIT HERO AND TWO VILLAINS

Last week three of Jean Chretien’s ministers were spotlighted: Allan Rock, Lloyd Axworthy and David Collenette. The instant wisdom of wiseacres held the last two had furthered their much eroded credibility, whereas Rock, standing firm, added to his reputation as the cabinet’s only sparkling star.
In my view such opinions are two-thirds haywire.
Rock was judged to have survived the storm over his firearms registration scheme. In fact, he got off lightly, given his woolly explanations of how registration will prevent the criminal use of guns, and his weak analysis of its impact on murder and suicide rates.
The media, overwhelming tilted to registration, have been a huge help. They have not pressed Rock on these points, while mocking gun owners and giving maximum notice and twist to the most impolitic and unsympathetic ones. And when a specific tragedy is detailed it’s seldom explained how a registration system could have prevented it. That’s now an article of faith.
Although the use of firearms in the commission of other crimes has risen dramatically, notably in big cities, countries like the UK, which lack widespread gun ownership and have strict controls, have had the same trend. The focus on registration has diverted attention from the cops’ greatest frustration: that firearm charges are plea-bargained down, and maximum penalties rarely ordered.
Rock’s proposals to stiffen some penalties are unlikely to change this. Real change requires dealing with the criminal lawyers and judges who run the system, and Rock’s courage in facing “powerful lobbies” hasn’t gone that far.
Despite Rock’s success in rounding up groups for his crusade, in some cases after much horse-trading (see the Police Association) I still think the head of Metro Toronto’s anti-gun unit is credible. What he finds most disturbing are status-conscious criminals wanting big calibre handguns and automatics and the ease with which smugglers supply them. He doesn’t see a registry as much help.
So save the cheers for Allan Rock till later. He has not been in danger of losing this campaign, given the media’s backing and his party’s relative lack of exposure in the parts of Canada most angered by it. A more crucial testing of Rock’s talents is likelier over his homosexual amendments.
If Rock is not a genuine hero (yet!) what is Axworthy?
After repeated, ignominious retreats the left-Liberals’ bellwether now challenges David Collenette, Diane Marleau and Michel Dupuy as Chretien’s furthest fallen star. Of course, Lloyd wins because the other three were never major figures. Lloyd was.
UNSUITED FOR HIS TASKS
His nemesis remains the revision of our social programs. This time his proposed two-tier UI system, one for plain folk, another less generous one for seasonal workers, has been jettisoned. His repeated spinelessness – he could resign – show he’s unsuited for the tasks given him. Can’t someone give him an ambassadorship like David Berger?
And there’s our defence minister. Yes, it was once said: There’s no life like it.
A front page story in the Globe last week told of his plans to procure new helicopters and subs going before cabinet. Prominent were comments without attribution which show some of Collenette’s colleagues disagree with the priority of replacing unsafe, outdated machines. (Older than the troops they carry!)
The contents of the story are less significant than its timing and its parallels with another by the same reporter last December. The first piece leaked the news that the unreleased defence white paper contained the shopping list and reported the same anonymous objections. Collenette felt he’d been had and got Chretien’s okay for immediate release of the paper, so placing the purchases in a context with big cuts in defence spending. Defence boffins told me then they believed the leak had come from Axworthy’s staff. He’d failed to block the proposals in cabinet and leaked them in hopes of a public backlash. Is last week’s leak another round of cabinet in-fighting? Or done to turn attention from Axworthy’s own problems?
Last week Collenette’s chief of public affairs proved loose-lipped. Talking, not off the record, Ruth Cardinal explained why some witnesses at the Somalia inquiry might be dismissed and why young soldiers get into money troubles and sometimes killed themselves. You wonder if Collenette can trust anybody.
So Rock’s magnificence is overblown, Axworthy’s humiliations just, and Collenette’s problems, this time, were hardly his fault.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, May 19, 1995
ID: 12719064
TAG: 199505180287
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

URGE TO TRAVEL IS IN OUR BLOOD

It intrigues me that our penchant for tripping (as in travel) never became part of Canadian self-spoofery. Too precious, perhaps. If it had, today’s comics like Rex Murphy would be rollicking with travel issues now on the federal table, thanks to the Reform Party.
I write, of course, as one who was once an inveterate tripper. As a senior the urge to go has eased, though in March snowbirding calls me.
Anyway, the auditor general just tabled a double-header report on the often dubious utility and high costs of travel by the mandarinate in general and the foreign service in particular.
Several House committees and the Liberal caucus are seething over Reform Party ploys which stress the high cost of the customary wandering by MPs across the land and around the globe for international gatherings and domestic conferences. The Reformers insist on fewer and cheaper trips, and more use of teleconferencing.
The ruling Grits are grudgingly conceding, avowing their own cost-consciousness. On Wednesday a House committee voted for modest curbs on parliamentary travel. But the Grits are unwilling to abolish what one of them last week called “the great learning experiences of parliamentary-sponsored exchanges.”
Through reporters Reformers have now found the federal treasury board has devised new procedures which enable its watchdogs not to “vet” what diplomats abroad do with a family entitlement to a trip home each year. An accountant’s expose two years ago revealed a tripping boondoggle that brought some recapture of money from scores of diplomats, reprimanded for skimming the difference between top fare tickets that they’d cash and then use cheaper fares.
OBSESSED WITH TRANSPORTATION
My bent to tripping is archetypal and began early. From his rail union’s solidarity my father was entitled to family passes on any railroad here or in the U.S. Several hundred thousand then had such passes, obviously developed because of our distances and scatter of people. Such reality required canals, roads, railways, highways, and airports (in that order) and in turn these became obsessions in our politics. Transportation is an intrinsic raison d’etre in Canada.
Our handy neighbor has long been a prized destination. Mobs of us were or are immigrants from Europe with roots to be nurtured through trips “back home.” And two world wars meant a million or so went “over there” – and most came back.
Three, sometimes four, levels of government have posited a lot of travel. The federal bill is near $700 million a year. Crown corporations like CN, Air Canada and the CBC, or private ones like Sears, Eaton’s, and the Big Three automakers, plus the host of regional and national interest groups sponsor manifold tripping.
On the face of it, of course, most of this is “business” and/or educational travel.
As the native industry has boomed into billions, thousands of brief-case chiefs, elders and lawyers for some 600 First Nations have hit the airways. And sport tripping, from junkets to venues by bantam hockey teams to lawn bowling tournaments for seniors, have been so plentiful at least a third of Canadians must have done such tripping as players or fans.
We all know some who trip by canoe or yacht or cruise ship, by bike or by snow sled, by RVs or luxury bus and, above all, by plane and car. I recall my disbelief in 1974 when over 3,000 Canadians scratched up the cash for a trip to dour Moscow to see four hockey games.
FREEBIES ARE BEST
Trips are the first of perks for most new in office for political, professional, sporting and charitable organizations. The best trips are freebies.
Once I caught Lester Pearson in his last days in the PMO being reflective: on the one hand rueful over the political crisis (of early ’68) from a House vote on the budget, lost because too many Grits were far away (one was up the Nile); on the other hand he conceded no gifts at his command were more useful in dealing with troublesome MPs than the junkets to NATO and the UN and so on.
Of course, on tripping, journalists must go gingerly in deriding politicians’ antics. More than in any current industry but Indianism, journalism ripples with scheming for assignments that mean trips – the farther the better – and, naturally, expense accounts.
The Reformers in their purity are attacking a truly Canadian proclivity, bent on drastic reductions. We’ve been superb at setting up trips, especially free or cheap ones while tacitly choosing not to make it a continuing joke or a major issue.
Without wishing total failure on the assiduous Reformers I remind them that tripping is consonant with being Canadian and it sets up a lot of jobs, much as hockey does.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 17, 1995
ID: 12718833
TAG: 199505170063
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

CHRETIEN’S GRITS HIT ROUGH WATER

“Would you approve or disapprove of a five-year suspension of all immigration to provide time to integrate the large number of immigrants who have entered Canada in recent years?”
This question got a surprisingly high backing (66%) in an opinion poll carried out by a reputable firm in a commission from the Immigration Association of Canada, a private sector lobby.
This response, and others in the poll’s results, leads the association to believe the Chretien government hasn’t realized the deterioration of public confidence there has been in its immigration programs and both the scale and content of their intakes.

More discomfiting for our party in power is what’s been coming from the organized resistance to the gun controls being marshalled through Parliament by Allan Rock, the justice minister. These counters have been effective, especially in regional terms, and big chunks of the country, so taken with being rid of Brian Mulroney, are losing enthusiasm for Chretien and his Liberals.
Now there’s a pervasive uneasiness in the big Grit caucus about the bill and the order from on high to back it, or else! Of course, the fears lurk beneath a surface bravado which declares that tougher controls are not only needed but are what most Canadians want and will not impinge on individual liberties or need a continuing, high-cost bureaucracy.
But several people on the staffs of Liberal MPs assure me that the resistance rising against registration of all guns is not as widespread, immoderate and overwhelmingly one-sided as that working up against a particular aspect of another of Rock’s initiatives, Bill C-41, which will amend the sentencing provisions of the Criminal Code to provide more consideration by judges in dealing with those charged with attacking homosexuals because they are homosexuals.
One big city Liberal MP has had over 2,000 representations from constituents by phone or letter against this amendment. One rumor says the PMO is just realizing how unpopular this amendment is through a flood of antagonistic mail, numbering over 100,000 items.

I breach my writ of letting diatribes by others in my trade go by. The following sentence struck me as insufferable, patronizing, arrogant and unfair! It’s by Paul Gessel, from his “Official Circles” column in the Oct. 16 Ottawa Citizen about the centenary of John Diefenbaker’s birth. Gessel wrote: “Poor, old, egotistical, jowl-jiggling, monarchist-worshipping Dief must be rolling in his grave.”

There were 300 tickets sold for the resurrection of the parliamentary press gallery dinner last Saturday. Several who attended told me it went well and the active politicians who were guests – about a quarter of the crowd – enjoyed themselves. But in numbers and variety of guests this was a far cry from the dinner’s hey-days in the ’60s when the likes of the late Charles Lynch were in their prime and there were often more than 500 attendees. Then the gallery had less than 150 members. Today’s gallery membership runs to almost 360, so the potential crowd, given two guests to a member, is enormous. To give this present gallery membership some shape, just under 100 members – 98 by my count – work for the CBC.

Svend Robinson has had a mostly favorable press in his bid to lead the NDP and much admiring treatment on various TV shows. With no other candidate of comparable experience openly declared, Svend seems to have a strong lead. Is it insurmountable? Insiders are divided.
One of his fellow MPs, but not a fan, thinks Robinson has become the best bet to win, and that he’ll be helped by the convention’s venue in Ottawa, not the west. Also working in his favor is some anger rising in long-term New Democrats over apparent scheming by the Lewis family, the NDP’s royalty, to make Alexis McDonough, the recent leader of the Nova Scotia NDP the candidate of the establishment (i.e., guaranteed by Ontario union delegates).
But a long-term apparatchik of the federal party insists Svend might well lead on the first ballot but cannot win. He’s never taken enough interest in lunch-pail issues. He’s made too many enemies in organized labor, particularly over his anti-logging work in B.C. He’s also enraged the Prairie faithful with a high-profile disassociation from his caucus colleagues, all of whom oppose Rock’s gun control bill.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 14, 1995
ID: 12718359
TAG: 199505120153
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

HOUSE RETURNS TO ITS NASTY WAYS

Here are some impressions of a Parliament, one in which the House is handily dominated by the Liberals through numbers and the deep assurance opinion polling keeps giving them. It’s my immodest assumption this Parliament is near its halfway mark, the last half becoming ever more banal and childishly partisan.
Why think that Jean Chretien will dissolve this House in the spring of 1997 and go for re-election in mid-June, so putting federal politics back on a four-year cycle (in this case four years less a quarter)?
Other assumptions precede that of a ’97 election, such as Chretien’s continuing good health, a handy margin of votes for federalism in the referendum on Quebec sovereignty, enough senatorial retirements and deaths to give Senate control to the Liberals, no international monetary crunch on Canada, an economy in fair shape with unemployment no worse than now and arguable witness in the ’97 budget that vigorous hatchet work on programs and spending has brought in sight an end to annual deficits.
At this point all of the above seems possible, even likely.
Another good reason to foresee the four-year term is the obvious decline of interest and excitement in House work now apparent among MPs of all parties. Absence says something. Fewer MPs are in the chamber. Genuine quorums in the House are getting rare, once question period is over. This slide is most apparent in the Liberal mob. Very few ministers and fewer and fewer Grit backbenchers are putting in time in the House. Absenteeism has also noticeably affected the BQ.
Over the winter Lucien Bouchard and crew have been taking less interest in their questions or speeches on matters that have little or no partisan leverage in Quebec. More and more of any informed criticism in the House and parliamentary committees is being carried on by Reform MPs even though the BQ, as in the House, has priority.
My explanation is that the sense of purpose of Bloc MPs has become confused and their esprit has fallen because referendum prospects are so bleak and many are wondering what they will or should do after the defeat in Quebec. Although the Bloc MPs generally keep to social democratic views remindful of NDP caucuses – e.g., against the decimation of the public service or the devolution of social programs and spending to the provinces – they’ve not linked up with many interest groups or a substantial body of opinion in Canada outside Quebec who would fry Chretien for aping Brian Mulroney and his agenda.
The House itself, in and beyond question period, has became more partisan or, rather, has returned to the familiar raucousness of recent parliaments. The scoring of points and often juvenile mockeries and barracking are in the ascendant. For example, last week Allan Rock, the most succinct, prepared and careful of the busy ministers, abandoned his controlled poise. He guyed and derided Reform critics of gun control.
And over the winter, as Reform MPs largely abandoned their early, determined civility, the Liberal hackers of yore have responded with vim, the newer Grits catching on fast.
GENIAL BUMBLING
Speaker Gilbert Parent’s basic line for House decorum is benign, usually a genial bumbling. He’s not yet had any crises of either rowdiness or terribly knotty questions of privilege, although these may come. He has been letting more and more of the Reformers “front-end” their questions with accusations and slurs and he doesn’t sit down ministers who digress from answers to lambasting rebuttals about opposition hypocrisy, ignorance and contradictions. One might say that even though the gangs have changed it’s the same old stuff.
So it seems that Reform has become the real opposition to the Liberals, irritating them with cavilling over extravagance, patronage and ethics. And likely because Liberals, whether leaders or followers, cannot really accept Reform as a threat east of Manitoba to their dominance as the only national party, so their responses to Reform in stances and phrasing have become arrogant and contemptuous.
In part the dismissive venom indicates Liberals are not fearful of Reform sanctimony. Why not? Because Liberals either see or sense that Preston Manning will never be a major presence in the House. He’s focused on framing clear themes for the next electorate and better party organization in the ridings.
Such a rival is less a threat to Liberal status and causes than one gearing concerted, daily assaults on the ministry through the many openings provided by House business and rules.
Of course, without new money to spend and with the stress on cutting, Parliament can hardly be very positive. In general it isn’t.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, May 12, 1995
ID: 12718069
TAG: 199505110169
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

V-E DAY CONTEXT MISSING IN ACTION

Before the obsession with V-E Day which has saturated viewing hours and newspaper pages fades away, comment seems sensible on a few Canadian themes. Several were over-simplified. A few never emerged and should have.
Please forgive what may seem an arrogant knowingness. It comes from being almost a professional veteran, not as an ex-soldier but as a columnist for Legion, the monthly magazine of the Royal Canadian Legion.
Let me begin with the dearth of Legion references through literally hours of commentary and interviews with veterans, especially on CBC-TV.
Most of the veterans we saw or heard were in Holland, and most (I’d guess 80%) wore Legion blazers, tams and insignia, and some carried Legion banners.
Fifty years after V-E Day the Royal Canadian Legion is still a strong, unique Canadian service institution, with nearly 500,000 members and several hundred branches. Most branches are still busy, especially in smaller communities, and are well beyond their undeserved repute as taverns where old sods win the war again.
Local Legions are always into community social activities and good works for more than veterans. Each year many millions of dollars are raised and contributed to hospitals, clinics, the disabled, children’s services, sports facilities and competitions for young people.
The Legion was not alone in going unremarked. Even the hired historian on CBC-TV rarely distinguished between the various troops in terms of roles and casualties – e.g., the terrible price the infantry paid, or the reasons why our artillery was superb.
UNIT LOYALTIES IGNORED
Even more remarkable was the absence of informed references or explanations of Canadian army units and unit loyalties. The key theme in Earl Birney’s emblematic novel, Turvey, was of a dauntless ignoramus always trying (and failing) to reach his regiment “in the field.” Who can appreciate the esprit of the Canadian Army in World War II without knowing about the loyalties of the Hasty Ps, the Chaudieres, the Links and Winks, the Lake Supes, the Irish, the Plugs, the Johns of the Regina Rifles, or the BCDs?
Over several days we got many snippets on TV with George Kitching, an ex-general and seemingly the highest-ranking soldier still on hand. None of the interviewers seemed to have read his very candid autobiography with its graphic depictions of leaders, divisions, regiments and major actions (including a disaster of his own). A wonderful witness went unsolicited.
What was missing was context and distinguishing detail that could have lifted the lengthening hours of coverage that became tediously banal on how much the Dutch cherished their liberators and how the latter revelled in such recognition.
As a viewer, I cringed with those stock Barbara Frum questions: “Where were you when … ?” or “How did you feel?”
Several other positive lines were rarely pursued, insofar as I saw or read.
Firstly, the presence of French-Canadian veterans, particularly from some gallant fighting regiments. Jean Chretien might well have dome much for national unity by marching at Apeldoorn with the Maissoneuves or the Chaudiere or the FMRs. Yes, in proportion there were fewer French Canadians, but those who came had really been there.
Secondly, there was nothing about what the volunteer soldiers did after World War II as individuals in education and occupations and in political and community affairs.
GREAT NATIONAL EFFORT
V-E Day was only the culmination of a great national effort during the days of war, throughout which there were glitches galore, some disasters and some very haywire plans. But victory’s work went on and was capped over the next decade with an effective application of the generous, workable “Veterans’ Charter.” For example, it helped 60,000 men and women through university and colleges, and even more to training and apprenticeships or to new homes.
Finally, there were many comments on TV on the pity that our youth know so much less about our forces’ roles in World War II than the well-informed and grateful Dutch youth.
In large part this is the fault of my Canadian generation. We came home and got on with it, rarely contradicting when school curricula downgraded history or rebelling at the tacit policy of Ottawa to play down the war because of it potential divisiveness.
And we didn’t combat the rise of antagonism to our military, reaching to contempt for them, which was fostered largely by anti-Americanism of those among us determined we should be peacemakers, not powder-monkeys.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 10, 1995
ID: 12285334
TAG: 199505090099
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

FEDS STALLING ON NATIVE GOVERNMENT

At their advent, none of Jean Chretien’s ministers was more vigorous and assured than Ron Irwin at Indian and northern affairs. He would get going on aboriginal self-government, and ever since he’s talked it up.
Last week two of Irwin’s internal papers were leaked and, taken together, they show almost nil progress and little assurance.
Most of us want to believe in progress, that strong leaders with serious intentions and good funding can tackle the worst of political dilemmas and in time resolve them. Let’s keep such hope but realize workable self-government by aborigines is decades away.
Ottawa has not been sparing dollars to raise the living standards of Canada’s diverse and much scattered aborigines and to help them work on plans for their own governance.
No one, not even Statistics Canada, knows how many aborigines there are.
Those who speak for non-status natives claim it’s about 1.2 million. Those who identified themselves as aborigines in the ’91 census totalled just under 500,000. Names on lists of over 500 Indian bands total just over 500,000 “status” or “treaty” natives.
Increasingly, more natives, both with and without status, live in cities and towns, not on reserves. There’s not a common aboriginal language and a remarkable variety in customs and traditions.
Direct federal spending specifically for native affairs has passed the $5 billion mark annually. With what reaches natives through benefits open to all Canadians the total sum would be at least $7 billion. In short, progress has not been blocked by governmental cheapness.
TRUDEAU’S INITIATIVES
Since the mid-’70s the federal governments and Parliaments have talked about a new constitutional position for native people. This aim emerged after Pierre Trudeau’s initiatives of the late 1960s were withdrawn in 1971.
His “bronze” white paper foresaw the end of the Indian Act and all forms of special status for native people. New programs would open opportunities and the quality of life of all Canadians to native people.
Most chiefs tagged these proposals as “assimilation.” They were rejected without a vote. (By natives!) Ever since, a search for ways and means – with generous funding for native research – has sought to ascertain aboriginal wants.
For example, section 35 in the Constitution Act of 1982 recognized the treaties of the Crown with tribes and bands, and their entitlements to lands and their own form and means of government.
Much attention was given native matters in all the constitutionalizing from the early ’80s through the Meech accord and the referendum which defeated the Charlottetown accord. Despite many conferences no provincial government, not even Quebec’s, wanted constitutional responsibilities in aboriginal affairs. In particular, in the West there’s been a muted but substantial antagonism to massive land claim settlements.
Despite their chariness most provinces spend considerably on native affairs for policing, courts and jails, and for educational, health, environmental and wildlife services. Although it seems obvious, no premier proclaims that aboriginal governments with a distinctive citizenship within his or her province must have the province’s concurrence.
LOWERED EXPECTATIONS
Last week the Irwin’s “leaked” internal papers advised that it was imperative to lower the general expectations among native leaders who also are still very hazy on specifics about government. The draft plan for negotiating aboriginal self-government lists possible powers and responsibilities and it purports to cover those Indians who are on reserves and those who live in cities, as well as the Metis and non-status Indians, wherever they are.
The native governments to come would have most of the same powers and responsibilities as provincial governments and their creature municipalities. This all seems generous but explains almost nothing of vital import regarding government for whom, where, with what resources in land, tax base and economic powers, and what constitutional authority?
Despite Irwin’s bluff bearing, the two leaked papers reveal he and his mandarins are very unsure about native self-government. They do realize the chiefs want far more in powers and financing than can be given. And taxpayers may be faintly heartened that Treasurer Paul Martin has warned Irwin there won’t be major increases in funding to implement aboriginal self-government.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 07, 1995
ID: 12284612
TAG: 199505050093
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

DON’T BELIEVE THE POLLSTERS

Persistent opinion polling before and through election campaigns has taken much foolhardiness out of predicting the actual vote. Nonetheless, this columnist keeps at it, even to go against the flow of the latest polls in Ontario.
So, I’m ready to hazard that the recent readings of the parties’ points will not match those on election night.
Today the polls show the Liberals far ahead, the Progressive Conservatives well back and New Democrats trailing badly.
One should draw from this that the break of the 130 seats in the next Legislature will run within these ranges: Liberals 90-105; PCs 20-30; NDP 5-10.
I think there’ll be shifts in the points by election day.
First, the Progressive Conservatives will do better in points than what they’re now getting, taking them into the high 30s, even brushing 40. And this could translate into as many as 60 seats.
Second, the NDP backing, now just below 20 points, will drop, even to as low as 10 or 12. And such a drop could bring zero seats, although it seems impossible the NDP could lose all its Northern Ontario members.
Third, the Liberals’ points will slither down from the mid-50s to the low 40s, which could bring them from 60 to 70 seats.
In short, this time it will be more a fight between the two older parties with far fewer of the three-way slugfests that have prevailad in so many ridings in the last nine elections (since 1963).
What’s led me so far out on a limb, and away from recent and current polling?
The first factor to discount is a federal one. A lot of political aficionados think the immense writ received by the federal Liberals in Ontario in the fall of ’93, taking all but one Ontario seats in the House, is proof of great Liberal strength in both voters’ allegiances and organizational capacity, and should guarantee the provincial Liberals a triumph comparable to Jean Chretien’s. In short, Chretien’s coat-tails and a supremely dominant web of MPs and federal riding associations make Lyn McLeod a certainty for premier.
Don’t believe this. Just a few weeks ago the glow cast by the Chretien government was seen to be affecting the Manitoba campaign. Wrong!
ARGUMENT DOESN’T STAND UP
Anyone who matched Ontario results with federal results over many years knows the coat-tail argument doesn’t stand up, either way. For example, less than a year after Brian Mulroney swept into power in 1984 with over 200 seats, 67 in Ontario, the Ontario Grits under David Peterson won office. Since Confederation, far more often than not the party running Ontario’s government has not been of the same caste as the one in office in Ottawa.
But that’s history stuff. A campaign is under way, it’s immediate. Why anticipate the Ontario Liberals doing less well than polls suggest, the Ontario Tories doing better?
Some of it is a hunch from experience, sustained by chats with those I’ve always found the best pointers on the winds of partisanship in the province: Ontario MPs, in this case Liberal MPs.
And if those I talked to are in tune with their ridings their provincial fellows have no romp ahead of them.
A sampling from half a dozen regions shows the same tentativeness and unease.
A Metro suburban MP said: “Real enthusiasm for the leader and the party isn’t there.”
A Western Ontario MP said: “It’s McLeod. I hate to say it. She reminds me of Audrey McLaughlin. She and the party have only one way to go – down!”
A Northern Ontario MP says: “All signs – already even the campaign signs – tell me the Tories are coming back with a bang.”
A lot of MPs respect Bob Rae’s gift of gab but none thinks his heralded edge over Lyn McLeod and Mike Harris can save the NDP from huge losses. Most do think Rae’s arguments in the campaign will hurt McLeod much more than Harris.
Weeks ago I noted here that the Tories in McLeod’s riding of Fort William had nominated Evelyn Dodds, a relentless, vitriolic campaigner with a lot of personal verve. She, like McLeod, came into politics by way of school board work, but she’s a rat-packer sort. A few days ago an old friend at the Lakehead told me: “Lyn appeals to the nice people but Fort William’s a lunch-bucket town and Evelyn’s a lunch-bucket sort.”
Just before the June 8 election day I’ll adjust my forecast. At this point I think the Tories have a chance – admittedly a long one – of forming the next Ontario government.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, May 05, 1995
ID: 12284069
TAG: 199505040224
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

CRACKS SHOWING IN GRIT CAUCUS

How goes government morale in Ottawa, at least as it can be appreciated on Parliament Hill?
Although the confidence within the top office is high, and although the ministry as a collection is far from being down in the dumps or riven with dissent, dissatisfaction and much discomfort have been brewing within the swarm of Jean Chretien’s backbenchers.
One could almost smell this the past week as the prime minister, his advisers and some old associates suddenly seemed interchangeable with Power Corp.
The shift out of the euphoria of the first 15 months of office comes despite the very favorable omens on the top issue of all – whether Quebec goes or stays.
One can even read the discontent in the Liberals’ over-exuberance into gloating about the great victory in the turbot war. Above all, a reader or viewer of political commentaries should have noted that since Easter the critical worm has returned to Hill reporters.
The uneasiness and carping within the reigning folk comes over both major matters such as confusion about the federal direction for both the social welfare system and the health system, and what seem tiny matters like the casting of three MPs from posts on committees for voting against Allan Rock’s gun control bill or the booting of a clean-cut end to the Pearson airport deal.
Rock’s stock still seems high in the PMO but he’s far less a hero to the caucus than short months ago; so much so that several far from green MPs have told me forcefully that Rock will never be Chretien’s successor.
But even such critics agree Rock doesn’t make them feel ashamed or apprehensive when he gets up in the House, as happens whenever Michel Dupuy, Diane Marleau, Ron Irwin, Doug Young, David Collenette or David Dingwall rise.
TALENTED BACKBENCHERS
The obvious advice for Jean Chretien might be twofold: to cut his cabinet debits soon by elevating a few of the very talented backbenchers; and to slow down his perpetual motion and give far more attention than a Wednesday caucus meeting and nods to his followers as he darts through or past them.
There is a sardonic joke going around the Grit caucus. Question: “What’s with the boss?” Answer: “Better than ever. He’s cut his attention span in half – from 30 to 15 seconds.”
Take three other samples of governmental contretemps which annoy or confound some Liberal MPs and which a nastier opposition would raise hell about.
A House committee dominated by eager, able Grits has spent several months examining the situation of the CBC with a view to reporting alternatives for both its missions and its funding. At the same time much bumph has been floated and a very high-level group of experts on communications has been selected (by the minister of industry) to delineate policies and framework proposals for Canada and the information highway.
But meanwhile the cabinet appoints – of all things – a pro-forma, former Mulroney minister to run the CBC and then picks a troika of wise ones headed by Pierre Juneau, literally an ancient Liberal trough-mate, to produce mandates for the CBC and two other Crown cultural agencies of lesser cost and consequence by September, with the recommendations to fit all this in with the wondrous “highway”.
IMPULSIVE MINISTER
The scenario in native affairs is even further awry, abetted by an impulsive minister, Ron Irwin, so strong at counter-attacking any criticism that government intentions are very confusing.
For example, the costliest royal commission in our history has been working for years on what Canada must do for and with its aborigines, but Irwin keeps issuing intentions here and there and commissioning studies and reports that presage native governments with far more powers and responsibilities but far less in funding capability than municipal governments.
Beyond the bewildering madness of all this, its bill, already staggering, will floor future generations
If the vagueness and contradictions in the Chretien initiatives on culture and natives are disturbing, the confusion is baffling on what the government wants or what it may get with regard to Canadian National, in particular whether there will be a total sale of the railway or the sale of some parts and abandonment of others.
The transport minister, Doug Young, is very bold, very cryptic and, like comrade Irwin, not much more than a partisan counter-attacker.
So mark this: the Liberal sky hasn’t fallen down, but it’s dropping.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 03, 1995
ID: 12283601
TAG: 199505020079
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SERIES: Part 2 of 2

SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

CANADA’S WW II CRISIS IN COMBAT

In recalling the victory over Germany 50 years ago little is being made of the crisis in national unity in the last year of World War II.
Why did we fall short of trained soldiers for our divisions in Europe, thus causing the crisis?
A new study, The Soldier In Battle, by historian Bill McAndrew raises matters not well known or much discussed: the high numbers of “nerves” or shock cases; and the effect of the cautious battle doctrine of British/Canadian generals.
As a trooper in Normandy I both feared much and was very aware that the infantry’s lot was grim. For me, the McAndrew explanations fill out what history books have told me on how we got a unity crisis. The books explain, as follows:
1) The government’s manpower planning was poor with too many divisions and too many bomber squadrons for a country of 12 million people also trying hard to feed the U.K., make ships, planes, vehicles, guns and munitions in quantity.
2) Whether unfair or not, a lot of English-speaking Canadians felt their volunteers were an inordinate portion of the forces, and that far fewer French-speaking men had volunteered. Worse, the Liberal government of Mackenzie King, dependent on Quebec votes, accepted such disparity, and also refused to send thousands of conscripts for useless “home service” to Europe to fight.
3) The military’s forecast of casualties had been far too low for the fighting companies of infantry regiments.
4) The Canadian Army had far too long a tail of soldiers in administration, supply and communications; and few in this horde were trained or equipped to fight in a crunch.
5) Canadian troops were given very hard battle tasks.
STRESS OF BATTLE
Now to McAndrew on other factors not in other books. He writes: “The correct and effective soldierly behavior” of those at the front “is commonly taken for granted … as if soldiers who have to implement only map plans expose themselves readily to mutilation and death … While most soldiers performed their unenviable tasks doggedly, and some with exceptional courage, a significant minority found ways to avoid the stress of battle.”
He shows the scale of this minority and the problems it caused commanders in Italy and northwest Europe and ties this dilemma to the drain of morale from too many narrow, set-piece attacks at the strongest points of the German front. Neither factor, especially that of those “not in battle” has had much exposure in Canada.
After Normandy our army was short of infantry. In action many companies were below a third of full strength. When news of such a grievous state and the extra losses it caused got home, a national furor swelled that split Canada along the old fault line between English and French. Eventually King was forced to send “the zombies” over to fight. But it was Germany’s collapse, crunched in from east and west that ended the crisis.
Victory was joyous, and at once reverting to peace became prime. It was also complicated and challenging. So the imperative of a numerous, ready, tough infantry faded. Arguably, a need for such troops is still with us, unmet of course. And few know now how that army of ’44, over 500,000 strong, became so desperate for infantry so soon. After all, our infantry regiments needed fewer than 50,000 men.
Beyond misjudging the infantry’s casualties in killed and maimed, the planners did not expect the infantry would have so many soldiers with nerves so bad they had to be released or given slots to the rear. Also underestimated were those under charge or serving sentences for various military crimes.
DESERTION AND COWARDICE
From records McAndrew finds the divisions in Italy and northwest Europe had about 10,000 psychiatric cases, mostly of infantrymen. And some 6,300 courts-martial were held for our troops in the two theatres. Many of these men were charged with desertion, cowardice or leaving a reinforcement draft going to the front. As 1st Cdn. Corps left Italy it had some 3,000 “non-effective” soldiers – enough to staff the infantry companies of a whole division.
In retrospect we also know Canada skimmed too many of her ablest for air-crew; and the army skimmed too many of the skilled or most apt recruits for technical-mechanical roles.
There may be bitterness at McAndrew’s exposure of the “casualties” from failures of nerves and from crimes.
Who welcomes news that in World War II a sizable, minor fraction of our soldiers cracked or were bad actors and hard to train and discipline? It’s a reminder, as we celebrate, that victory came cruel for the infantrymen.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 30, 1995
ID: 12282917
TAG: 199504280114
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SERIES: PART 1 of 2
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

CANADA’S POOR, BLOODY INFANTRY

Fifty years after, there’s much memorializing on the defeat of Hitler’s Germany in which Canadians had an integral part. A lot of the recall in print and on TV is drawn from those alive in 1945 about where they were and how they felt on V-E Day.
I was in Germany, part of an armored car’s crew, and our squadron revelled that day and night. We weren’t to be wounded or killed. For sure, home and Canada were ahead.
But I don’t want to replay the day and our joyous relief but go back to two matters which worried me as a soldier in 1945. One was very personal and private. The other was the terrible hole in the Canadian Army coming out of Normandy, what its various causes were, in particular how and why it grew from attack operations in both northwest Europe and Italy.
It was just this week I got a handle on both matters from an essay by Bill McAndrew, a military historian. The title is The Soldier and the Battle, one of many items in The Good Fight: Canadians in World War II, a book compiled by J.L. Granatstein and Peter Neary (Copp Clark). McAndrew delineates how the infantry shortages in our fighting divisions grew and the role in this cruel dilemma of the military doctrine of our generals, both Canadian and British.
My personal issue was the deep fear which I kept to myself about going into danger – of being hurt or mortally wounded and, even worse somehow, of breaking down or running. Apprehensions which I’d mulled in my head became dark and very immediate in Normandy. Would I fail to do my part and ruin our crew and troop?
I realized I was not alone in such imagining but it was something rarely raised openly, and then jocularly. Largely, it was comradeship that carried me along through a few brushes with the enemy until the blessed victory. We had a fine commander, some crack gunners and able mechanics, and got good intelligence on situations and roles. Above all, we were mobile, our tasks diverse. We had food, drink, smokes, ammo and fuel with us and we grew able at radio links, at reconnoitring routes and charting obstacles. We were readily at the front, then away, rarely harboring in danger.
The “front” was the infantry. Our casualties were light, comparable to those of the artillery, and much less than those of the tanks, which in turn were well below those of the infantry. A fellow Manitoba regiment, the Winnipeg Rifles lost more killed and wounded on D-Day than we did in our 10 months at war.
And the high infantry casualties brings me to a link between my individual brooding about being maimed or killed and the poor bloody infantry, whose bleak situation raised the crisis that shook Canada and poisoned our politics. The reinforcement crisis! Not enough front-line, trained, spirited infantry.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
How could this happen in an army of over 500,000 in which the establishment of five divisions and two brigades only called for some 50 infantry regiments, each with some 800 men?
Fifty times 800 makes 40,000. Even with two fully-trained reinforcements ready in depots to replace those of the 40,000 who would be wounded or killed, the full infantry force would only run to 120,000 men. Just 120,000 out of over 500,000.
What went wrong? For example, on an October day in 1945 we were with the Black Watch (Montreal) at the front. Each forward company had less than 30 men and we learned many of them were green.
Where had all the Black Watch gone? Killed or wounded, over months, by the hundreds and hundreds. Where were the reinforcements? Gone.
The hullabaloo over such tragic weakness soon became a national crisis at home, one whose echoes, though faint, haven’t died away.
Should the King government, send “the zombies” or conscripts for home service, thus reneging on undertakings given Liberals from Quebec?
After many failed high-level gyrations the zombies were sent, some getting to battle in March, 1945. But it was fortunate for both our battered infantry units and the King government that Germany caved when it did.
Until Bill McAndrew’s blunt essay I had never heard or read anything cogent and thorough about the infantry crisis within the Canadian Army which caused the unity crisis back home. He gets into the many soldiers whose personal fears and battle fatigue led to despair and evasion. He ties some of this to a leadership too inflexible in a belief in artillery dominance and a battle doctrine which discouraged individual initiative.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, April 28, 1995
ID: 12282373
TAG: 199504270140
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

GUN BILL PLEASES CITY SLICKERS

The testy arguments rocking national equanimity over the Liberals’ gun control legislation remind me of a college incident long ago. Each one in our class had to give a succinct, oral review of a book assigned by the lecturer. One young woman drew Alexander Baron’s best-selling novel about a British regiment off to France in 1944, From the City; From the Plough.
She began candidly. There was too much crudeness in the tale for her, and no memorable characters to cherish. The only theme she could discern was rather silly. About half the soldiers came from big cities like Manchester; the other half were rural folk, mostly farm laborers. She concluded: “The message seems to be that half the British don’t understand the other half, and vice-versa.”
We laughed at this, despite my relish for the novel, but I could see she’d found a theme I’d missed. Well, this season we might title the tale of national gun control From the City; From the Bush. As its narrative unfolds it’s clear the short-term victors are the city people. They have more MPs and more trumpets.
What bothers me most is the unfairness in the impatience of the victors with those who oppose. They scoff at the losers’ arguments. They expand beyond common sense the efficacies in crime prevention to come from this law and its thorough, costly, registration system. They radiate an impression, even someone as well-spoken as Justice Minister Allan Rock, that the bill’s opponents are narrow, ignorant of both the menace in guns and the public good, and mimics of our neighbors’ infamous (in Canada) lobby group, the National Rifle Association.
The presentation by the big city dailies and the TV networks of those individuals, groups, and governments against the gun-control bill as cretinous or out-of-date reaction has become very unfair. It seems the smart people, the good people, know the threats and the required responses; boondockers do not.
A CHILDHOOD IN THE BUSH
Of course, my opinions are shaped by a childhood in the bush, in a home with half a dozen guns, and in a community where most people hunted with guns or practised marksmanship and took a gun into the bush for survival’s sake in case of distress or stranding.
I used guns a lot until the war, in which I got a surfeit of them. I’ve hardly touched a gun since I came home, but most of my relatives and acquaintances in Northern Ontario and Manitoba have guns and use them. With care.
Across Canada most gun owners responded well to the legislation in the ’70s which brought forward new conditions for the sale and licensing of guns and the training for users and owners.
The bids from Saskatchewan, the Yukon and northern native bands for exemption from this massive registration system seem sensible. If I today were representing as MP the region north from Superior to Hudson Bay, as I did in the ’60s, I’d be voting against this bill.
It’s an oddity that those so tender about two Canadas, with the dangers implicit in Quebecois aspirations and the imperative to be careful with them, cannot appreciate how frustrating this bill and the high-minded crime-beaters who push it are to those of another Canada in the huge geography beyond our big cities.

Jean Chretien’s son-in-law, the son of his long-time friend Paul Desmarais, creator and head of the corporate goliath, Power Corp., has given the prime minister a plausible appearance of conflict of interest.
Underline “appearance.”
That is, the relationship makes it seem possible that the prime minister (or his aides and mandarins, moved by their awareness of this “in-law” link) motivated the recent inquiry on the licensing of satellite TV systems. This has now led to the government overruling the CRTC, the TV industry’s regulator. The government wants a second licence for such a system for an arm of Power Corp.
Would Chretien have intervened in favor of his son-in-law’s company? I cannot believe it. He’s too smart. Most Canadians won’t believe it either, no matter how hard the opposition hammers at the deal in the days and months ahead.
But this satellite deal will hurt the Liberals, reminding voters that not just the Tories have close ties to big business. This jolts those who’ve forgotten the Liberals were and are the establishment party. And the little guy from Shawinigan is personally and politically close to Desmarais and ex-Grit aides in Power Corp.’s top rank such as Michael Pitfield, John Rae, and Joel Bell. And the deal’s gone too far now to be dropped.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 26, 1995
ID: 12281830
TAG: 199504250124
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

PENNY-PINCHERS RULE ON THE HILL

Anyone familiar with Parliament is wondering how far the theme of frugality will go and how long it will last. Currently an awareness about checking costs of every aspect of the House and the Senate is high, and is bringing changes.
Much impetus began and continues with demands from Reform MPs with western backers who gag on the splendors of Ottawa and its political and mandarinate cadres.
In several of the parliamentary forums, notably in the committee on Procedure and House Affairs, the Liberals MPs, in concert with Speaker Gilbert Parent and his staff, are almost outpacing Reformers in curbing parliamentary spending. Bloc Quebecois MPs seem less concerned, but they are not blocking the tide of cost-awareness.
If you sense skepticism in the foregoing paragraph you are right. The frugality ramp is surely not permanent. The popular scunner against any generosity by MPs for MPs has to ease as concerns turn to greater issues like medicare, the GST and, yes, even what to do about Quebec.
There have also been indications from Jean Chretien he will not concede much more, if anything, to Reform demands for more changes in parliamentary pensions and less in pay and allowances for MPs and senators. Shortly the House Affairs committee is to deal with a Reform motion to kill the spending votes on so-called parliamentary associations and exchanges that will surely be defeated by the committee’s handy Liberal majority. One might call this an anti-junket motion because such monies fund most of the trips of MPs in groups – for example, to Washington, to NATO and to UN and Commonwealth gatherings.
HOUSE COSTS CUT
In two meetings before the Easter break the House Affairs committee heard from the Speaker and the Clerk of the House why and how the 1994-95 estimates showed the first reduction in budgetary requirements in 20 years. Next fiscal year, spending will drop again by 6% and by 3% in each of the next two years. Thus, the House will cost less in the last year of its electoral mandate than it did in the last year of Mulroney’s mandate.
Much of the reduction comes from a buyout taken by senior employees which cut House staff by 15% (from 1,712 to 1,457). MPs’ remuneration and the salaries or wages of House employees have been frozen for several years and will be for several more.
The only projected increases in House spending are for upgrading its computer systems and sustaining the broader services on the Hill which this will offer. Such spending, says Parent, will bring savings in the future through more use of E-mail, particularly in constituency work of MPs, and in providing House documents like Hansard and committee reports online rather than in print on paper.
There has been a marked drop in personnel and spending for the parliamentary dining rooms and cafeterias, now “bare bones” in terms of hours and quality. Revenue is still far from meeting costs with volume far lower than a decade ago as MPs spend fewer days (and evenings) on the Hill. The Speaker’s advisers doubt private contractors would seek to cater for a clientele at hand for only 150 days a year in a locale whose security needs prevent opening to all comers.
NO MORE FREE LUNCH?
On sitting days the House has a “free lunch” table in the party lobbies “behind the curtain.” It costs about $100,000 a year and Reformers even challenge this service. They also join with some Grits in wanting sharp changes in the “frank” privilege, now costing over $7 million a year. It’s been a citizen’s right to send a letter free to an MP – and vice-versa. As free mail from organized lobbying by interest groups using cards and briefs has soared, genuinely personal mail has declined.
Technical innovations are being pursued to lower charges to the House for car phones and other telecommunication billings. So are ways to reduce the costs of printing on the Hill and the distribution of MPs’ four “householders” a year. Videoconferencing of committee hearings, already tried, is being pushed to save travel costs for witnesses and members of committees.
The Reformers query the annual grants going to an association of former parliamentarians and to another of MPs’ spouses. Even the $500,000-plus to keep the press gallery and its staff going is being challenged.
A few Liberals agree with Reformers that the yearly spending of each MP, by item, be put on the public record – e.g., for travel, phone, mail, printing and riding offices – to foster competition in frugality.
Not since the R.B. Bennett days in the early Dirty Thirties has there been such earnestness about being spartan among MPs. Really!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 23, 1995
ID: 12281204
TAG: 199504210155
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

A BIG BOOK WITH BIGGER POTENTIAL

It’s a mug’s game to predict that a heavy book of 747 pages – by a little-known author about the dreary state of Canada – will become a best-seller, but I think Farewell the Peaceable Kingdom by Joe C.W. Armstrong has a chance.
What suggests this?
Humor! Wit, lots of it, sometimes unintended. The book had me chortling more by a good measure than any other ever about our politics.
Names! It has a surfeit – of politicians, reporters, columnists, professors, union chiefs and prime agitators from Farley Mowat to David Suzuki to Judy Rebick. And with most names come assessment, usually vitriolic, rarely kind but often apt.
The CBC is portrayed as “the socialist infiltrator,” the Toronto Star is the “Pulp Primeval.” The doyens of Queen’s University are our “Faculty Club.”
Argument! It never ceases. The author is relentless and reckless in rousting against the misdeeds and themes of three prime ministers: Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney as they catered to French-Canadian aims.
The case is made, up and down, forwards and sideways, that constitutional fiddling, a crocked Charter of Rights, and bilingualism and multiculturalism programs, have ruined a good country and made ordinary people abandon active citizenship and the values and legacies of “the peaceable kingdom.”
But what’s against Farewell? Why might it not roll to a readership of hundreds of thousands and a place at the top with previous sleepers like the brief Lament for a Nation by the late philosopher, George Grant, or the deadly serious What’s Wrong With Canada by William Gairdner (1990)?
This book is not only very long it has well over 1,000 quotations and scads of references. The author says he’s gathered 40,000 printed items since 1980 in his obsession to fathom what our elites were doing to improve Canada but really ruining it. Although the editing of this swatch of snips has been done well, a reader must constantly check his own running index on who it is that is sounding off.
The layout and index of the book are generous; nonetheless, the whole is so massive and content so diverse that one foresees readers with tired wrists and saturated memories.
Armstrong has a roster of villains from Mike Pearson to Preston Manning and a host of mere jerks, wimps, fudgers, and dodgers. Hardly a hero or heroine proves durable. Columnists are as fallible as ministers and MPs. In short, Farewell may be fun but it’s not uplifting or positive and it is as politically incorrect as one could imagine.
It mocks such sanctities as The Order of Canada (“the ceramic snowflake”), Clerks of the Privy Council, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and such political gurus as Peter Gzowski, Stephen Lewis, Hugh Segal and Dalton Camp. Even some honored dead, like Jeanne Sauve, are limned at their worst.
SCURRILOUS AND UN-CANADIAN?
And so the elites in and about politics and the media, and the mandarins of the big bureaucracies and interest associations will tend to dismiss Farewell out of hand as a scurrilous, misguided, un-Canadian aberration.
The publisher, Stoddart, has substance and has scored well in selling books which the chattering classes have ignored or scoffed at such as William Gairdner’s dour, conservatively-minded What’s wrong and his The War Against the Family. My hunch is that someone at Stoddart has figured Armstrong’s opus has enough to take it to the top of the charts like On the Take by Stevie Cameron, another big book and wrecker of reputations.
Much of Cameron’s zeal for exposing Brian Mulroney’s skulduggery and Tory incompetence comes from her Liberal bias and utter devotion to Pierre Trudeau and his Canadian Camelot. Armstrong’s roots and his nostalgia are for the old Ontario strand, the old Dominion and the British Commonwealth.
He’s named for his grandfather, a Conservative MP for Lambton county for much of a period from 1904 to 1925. His father “Major” Armstrong of the 48th Highlanders held a post in London from 1944 through Joe’s youth that I once thought the most munificent continuum in high living and perquisites enjoyed by a Canadian abroad. He was agent-general for Ontario, an appointee of a Tory premier, George Drew.
Now 61, Joe C.W. Armstrong, describes himself as “author, historian and heritage publicist.” Other data indicates career work as a promoter and investor, and an avocation of cartography.
Although Armstrong declares that “Canada’s demise is certain” as he begins, after his rollicking romp over so many cretins (myself included) his epilogue’s close suggests a hope: “A renewal of conservative thought and philosophy is the answer … The counter-revolution against the anti-intellectuals and revisionists who stole the future of our country is long overdue.”
At the core, another dreamer?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, April 21, 1995
ID: 12280722
TAG: 199504200208
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

STATSCAN BLUSTER CAN’T SILENCE CRITICS

Bruce Petrie, the No. 2 chief at Statistics Canada, described a piece of mine (Jan. 13) as “verging on irresponsible journalism in its references to the 1993 Violence Against Women Survey.”
His federal agency, through many subsequent releases and the use made of this survey by feminist leaders, has won much attention. The percentages show a regime of male violence and criminal harassment against women reigns in Canada.
In my column I commended brave souls such as Globe executive Margaret Wente and academic John Feneke (Trent University) who have broken correctness and openly doubted the integrity of the survey and its zealous interpreters.
In particular, Petrie condemned my use of opinions gathered in “totally unsubstantiated social chat” with a StatsCan employee that “diehard feminists, most of them lesbians, got control of the survey, and ran away with it.”
Well, they’re still running free as the latest essay on male violence in the agency’s quarterly on social issues demonstrates.
Of course, I couldn’t name my informant. Readers have to accept or reject my honesty and my judgment in using what I learned from someone whose future at StatsCan would be grim if he or she were named.
In the past month other academics have joined Feneke in dubbing the survey and its usage as dishonest and spreading needless fears across the land. One critic, Reena Sommer of the University of Manitoba, has said, “the whole thing of this survey was to incite fear in women.” The image presented was literally awful: half the women of Canada having been abused. Her accusation was parallel to that of my informant in the bowels of StatsCan: the fear-mongering hadn’t happened by accident. The survey’s managers had a deliberate agenda.
Another academic, Edwina Taborsky of Bishop’s University, has torpedoed the methodology of another federal study of date rape done by Carleton professors. It indicated over four-fifths of Canadian women have been victim of least one form of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse.
The physical abuse and harassment of women and children is a very serious matter. No mature person would pooh-pooh its occurrence or condone any of it. But it is a subject for caution with its data as gathered, analyzed, interpreted and publicized.
There is now enough criticism by persons of repute in social science for our MPs in opposition to demand the federal ministers responsible for social justice and its defence (Allan Rock, Diane Marleau, Lloyd Axworthy), agree to a parliamentary inquiry into these two fear-raising surveys.

Much wisdom has issued from crocodile pals of both the Reform Party and the Progressive Conservative party since Bob Fife, a Sun colleague, reported a merger on the right was a prospect. He tied this to some discontent among Reform MPs with Preston Manning’s leadership strategies and a positive view of such an alliance from Bob Horner, a recent Tory MP of worth, and genuinely a conservative.
The prospect is a hopeless one for several federal elections (at least seven or eight years) and Reform would have to be down to a dozen seats and the Progressive Conservatives up to several score. At the news of negotiation Reform’s populist base in the west would desert en masse. On their side, the Tories haven’t had a conservatively minded leader or a party hierarchy which believes the less government the better since George Drew. The last four leaders, Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney, Kim Campbell and Jean Charest, have been more liberally minded than Jean Chretien.
No, the merger is beyond a miracle.

What should a calm, fair observer say about a withdrawal of funding by the Liberals for Toronto’s Harbourfront, an election goody launched long ago by a previous Liberal ministry?
Have Harbourfront programs become a necessity of national life, or even a necessity of Toronto life? No.
Is Harbourfront alone among programs long aided by Ottawa that is stymied by cuts to meet imperatives of Paul Martin’s budget? No. Scores of other programs funded in part by Ottawa have been ended or much reduced, e.g. in sport and science.
Was Harbourfront a unique example of federal aid to programs and places with a high identity and promotion in big municipalities? No. Any doubter should check the lists of grants and contributions in the annual Public Account books.
Are there any advantages for the Chretien government from the hullabaloo raised over Harbourfront and the raging by cultural advocates at Metro’s mass of Grit MPs? Yes. If the decision stands! Many thousands beyond Toronto will realize this is an earnest, serious government.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 19, 1995
ID: 12280253
TAG: 199504180087
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

ALL GOOD THINGS COME TO AN END

Response to the decision by CBC-TV to cancel Front Page Challenge after 38 years on air reminds me a bit of how so many of us love passenger trains. We know they’re great and good for national unity, but we rarely take them.
Suddenly, with FPC axed, we know the concept of quizzing for people once in the news was a dandy and it was satisfying to have Fred, Betty, Pierre and more recent familiars on hand once a week each season.
The individual and communal urgencies to watch the program have faded as the ratings, like passengers’ numbers, were worn down by many handy alternatives. In our regrets we do understand the cancellation would not have come if viewership was near what it used to be.
The withering of the program’s following symbolizes the CBC’s core dilemma in English Canada. It’s being shifted to the fringe and to “niche” viewers by the profusion in choice that cable, videos, CDs, etc. now offer.
In an odd, Canadian way Front Page Challenge got my attention from its very start in the summer of 1957. I had just become the new MP for the riding of Port Arthur, having defeated C.D. Howe, the Liberals’ famous “minister of everything.”
For several years one of my electors, Eleanor Ide, the wife of a fellow teacher, had been living with the aid of an “iron lung” in a Catholic hospital. She was politically aware as one from a family with parliamentary and judicial antecedents. Her personality was warm, firm and optimistic.
A large circle of family, friends and acquaintances looked forward to visiting Eleanor in her thumping machine, I among them. She would tease the nuns who cared for her, all of them irrevocable Liberals, about her radical, CCF visitor.
IRREPRESSIBLE WIT
From our chats about recent college days Eleanor knew I’d played football with one Frank Peppiatt. At that time – 1957 – Peppiatt was making his way in Toronto as a script writer and floater of program ideas for the CBC. He’d been a good player but his big impact on teammates had been as an irrepressible wit.
After college, he and Eleanor’s brother, John Aylesworth, had teamed up as writers and she had told me about the idea of FPC before it hit the air. Eleanor’s brother thought it a great concept and so did she. Its success would help give John and Frank notice in the TV business and an income floor.
Few except its creators and first panelists could have followed the infant program in those first summer presentations more intently than Eleanor from her hospital room. Naturally, most who came to see her became immediate FPC fans.
The summer replacement became a regular program the next winter – a winter in which John Diefenbaker dissolved the new Parliament. This put me campaigning again and in chilly March I was at it, much of it door to door.
One night I left such rigors to run into St. Joseph’s to tell Eleanor she could be sure brother’s brainchild was a great and durable hit. At almost every household I’d interrupted during its broadcast time, Front Page Challenge was on and twice in a row I was rebuffed angrily for interfering with the family’s concentration.
Eleanor Ide died in 1965, leaving sad friends with fine memories. For me one memory is of Front Page Challenge. Whenever the program or its characters like the late Gordon Sinclair would come up in news or talk I’d think of Eleanor, the sister in rigorous confinement who cherished her brother and relished his success.
FAME AND FORTUNE
It was regrettable that only one of the many stories on the demise of Front Page Challenge mentioned John Aylesworth as “writer-creator.” Of course, both Aylesworth and Peppiatt went on from FPC and the CBC to fortune in the U.S. and fame within the business of TV and movies.
In 1975 or thereabouts I had my only direct experience with FPC, and that as a guest panelist. It was a session which Betty Kennedy said afterwards was “the most difficult and distressing” of any in her experience. Certainly I was so hyped and defused by the problem of the evening that I couldn’t recall anything of my moments of enquiry.
The prime guest was Sarah Churchill, daughter of Winston Churchill. She had reached the studio late and in an alcoholic stupor. It was moot for over an hour if she could be sobered enough to serve as a mystery guest. The show did go on, the guest very full and dazed. Never after did I envy the regulars their FPC profiles or earnings.
The program is gone. The conception remains, and it’s a very adaptable, amendable one. Some time another producer or network may take it up again for the generations who have ignored or forgotten Front Page Challenge.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 16, 1995
ID: 12279648
TAG: 199504130163
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Comment
PAGE: C3
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

GRIT GOVERNMENT BEGINNING TO ROT

It’s been longer in coming than for other big-majority governments, but at last an unwinding and some early rot are almost palpable in the Chretien government.
One doesn’t divine this from the leader and either public or parliamentary reactions to him. And the falling off hasn’t the usual first evidence of unhappiness with the top man’s aides and handlers. Certainly such were the ones labelled as undermining the elan of the Diefenbaker mob. Similar criticism developed in the Trudeau crews soon after the electoral romps of 1968 and 1974, and such blaming of aides came early in the first Mulroney swarm.
To this date, on the Hill and in the Liberal caucus there seems very little rancor in the caucus or ministerial staffs about those around Jean Chretien. No Lalonde or Grosart or Pitfield or Ouellet is tagged as the evil genius or blundering fool who is screwing up the works. Prospects for such ire seem obvious in the quartet close to Chretien of Eddie Goldenberg, Jean Pelletier, Peter Donolo and Chaviva Hasek but there’s little of it. Indeed, one hears more mumbling and quizzical doubts abut the role of Mitchell Sharp, the PM’s octogenarian, listening post.
If witness to the usual falling away of a new government isn’t with its leader and his close staff, where is it? The short answer is in caucus unease and restiveness, particularly over a lot of dreary ministers and a very regressive agenda. Certainly it is not made evident by a colorful, point-scoring opposition in the House or a roused, critical swatch of journalists and producers, figuratively at the cabinet’s throat (although it needs saying: the performances of BQ and Reform MPs have not been as inadequate and disjointed as depicted by the press).
Since the budget the media as a group have been more probing and less given to adulation for the Liberals and their leader.
Foreboding over the Martin budget’s long-term implications, particularly for social and cultural policies and the system of federal-provincial relations, has been rippling back to Ottawa in anger and frustration. Most provincial governments and scores of interest groups are getting angrier about federal deficit-mongering on their backs.
More and more the embarrassing, crude question is heard: why are Liberals aping Mulroney’s Tories? I find it burning many of the backbench Liberal MPs.
Since the budget more and more of the most active, talky proponents of social programs so often credited with shaping the proverbial kinder, caring Canada have abandoned hope the Liberals would be more generous and socially responsible than the Tories. They’re getting nasty, stirring up grievances and animosity in their bailiwicks rather than beseeching Liberal ministers and MPs.
LLOYD AXWORTHY IN ECLIPSE
And here one finds the growing evidence of a party in power now on the wane, whatever the poll points show. So many Liberal MPs, particularly from Ontario and the Atlantic provinces, are kindred to such social reformers as the Council of Canadians and Friends of the CBC and the utopians of feminism and environmentalism. Their ideological pole star in the cabinet, Lloyd Axworthy, is in eclipse.
Now most backbenchers realize they are the bedrock for an administration downsizing Ottawa, devolving responsibilities and programs, and literally gutting the federal civil service or at least its image as a Liberal-loving, Liberal creation. There’s more and more reneging on the greatest undertakings in the Red Book such as expanding child care, killing the GST, and remaking, if not abandoning, the free trade agreements.
It’s not yet in the open play on the Hill, but believe me there’s recognition and rising exasperation among a few in the cabinet and many on the backbench about the ministry, 33 in number, and more particularly about the cabinet, 24 in number.
A wonderful prime minister can no longer cover a cabinet far from being high on talent and competence. Only half a dozen of the ministers, including the PM, have been obviously excellent in both parliamentary and administrative senses (see Allan Rock, Brian Tobin, Paul Martin and Ralph Goodale as examples).
Another half-dozen are adequate or untroubling (see Roy MacLaren, Andre Ouellet, Marcel Masse and Art Eggleton). But almost a dozen make many backbenchers quaver, and several (such as Ron Irwin, Michel Dupuy, Sheila Copps, Diane Marleau, Ron Irwin, Doug Young, Sergio Marchi, David Anderson and David Collenette) have been and will continue to be exposed and under pressure.
Governments rot from within more than they disintegrate from outside attacks. It’s not obvious the Chretien government is rotting at the top but it is in its second tier and its parliamentary base has begun to simmer with frustration.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, April 14, 1995
ID: 12279219
TAG: 199504130270
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

USEFUL READING FOR POLITICAL JUNKIES

Some readers remind me they like my brief notes on new books relevant to politics, so this is a sampler of recent reading I enjoyed.
Reinventing Canada, by Anthony Westell, is a 97-page paperback published by Dundurn Press. An able reporter trained in Britain, two decades ago Westell turned from the Hill’s press gallery to teach journalism. This pungent analysis of the huge faults in our federal system is more satisfying than the prescription to go back to the people and through popular discussion and conventions (not framed or directed by experts or those in office) create a new system.
If Quebec Goes … the Real Cost of Separation, by Marcel Cote and David Johnston, a 237-page paperback from Stoddart, has the rather arch form of talk between two Montrealers, one an economist (Cote) the other a law teacher. Their canvass of the economic hurts and political confusion which separation would trigger is matter of fact and convincing.
This is not an anti-separatist rant. It’s light on the old BNA and Meech stuff but vivid on the certain, rough consequences for daily living in an independent Quebec. What is up front in Westell’s save Canada book is implicit in If Quebec Goes: the present status of Quebec in Canada is unsatisfactory and must be changed.
Comrade Criminal, by Stephen Handelman, published by Michael Jordon (U.K.) is subtitled “The theft of the second Russian revolution.” A TorStar man like Westell, Handelman grew up in the U.S. and reported on Ottawa before long stints in Britain and the USSR. The present squalor of political chicanery, gangsters and economic chaos in Russia is detailed with scores of pocket examples.
REVEALING PORTRAYAL
An American reviewer thought Comrade Criminal a more revealing and substantive portrayal of Russia’s vicious dilemmas than any of many recent “big think” tomes on how Russia got to where it is and what may follow.
Shooting the Hippo, by Linda McQuaig, published by Viking, has a subtitle and a note on the author, which tags the book for strangers as from the argumentative left: ” `Death by deficit and other Canadian myths’ by the author of The Wealthy Banker’s Wife.” For those not of this left, McQuaig aggravates but stimulates. As she brims with the zealot’s gall, she also conjures a cliche from CCF days for me. She’s a “parlor pink.” In print, McQuaig is as able a word warrior for our left as Maude Barlow is in speech.
Behind the Mitre, by Tony Clarke, subtitled “The moral leadership crisis in the Canadian Catholic Church” is a 210-page paperback published by HarperCollins. It may not shock Roman Catholics as much as it did me. The subtitle really is the subject and it is thoroughly examined.
Many of the Church leaders, notably the once dominant Cardinal, George Emmett Carter, are savaged as suppressors of Christian ideals working in specific activism on behalf of our economic underdogs. Too many leaders are essentially backers of the rich, both individual and corporate. Clarke was long a researcher and adviser for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. His book is passionate, coherent, informed, and far more analytical of our political system than McQuaig’s.
To close, two books which should embarrass the warm hearts and soft heads in both print and CBC-TV journalism: Arctic Smoke & Mirrors, by Gerard Kenney, a 144-page paperback from Voyageur Publishing, Prescott, and Wrong Time, Wrong Place: How Two Canadians Ended Up in a Brazilian Jail, by Caroline Mallan, published by Key Porter.
NATIVE CON JOB
Kenney, a veteran of living in the North, debunks both the integrity of the current royal commission on aboriginal people and the charges in one of the whiniest con jobs of modern native politics – i.e., of supposed federal callousness in the move in the early 1950s of Inuit families from the Quebec shores of Hudson Bay to the higher Arctic (where there was more game, furs, and fish). Despite Kenney’s justifications for this move and its successes, Ron Irwin, the Indian Affairs minister, is having readied both formal apologies and a package of compensation.
Mallan’s book is a straight narrative about the con job by parents and friends that raised a host of sympathizers in the media, church groups, and Parliament. The theme enlarged, notably by CBC-TV, was of two young, serious, decent Canadian innocents, unfairly convicted and severely sentenced for a Brazilian kidnapping.
Mallan doesn’t moralize. Her sketches of Lamont and Spencer, the “victims,” are believable. She got on to the true story late in its development as a reporter for the Toronto Star.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 12, 1995
ID: 12278821
TAG: 199504120061
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

QUEBEC’S DEMANDS ARE NEVER-ENDING

A caution against cockiness! Our joy at the zoom in federalist stock after Lucien Bouchard’s fresh line on when the Quebec referendum should be held and what “sovereignty” should entail may reflect a view that the Quebec situation is settled, figuratively, for our time.
We must remember that even a federalist romp whenever the vote comes only ushers in another phase in our longest-running, never-ending political theme. And it is to sustain a workable country with, or in spite of having, such a large, language-knit minority which is grounded on such a broad and relatively generous geography.
Too little notice was taken a week ago when Daniel Johnson, the head of the Quebec Liberal party and the leader of the federalist forces in the referendum campaign, agreed with demands which rose in both the National Assembly and from vigilant Quebec demographers that Parliament approve and other provinces agree to a constitutional floor for Quebec’s representation in Parliament so its share of MPs never drops below 25%. At present, and for many general elections, Quebec has had a floor (some would say a “ceiling”) of 75 seats since the 1953 election. Quebec’s 75 seats in today’s 295-seat House of Commons seats just nudges the 25% mark.
This defensive bid comes because of population shifts and the requirement that after each census ridings be adjusted by, and within, provinces in line with the principle of representation by population. Trends and this schema predicate more seats for B.C., Alberta, and Ontario, the provinces gaining more people than the others.
NUMBERS PROTECTED
Constitutionally, the so-called Senate floor keeps the Maritime provinces from having fewer MPs than they have senators. This means we have long had a precedent for a floor in representation to protect certain provinces against loss of MPs through demographic change.
Quebec’s population has slipped below 25% of the whole. Several indicators, including birth rates, immigration and domestic migration, ensure the percentage will keep sliding. On a parallel front, census language data has been registering a slide in the percentage of Canadians who speak French in the home. It has also slipped below 25% of the whole.
Although not widely noticed, there has been much talk by MPs about representation. Much of it has been sparked by the Reform’s Party’s insistence we have too many MPs and that affairs would be handled more frugally and effectively by considerably fewer than the present 295. So Reform stands against the redistribution procedures which keep boosting the total number of ridings.
Newish Liberal MPs, notably in Ontario, are also against substantial redistribution. They dislike the prospect of major changes in riding boundaries (and loyalties) that come from Ontario adding the ridings it has earned from a rising share of the population. After many committee meetings the Liberals have marshalled a bill that’s well along the way to becoming a law which curbs the scale of the increase in seats. The move has hardly been noticed outside B.C., the province most gored by such antics.
The demand of Daniel Johnson for a guaranteed quarter of House seats is merely a harbinger of what becomes the stuff of Quebec’s relations with Ottawa and the other provinces once the Parti Quebecois is rebuffed in the referendum.
SAYING LITTLE
One easily appreciates why the very pragmatic Jean Chretien is saying little and indicating nothing of substance about moves he will have to make to resolve the continuing dilemmas from the old Pierre Trudeau-Rene Levesque confrontation once the referendum is over.
Most of us outside Quebec ignore or forget that since the early ’80s, vote after overwhelming vote in the National Assembly has called for constitutional change. Even the strong federalists in the assembly have not swallowed the 1981 constitutional deal or forgotten that Trudeau as prime minister promised changes to meet Quebec aspirations once Levesque’s referendum was defeated. He never delivered.
Brian Mulroney tried – twice – and the Robert Bourassa-Daniel Johnson Liberals are still galled by the failure of the Meech Lake agreement through intransigence by the Newfoundland, Manitoba and New Brunswick governments.
A closing point: Lucien Bouchard’s ploy of depicting a new deal ahead for a Quebec in a working association with Canada is also, when you think about it, a resolution sure to be advanced by some Quebecers in the post-referendum politics ahead of us.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 09, 1995
ID: 12278003
TAG: 199504070217
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
PAGE: M15
COLUMN: In Ottawa
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

GRIT WEAKNESSES GO UNEXPLOITED

Opinion polling shows the Liberal honeymoon continuing at a high level despite a supposedly “tough” budget. But cracks in such fortune may or should be showing. Certainly there are more and more good chances for opposition attacks, although as yet few of these have been well taken.
It’s banal to repeat it, but a chief advantage of Jean Chretien and his cohorts seems to be they are not Brian Mulroney’s Tories. Popular relief at the end of the last federal regime remains palpable two years after its leader announced his exit. But the near invisibility of today’s federal Tories and the growing length of the Liberal record in office are coming into play. It’s getting harder for the government to coast on a largely unearned popularity.
Recently a pundit panel on CBC-TV agreed the Liberals have by and large been having a free ride and their high polling points really reflect a likable prime minister, an inept opposition, and the welcome somnolence which these factors have created rather than a broad realization of staunch Liberal achievement.
One mea culpa of the pundits was interesting: that so little note has been taken of how much Liberal activity resembles that of Mulroney and company.
Nothing did more damage to the Tories than patronage, and the hypocrisy around it. The Liberals are more and more vulnerable on this count as appointments roll out to harbor commissions, ambassadorships, boards, etc. The elevation of Perrin Beatty to the CBC seems so cynical, as are the forecasts of embassies for David Berger and Kim Campbell.
Popularity does breed arrogance, and pressure for more patronage continues to build, in part because aspirants know the Teflon coating of the PM has to wear away.
Time will tell whether the opposition parties use their opportunities well. The Bloc will continue to be irrelevant in English Canada. The NDP and the Tory MPs are hardly seen, let alone recognized. This leaves Reform, but the key problem for its caucus is an inability to recognize opportunities. And even when they do they usually flub them – of course with sanctimony. For example, the Pearson airport deal is a classic chance for opposition heydays but who has been developing it, even endangering the Teflon man? A handful of Tory senators.
The Reformers’ performance on the Somalia inquiry was disappointing and they were ham-fisted in tying the defence minister’s wife to the misguided appointment of career diplomat Anne Marie Doyle to the inquiry.
They missed a chance to expose David Collenette’s righteous anger. Of course, his wife (who is in charge of appointments at the PMO) may not have directly recommended Doyle, given the latter is a civil service appointee, but she was certainly involved because the ill-fated appointment freed an ambassadorial post for a defeated Grit candidate. Yes, exploiting this husband-wife link may be mean-spirited. But if you choose to accuse a government of dirty deeds you’d better know where the mud is. In opposition the Liberals did.
Collenette got away with the defence he knew nothing of Doyle’s relationship to his former deputy, Robert Fowler, and implied the mistake was elsewhere in the PMO. Why not ask him why he hadn’t met each appointee personally and checked on possible conflicts of interest? This inquiry is vital to the minister and for any recovery of his department. His delegation of the appointments was politically suicidal and a dereliction of ministerial responsibility. Reform let him off lightly.
Reform has also blown a golden chance to raise a basic issue regarding the public service. Is it sensible to appoint a career official to an inquiry reviewing the conduct of a senior colleague originally from her department?
Foreign affairs is notoriously clannish and proud of its extended influence through alumni in other departments. Doyle’s future prospects depend on evaluations by superiors, many of whom are colleagues of and, yes, even friends of Fowler. How truly independent is such an appointee to an inquiry board? The choice reminds me of Robert Nixon reviewing the Pearson airport deal.
Reformers seem as myopic as Liberals about incestuousness in the public service. And they failed to emphasize that no member of this inquiry into the military’s morale problems, the conduct of its officers and NCOs and the command structure’s relations with personnel, has any military experience. Can you imagine any panel for such a chore in Britain, the U.S., or France without a single member with experience, not just in the military but with a combat unit?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, April 07, 1995
ID: 11888439
TAG: 199504060192
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

PAM AND TONY … AND KEITH

As in the rest of Canada there’s been keen interest on Parliament Hill in the coincidental and sudden separations from the CBC and CTV of anchors Pamela Wallin and Keith Morrison, even though neither has been a flash point for House questions or grieving aloud.
It’s a rare politician who hasn’t been questioned by Wallin and even rarer one who hasn’t sworn or gagged over her sharp edge. That may be why no one bled openly for her, even though some of the Liberals must recall how she detested the Mulroney gang – and it showed.
In the trade of TV and journalism Morrison has long been categorized as both a nice guy and unusually able for an anchor at writing script.
In personality terms, Wallin is a contrast. She has been recognized for years as a forceful, tough, demanding person who gives inordinate hours and most of her mind-set to work and to her prerogatives there. And, thus, she has been more respected than cherished.
At the moment there’s a broad assumption among the “communicators” that there was a match of two scorpions in the bottle of a single show, and Peter Mansbridge got in the last and fatal sting.
As one viewer who is not a strong fan of either I saw the pair as a saw-off in worth to the CBC. He has the better (or easier) voice and presence for the reading role whereas she is sharper – a better read, educated and more alert critic of public affairs.
The Wallin incident should raise doubts at the top of the CBC about the calibre of CBC management in the TV news field.
`WINDBAG STUFF’
This judgment came to me after reading the much-circulated memo of almost 2,000 words about the situation that was distributed to “all TV news staff” by Tony Burman, apparently the executive leader of CBC-TV News. Copies came to me from two CBC employees, one who thought it “windbag stuff,” the other who cryptically said that “When caught out, brag!”
As a sample of executive indirection, here is “the first point” which Burman says he made to Wallin at the meeting which led her to believe she was fired from Prime Time News. He wrote:
“As we all know, the CBC is heading into the most crucial period of its history, and more than ever, we have to use people to their potential in the interests of our programs and our viewers. If that sometimes means – as it inevitably does – that there isn’t always complete agreement on what the role should be, then so be it. In cases such as these, Canada’s public network has no choice but to give the viewer’s interest precedence.”
What follows, at length, hints but never makes clear that this meant Wallin had to go because she ranked well behind Mansbridge in viewers’ favor. He suggests she was determined to do interviews whereas Prime Time’s thinkers had decided to emphasize “tough, hard-edged reports and documentaries.” Burman stated that “too much was at stake now to allow philosophical differences over programming to distract us.”
Talking heads, however, do make for much less costly TV than reporters ranging the country and the world on assignments or film-makers in pursuit of “tough” documentaries. So the good news is that CBC News isn’t being forced by its crisis toward the cheap stuff (and more of the work which Wallin wanted). And in a woolly but obvious way Burman does not see Wallin’s exit from Prime Time and the CBC as any tragedy.
HIGHER RATINGS
The ratings are rising, awards and honors are rolling in and such gratifying indicators do not surprise Burman because, “The CBC, including Prime Time News, is blessed with many talented interviewers and journalists.”
Wonderful, eh? One might niggle that such a blessed cornucopia hardly needs notice given that the CBC has by far the largest, most numerous and expensive news and commentary operation in Canada. It’s also at or near the top in global terms, and most of the other operations are not four-fifths sustained by taxpayers.
In neither the beginning, middle nor end of Burman’s message did he accord any favorable notice to what Pamela Wallin brought to the CBC (and gave generously, one may be sure). As the line goes: unwept, unhonored, and unsung. Several times the CBC news chief used positively the words “tough” and “topical” to describe CBC news, and, paradoxically, those adjectives fit Wallin well.
To be fair, in none of the comments issued by CTV executives that I’ve heard or seen in print has there been any graciousness about Keith Morrison’s contribution to the network or any regret or even any fair explanation of why he had to be fired.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 05, 1995
ID: 11888113
TAG: 199504050044
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

FIRST, YOU MUST TALK A GOOD GAME

Why compare and contrast Brian Tobin, Allan Rock, and Perrin Beatty? Because they represent elements usually at play in political leadership – in particular the ability to speak well. Each of this trio, now much in the headlines, spoke well from his first day in the House of Commons.
Inside and around any governing party an ongoing appreciation is in play of who could or should become prime minister if the incumbent has a health crisis.
Although no prime minister I recall is better ensconced in public, caucus and party esteem than Jean Chretien is today, he has been on the go for 32 years, and, as I divine present appreciations, Brian Tobin and Allan Rock are to the fore, much as Perrin Beatty was through the first half-dozen years of Brian Mulroney’s administrations.
To speak well seems basic in politics but it doesn’t guarantee advancement. Several prime ministers and leaders of opposition parties have been, well, less than superb talkers. Let’s note some of them.
In vital circles in Quebec, Chretien himself is still mocked for murdering both French and English.
On his feet Lester Pearson was nowhere near as convincing as in seminars or chats.
As a talking politician Pierre Trudeau’s forte was as a counter-puncher. There he was electric and dangerous but his staple parliamentary remarks were usually academic and dour, read without enthusiasm.
Robert Stanfield’s speeches usually parsed nicely and read well but he rarely lifted a House or any other audience because of slow delivery and a droll, overly subtle humor.
KEY FACTOR
Despite much determination, confidence, and fertility in ideas, Lloyd Axworthy hit his ceiling as an aspirant leader when he backed from the race to succeed John Turner. Surely a key factor was a failure to come on as an interesting orator or expositor.
But we should consider the most complete ministerial speaker in parliaments of the past 40 years. Allan MacEachen has been able to function in four or five gears of speaking, from high oratory down to bafflegab. Such facility made him a premium politician and a pillar of the caucus as both open performer and back-room strategist. But other attributes or their lack kept him from the top office.
Almost immediately after each of Beatty, Tobin, and Rock first spoke in Parliament, the first two as youthful backbenchers, the third as a rookie minister, a lot of colleagues and journalists noted that here was a new MP who spoke well. This was more noticed and remarked about Rock than about Beatty and Tobin.
Imagine! A new minister with restrained mannerisms but much poise who spoke faultlessly and without either hesitation or to excess. A minister who doesn’t ruffle, who has gone to push complex issues with thorough exposition and – most unusual – without diversions into the defensive cliches of pettier partisanship.
Although Beatty and Tobin were tabbed as good, confident talkers they were only in their 20s with long roads ahead. Tobin also suffered somewhat because long before his advent Newfoundland MPs were taken for granted as the best House performers – almost always glib, humorous, adroitly partisan and usually passionate. (See John Crosbie or the late Don Jamieson.)
IN THE LIMELIGHT
The high ratings of Brian Tobin and Allan Rock in current appreciations rest on the real leadership under stress which they have been showing as ministers, boosted by their exceptional clarity in speeches, statements and interviews. There are almost night to day differences in their styles of address, vocabulary and argument, but each has been top-flight in the limelight.
Perhaps Tobin has gained the most because his causes are more nationalistic and popular. Perhaps Rock’s causes are more dangerous to his future advancement because they have roused durable antagonisms across Canada. Nonetheless, these are the two ministers who now rate with Paul Martin as quite positive prospects for the top office if … Yes, it is unlikely, but if …
But a caution lies in the ministerial career of Perrin Beatty, now president of the CBC, a task which seems beyond him.
Why? Few young ministers had such a confident demeanor and such high prospects as Beatty. Polished though he was at talk and speech the high appreciation of him petered away, lost gradually, in cabinet where he was not a lion, and in both the caucus and party because he never got beyond conventional Red Tory platitudes. He had nothing fresh or interesting to offer and he became just another minister in a large cast.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 22, 1995
ID: 11884558
TAG: 199503210087
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

CANADA’S BECOME A MILITARY PIGMY

The indifference of the international security community in our defence plans was my last column. This one explains why that attitude is justified.
The recent defence and foreign affairs reviews stressed we should adapt to the new, post-Cold War realities. The demise of the Soviet threat has reduced requirements for conventional for-ces and a major, military commitment in Europe. The end of the East-West stalemate has led into numerous regional conflicts, making Canada’s traditional role as a conciliator/peacekeeper more important. Finally, the economic surge of South and East Asia requires we focus more attention on our growing interests there.
Glaringly absent from both papers was any recognition how far Canada has slipped in the world’s economic and military standings over the past two decades. We are no longer a strong, wealthy middle power at the front of an uncrowded world stage.
Canada is hamstrung by a debt load which played a far larger role in the defence cuts than did any reassessment of our needs. Our G-7 status is shaky. Several developing nations will soon pass us in GNP. And militarily we are a pigmy now, in danger of becoming an antique one. Canada will enjoy as much influence in world affairs as she can afford, and that isn’t much.
For example, Canada seeks a bigger role in the Pacific Rim. What is the security situation there, and what can we offer?
Governments on the rim have a martial flavor. Some are headed by military strongmen. Other administrations, ostensibly civil, have generals in their cabinets or must look warily all the time for a coup. Rapid economic growth is fuelling national ambitions and providing the cash necessary for modernizing armed forces in a hurry from a market flooded with arms since the end of the Cold War.
ARMS SALES WAY UP
Malaysia is buying U.S. F-18 and Russian MiG-29 fighters, playing catch up with neighbors who operate similar hi-tech aircraft. Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan have strong defence industries. Thailand is acquiring an aircraft carrier and submarines. China seeks to be the region’s superpower by modernizing its forces and creating a “blue water” navy, having bought the latest Russian sub and long-range fighters toward this goal. India, China’s old rival, operates two aircraft carriers, appears set to acquire nuclear submarines and has nuclear-capable missiles. It is looking to re-equip much of its air force in the next two years.
The developing ability of these nations to project military power far afield is disturbing given the unresolved territorial disputes around the Rim and the lack of strong regional military or political organizations to mediate them. China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia all contest ownership of the Spratly Islands (and the oil beneath them). The Chinese have backed their claims with military force. India has fought wars with China and Pakistan over still unresolved territorial issues.
A strong desire for an outsider/conciliator has been expressed by many South and East Asian nations, but they are not thinking of Canada or UN blue berets. The United States is being strongly lobbied to remain committed in the region, where it has played a dominant role for over a century. Even Vietnam, distrusting China, has joined the chorus.
OLD SUPPLY SHIPS
What can the tiny forces of Canada bring to the Rim? Only their professionalism as training partners; i.e., the navy’s anti-sub expertise is particularly valued given the subs soon to be operating there, and the importance of keeping sea lanes open. However, inadequate logistical support from two old supply ships makes questionable RCN ships operating so far away, with merely 20 warships (assuming no more cuts) the navy would be badly stretched.
Our air force is so tiny – able to equip only seven fighters with a set of hi-tech gear seen in the Gulf war. We would have to rely on Americans for air cover and logistical support. So much for creating independent roles in the Pacific for Canada.
And our army? It can barely meet current UN commitments. Going unnoticed when the cuts in the air force and HQ were announced was that the 3,000 “new” troops for the army will not create any new, deployable forces. They’ll just fill gaps in those now doing their international duty.
Beyond what I continue to believe is an overblown affection for peacekeeping and the supposed influence it brings Canada, the goals set out in the white papers are admirable and would likely benefit Canada, could we achieve them. We cannot do so, given the resources assigned our miliary. The reviews are wishful thinking, and our service people deserve better.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 19, 1995
ID: 11883893
TAG: 199503170165
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
PAGE: M15
COLUMN: In Ottawa
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

SEEING OURSELVES AS OTHERS SEE US

Canadians with international mind-sets should consider Robbie Burns’ old admonition: “To see ourselves as others see us!”
Many of our idealistic thinkers are interested in, some even excited by, revamped and vigorous defence and foreign policies. (See the two grand parliamentary reviews and the Chretien white paper.)
It’s odd how the idealists who quote UN and other foreign studies that credit us with a superior lifestyle and a kind society rarely seek and quote the views of foreign experts on our defence policies.
Official comment by our allies on such policies are traditionally circumspect – polite stuff on our contribution to victory 50 years ago, and reference to our longterm membership in the UN, NATO and NORAD. Our paltry contributions to collective defence since the early Trudeau years were rarely mentioned. Most people doing defence policy analysis were working for institutes funded by governments or doing contract work for them and adopted the official view that diploma-tic niceties be observed. If you don’t have something good to say, either say nothing or just waffle.
But change is underway. Last fall, Aviation Week, bible of the world’s aerospace community, ran a terse editorial “Does Canada want an air force?” Its editors noted the severe cuts in our air force then proposed by the special joint committee on National Defence that would reduce its strength to below what was viewed by its commanders as a bare minimum. Yet that same committee recommended Canada “invest greater effort and resources in the Pacific.”
Given the cuts would leave only “one deployable squadron of 18 CF-18s to cover commitments ranging from NATO to the Pacific Rim, Aviation Week mused: “This is a defence strategy? Canada would almost be better off disbanding its CF-18 force entirely.”
Less than a week later the government’s white paper announced this “strategy” would be implemented. The air force’s fleet of some 125 CF-18s (Only 72 of which are operational) will be cut to between 48 and 60. All CF-5 fighters are to be disposed of.
Now another respected international publication has passed judgment on our defence policies and exposed our irrelevance. This month’s Jane’s Information Group, producer of the famous annual Jane’s directories (required reading for senior officers and defence officials) sent its subscribers World of Defence ’95.
This 160-page tome summarizes the leading defence stories of 1994 and outlines security issues worldwide for the coming year. Topics range from the future of NATO to insurgencies in southern Asia, from Swedish, Norwegian, and Dutch efforts in UN operations to Bulgaria’s naval ambitions. Most countries get a brief write-up. You will find out what our turbot war rivals, the Spaniards, have on their defence agenda. Even those mighty powers Panama and Belize rate entries.
So what does this world authority say to its wide audience about Canada’s defence review, our self-proclaimed role as the leading peacekeeper?
Note that Jane’s is UK-based and owned by our own Ken Thomson. This not a case of arrogant Yanks losing us in their own shadow. Also, Jane’s has an able, Canadian correspondent, Sharon Hobson. She has faithfully reported our defence cuts in Jane’s weekly magazine.
The reality is that our new defence plans are deemed to be of so little interest or relevance to the world they merit no mention in this reference annual.
This indifference stems less from Canada’s tiny and dwindling military capability than it does from the chasm between it and the claims made for it.
While our forces have been shrinking our elitists have been reaching higher levels of hyperbole about Canadian roles and their import on the global scene.
Canada’s been a marginal power now for about two decades, but our defence policies once had some equivalence with capabilities, and the professionalism of our military earned them respect. But inflated words and aims, so notable in the recent defence and foreign policy reviews have undermined our credibility, as noted by Aviation Week and implicit in Jane’s decision to drop us from the World of Defence ’95.
That such dismissal has not created a scandalized response here is attributable to general ignorance in politics of such matters and the recent media focus on the travails of paratroopers. A closer examination of what’s happened on the international security scene and how our military is equipped to respond is in order. (See next column.)

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, March 17, 1995
ID: 11883289
TAG: 199503160191
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

A BIG GAP IN REFORM STRATEGY

Parliament’s been meeting while Preston Manning visited Washington and New York, saying some sensible things. In particular there was his insistence that the Reform Party did not seek to replace a liberalism enforced by the state with a state-enforced conservatism. Good sense, yes.
Nonetheless, his absence from a busy Hill reminds one of Manning’s dislike of Parliament and raises a good question: how will he win power in the long run in a parliamentary system and use it well when he hasn’t much time (real time!) for its central locale, the House of Commons?
The distaste of the Reform leader for the House was well revealed in the new book, Waiting for the Wave, by Tom Flanagan, a professor and a Reformer. Most reviewers have been intrigued, mostly with Manning’s values and his strategy of shaping a party for victory at the polls through mass membership and cultivation of the whole populace.
Reportorial and editorial judgments in Canada have been harsh and rather unfair about Manning and the work in Ottawa of his followers. Reform’s beginning emphasis was on decorum and plain or straight talk in the House, avoiding petty partisanship. This was both too large a departure from the norm to make sense with both older parties’ MPs and the press gallery.
Manning has a near contempt for stock House antics and he believes that day by day it tends to be in form and attitude an elitist assembly, always swinging away from the reality of the country and its people, and too much given to partisan hypocrisy.
BETTER SYSTEMS
Oh, it’s easy to understand why he views the House as he does. And, yes, there may be better governmental systems than the parliamentary one. But it’s what we have.
By tradition and long practice MPs outside the government ranks do more than constituency mongering. They organize by party a concerted awareness and critique of all governmental activity, zeroing on spending programs, quality of services and the competence of ministers. They do, or should, keep a ministry alert, honest, and open in an expository sense.
For the Reform leader the House symbolizes timeless and tired charades. So he prefers to work outside it with the electorate-to-be, emphasizing large, simply expressed issues and choices, appreciable by all voters. His government would be frugal and minimalist, strong for devolution of programs and services to the government closest to the people.
Beyond our academe, the role of opposition to the government in Parliament is rarely a leading topic for examination. Relatively few citizens follow the work of MPs in House and committee sittings beyond video snippets from question period seen on TV newscasts.
Of course, dominance of TV news and commentary over politics somewhat justifies the Manning strategy of big, simple themes worked up large outside the crib of Parliament and its farces. Also, his analysis may rest in part on the array of premiers and provinces, busily dealing with or against Ottawa and its ministers outside Parliament and grabbing much public notice.
But what of the gaps in the Manning strategy?
Surely it throws away chances to mount and sustain telling argument in the House hurtful to the party Reform must oust. It ignores the imperative that a useful party develops a team of MPs with real knowledge and opinions on a wide range of issues.
ONE-MAN PARTY
Peter Stockland, Calgary Sun editor, in a piece on the Flanagan book titled “A one-man party doesn’t last forever” noted that a Reform MP from Calgary told him that before the book: “I couldn’t figure out why my skills were not being used. Now I understand, it’s not me. It’s Preston.”
The saddest aspect of Manning bypassing the House is the development by many in his caucus of well-reasoned and researched positions and critiques on important topics. Such solid work is neither underlined nor exploited much in or out of the House by Manning. His preferred locus is Calgary, his mission is to all voters, not to them through parliamentary work.
And so, for too long Reform’s House tactics repeat familiar “ball-park” questions about deficits and less government, not a daily press across the board of ministers and issues. There’s little persistence in opposing measures or exposing incompetence, thus fashioning a confident, coherent team. For that to happen Manning must lead, in the House, hour after hour, day after day.
Manning might note that Newt Gingrich worked his rise to fame and power in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 15, 1995
ID: 11882764
TAG: 199503140095
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

SOME TAX DOLLARS ARE WELL SPENT

So much in government deals in dollar spending allocated to programs for individuals and groups. Today we have two sets of numbers gleaned from printed records of federal activity. The first has to do with war veterans. The second set concerns the split of spending by the CBC between English and French language services.
Veterans’ costs have been relatively stable for the past few years and will be due for a substantial drop in the early 2000s. The CBC’s funding seems almost sure to fall sharply, at least that portion which comes directly from the government.
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (DVA)
As I and most ex-service persons see it, Canada has been fair and responsive to its war veterans since 1918. Some 1.75 million men and women served in Canada’s wartime forces, of whom 116,000 died as a result of war. The estimate of those alive this spring is 520,000. DVA notes that 45,000 of them are women.
The forecast for DVA spending in the fiscal year ahead (1995-96) is $1.997 billion, a smidgin below the forecast for the current year. Just over half such spending goes for pensions and allowances, and much of the rest for health care.
Attrition of veterans by death has slowed the rise of federal spending on veterans for pensions, allowances and health care. Most veterans are in the mid-70 age range with many of the normal infirmities of the aged. One in every three Canadian men aged 65 or over is a war veteran.
The average age of some 2,700 World War I veterans is 96. For just less than 500,000 World War II veterans the average age is 74, and for some 19,000 Korean war veterans it is 64.
Veterans are scattered evenly across Canada except for Quebec which only has about 63,000, or 12%, although it has about 24% of Canada’s population.
How many of the 520,000 veterans are in receipt of benefits through DVA? An exact answer is impossible because of overlapping programs, but some 150,000 veterans and the survivors of veterans get pensions. Some 30,000 needy ones get War Veterans Allowances, and over 80,000 get some services paid under the Veterans’ Independence Program (VIP) which was designed to keep them at home and out of hospitals.
My rough estimate is that from 55% to 60% of veterans haven’t had direct need for DVA services or resources. This is a tribute to both their post-service adjustments and the chances which our society and economy gave them for work, education and training. In short, the Canadian government and veterans make a good news story of large obligations undertaken 75 years ago and still being carried out well and rather quietly.
THE CBC’S SPENDING SPLIT
Last fall Suzanne Tremblay, an aggressive BQ MP tackled Keith Spicer, head of the CRTC, in a committee hearing.
Why had the CRTC accepted without criticism the split of CBC funding which allocated 37% of its budget to French-language services and 63% to English-language services when “the CBC’s mandate states that equivalent services must be provided in both languages?”
But her leading thrust was that the 63-37 split was “not fair or equitable when the fact is that the French-language TV network is extremely successful while the problem of the CBC is English TV.” Surely the successful operation merited more money than the one viewers shunned.
No other MPs at the hearing joined the subsequent argument after Spicer put forth various numbers. Several formulas might be considered by CBC executives.
Should the CBC’s split on spending go by population by language, i.e. 75% English, 25% French?
Or should tax revenue be the criterion? Only about 20% of federal tax revenue comes from Quebec.
Or should the split in spending hinge on the relative share of advertising revenue earned? That is, 67% to 33%?
Spicer thought such decisions were for the CBC executives, not the CRTC. The spending splits of the agencies, Telefilm and the National Film Board, were running over 40% for French. Quebec has been getting just over half of all federal spending abroad on culture. He noted wrily that TVOntario has a French language network for a minority smaller than the English minority in Quebec. Does Radio-Quebec have any English language service? No! And in buying offshore programs, English TV in Canada has to pay five to six times per program what French language television does.
Of course, this data on proportions of cultural spending indicating francophones share handsomely neither convinced Tremblay she was on the wrong track nor struck sparks from the anglophone MPs.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 12, 1995
ID: 11881950
TAG: 199503100158
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
PAGE: M15
COLUMN: In Ottawa
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

GRIT DEFICIT FIGHTERS HUNGRILY EYE CBC

The CBC, like most federal programs, will suffer further cuts in the next budgets of Jean Chretien’s government, forcing drastic changes in the corporation and readying the cabinet for an altered, reduced CBC mandate.
Last week Marcel Masse was blunt about this. So have been various Liberal MPs on the House committee chaired by John Godfrey that’s been studying the CBC for several months. There’s not much as yet on how narrowed the mandate will be or what parts, such as the distribution system, should be dropped, or, above all, where funding other than federal grants may be tapped.
Remarks by Masse, the minister in charge of the grand reviews of programs, must be taken more seriously than any by Michel Dupuy, the cultural minister and the channel of the CBC to Parliament and the cabinet. Dupuy’s fussy prevaricating on most issues, notably in dealing with Tony Manera, the CBC’s recent chief officer, has wrecked his credibility even though Chretien keeps him on.
Masse has an often bald frankness, much like the PM, as when he spoke last week about even more cuts to come across the ministries. These remarks of his are from Edison Stewart’s story in the Toronto Star.
“When CBC was created,” said Masse, “there were what? Five or six channels available. Now we’re talking about a universe of … channels. It used to be impossible to reach remote regions. With satellite TV there is no such thing as a remote area. Everybody can have 200 channels even in the Arctic.”
Masse noted how the CBC’s role in sustaining arts and public education is now being carried in part by new channels (Bravo! and TLC).
“In other words,” said Masse, “Circumstances have changed so much we’ve said we’re going to review the mandate of the CBC.”
A few months ago the Godfrey committee had a long session with Keith Spicer, head of the CRTC. Spicer made it clear he had deliberately jolted Manera and the CBC last year with a stress on the low viewership for CBC-TV – below 15% of the total.
The costly, flagship news shows run second nationally. In almost every major region the CBC’s news and local shows do poorly against those of private stations. Spicer thinks CBC-TV has been “losing its creative juices,” hurt by the inertia which plagues old, populous bureaucracies and “the constant terror in the CBC on the budget front.”
Spicer is glib and too dexterous to postulate specifics for a different CBC. Get out of pro sport coverage? Fix on national programming and abandon the local? Find alternatives to huge hardware and distribution facilities? Get money from a levy on cable customers? Oh, he was suggestive, concluding the CBC’s leaders might “take a zero-based look at how you would start a public television network if nothing were there now.” And he, as does Godfrey, seems to intimate Canada’s public TV network might be like PBS in the U.S., i.e., not a government corporation.
Several Liberal MPs want major changes for the CBC. One, Roger Gallaway (Sarnia-Lambton) thinks it might be sold off, like CN.
Spicer’s emphasis on the minority following for CBC programs and its heavy structure and staffing was often broached in the committee’s hearings. As example, John Richardson (Perth-Wellington-Waterloo) insisted he was “hooked” on both CBC-TV and radio, but “other networks have blossomed … and are in direct competition and offer a good bill of fare, or else the taste of Canadians are out of whack.”
This was his nub: “With the ship of state so burdened with debt, how we can give approximately $1.1 billion to a network and radio that are only listened to by 10% of the snobs – and I say that because obviously the 10% listening to CBC are quite as hooked as I am – and get away with not raising some money from these people …
“If I were out of my hooked-on-the-CBC frame of mind and I was with one of the other networks I’d be a damned mad taxpayer … Something has to be fixed. With the state of the debt, CBC will have to take a hit somehow.”
The Liberals are on the same track as Hugh Hanrahan, a Reform MP on the committee, who asked rhetorically: “Do we have, then, a situation where we have approximately 85% of Canadians subsidizing 15% of Canadians who find CBC attractive?”
So at the least, big federal deficits and debt, low and sliding CBC ratings, many other viewing choices, and a rapidly altering distribution technology based on cable, come together with a shift of the governing party to the right and force major changes in the CBC’s roles.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, March 10, 1995
ID: 11881378
TAG: 199503090146
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

IT’S A SURE BET RAE WILL LOSE

How will the Ontario election go? The Chretien Liberals’ second budget has not brought an explosion of wrath from the public. This, and the obvious in Quebec that the referendum on independence is lost before it’s put, means the next, grand event for partisans is the election in Ontario.
So? Bet it means a new government.
In figuring a dozen Ontario elections with fair success I’ve never been more sure the voters will reject the governing party. I cannot conceive the miracle which would re-elect the New Democrats. If I were to wager Bob Rae would continue as premier I’d want odds of 8-1, or better.
The Liberals, led by Lyn McLeod, should be favored to win as a 3-2 bet, with the Tories under Mike Harris a fair bet at 3-1. A straw leaning toward Harris is the rugged fight McLeod has in Thunder Bay against one Evelyn Dodds, as tough and capable a Tory as I’ve ever observed.
Social democrats and many of the liberally minded of Ontario get their political catechism from the Toronto Star, which cherishes the legendary kinder, caring Canada and now sees the harsh federal budget has given Rae a chance and McLeod a problem of mutual identity. Also behind their hopes is the opinion that Rae’s margin in presence, intelligence and speech will affect a lot of voters by the time they mark ballots.
But that’s just wishful thinking. Too many people simply want Rae and the NDP out, much as the federal scenario was for Brian Mulroney and the Tory party in 1993.

It’s incorrect, but someone in federal politics intent on economy should be asking: what about bilingualism?
Like native affairs, whose spending is not to be cut for several years, spending on official bilingualism is not programmed for cuts. Neither defenders nor critics of the budget’s severities have been talking about bilingualism and its high costs (a base estimate begins at over $700 million a year). The costs go far beyond payments of bilingual bonuses to civil servants, or language training and re-training for officials. The costs for translation, publishing, and distribution both for external parties and internal use in the huge federal bureaucracy are high, though hard to estimate.
Even spending curbs have been put on official multiculturalism, a much less costly, first afterthought to official bilingualism. An oddity about the lack of hell-raising is that last spring a book by Scott Reid, Lament for a Nation: the Life and Death of Canada’s Bilingual Dream, was loaded with evidence we are foolish to keep trying to make Canada a friendly homeland for Quebec nationalists.
We are now in such fiscal extremity that Jean Chretien and Paul Martin are forewarning of cuts in funding for such sacred programs as medicare, old age pensions and the Canada Pension Plan. Yet official bilingualism, really beloved by few, in Quebec or outside, sails along unchallenged, bringing things like Radio-Canada programs to the Prairies and B.C. for viewers and listeners which measuring services cannot find.

When a party which sees itself as progressive is in power, but short of money for new or extended programs, it legislates uncostly measures which seem popular. The Chretien government has used this strategy in justice matters, symbolized by Allan Rock, the most impressive minister in an undistinguished cabinet.
On the surface of politics this has worked, most notably with journalists, most of whom approve stricter gun control and initiatives to better protect women and homosexuals from abuse and discrimination.
The justice minister is unflappable and articulate, a welcome contrast to other stodgy, dodgy ministers. But one flow of opinion suggests wide resistance to Rock’s moves.
Most days in the House some MPs present petitions from their constituents or people of their region. Few take any notice although up to 100 petitions a week are presented. Very few of the petitions put forward “progressive” ideas. Most government MPs do not prompt petitions from their bailiwicks although Grit MPs did a bit of this in the previous Parliament. Westerners are avid petition filers, Quebecers are not.
It’s clear that many Liberal MPs, notably from Ontario, now stand and declare the intention, scale, and origin of petitions which they themselves would not sign.
What views spur the most petitions? Leading the way are those against euthanasia, against specific legislation in defence of homosexuals or for same-sex benefits, against more gun controls, against the GST and against federal deficits.
There are a lot of Newt Gingrichs out there.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 08, 1995
ID: 11880779
TAG: 199503070117
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

HOW CHRETIEN GOT SO SHARP

Thousands of “real Liberals,” in particular those is journalism, seem shocked and hurt because Jean Chretien has become so pragmatic or utilitarian.
How could he reverse the historic role of the Liberal party, creator of interventionist, synoptic government?
The critics should reflect on who has been the PM’s mentor over three decades, and on past diversity of Liberal opinion.
Was Pierre Trudeau Chretien’s mentor? No. Was Lester Pearson? No. Walter Gordon? No.
Was it Tom Kent or Maurice Lamontagne, two postwar Liberals whose germinal ideas for the federal role brought forward a range of social, cultural, and economic policies? No. Neither.
Nor was Chretien influenced much by later enthusiasts for grand ideas who worked at the core of Trudeau administrations – men like Michael Pitfield and Tom Axworthy. They were not his guides or handlers.
But he did have one mentor, and still has him: Mitchell Sharp!
Now 83, Sharp was a civil servant from the later 1930s, reaching deputy minister rank (1951-58). He was mostly associated with C.D. Howe, the minister so revered by business leaders. Out of the public service briefly when he and the Diefenbaker Tories didn’t mix well, Sharp came to the House in 1963 – as did Jean Chretien (then 31).
Sharp spent 13 years in Pearson and Trudeau cabinets in the top three portfolios of trade and commerce, finance and external affairs.
ENTHUSIASTIC FOLLOWER
Within his first year as an MP Chretien became a close, enthusiastic follower of Sharp. Most of the ambitious backbenchers tagged after Walter Gordon. By 1965 both Sharp and Chretien openly showed their reciprocal interest and affection. The elder pushed the younger out to speak, in the House and beyond, tackling knotty economic topics and the even dicier subject of national unity.
What have been Sharp’s main attributes? Words like frugal and careful and thorough and responsible became his tags. His recent memoir, Which Reminds Me, is a straightforward exercise in rigorous but assured modesty and a belief in empirical common sense.
Sharp believes in cabinet government as it was before John Diefenbaker’s heroics began to distort it toward a huge domination by the prime minister and his office. In 1966, as minister of finance, Sharp postponed both the launch of a legislated medicare and a national scholarship program for a year. Why? Because the money for them was not at hand and he wanted to keep the deficit down. He took on the Walter Gordon “real Liberals” in the caucus and at several national conventions, slowing innovation and nationalistic intellectualizing in the government and the party.
Sharp always drew (and still does) a distinction between the roles of cabinet ministers and their deputy ministers. A minister must decide on policies and programs prepared for him by his officials for presentation to the cabinet.
I recall conversations with Sharp about the last Trudeau government well after he’d become an official of a northern pipeline agency. He apprehended the widespread unpopularity of Trudeau and his government. Why? Because they were tackling too much: reshaping the constitution, installing the Charter of Rights, creating the National Energy Program and raising the deficit by billions year after year.
NO SECOND GUESSING
Have you noticed Chretien doesn’t second guess his ministers publicly? Not even a partisan dolt like Michel Dupuy or bumblers like Sergio Marchi and Diane Marleau. His staff does some leaking and spinning about stances of ministers but it’s far less than recent practice. Why? Because Chretien, following Sharp, is letting ministers run their shops, above all, Paul Martin in finance.
Some connoisseurs of Chretien will say Sharp may have been a great influence but such an emphasis misses what two much younger men signify whose names have been tied to the PM’s for two decades – Eddie Goldenberg and John Rae. My fix on them is less certain than on Sharp. Neither strikes me, however, as on the Liberal party’s left, particularly Rae, an executive, off and on (mostly on), with the Desmarais group.
The Liberals in power have rarely been monolithically on the left. The party always has had its Howes, Winters, Sharps, McIlraiths, Turners, Richardsons, Langs and MacLarens – ministers with respect for industry, trade, business, and not keen on throwing borrowed money at a profusion of needs.
Never forget, the Liberal house has had many mansions,

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 05, 1995
ID: 12857668
TAG: 199503030184
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
PAGE: M15
COLUMN: In Ottawa
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

FEDERAL POLITICS SHIFTS TO THE RIGHT

Let’s try setting the Chretien Liberals’ second budget into a long-range term.
Already it’s clear this budget will stand up for a year or more with but minor changes. It also means the themes of frugality and austerity will prevail in our politics into the early 2000s unless Canada hits a very bad recession.
This federal budget has more implications for our future governance than anything shaped by our politicians since the early 1950s, with the arguable exception of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (whose interpretations are Americanizing us).
The new wisdom in Canadian politics has two key aspects: 1) We can no longer spend more than we can raise by taxes; 2) Any endeavor which can be done by processes outside government should not be in government.
If you ponder this wisdom for a minute or two you appreciate this is more than a mere shift in emphasis. It’s a reversal of the forces in our politics which came forward through the mighty war effort of 1939-45. Out of it our political parties took up the belief that Ottawa should be responsible for a healthy national economy, one managed from the centre by Keynesian economics.
A new federalism was put it place, based on transfer payments to the provinces and national standards for social and cultural programs and for such national infrastructure as highways, airports, airlines, freight rates and telecommunications.
By the end of John Diefen-baker’s years in office, all the parties were more or less committed to the idea of Ottawa keeping the lead in developing and sustaining both the economy and a social system. The concept was embodied in what became a hackneyed phrase in the mid-’60s: “social and economic planning.” Of course, it included ready use of federal Crown companies for commercial and industrial enterprises.
Neither some astonishing Liberal blather about their party’s constancy nor Reform’s insistence this attack on deficits is inadequate should conceal what a huge wrench there has been to stock partisan positions.
The often mythical self-perceptions in all five of the federal political parties have been or have to be adjusted. It will take several years for the Liberals, Tories, New Democrats, and Reformers to make and accept the new nuances in their purposes. This may also be the case with the BQ if its MPs’ mission in Ottawa continues after a failed referendum.
Each party is already trying to be sure of its own place on the spectrum and where the others are. And in this course, the Liberals have the most to do.
In short, because of deep, broad fears among what seems to be the majority of citizens over our enormous, governmental deficits and debt load, all the parties have shifted right and, colloquially, away from big government and any durable belief in bureaucratic competence.
Even the blizzard of releases from scores of interest groups gored by this budget doesn’t hide what’s in the heads of most politicians and a majority of their constituents. Rather suddenly, there are far fewer on the left side of Canadian ideology than there were, say, as recently as the federal election 17 months ago.
Remarkably few people seem ready to approve up the chief tenets of those still on the left, like the Coun-cil of Canadians. Few are accepting the arguments that there really is the money to sustain the kinder, caring, and unAmerican Canada we have known, and all we need do is tax the wealth of our big corporations and the very rich. What’s tagged as craven obedience to North American and global market for-ces fostered by the Mulroney administrations, goes forward even stronger with the Liberals.
Only a major economic downturn, say with unemployment running above 12% to 13%, even to 14% of the labor force, seems likely to arrest the shift and reverse it somewhat.
Even the New Democrats have shifted. See the budgetary aims of the governments in B.C. and Saskatchewan.
At this point it is hard to conceive the Liberals will not press forward in next year’s budget with their so-called Canada Social Transfer.
This seems sure to alter federal-provincial relations drastically and without any formal constitutional changes.
This will shift issues of left and right away from Ottawa and into each province. In a few years it may even lead to the Quebecois giving the new federalism a good, second chance.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, March 03, 1995
ID: 12857344
TAG: 199503020161
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

THIS MARKS THE END OF OUR RAILWAY AGE

Paul Martin’s second budget hits me hard and often. My list of particular effects on my interests is long and, while hardly typical, they emphasize the pervasiveness of a tough budget.
To open my discomfort there was the blunt news that “this year the minister of transport will initiate steps to sell CN.”
Though this is hardly a shocking decision, given the long, straight decline of railway traffic since its high-mark year of 1952, this is still rough on one who grew up in a CN home, with a father, brother, uncles, and cousins working on the railway and becoming CN pensioners. As a child in the Depression I learned the old CNR slogan and the economic gospel it signified: “Amalgamation never; co-operation ever!”
My father literally loved Mackenzie King and the Liberals because, for him and thousands of CN folk, they saved the “national” railroad from the dread aims of the CPR and its tycoons who so much influenced the Tory party.
I anticipate, no matter how the CN sale develops in the short-run, that within a decade there’ll be no national railway, coast to coast, CN or CP, and VIA Rail will only remain as a summer service for tourists.
With this budget decision our railway age is over beyond nostalgia and reminiscence about it. The simplest, fairest explanation for the closing of railways as a prime element in national politics has far less to do with the politicians than with technological change on many fronts, from trucking to air transport to telecommunications. So, sad as I find it, there’s really no one to blame, least of all the impetuous Douglas Young, minister of transport.
GRAND ENDEAVOR
Another grand endeavor which I backed with extensive voluntary service and countless speeches and columns all but disappears with this budget. I refer to a strong federal role in forestry. Twice, first in the early ’60s, the federal cabinet put legislation through Parliament to create a department of forestry. Neither department lasted a decade, each a prey to those, particularly in or from Quebec, who kept pointing out most of the forested land in Canada was held by provincial Crowns. What bothered me early – and still does – goes like this:
Firstly the majority of tax revenues from the (still mighty) pulp, paper, lumber and plywood industries comes to federal coffers. Second, the responsibility for re-establishing the forests which are cut over or ruined by fire and insects rests with the provinces. Therefore, in the interests of nation-wide silviculture which would sustain continuing and ever-improved regeneration, we need national leadership, and some of the money forestry earns, for financial agreements with the provinces for programs which open up, use and improve forest lands everywhere.
Sadly, such forestry aspirations never caught on, in part because they were overtaken and subsumed by the crusades of environmentalists, whose emphasis was against cutting forests, and in part because not enough provincial governments were keen on silvicultural programs.
As John Roberts, a minister responsible for federal forestry, told me bluntly a dozen years ago: “Politics has not become fixed on forests and their future because most Canadians are not.” He was right. And so this budget announces the closing of most federal forestry offices and research operations from Newfoundland to B.C. What’s left in federal forestry is mere shell.
SUPPORT OF SPORT
An even greater focus of my own enthusiasms and voluntary services than forestry got underway in 1969 when I helped write a federal task force report on sport. The report led to a formal federal role in support of sport which aimed for both more participation and better coaching and facilities that would match the best international standards.
In just one year in the mid-’70s the Trudeau government was persuaded to raise spending on sport from some $5 million to almost $30 million a year. Now the era of annual increases has ended, and the cuts made clear in this budget herald the closing in the next decade of the major federal role in sport.
As a valedictory judgment, the quarter century of federal effort has meant a marvellous increase in opportunities and facilities for sport and recreation in scores of communities from coast to coast.
To my regrets on the budget vis-a-vis CN, forestry and sport I could add (and will another time) my dour anticipation of the budget projections for major clawbacks from many old age pensioners next year and of less funds for war veterans’ allowances.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 01, 1995
ID: 12857142
TAG: 199502280161
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

A MOST UNTYPICAL LIBERAL BUDGET

A clever budget it is. Unless dreadful events which are completely untoward occur in the world beyond, the budget should stand up for well over a year and keep our politicians at every level busy responding to it.
We must give credit for the cleverness of the budget and the subtleties in public relations which ushered it in to Paul Martin, Jr. and, of course, to Jean Chretien. (What a pragmatist!)
The prime minister and his minister of finance should be able to hold to their course for this Parliament, and they’ve given us some fairly concrete figures and projections. But we all know why it won’t be easy.
First, there are many, both abroad and here in the Reform Party, who remain aghast at the debt spectre. This signifies a switch will now take place from an emphasis on deficits to an emphasis on debt.
Second, there are a number of unhappy premiers, concerned at the proposals that a year from now a new system of federal funding to the provinces will begin. Ontario, B.C., and Alberta governments in particular are well aware their taxpayers have been milch cows for all Canada with the federal government being both dairy and distributor of the milk.
Third, there are the several million Canadians who fit somewhere within what we call social democratic ideology, including many so-called “real Liberals.” They are reading the Martin budget plan as a wicked, quick turn from the kinder, caring Canada they’ve been extolling through the bad Mulroney years. After all, as veteran Liberal MP Warren Allmand, has put it: “We Liberals built it.”
DISMANTLING GOVERNMENT
The Liberals are doing what Brian Mulroney’s Tories allegedly wanted to do but had neither the will nor competence to execute. And so, what’s been unimaginable for thousands, particularly in the capital region, is under way. Much of the government is being dismantled. A Liberal government is taking the turn toward the market-obsessed, free enterprise dogmas of the U.S.
The Chretien Liberals have been moving from the catechism of their Red Book to mimic alien thinkers like Margaret Thatcher, Newt Gingrich and Ralph Klein.
Martin’s first budget has heralded frugality with the big hit coming this year.
Well, the hit’s here and it’s big. Of course, it’s been made possible and is likely to get fully implemented because of Chretien’s huge personal popularity. For at least another year we are likely to keep trusting him.
It’s truly impressive how the PM and finance minister have been persuasive with the federal Liberal caucus, which, as I read it, does not have a clear majority of conservatively minded members. Even so, it’s inconceivable the government caucus will fracture or revolt in this Parliament so long as Chretien’s in his place.
Even if one tends to agree with the Reformers that the debt continues to grow and be scary, one must concede there are some politically awful slashes underway or planned through this budget and its successors next year and in 1997. The multiple agonies of over 40,000 civil servants with job security gone are bad enough but they won’t rouse the widespread anger against Liberal MPs that will come from farmers who lose grain and dairy subsidies.
Almost as shocking, given Liberal party history, are the decisions to sell CN and bail out completely from Petro-Canada.
CUTS TO CULTURE
Martin has even dared to cut culture and heritage funding, even to slice more from the funds for the CBC, Canada’s largest news-gathering company. Each cultural institution or agency or process which has been funded in whole or part by Ottawa is to get less, even unto multiculturalism and bilingualism.
There is wry humor in the fact that the only sacred spending programs that are due for continued increase are those for Indians, Inuit, Metis, etc.
At least in Ottawa, cued by the auditor general, everyone knows these are among the most wasteful and badly managed of all federal programs. Yet enough of the kinder, caring, and guilt-ridden Canada remains to keep even more billions pouring into this sinkhole of good intentions.
The gist of the budget was so well telegraphed there were few surprises as it was unfolded. Nevertheless, even after my third reading of the paper I am frank in my surprise the Liberals have done what they said they would. This is the sharpest change of the federal course by means of a budget in my reading of them since 1957.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 26, 1995
ID: 12856802
TAG: 199502240162
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
PAGE: M18
COLUMN: In Ottawa
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

A WANNABE PM WITH NO TASTE FOR PARLIAMENT

Like it or not we have a parliamentary, not a presidential, system of government. Changing our system seems beyond prospect, given the constitutional engineering required. We’re stuck with Parliament as it is.
This topic seems irrelevant. You may wonder why I take such a byway. It’s because of the ideas of Preston Manning, leader of the Reform Party and, effectively, the leader of the federal opposition for English-speaking Canada.
Manning is a candid man. Last week he confirmed to a CBC interviewer what a new book argues about him. He dislikes the parliamentary system – the daily question period, the stagy, empty debates, the bootless, detailed proceedings of the House and its committees.
He prefers politicking outside the House, as he did by and large last week with the Reform budget ploy. He prefers public meetings with plain citizens present and taking part.
Yes, he’s all populist and democratic. But, given the role voters gave him, he’s not constructive for our core institution, the House of Commons, or for the work therein of the Reform MPs.
If it ensues, as Manning plans, that his is the majority federal party by 2000, what will he do then about Parliament?
We shouldn’t discount him, given the unpre-cedented vault of his creation from origin to 50 House seats in just six years. Also, remember this: Manning’s scant attention to House proceedings may mirror openly his distaste for the chamber but it has had an effect on the performance of Reform MPs.
Many have worked hard, developed expertise, built pungent critiques of many programs and policies. But their leader has done little to make such useful opposition coherent and telling. For him, the House isn’t where it’s at.
He hasn’t focused on the overall reach of his followers in his fix on frugality, deficit-cutting, and reducing federal roles. He seems to feel a traitor to the real people when he spends a lot of time in Ottawa on the Hill and in the House, and far from Calgary.
How would a Manning government function in Parliament, given his theme that much that goes on there is sham or obscurantist? And would the opposition parties that face him have first call at criticizing his government? Or would they be subsumed to some form of populist critiques on talk shows across the country?
These may be ephemeral, ghost-like questions but we need to raise them. Willy-nilly, we’re stuck with the House as a deliberating institution. For 127 years Canadian electors have sent to it MPs whose partisan distribution decides who shall govern “within” Parliament while answering there to those elected to the opposition.
It’s true Jean Chretien never liked the House, especially as opposition MP or leader. In his months in opposition, Pierre Trudeau detested the role so much he largely ducked it. It’s also true Canada has had a recent manifestation against serving seriously and well in Parliament.
It was a tenet of the NDP Waffle movement in the ’70s. Its zealots faulted superb parliamentarians like Stanley Knowles as mere ameliorations for a failed institution and a diversion from the right route to social and economic change.
Wafflers advocated agitation and demonstrations in forums and scenarios far from the mannered gentility of the Hill. It’s surprising how much some of the Waffle stuff fits with Manning’s scunner on Parliament.
The new book I referred to is Waiting for the Wave: The Reform Party and Preston Manning, published by Stoddart and written by Tom Flanagan, an Albertan political scientist.
Flanagan remains a member of the Reform Party although he was fired as the party’s research director in the summer of 1993 by Manning after he objected to the hiring of Rick Anderson, a former Grit apparatchik as a senior adviser.
Both friends and foes of Reform should read this book, but in particular, every Reform MP. It’s remarkably fair and interesting, despite an occupational obsession with opinion polls and election results. One better understands both Manning’s remarkable gifts and candor, and the huge holes in his analysis of both our past and future politics, including the central institution – the House.
And the choice facing Reform, according to Flanagan, makes sense to me. Is it to become essentially a party of the conservatively minded, replacing the Tory party at times purported to be such? Or will it be what Preston Manning prefers, a populist party always responding to the priorities and moods of the majority of the people? (And which, needless to say, are not always conservative.)

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, February 24, 1995
ID: 12856508
TAG: 199502230158
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

BUDGET TURKEYS THAT NEVER FLEW

Anticipation builds before a federal budget. This time it’s been building a long time. Monday we’ll know. Today let me use some old doggerel to define Liberal Ottawa at this moment, then sketch a few famous busts as federal budgets, to remind you Monday’s might be a turkey.
The apt doggerel is from The Reporter magazine, 35 years ago last month.
The pinktinted pundits have gone out of stock,
Along with the redthroated ringers.
The balancing budget is heard in the land,
The stockmarket chirps in the branches,
The bankerbirds come and eat out of your hand,
And roost in your split-level ranches.
O hark to the trilling in every tree
As the fatbellies nest in the nation!
Who cares if their concert is slightly off key
When their public is under sedation?
Over the 40 or so budgets I’ve followed only a few infamous ones are large in memory. Several of these were hurtful to the electoral chances of the governments which presented them. Examples: the self-satisfied budget in 1957 by “Six Bucks” Walter Harris which was callous on old age pensions; Walter Gordon’s anti-American disaster of 1963 which immediately mocked Grit efficiency and “60 days of decision;” John Crosbie’s “pain for gain” budget of 1979 which forced the new Clark government into a losing election.
BUDGET BUST
Allan MacEachen’s mighty budget bust of 1982 combined the enormity of the National Energy Program with unpalatable reforms in corporate taxation. It didn’t lead straight to electoral disaster but the minister was soon derricked and the remembrance in Western Canada of the NEP was pitiless, helping Brian Mulroney to a fantastic majority in 1984.
Despite the derogation implicit in the two previous paragraphs let’s be plain about ministers of finance. Becoming one gives a cachet of respectability and trust to a man, much of it engendered by the business community but some evoked on the Hill itself by the legends of the minister as naysayer. And a new minister of finance is at once assumed to be under the guidance of the best, most responsible brains in the mandarinate.
On the business pages finance ministers are almost never mocked, not even the two in my observed list of 15 who seemed along for the ride – smile much/say little Edgar Benson (1968-72) and Jean Chretien (1977-79) who flailed around talking a lot while Bay Street rallied from the effects of the price and wage control regime managed by Donald Macdonald.
By the way, Macdonald’s predecessor, John Turner (1972-75) had a wonder budget in 1974. It led the NDP and David Lewis to stop sustaining the minority Grits and Pierre Trudeau went to the people for a handy majority. Lewis disappeared.
You may have forgotten many ministers of finance on whom we have focused so singularly at budget time. Paul Martin, Jr. is the 15th since Walter Harris. Before Martin, there were Tories Don Mazankowski (1991-3) and Mike Wilson and his GST saga (1984-91). The last Trudeau minister of finance was Marc Lalonde (1982-84); before him was Allan MacEachen (1980-82). Tory John Crosbie had his one very short year. Before him Liberal Chretien had two. Before Chretien, Donald Macdonald (1975-77) tried to bust “stagflation” after John Turner, the last minister to have a surplus, quit. Turner had succeeded Edgar Benson in 1972.
MOPPED UP
Benson came to finance when Trudeau became PM in 1968, succeeding Mitchell Sharp who had mopped up after Walter Gordon in 1965. In 1957 Donald Fleming had become the first Conservative minister of finance in 22 years. The ultra-serious Fleming held the post under John Diefenbaker from 1957 into 1962. He had no serious budget disasters but a politically-ruinous quarrel with James Coyne, governor of the Bank of Canada, over monetary policy.
A Nova Scotian, George Nowlan, the only man in the 15 to match Paul Martin in geniality, succeeded Fleming but the Chief, his PM, wouldn’t let him bring in a budget. He was skirmishing with relics of Fleming’s last budget when the government fell in the House, lost the election, and gave way to Lester Pearson’s “super-ministry” starring Walter Gordon.
At least in Ottawa, if not at Honderich’s Toronto Star, Gordon was seen as a disaster as minister of finance, during and long after his two-year run. This judgment was exaggerated because Gordon was so arrogant a partisan and without either grace or defences in the House. Of course, Martin is quite unlike Gordon or another Liberal disaster, the dour MacEachen. Martin has a sense of humor. He may produce what time will prove a turkey but it’s my bet we’ll eat it up all next week.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 22, 1995
ID: 12856273
TAG: 199502210103
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

THE LAME DUCK FLIES NORTH

Most Canadians with an interest in federal politics usually know something of each American president and his status at home and his aims abroad.
But for an array of reasons one senses neither keen notice nor concern as President Bill Clinton comes formally to Ottawa for the big show of an address to Parliament. He seems no more in our hearts than in those of his own people.
For those with the most curiosity, the fix is on Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House of Representatives. At least for two years he and his votes are both a mean challenge to the president’s authority and for downsizing government, i.e., for the new wisdom of politics, even here among those we tend to equate with Democrats.
It’s been a platitude to me and most of Canada’s wartime generation that we’ve tended to “vote” for the Democratic candidate for the presidency, not the Republican. This tilt began in the early Depression as the confident, cheery, Franklin Roosevelt swept Herbert Hoover out of the office and held it until his death in the spring of 1945, a 12-year span certain to never be repeated.
FDR also gave Canada and its prime minister, Mackenzie King, more attention and consultation than any president before or since – more even than Ronald Reagan gave Brian Mulroney from 1984-88.
In the span of 11 presidents that began with Roosevelt, six have been Democrats, occupying the White House for a total of 35 years, and five have been Republican, in office for some 27 years.
WE LIKED IKE
One Republican above all others was very popular in Canada – Dwight Eisenhower (1952-58) – for reasons that have to do with the immense respect he won as supreme commander of the Allies in the European campaign. One Democrat, Lyndon Johnson (1963-69), never developed much of a following in Canada. He was rude to Lester Pearson, our prime minister (1963-69), and he pushed on with the Vietnam war.
Most of all, he was a crude contrast to the man he succeeded through assassination.
John Kennedy surely excited Canadians when he took office, much as FDR had as he faced down fears of the Depression. Kennedy in his formal visit to Ottawa, accompanied by wife Jacqueline, brought with him an excitement which ran from coast to coast and remains memorable to those who witnessed it.
History may set Ronald Reagan alongside FDR in the effects of his ideas about trade upon Canada. By and large belatedly, Ottawa mimicked much of FDR’s domestic moves in social policy but his gifts for us were the wider exports we gained with our war effort and building the base for the post-war boom.
Those years of Canadian growth, economically and in national confidence, still overshadow the consequences of Reagan’s free trade ideas. But if there is no turning back, no likelihood either the Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA will be repudiated by the U.S. and Canada, then Reagan’s influence has been enormous – for now and decades ahead – even if the two trade arrangements were not completed while he was in office.
Those of us still puzzling over the significance to Canada of the writ which Gingrich and his House of Representatives have for the next two years (and beyond, if Clinton loses in ’96) should realize how uncharted is the course.
From 1931 until 1994, except for 1947-49, the Democrats held a majority of House seats – for 61 years. And in the same period the Democrats dominated the Senate for 51 years.
GAME CHANGED
This brings me to Chretien’s determination not to do a Mulroney with President Clinton. Fine! But Gingrich changes the game. For two years the president with whom Jean Chretien won’t be buddy-buddy, faces a rough, tough Congress.
Canada has never had ready success dealing with congressmen with ideas hurtful to Canada, despite frantic, busy work by officials like Allan Gotlieb and Derek Burney. From TV through pop culture to fish to forest products to border arrangements to respective investments by nationals, hard issues have or will rise.
In present day Washington Chretien needs a strong profile among senators and congressmen, and by personality and experience he can do it well. So can his minister of finance. Nothing seems slighter or more bootless than giving gravity to the brief encounters of Lucien Bouchard and Preston Manning with the president, but the admirable ingenuity would be getting Chretien known to the Republicans who are now taking control of so much that we have taken as primarily White House stuff.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 12, 1995
ID: 12855020
TAG: 199502100165
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
PAGE: M15
COLUMN: In Ottawa
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

WHAT APPOINTMENT ISN’T PATRONAGE?

It was rather ignoble of Preston Manning to boycott the elevation of Romeo LeBlanc to Governor General because his was a patronage appointment.
Yes, LeBlanc’s been a loyal, well-rewarded Grit since he left the CBC decades ago for an Ottawa job. Despite an earned reputation for public dourness and partisanship while a press secretary, an MP, a minister and a senator, he’s also known for cleverness, hard work and modesty.
Any major appointment at the will of a prime minister fits under the definition of patronage. However, was LeBlanc seeking the vice-regal office? No.
Does a term at Rideau Hall give him and his new wife a bonanza in perquisites or excitements well beyond what was there for them in the office of Senate speaker? No.
For years I’ve had occasional, critical letters from an elderly Acadian Liberal in New Brunswick. He’s had much to do with senior politicians. After an acerbic piece of mine about the LeBlanc appointment he wrote to straighten me out on patronage. He made plain he and Romeo were not bosom friends, “But,” he said, “Romeo would not consider the ap-pointment a plum, not patronage but as a duty he owed his ancestors. And he has the competence, if not the personality, to do a good job.”
Another big appointment by the PM is due by month’s end: Lucienne Robillard to the cabinet!
Tomorrow she becomes the MP for Saint Henri-Westmount, in place of the prematurely retired David Berger. She was the most arranged catch for the Grits in byelection candidates.
A forceful, magnetic person, Robillard is 49 and holds master’s degrees in social work and business administration. Before serving in Robert Bourassa’s last Quebec cabinet she’d earned a province-wide name as expert on hospitals and social services.
She’s touted as the sharp end in the referendum campaign for Chretien. This requires ministerial rank. The questions are: what portfolio, if any, will she get? And what bumps and exits will this bring?
Why was she recruited? Beyond young Patrick Gagnon, an attractive and combative personality, the small band of Liberal MPs, particularly the ex-mandarin ministers, Michel Dupuy (heritage) and Marcel Masse (intergovernmental affairs) are uninteresting.
Robillard is a perfect replacement for Diane Marleau (in health) or even for Dupuy. And, so far, both participants and observers on the Hill rate Marleau and Dupuy as the main debits of the cabinet.
In the months leading to the referendum, however, Robillard doesn’t need a heavy ministry in near chaos. This almost rules out Dupuy’s. To dump or switch Marleau, an Ontario minister, will exaggerate stresses in Chretien’s huge Ontario caucus, so rich in talent and rife with ambition and growing frustrations.
Intergovernmental affairs may be the best bet for the new minister. Masse has other responsibilities, and win or lose the referendum, the PM will need a strong minister who knows Parizeau and company well.
Much talk in the week swung about Lloyd Axworthy’s standing and goals, and on the merits of a Toronto Star piece on the ineffectiveness in the province of Ontario Liberal MPs and ministers, in particular those from Metro.
Liberal insiders were readier than outsiders to rate Axworthy as drub-bed and eclipsed by the withdrawal of his social reform propositions. This retreat was dovetailed with a windy grab-bag of proposals by the Liberals of the House committee on human resources (issued after hearings across the land).
Outsiders see Axworthy as set back but still the most determined minister in the cabinet and the most ideological member of the caucus. My hunch has Axworthy as “burned out” and much in need of a sabbatical.
The Ontario dilemma should become serious for Chretien. Only David Collenette’s making much of a fist about the rising discontent in this mob of mostly new MPs. Many are realizing that much busy work in ridings and on House and caucus committees neither shapes nor stops anything. Most ministers are wrapped up with, and by, their mandarins. MPs with ideas which require spending are out of luck. Those with ideas on reforming programs or bureaucratic operations now know no one in the ministry or the PMO really wants their propositions.
In short, it’s an old Hill tale: The parliamentary system has little use for government MPs after their numbers make a prime minister.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, February 10, 1995
ID: 12854720
TAG: 199502090238
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 12
ILLUSTRATION: drawing
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

MPS’ PENSIONS: TOO MUCH, TOO SOON

MPs of Jean Chretien’s caucus with more than one Parliament’s experience were blamed this week by a vigilant press for the government’s slowness in fulfilling promises to reform parliamentary pensions.
The story was an increment to an already huge, popular contempt for politicians. MPs are depicted as self-indulgent beneficiaries of high pay, grand high pensions, generous expense funds and country-club perquisites.
As someone who was once an MP, and who also has had a modest pension from it for years, let me speak in support of past, present and future MPs, despite certain censure.
I believe the quality of most MPs’ efforts has more than justified their pay and allowances. Just a few adjustments in their pension program are needed.
Few who haven’t been in electoral politics appreciate the tensions and stresses regarding re-election and the worries about lost or diverted careers and the usually grim prospects of a good job after defeat. Ever since John Diefenbaker’s sweep of 1958, “safe” seats have become scarcer. And no MP can now make a fist of it as a part-timer with other tasks.
The turnover in the House is enormous. Less than half the MPs who have come and gone since the pension plan was enriched in the mid-1960s have qualified for it. A career as MP is very chancy. A lot of the ex-MPs I know have had it hard re-establishing themselves, especially particularly those with children in school.
Reporters this week decided young but veteran MPs in the government caucus are the core of resistance to pension changes, notably the youngish ministers David Dingwall, Sheila Copps, Brian Tobin and Sergio Marchi.
If any of this quartet is defeated next election or chooses to forsake the House under the program as it is, he or she would be getting well over $35,000 a year for life. In Tobin’s case the total sum would come to over $5 million; for Dingwall some $4 million. Such sums suggest the level of pensions should be reduced. Certainly they should be frozen for a time.
The two key points Chretien has made are that he will both stop “double-dipping” (i.e., getting an MP’s pension while on the payroll of another federal organization, say as a judge or commissioner) and raise the age when an ex-MP can begin drawing the pension, perhaps to 55, perhaps to 60 (the most vociferous critics demand it be 65).
A third demand that Chretien has not recognized is an end to indexing the pensions to changes in the cost of living. This is a regular feature for almost all federal employees and for recipients of the old age pension.
Chretien has been less mealy-mouthed about MPs’ pay than most party leaders. He will not concede MPs are paid too much. He repeats that every study by outside appraisers of parliamentary pay, including one last year, has recommended pay increases higher than any government has cared to legislate.
The PM has not talked about sharply cutting the scale of the pension or jacking MPs’ contributions to the pension fund. As I read his remarks, he hasn’t considered legislation that is retroactive, such as would stop a former minister like Perrin Beatty, defeated in 1993, and now 44, from receiving his pension of $6,000-plus a month until he reaches 55 or 60 or whatever age of pension access is picked.
And no Liberal has advocated moves to require either repayments or eventual, reduced pensions for those who’ve had years of pension cheques before reaching the age level (to be set).
In brief, it looks like we shall soon get an age limit – I would guess 50 or 55 – and a general ukase against double-dipping.
The latter move has its problems, some created by Liberals countering demands of Reformers for drastic pension reform. Several Reform MPs were once senior military officers. They came to politics after retiring from the military. Are they now double-dipping as retirees on pension who are also MPs?
Another Reform MP, long a provincial minister, earned and gets a good pension from Alberta. Should he be permitted such a double-dip? And how about a dozen or so MPs of three parties who were teachers or professors and have pensions for such service?
If new Liberal rules on double-dipping try to deal with more than parliamentary pensioners who take remunerative federal jobs there will be repeated schmozzles, best avoided.
My suggestions are a narrow definition of double-dipping, a raise in access age to 55, a five-year freeze on indexing and a pension ceiling of $60,000 for all parliamentary pensioners for the next five years.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 08, 1995
ID: 12854457
TAG: 199502070127
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

POLITICALLY, GST IS A COLD POTATO

There were some ironies as almost 300 MPs came back for their second year of sittings.
What about the GST?
Remember it? For the Liberals in the ’93 campaign the GST was an even worse Tory measure than NAFTA. Now that the Liberals’ first budget of great substance is at hand why is the GST not part of today’s Hill talk?
The Reformers are tax vigilantes but they’re not chasing Jean Chretien about his Red Book’s promises on the GST. And why aren’t they asking Sheila Copps, the deputy PM, about her undertaking to resign if the GST wasn’t gone or on the legislative route to extinction?
The Red Book was explicit: “The GST has undermined public confidence in the fairness of the tax system. The GST has lengthened and deepened the recession. It is costly for small business to administer and very expensive for the government to collect. And the GST has fallen far short of its promised revenue potential, partly because it has stimulated the underground cash economy, where no tax can be collected.”
And the Liberals undertook to give a House committee a year’s mandate to consult with everybody, then report on “all options for alternatives to the current GST.”
The committee fulfilled its mandate and reported last summer. The report was not clear and unequivocal. It was voluminous and made much mention of a value added tax (VAT), a form of sales tax, but the recommendations were not definitive.
Subsequently, Paul Martin talked VAT with the provinces, without result. Since then, without much notice from Chretien and Martin, or from Preston Manning, the GST has become a cold political potato.
Is there any moral, any platitude, in this fade-away of the GST as a prime issue?
Only that any major tax issue, like any great constitutional issue, almost always takes a long time to be resolved and most of the times it is not resolved but abandoned.
Insofar as priority for the GST, the Chretien government has so much else facing it because of deficits and debt and other windy promises like social reform, it has eased away from GST change or abolition. But this hardly excuses the opposition MPs, particularly the little clutch of New Democrats and Tories who know of the stridency in the Liberals’ anti-GST antics.

Making drastic reforms in unemployment insurance is as hard or harder than a major tax change. The key message in the report tabled Monday on social reform by the House committee chaired by Nova Scotia MP Francis LeBlanc is against a “two-tiered” system and against making it harder to qualify for payments.
Four times in my years around Parliament there’s been big talk by the major parties about reforming UI – getting back to true insurance principles! And three times after cosmetic, rather than substantial change, UI stayed largely as it was. The Hill wisdom was – as it is this week – that Atlantic MPs had triumphed again.
“Down home,” unemployment insurance is the largest, single source of cash personal income. Each province gets far more from UI than its workers contribute. UI is a part of Confederation’s burden that’s borne mostly by B.C., Alberta and Ontario workers.
Electoral distribution of seats in Canada is a very complex matter but always the Atlantic provinces have had an edge over other provinces and regions. At present they have a total of 32 MPs and seem sure to keep them for another decade.
If we had true “representation by population” these provinces would have eight to 10 fewer MPs. At present the four of them (with their 32 MPs) have just 8.6% of our population. Ontario has 99 MPs and 37.1% of the people, and B.C. with 12.1% of the population has 32 MPs, the same as the four Atlantic provinces. The tilt of disparity in seats to the Atlantic region is obvious, and their numbers cannot be reduced without a big change in the Constitution.
The continuance of the eastern ramp was confirmed in a recent House committee report and a draft bill fashioned by Liberal MPs, to help meet a constitutional requirement. After each census there should be adjustments of seats and boundaries in recognition of population growth or shifts. It seems Ontario is slated to get four more MPs (to 103) and B.C. two more (to 34). The eastern total holds at 32.
Of course, the distortion in MPs favoring the Atlantic region is minor, compared to Senate seats. There are 30 Atlantic senators, only 24 Ontario ones. And the four western provinces have just 24 senators.
Also, the Atlantic provinces have five ministers out of 32, and Ontario has 12 and B.C. just two.
To steal a phrase and twist it: Those who haven’t, keep.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 05, 1995
ID: 12854124
TAG: 199502030167
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
PAGE: M15
COLUMN: In Ottawa
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

NO MORE JOY … NO MORE FAT CITY//AFTER A GREAT START, THE 35TH PARLIAMENT HAS HIT THE ROCKS OF DEBT

One must recognize that a melancholy or foreboding hangs over the capital as this House of Commons opens its second year.
It’s clear 1995 is to be dominated, first by the deficit-dealing in the federal budget almost at hand, and then by the referendum campaign now shaping in Jacques Parizeau’s Quebec. Neither is a sweet prospect.
The contrast with a year ago is stark. Then the special Ottawa pleasure at having the Liberals back was heightened by the electoral revenge for the detested Mulroney regime. There was an excited confidence in the Liberals, in for five years with a solid grip on the House.
Now there’s scant enthusiasm. The joy’s gone. We’ve dourness and disappointment though as yet little animosity toward the government, despite apprehensions of job loss and program cuts. The Fat City of the ’80s is no more, at least in the heads of its dwellers.
House sales in the capital region are very slow. Building is minimal. Mall after mall has empty floor space. Again and again one finds civil servants openly weighing survival or dismissal or a golden handshake.
Any residues of optimism are almost wholly tied to Jean Chretien. His ministry is short on other magnetic politicians, and the near certainty of last year about the Liberal Red Book’s aims has vanished. Why? Because grim tidings have been bruited that reducing deficits is fouling Liberals’ reform.
The positive, progressive minister of renown has been Lloyd Axworthy and he has just conceded his truly major social reforms are stalled.
More chilling, in the past fortnight Liberal insiders have been priming some journalists for a substantial devolution of responsibilities to the provinces in many hitherto joint fields like health and welfare.
Some have even divined that this designed decentralization is to get by pragmatism what was lost with the Meech Lake deal: i.e., doing it without constitutional negotiations; moving to what even Daniel Johnson wants, and putting more decisions on spending and taxing on the provincial governments.
The core thus far to Chretien’s success as prime minister has been in being unpretentious, keeping it simple and not rushing anything major. This has worked well in public opinion points but any advantage of fresh, exciting pro-mise in his government has gone. So it seems has keen, public interest in what has been done in Parliament or will develop there, except for particulars on the budget – what cuts, where; and what taxes, if any?
One must emphasize what went on in the first year of this 35th Parliament. The cabinet was much smaller and major reorganizations had altered many portfolios. And never before, not even in the first, heady year of Pierre Trudeau as prime minister, was there such a profusion of hearings, studies and reports, most notably by House and Senate committees. Most federal subject fields were examined, often in hearings held away from Ottawa.
There was even much witness from beyond the swarm of familiar interest groups on such matters: citizenship; immigration; natives; human rights; education; training; UIC; the railways; the Seaway; the grain trade; forestry; mining; the CBC; communications; foreign affairs; defence; public works; lobbying; ethics; bilingualism; poverty; abortions; homosexuality; gun control; crime and punishment; cod and salmon; equity for women, disabled, and visible minorities; medicare; government purchasing; security and intelligence; and more.
The learning curve was steep for the almost 200 new MPs and most of them headed up its hill with a will, the Liberal backenchers keen and confident.
The Bloc Quebecois MPs in opposition were surprisingly assiduous, bringing to bear both an NDP-like ideology and aggressive pro-Quebec attitudes.
The Reform MPs were just as industrious in all this hearing-and-reporting. Again and again they injected views long unheard on the Hill, many of which fractured political correctness, for example, on immigration, natives and state-funded culture.
The swarms of recommendations and ideas in all this parliamentary and governmental productivity would make a decade’s work for Parliament. It’s sad, perhaps tragic, the prospect of legislated results is minimal.
Why such pessimism? Well, to keep it simple, to fit the Chretien mode: our debt is too big and hard to carry, and our economy is too tenuous and sensitive to global market forces.
So, 1995 is not to be a great parliamentary year.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, February 03, 1995
ID: 12853855
TAG: 199502020177
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

BILL AND GEORGE: AN APPRECIATION

Neither William Kilbourn nor George Woodcock ever got the popular acclaim of a multitude of Canadian readers, say like Pierre Berton or Farley Mowat. That may be why the many effusive obituaries and articles on each man have seemed outside the Canadian norm.
Anyway, the retrospective praise for them has set me off on my own wish to pay tribute. Each man gave me insights on Canada that have been usable again and again.
I might put those ideas succinctly as, from Woodcock an understanding that our multiculturalism has its roots in the British Empire and its story, and from Kilbourn that the descriptive phrase for Canada of “the peacable kingdom” may be ironic and even fatuous. But it’s true.
Of course, these two were very different personalities, who worked in milieus far apart, but long before their deaths when I came on any writing of theirs or a news item I’d feel positive, and I’d think, “There’s one of the good guys.”
Some of my respect came because both were so obviously and satisfyingly busy: Woodcock primarily as a writer, Kilbourn more as a zestful, civic busybody.
After Kilbourn turned in the mid-’70s from completing a biography of C.D. Howe to municipal politics I, like others who prized him as a historian, was disappointed. So we said he was too dilletantish, intent on too many pursuits, public and private. But I could forget neither his graceful prose (see his 1956 book on William Lyon Mackenzie) nor how his warm presence would grace whoever he was with.
In the late ’60s he and I disagreed about Pierre Trudeau, whose ideas we both knew about before he rose from new MP in 1965 to prime minister in 1968.
PEACABLE KINGDOM
Kilbourn saw through Trudeau a continuing unity for the peacable kingdom of Canada. A few years ago he told me Trudeau’s legacy was a grand one. I disagreed; I thought it divisive. But however I put it he smiled and told me this had been a prime minister for the times – perhaps our greatest.
Woodcock was not a fan of Pierre Trudeau. He detested the giganticism in his federalism and the contradictions ahead from his Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In England during World War II I was close to several conscientious objectors who were disciples of Herbert Read, a poet and art critic. Years later, I wanted to meet Woodcock after I learned he’d been close to Read. I never pulled it off but I did read most of his writing about history, politics, and travel (not his poetry or literary criticism).
His anarchism illuminated rather than tilted his work. I relished most his succinct book, Who Killed the British Empire? (1974). The style was easy despite the weaving of immense detail into the narrative.
When one’s mindful of the academic snobbery in our arts and letters and the sheer scatter of readers and reviewers, it’s hard to believe Woodcock came to Canada poor in his mid-30s and without a degree, and survived through writing. He and his wife took up a rural patch on the Pacific rim of both our geography and our political community. There he slowly worked up a living as a freelance writer.
Recognition came slowly and grudgingly but in this decade it blossomed. He was seen as both herald and foster parent for a mature Canadian literature.
WELL MEMORIALIZED
Bill Kilbourn with his personality and enthusiasms and George Woodcock with his astonishing, off-the-mainstream productivity have been well memorialized. What influences might they have Canadians 10 or 20 years from now?
Surely Kilbourn’s is for his peers, for those touched by his teaching personality and his civic activism – in particular by his belief that fellow enthusiasts, banded together, can change the course of a city, even a country. Given his acuity and felicitous style he might have been the historian of our epoch but he had more immediate and gregarious needs.
My urge for posterity and Woodcock is to fit him with three distinguished, departed academics – Harold Innis, Marshall McCluhan and Northrop Frye. Each of them developed a critique and analytical methods. Each won disciples and thus continuing application of their ideas to where we’ve been and where we’re going.
Merely as achievement, the Woodcock corpus was as extraordinary given the context of both his poverty and the scope of his works. But prolific and ranging as this gentle, brave anarchist was to the benefit of authors even more than readers, his influence is unlikely to be vivid for years.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 01, 1995
ID: 13087503
TAG: 199501310102
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

THOSE MCKENNAS ARE AT IT AGAIN

No news item ever brought me more relief than word that the U.S. had dropped an atomic bomb on Japan. It meant we would not have to go to fight in the Pacific theatre. So you have my bias before this sketch of the difference between American and Canadian responses to new evaluations of their pasts.
The contrast was evident this week. After several months of controversy in the U.S. a planned display for the anniversary of the end of World War II was withdrawn by the Smithsonian’s air and space museum in Washington. A Canadian, Michael Neufeld, was this exhibit’s curator and he’d centred it on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima by the B-29 Enola Gay, piloted by Paul Tibbets. His text and photos stressed the inhumanity and needlessness of the bombing.
His original text began: “For most Japanese it was a war to defend their unique culture from western imperialism.”
His reprise was keen on appreciating the Japanese and it factored in both American racism and Truman’s use of the bomb to set back Stalin, already a difficult ally.
Some historians and veterans were quick to point out such a revision of the situation and decisions hardly squared with Japan’s occupation of Korea from early in the century or its open warfare after 1931 against the Chinese or the thoroughness of its plan in 1941 to master all Southeast Asia.
In Canada such revisionist stuff isn’t cancelled. We have the CBC, a Crown company, persistent in giving air time, promotion, and funding for works by the McKenna brothers, Terence and Brian. Their interpretations of war stress the ruthless racism and incompetence of the Allies.
When the Smithsonian’s plans were unveiled last fall they roused veterans’ groups, congressmen, and many historians. So much hell was raised the museum’s leaders withdrew the exhibit.
In Canada, despite hell-raising by many Canadian veterans over TV series like The Valor and the Horror because of their anti-war propaganda and the belittling of those who served, the CBC is advancing more millions for more McKenna blockbusters.
VETERANS REBUKED
Only last week Terence McKenna put his line on the Smithsonian controversy on successive nights of CBC Prime Time. Six weeks ago a CBC executive, acting for his president, rebuked veterans’ groups that protested over the CBC’s backing of two more McKenna films (on our navy and on the Poles who fought for the Canadian Army) to mark the anniversary of the war’s end. He said:
“These new film projects are in no way connected with The Valor and the Horror and will be judged by our officers on their own merits. For us to do otherwise and, as you suggest, to exclude the McKennas from any future projects involving war themes, would effectively constitute a blacklist and would violate the most elementary ethical principles.”
Notice no reference to the ethical principle of being honest and balanced in presenting the aims and deeds of an earlier generation. Nor any mention of using other, fairer-minded producers. There are such aspirants, ones who agree with the many historians who see the McKennas as expert mostly in distorting context and character. Witness to McKenna biases is found in most pages of a recent book by David Bercuson and Syd Wise about The Valor controversy, including the opinion by the CBC’s own ombudsman of twisting and inadequate context.
It’s good that both RCN veterans and Polish Division survivors are warned and are gearing up to keep the CBC mindful of the McKennas’ penchant for peace-loving, left-wing propaganda.
IRONIC NOTE
A few days ago the Washington Post had an ironic note on a CBC Prime Time crew’s interview with Tibbets, the Enola Gay pilot, for the documentary on the Smithsonian deal.
Tibbets was asked, “Do you ever regret all the people you killed?”
There was no hesitation, no equivocation. “No,” said Tibbets, “I’ve never lost a night’s sleep over it, and I never will.”
The tone of the interview at first had been soft. Now, the questions were harsher, accusatory. Premised on an underlying moral judgment. Prefaced with revisionist arguments against the dropping of the bomb.
“I don’t know how else to tell it,” he said at last. “I got nothing to be ashamed of. That’s how it was.”
As the CBC crew readied to leave the room, the Post says “the interviewer … solicitously asked the man who dropped the bomb that killed all these people for his autograph – in triplicate. Graciously, Tibbets consented … ”
Reading this brought a snide notion to my mind. If Bomber Harris were alive would a McKenna seek the autograph of that killer of Germans by the thousands?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 29, 1995
ID: 13087155
TAG: 199501270169
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
PAGE: M15
COLUMN: In Ottawa
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

A TORY REVIVAL COULD SINK REFORM//MANNING’S COCKY MPS MUSE OPENLY ABOUT FORMING THE NEXT GOVERNMENT

The odds are that the mid-February byelections in Brome-Missisquoi and Ottawa-Vanier will go to the Liberals, but a less noticed yet significant aspect of the results will fix the respective votes for Tory and Reform candidates.
Opinion polling has not shown support surging back for the federal Tories or moving up for Reform. For Reform to settle in nationally as No. 2, the Tories must not boom back. Reform is in a grow-or-recede tussle through the next election for the conservatively minded voter.
Reform may not have upped its poll points since its stunning show in the last election, perhaps because of media carping about its supposedly desultory House performance. But the Reform caucus remains upbeat, even cocky. When its MPs muse openly about forming the next government, I wince at such optimism, recalling times when NDP MPs were like this.
Reformers see the political tides as with them. They think most voters’ priorities are theirs – on debt/deficit, spending cuts and no new taxation, on law and order, less immigration and toughness about Quebec. The Liberals may be talking moves on some Reform issues but they won’t do what must be done, and so a real crisis will come and the people will turn to Reform.
In short, Reform has a sense of destiny. One divined this last fall as Preston Manning spoke to the big convention in Ottawa. It’s 25 years since Preston and his father foresaw that a partisan earthquake (like the last election’s) would open the way for a populist right-of-centre party, but the party itself was only launched in 1987 and it’s been just four years since its members voted to go after seats east of Manitoba.
To realize its destiny Reform must break through in Ontario. The splits there in the last election tantalize: just one MP, but second place in 57 other (mostly rural) ridings, and 20% of the Ontario vote. To extend this foothold to 30-40 seats Reform must supplant the Tories. Much of rural Ontario has shown an interest in Reform but Tory roots run deep. Next time Tories won’t bear the burden of a despised government and a jittery leader.
And they’re to have a chance in an Ontario election to show they remain a partisan force. If Mike Harris becomes leader of the opposition (or does even better) imagine the rejuvenation of the federal Tories.
Also, more than a breakthrough in rural Ontario is needed to make Manning prime minister. There must be gains in the cities where challenges are harder. In 1993 Reform came second in 10 of 27 Toronto seats but this looks better than it was. The best show was 25% below the winner. Across Metro Reform candidates averaged 43% behind the victors. And if Reform candidates in Metro had won all the Tory votes, none would have won a riding.
What can Reform offer Ontario beyond fiscal frugality, less taxation, and a law and order platform? Ontario has concerns which differ, even clash, with those of Reform’s western base; notably in less animosity and frustration with Quebec due to old and well used economic and political links.
If there is a “No” vote in the referendum some of Manning’s ideas on constitutional change might appeal in Quebec. Any such interest there would calm concern in Ontario on Re-form’s ability to form a “national” government. One wonders, however, how the caucus and the zealous in the west will stomach their leader’s wooing of Quebec? As the first year in Parliament has shown, there’s always danger of rebellion at home. Some rank and file Reformers see Manning’s Quebec initiatives as just keeping the media at bay by caving in to political correctness.
At this stage Reform seems to have the best of two worlds: a footing in Ontario with signs of opportunity there but no strong Ontario presence in the caucus to throw up conflicts with western sentiments and press for a national vision which accommodates Quebec. Winning lots of Ontario seats will strain the party’s cohesion and some of its certainties.
If Reform fails to make big Ontario gains it becomes a right-wing NDP, a party of conscience and ideological piety, ranging the sidelines with “centre” parties using their best ideas.
The CCF was a western force. To break through in Ontario it allied itself with organized labor and became the NDP. Even with an NDP government in Ontario, and despite the hard work of NDP MPs in Ottawa, the federal breakthrough in Ontario never came.
Reform may not repeat this history but it should be mindful of it. A Tory revival in Ontario will be deadly.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, January 27, 1995
ID: 13086828
TAG: 199501260202
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

GRITS WON’T ROCK POPULARITY BOAT

Let’s range through matters rising from chats with recessing Liberal backbenchers.
Was it Jean Chretien, not David Collenette who decided to dissolve the Airborne regiment? Some MPs believe the defence minister was ready to take the advice of his chief of staff, John de Chastelain. But not the PM, who was convinced the media would never drop pursuing the unit and tales of its racism and brutality.
Len Hopkins, a very senior Liberal MP, has had the Airborne in his riding. He’s regretful, mourning the regiment.
“I respected it,” he says. “Most in our community who know the men and their families are very disappointed.” No one from on high in the administration discussed the dilemma poised by the Airborne with Hopkins.
Another Liberal MP who must go unnamed says the caucus as a whole knows their leader’s super-sensitivity to any case or issue which promises controversy and ongoing criticism that centers on him or his ministers. The MP’s evidence?
First, the sliding away from a once absolute stand on how the Pearson airport deal would be killed. The PM choked off his transport minister’s testiness with those deprived of the contract and set a compromise in motion with Tory senators holding up the airport bill. This ducking followed questions raised about Chretien’s previous role as a lawyer involved in the Pearson deal.
TOUGH AMENDMENTS
Second, the tacit rather than declared abandonment of urgency and priority for the strong, well-argued legislative initiatives of Justice Minister Allan Rock on tough amendments to gun control law and for changes regarding both harassment of homosexuals and their marital or partner rights with regard to taxation and pensions.
On Rock’s standing in the ministry and the caucus, the rumors are still spilling through backbencher talk to reporters about antagonism rising from within the caucus against him.
This countervail to Rock’s quick emergence as the No. 2 star in the government has been credited to Sheila Copps, the deputy prime minister. If so, the counter makes no sense on ideological grounds – i.e., against Rock’s aims as justice minister. It does only in terms of the succession to the PM.
Another experienced Liberal MP took me to task for what he calls over-optimism on any real input or influence of crusading Grit backbenchers on the ministers and their policies.
“Believe it or not,” he told me, “Jean has taken seriously and is following the advice of Mitchell Sharp in going back to the relationships between ministers and their mandarins in the Liberals’ golden days in government.”
Ministers have been warned off bruiting up their own policies. Preparing policies and alternative choices are the deputy ministers’ chores. Big-think advisers on ministerial staffs are out – except in the PMO.
As for backbenchers with large ideas, even parliamentary secretaries, they may work a House committee diligently. They may sound off for a minute or so some Wednesday caucus, or issue press releases but there are neither channels nor encouragement from above for the considerable number of MPs with a mission or a theme.
Ministers are to listen to their deputy ministers, the authorities in their subject fields, not to hot-shot executive assistants or ambitious MPs.
ENORMOUS PRESSURES
This particular Liberal insider would not play Cassandra about what this state of affairs between PM and ministers and mandarins and MPs will bring because he appreciates the enormous pressures to conform and support the prime minister absolutely, especially one who has Chretien’s popularity .
He’s sure there’ll be more MPs taking particular, open positions beyond government intentions or the Red Book, and he cited examples: Dennis Mills and his “single tax” campaign; John Bryden’s moves to snuff federal funding of interest groups with political objectives; Roger Gallaway’s determination to privatize the CBC; John Nunziata’s push to toughen sentences and parole; or the refusal of Roseanne Skoke and Mike McTeague to abide Allan Rock’s amendments regarding homosexuals.
The MP was ironic in saying: “We’re always hearing, and always realizing we must wait, and not rock anything. Always, events to come require caution and caucus unity. Wait for the Quebec election. Wait for all the ruddy program reviews. Now, wait for the budget. After that, wait for the Quebec referendum. Don’t disturb. Wait!”
And so we do, all of us, not just docile Liberal backbenchers.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 25, 1995
ID: 13086708
TAG: 199501250064
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

THE DEATHS OF REGIMENTS

So – bang! – David Collenette has killed the Canadian Airborne Regiment. He had the power and the right to do it. He did it summarily, rejecting the advice of military advisers. And he’s guaranteed a thorough public inquiry in the spring will get at the villains or fools in the military’s chain of command responsible for the Airborne’s shame.
For me, there are some contradictory aspects in this case, some historical but mostly immediate because of the sociological frame Collenette put around his decision with words such as “culture” and “systemic.”
To begin, since Confederation scores of Canadian regiments have been officially put to death through political decisions, although none to my knowledge was axed for overt, repulsive antics within its ranks.
My own regiment was packed in after World War II as were many others then, and again in the late 1960s, after Ottawa decided they were supernumerary. Now, almost 50 years after my regiment was killed, many of its former members still come to biennial reunions of the regimental association. Across Canada this pattern is repeated by those who have belonged to almost a hundred once active but now “dead” regiments.
Why so many reunions, so long after?
It’s the power of joined endeavors through many dangers. The gatherings remind us a regiment doesn’t really die so long as people live who served in and savor it or who have raised a continuing memorial to it, for example, like Farley Mowat’s story of his regiment, the Hasty Ps.
As for the Airborne, only in existence since 1970, the comradeship and shared jumps and tough exercises will surely surmount the anger or shame at their unit’s demise.
LONG, PROUD HISTORIES
There’ll also be more complexity in the remembrance of the Airborne men because they were taken from and then returned to their source regiments – The Van Doos, the Princess Pats and the Royals. And each of these regiments has a long, proud, durable continuity.
These sources of the Airborne raise issues which Collenette touched lightly with sociological lingo on the existence of “systemic” attitudes, i.e., of a unit “culture” so pervasive and dangerous it had to be snuffed out, not studied and worked away.
Collenette was frank. He acted because of public perceptions: firstly, of damage done abroad to the good, international image of Canada and Canadians; secondly, of the disgust and outrage in civil Canada after viewing video snips of crudities by Airborne men of both the francophonic Van Doos and the anglophonic Patricias.
If there exists in the Airborne a systemic culture so rife with racist attitudes and gross rituals that the sure way to eradicate it is to kill the regiment then one must ask Collenette and his generals several questions.
First, is this absolute enough, given most of the men of the videos have gone back or are going back to their source regiments? May they not desecrate those regiments? Even, might it be, that the invidious “culture” has its roots in these two regiments?
Second, doesn’t the case of Pte. Kyle Brown, as yet the only severely punished man of the Airborne, raise sharp doubts of the standards and ethical values of both commissioned and non-commissioned officers in our armed services?
THE LOWEST RUNG
The ladder of rank has Pte. Brown on the lowest rung. At the top is the chief of the defence staff. Down from him come scores of generals, hundreds of colonels, thousands of majors, captains, and lieutenants, and tens of thousands of NCOs. Is it tragic or comic or both that thus far in the death of the regiment a forlorn private is the leading penitent?
After the murderous incidents in Somalia I speculated that Canadian society has reached a humanitarian stage in which its ruling elites mostly reject the role of combat, the core since time immemorial of a military’s purpose. We would keep peace, not make war.
My friend, the late John Hasek, once of the Airborne, wrote in The Disarming of Canada (1987):
“The real heart of any military organization, is the unit of men prepared to obey orders in the ultimate, their own death, or preferably, the death of the enemy. When those supporting the fighting men not only outnumber him but also have more leverage with the decision-makers, the combat job, instead of being the raison d’etre of the armed forces becomes an archaic speciality.”
Isn’t Canada now too advanced and sophisticated to back recruiting and training squads of tough, hard, young men to kill and be killed?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 22, 1995
ID: 13086250
TAG: 199501200230
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
PAGE: M15
COLUMN: In Ottawa
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

CANADA’S ENDLESS DANCE MARATHON

“The referendum will constitute the first exercise by the people of Quebec of that basic right of all peoples to take their future into their hands: what’s commonly called the right to self-determination.” – Rene Levesque, March, 1980
Three times last week political leaders reminded us the constitutional circle dance may slow, but it never ends.
There was an assured but abrupt Jean Chretien Monday at a press conference in Ottawa, a postulating Daniel Johnson Tuesday in Toronto, and an embarrassed Jacques Parizeau Wednesday in Quebec.
Chretien had no patience with what would happen after the vote. Johnson says he must have some changes to offer Quebecers. Parizeau had to shed the zealous Pierre Bourgault.
Again, I wished for a Canadian Lincoln, a wish I first had when Lester Pearson set up the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in 1963 to consider grievances of French Canadians with federalism.
But we never got a prime minister or any other federal party leader, even a provincial premier, to declare Canada indivisible.
None did this, even in 1963 when the precedent of one Marcel Chaput made it clear a federal employee could openly advocate the breakup of Canada without dismissal.
Even in Centennial year when Charles de Gaulle, president of France, exhilarated many in Quebec but angered most English Canadians with the slogan “Quebec libre!” no politician declared separation was illegal and Canada indivisible.
The explanation of such docility seems to be the force embodied in the democratic principle of a people’s right to self-determination.
After World War II, self-determination had its witness in ever more nations at the United Nations. Canada was to the fore, both in creating the UN and making self-determination a principle, despite the significance for its large French Canadian minority or much smaller Indian and Inuit minorities.
If it’s regrettable that John Diefenbaker, Pearson, and Pierre Trudeau were not Lincolnian in the 1960s, it’s becoming as regrettable that no prime minister or national party has put forward a plan for a constitutional process to deal with a separation or a markedly changed association of any province or any self-determined people.
Once again we’re circling, and are likely to be doing it for decades.
Chretien brushed off questions Monday about the “legality” of separation and “renewal” of federalism. Our academics are into these topics again, even to what is a viable “Yes” percentage, and to who would negotiate with whom.
If a majority of Quebecers approve Parizeau’s referendum question, must other provinces accept its consequences? If so, how shall it or must it be done? Who determines that?
What role would a government and Parliament led by a prime minister from Quebec have? Would it become a negotiation of the government of Quebec with the governments of the other provinces?
Monday Chretien didn’t want to get into such questions. His line is the same one Trudeau took as prime minister in the period of the 1980 referendum: Why get into such stuff? Quebec won’t vote “Yes.”
Next day, however, Quebec Liberal Leader Daniel Johnson in Toronto raised a familiar question, familiar not just in Quebec. An altered federalism! This, too, is a matter whose detail Chretien wants to leave alone, just as Trudeau did in 1980, merely promising change. Most of us recall Meech and Charlottetown. Johnson needs to offer real prospects of change.
He has an imperative, as Claude Ryan had in 1980 as Rene Levesque moved to the question of sovereignty association, to campaign with more than a constitutional status quo. The “No” campaign must postulate a reformed federalism, i.e., a federal constitution which the Quebec National Assembly will not reject as it did the Trudeau package of 1981.
This imperative for Johnson, as well as some substance on what comes after the referendum, may make Chretien impatient, but they also are very grave matters.
But not all was constitutional gravity for federalism last week. Lighten up with Parizeau’s deed on Wednesday. He dumped Pierre Bourgault as hired counsellor for doomful threats should anglo votes determine the defeat of the “Yes” side.
In 1980 the zealous Bourgault also embarrassed Levesque, and the premier openly distanced himself from the arch-separatist.
Round and round, again and again in the dance Canadian.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, January 20, 1995
ID: 13085961
TAG: 199501190164
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

ADVICE TO REFORM: QUIT WHINING

Last week a young man who works for the Reform Party caucus asked if I’d answer some questions on the media.
He really had two, and each could fill a book. The first: why have journalists stayed so antagonistic to the Reform Party and its leader? The second: how could, or should, the Reformers react to this animus?
Flippancy was tempting. To say on No. 1: because most journalists are leftists; and on No. 2: never whine about them; mock back!
But the researcher was earnest and primed with three topical cases of mean bias, each by a journalist with reach and a big reputation: Allan Fotheringham, Dalton Camp and CBC-TV’s political analyst, Jason Moscovitz.
A feature in the year-end summary by the CBC analyst was the tagging of Preston Manning with the year’s low point – this for hypocrisy in showily rejecting a government car while taking a clothing allowance from his party.
Certainly Dalton Camp’s been sardonic since the Tory debacle in 1993. On Jan. 1 in the Star, while savaging Newt Gingrich, he worked in an imaginary “media Bust of the Year medallion.” The winner was Vladimir Zhirinovsky, “the genuine Russian cashew … in a tight race against the parliamentary caucus of the Reform Party.”
Allan Fotheringham, in the Sun, also took up “the Gingrich phenomenon in the U.S. … based on a fortress mentality” and against immigrants. He wrote: “Preston Manning’s Reformers, who are just one seat away from becoming Official Opposition, sniff the anti-immigrant flavor, and try to exploit it, ever so discreetly. … Reform says it wants a cut in immigration quotas, but what it really means is a cut in certain immigrants, of certain colors.”
I agreed each item was an exquisite archetype of its originating mind. But Reform should never expect a smidgin of fairness from any of the three. Each is leery, even antsy, about Reform. I expect they fear Reform may get stronger.
Reform may kill Camp’s own party. Dr. Foth scoffs at everything but the CBC, but most wickedly at anyone right of left-centre. As for Moscovitz, his fix has always been Quebec. He knows not the West and sees Reform as a menace to Quebec in Canada.
Advice? Don’t whine at or about the media. Try levity. Maybe mock the gall and the hubris of this belittling trio.

Journalists turn over quicker in Ottawa than MPs. Thus, veterans are missed when they leave. Carol Goar, with over 15 years on the Hill, has gone to Washington for the Toronto Star, after a decade as its Ottawa columnist.
May she do as well there as in Ottawa. Her fairness, honesty and grasp of issues are remarkable. I’ve never heard either front or backbench MPs criticize her fairness. Some have wondered how she evades the Honderich matrix that shapes her paper’s notable nationalism, anti-Americanism and social gospel. I think it’s her mix of courage with fairness.

Ian Donaldson is the general news editor of the Canadian Press (CP). He’s objected fiercely to my references (Jan. 11) to the two roles played by one Kirk LaPointe as manager of the CP’s Ottawa bureau and as a regular host of a program of comment on CBC Newsworld. Either prove what I imply, says Donaldson, or withdraw it. He believes I implied LaPointe has been influenced – or has influenced – what Canadian Press has reported or not reported about the CBC.
I felt like referring Donaldson to the tale of Caesar’s wife, even to the Christian concept of original sin. He could review his Ottawa bureau’s long obsession with our politicians’ potential or possible conflicts of interest.
The CBC is a federal government company. Often it’s a topic for public argument. It’s our biggest reporter and distributor of news and commentary. Canadian Press is No. 2 to this colossus in numbers and coverage reach. CP’s Ottawa crew produces more on federal politics than any agency but the CBC.
Out of a danger in his reporters being swayed by federal perquisites, last year LaPointe forbade them to use “free” parking spaces on the Hill. Each of his staff is very aware of the LaPointe-CBC nexus.
But CP’s Donaldson insists: “Kirk LaPointe is a journalist of unassailable integrity.” One would hope so. He is also as reporter, commentator and manager, in possible conflict of interest. Isn’t the CBC, his part-time employer, both a competitor of CP and again and again a subject for partisan debate and news interpretation?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 18, 1995
ID: 13085747
TAG: 199501170125
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

CLEVER CHRETIEN SPINS THE PRESS

Formal meetings of a prime minister with the Ottawa press are now rare enough to be remarkable, even Monday’s whizz-by with Jean Chretien.
Monday, after Chretien’s 40-minute workout with 100 or so journalists in a refurbished National Press Theatre, there were several immediate ratings of the event. I gave it an 8 out of 10 after considering and rejecting a 9 because he hadn’t had to try hard. As they might say after a track workout: “He finished breezing.”
Brian Mulroney quickly lost relish for formal meetings with the Ottawa press gallery, many of whom were hostile before his entry to the PMO. So most of the time he traded the theatre for the stairway to his Hill office. When he did the theatre he would often blarney on something positive, eating up the clock and avoiding the “Lyin’ Brian” nasties.
Pierre Trudeau compensated for frustration at having to schedule such press conferences with an ill-concealed contempt for his questioners as a group. He’d savaged enough questioners to create a palpable tension when he was centre-platform in the theatre. But Trudeau would also run out the clock, often with a random, articulate exposition of a complex topic.
The pre-Trudeau prime ministers, John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson, were not much given to press conferences with the gallery gang. There was no real theatre before Pearson’s regime. As I recall, the Chief did use it several times in his second stint as leader of the opposition.
A MORE CIVIL ERA
In the Diefenbaker-Pearson era, by and large the print reporters were the show, and the total of all journalists was far lower than today. Most then in the press gallery were veterans who knew the leaders well, making for civility and a tone of intimacy, not an adversarial or skeptical one. Pearson was a fascinating chatterer when on his best turf, international relations, thus turning formality toward a cosy seminar.
Cameras, mikes, lights and their crews play the devil with intimacy and patience. A storyteller like the Chief would today be an outrage, and though Pearson would wear marginally better with his glancing insights and modesties, neither they nor Mulroney and Trudeau fit as handily as Chretien with what the press conference has become now.
By my count on Monday there were nine TV cameras or video recorders working the room, and four still cameras. TV networks have nationalized, saturated the country and rubbed out the continuity and substance of a PM’s performance with shots of the talking head, bouncing in 10- to 20-second bits from deficit to cuts to sovereignty and separatism. A day later any significance of the event has been found, exhausted and largely forgotten.
For example, by late Monday night the event was reduced to “Chretien optimistic on Quebec” and “A cheerful PM repeats his lines.”
One reporter exiting the theatre said: “He said nothing new.” And another added: “But he did it well.”
A third said: “No one really got into him.” He wondered why Chretien had bothered, then mumbled about “the bloody Wall Street Journal.”
As I read him, Mulroney came to a press conference after much review in his head of all political angles. And Trudeau came to it, however reluctantly, with a data book in his head, ready with the informed lines of a reading, musing mandarin.
Jean Chretien is no read-and-study chief, and he hasn’t Mulroney’s apprehensions of how he’s going over or what people think of him.
QUICK WITH A QUIP
On Monday, throughout, although the PM slowly twiddled his thumbs, his hands were not taut. His sketch of a great opening year was done quickly. He stays fond of the Red Book – four mentions! He spoke quickly, his enunciation clear, at least in English. While he quipped a few times, he’d not linger but at once regain the fast pace.
He noticeably tensed just once, that while coming at a deficit-cuts query. He was clear that bureaucrats did the paper work and he and his cabinet decided what would become decisions. He romped over Jacques Parizeau and his 1,645-word “question.” A conundrum ploy from the CBC was mildly jeered.
Both fresh federalist bait for Quebec or getting into what “legally” could or should come after an approving vote for sovereignty were waived away. Though curt on the budget’s features, major cuts were certain and tax changes possible. Again, Red Booking it, he saw child care expansion soon, even next year. And federal health standards remain untouchable.
So, a lot of topics with familiar appreciations, affably given in short, ready replies by a man who just doesn’t foresee a Canadian crisis.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 15, 1995
ID: 13085369
TAG: 199501130130
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
PAGE: M15
COLUMN: In Ottawa
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

SHOULD CULTURE BE UNPLUGGED?//CANADIAN VIEWERS PROTECTED FROM FOREIGN INFLUENCE

The core political issue in cable TV first hit me in 1959 as an MP. The issue remains: should a Canadian have a free choice in what is brought into his or her home in entertainment and information, given much of it is foreign?
The political answer then was “No!” It still is. In 1959 it affected a village, Marathon, on Lake Superior’s north shore. TV signals from CBS and NBC beaming from Michigan could be caught by a community antenna and distributed by cable.
Technology changes, far faster than Canadian politics. From vacuum tube radio of my childhood (where Ted Rogers’ dad made his mark) through television which boomed as I got into politics in the 1950s, to cable, satellites, computers and the vogue platitudes today on the information highway, the gains from electronic transmissions that linked a dispersed country were also fraught with peril. We risked the cultural submersion of English Canada under the weight of American productions.
Thus, with radio in the 1920s developed the archetypical Canadian response: use government to block or diminish the peril. So began the now myriad rules, minded since the late 1960s by the ever-watchful CRTC.
The skirmish over new speciality cable channels is just the latest episode in the long defence of a nationality and its culture (or multiculture).
Clearly, such a long, regulatory regime reflects a paternalistic state whose citizens with TV sets cannot be trusted to choose their own news and entertainment over the glitzy American stuff if they have unlimited access to the latter. So free access is illegal. Tied to this, because our entrepreneurs and domestic market cannot generate enough funds to produce quality products, the state has had to subsidize them. Hello, CBC, the NFB, Telefilm, etc.
It’s never been determined by a referendum but it has been an article of faith among citizens of importance in politics and education that most Canadians support being guarded from foreign influences carried by telecommunications, even though such influences slip through in books, magazines, records and tapes. And most of them, wisdom says, are ready, beyond the impingement on their liberties, to pay for both crimped access and local product through fees and taxes.
I’ve doubted the depth of support for the battle ever since I lamely tried to talk away the rage of citizens in Marathon at being found unlawful for attaining at their own expense TV programs which they couldn’t get then from a Canadian source. And not just the control of access to TV programming but the substantial funding of program-making and distribution by taxpayers; even the protection from competition of those long in the domestic broadcasting market.
If the last point in the previous sentence seems cryptic, let me be fair across the board. Intrinsic in the state’s control of radio and TV for over six decades has been protecting the licences and the capital invested of private sector broadcasters and distributors. An example came to me in running through my “cable” files: a clip of an interview in 1971 with one Ted Rogers. He was answering queries on the new regulations for cable TV that followed a lengthy “announcement” by the head of the CRTC, Pierre Juneau, titled “The integration of cable television in the Canadian broadcasting system.”
“This guy Juneau,” said Rogers, “is brilliant. What he’s come up with is a great deal, one we can all live with. ”
Yes! And after Juneau came Andre Bureau, now flogging a Canadian eye-in-the-sky system for state approval, and Keith Spicer, the current and voluble chairman of the CRTC who has insisted new Canadian specialty services on cable, most patterned on successful American enterprises, must be matched with U.S. offerings.
Dan McTeague, a Grit Toronto MP, reacted to Spicer’s aim to “help new Canadian channels establish themselves by bringing them into the largest number of homes” by proclaiming “the CRTC has jumped into bed with the cable companies.”
Hindsight tells me the battle to protect English Canada’s culture (in Ottawa, now called “heritage”) became an inevitably futile delaying action the moment the web of cable began to wire Canada and we became the world’s most avid consumers of cable TV service.
If a referendum were held for or against limiting our access to programming through cable or satellite, I think the “yes” vote for open wires and skies would be over 75%.
Make such a vote your cause, Dan McTeague.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, January 13, 1995
ID: 13085071
TAG: 199501120136
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES

Through some 14 months I, like most of you, have relished the Pax Chretien. Yes, despite a wish the Liberals would get on with the big stuff.
But memories of more and more past crises come to my mind: the sudden wage and price control regime in ’75; the cracked budgets in ’63 and ’81; the run on the dollar in ’62; the bloated interest rates that faced Brian Mulroney in ’84 and that hung over his economic endeavors, symbolized by John Crow.
And so, awkwardly, hesitant to be a scare-monger, I confess I sense another crisis at hand, maybe a budget debacle.
You could recite the indicators as readily as I can.
The slippage of our dollar.
The rise in our interest rates.
The upward creep of opinion for “sovereignty” in Quebec.
The news of demands at home and abroad that Ottawa get serious about deficit cutting and debt reduction.
The almost daily witness of Liberal MPs, some insisting there must not be increases in taxes, some insisting program and personnel cuts must not be severe.
The wooliness of the minister of finance, the minister for inter-government relations and the PM about both cuts and taxes.
The sudden economic crash in Mexico, our NAFTA partner.
The lack of governing assurance in President Clinton.
The dominance and popularity of Republican control of the U.S. Congress, always aggressive to defend America from our exports.
Above all, there’s been the insistence of Chretien that all will be well in this best of all possible countries. May he be right. More and more I apprehend otherwise.

Now an anecdote of a social chat with a federal employee. It led to the very open dispute over interpretations of data on the violence of men against women.
Two dissenters have led the way against StatsCan’s quantified evidence of such pervasive brutality. Each has drawn passionate replies from those who marshalled the data and from leaders of feminist groups.
The first dissenter, Margaret Wente, a columnist and editor for the Globe and Mail, has been brave. Her first piece, Dec. 3, titled “Why the StatsCan tale needs debunking” was indeed a debunking. Her work will not be forgotten by the sisterhood.
The second dissenter seems less vulnerable to such animus but he may suffer student boycotts. He’s John Fekete, a teacher of English and cultural studies at Trent University, and author of a book, Moral Panic: Biopolitics Rising (Robert Davies Publishing), which takes apart the survey of violence against women taken by StatsCan and popularized by outfits like NAC.
What a nasty male is Dr. Fekete. One of his quotes last week was too good to be kept off the wires: “Statistics Canada has sold itself to the dark powers of demonization. It has traded in science for voodoo.”
For what it’s worth, now to the substance of a casual chat with a man of middle years I met socially in the holidays. We began with computers. It was quickly clear he knew far too much for me, so I tried to slacken his detail with a banal statement: “They must be handy in doing surveys and such.”
They were! Infinitely useful. So in a pause I asked if he was ever involved in opinion surveys.
Of course, notably in the census. After all, parts of the regular census were the grandest opinion surveys, particularly in producing a social profile of Canada at specific intervals.
MASSIVE SURVEY
This led me to ask if he’d been involved in the massive survey on violence against women, the one whose results have had so much attention and repetition.
At once he was cautious. “Yes … and no.” He’d had a bit part, early, in the methodology phase. Just that.
He wasn’t ready to elaborate so, as nicely as possible, I pressed him. How shocked I’d been as a man and a father of sons at the brute scale and omnipresence of oppression by males. What a national dilemma.
After grimaces and shrugs my acquaintance, aware of what I did, asked me never to cite him. It could mean his job. But I should know hundreds at StatsCan are ashamed of that survey, or rather the extravagant interpretations of its data.
“You see,” he said, “a cadre of diehard feminists, most of them lesbians, got control of that survey and ran away with it. There shouldn’t be a next time.”
Hail Wente and Fekete! Without such inside stuff they studied and took apart the stretch and contortions in the survey.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 11, 1995
ID: 13084839
TAG: 199501100129
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

GRIEVOUS COSTS OF INDIANISM

It’s encouraging that little open support has come for the sit-in at Revenue Canada offices in Toronto by a score of people who claim to be official Indians and object to paying income taxes for jobs off the reserve.
On the other hand, the federal decision to downplay the sit-in and not have the protesters evicted doesn’t project firmness or explain why income earned by natives off the reserve should be taxed like the income of other Canadians.
Again, on the other hand, an appointment of a Manitoba judge as a fact finder on land claims by Ron Irwin, the Indian affairs minister, is disheartening on two counts, first because it was found necessary, second because it pushes ever higher the grievous costs of Indianism.
For three years we’ve had a royal commission on aboriginal affairs. It’s become the most expensive royal inquiry ever – over $60 million and no end in 1995. This grand analysis of aboriginal matters should have wrapped up the subject of land claims, but this new appointee is to confer “with provincial and territorial governments, aboriginal groups and third party organizations” and hold open, public sessions.
Now, back to better news from this $6-billion-a-year industry and hail one Justice Francis Muldoon of the Federal Court. He’s declared the Indian Act and aboriginal treaties “fosters … an establishment of apartheid in Canada.” (This interpretation has been put forward here off and on for 30 years.) To use one of the scurviest words in politics, the act, the treaties, and the reserves are “racist.”
In his judgment, Muldoon said the act “makes financial dependants of those who pay no taxes as an eternal charge on those who are taxed to meet the expense of such dependency.”

Now, a warning: Judge not that ye be not judged. This refers to the high-mindedness of the Globe and Mail as found in an editorial (Jan. 6) titled “Ethics and Ms. Chung.” You will know that Connie Chung, a CBS star, drew a nasty noun about President Bill Clinton’s wife from the mother of congressional House Leader Newt Gingrich.
The Globe piece, surely inspired by editor William Thorsell, a Robespierrian, turned from the duplicity of Chung to a generality on “pious” reporters of the 1990s:
“But when it comes to their own behavior, the standards become flexible. The same American pundits who decry conflict of interest in Congress routinely accept fat speaking fees from organizations they have covered, or might one day.” There! Readers of the editorial know the Globe’s stand on outside income earned by journalists from outfits on which they might have to comment.
Well, not long ago a man who writes for another daily was approached by the Globe. He went to hear what Thorsell had to offer. The short of it is he decided not to switch; however, in the exchange he noted the dollars in the Globe job were well below what he was making.
Ah, but his copy would be running in the “national” newspaper. Surely, he appreciated that and all it meant. Aside from such high repute, he need not fear a drop in income. Why not? Because as one featured in the Globe he would be much used and well remunerated by the CBC. The CBC news and public affairs producers respect the stature and quality of Globe people as commentators.
It’s true that any follower of CBC Prime Time or Newsworld will vouch that Thorsell wasn’t flannelling about such usage. Again and again the likes of Jeffrey Simpson, Andrew Coyne, Susan Delacourt and Michael Valpy perform on the CBC.
FAT SPEAKING FEES
So let’s go back to the editorial savaging Connie Chung and the Yank newspersons who routinely accept “fat speaking fees” from organizations they have covered or might cover.
Surely it’s an ongoing reality that the CBC is “covered” and interpreted by most mainline reporters or columnists, including those of the Globe – and are paid for it.
Does getting such income from the CBC affect their line or comments? It must not be so. It’s those American journalists. Globe journalists – maybe all Canadian journalists – are ethical and above being affected by the source of income.
The editorial also reminded me of another case of outside income. The Ottawa bureau of the Canadian Press sends forth more reporting and comment about the CBC than any other agency or paper. The boss of the busy CP gang in Ottawa is one Kirk LaPointe. Yes, he’s the stony-faced host of a weekly Newsworld show on public affairs. Probably LaPointe is circling any conflicts over what is written about the CBC by CP by hosting for nothing.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 08, 1995
ID: 13084513
TAG: 199501060129
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Sunday Magazine/Comment
PAGE: M15
COLUMN: In Ottawa
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

PROS AND CONS OF `GAY RIGHTS’//WITNESSES BATTLE OVER THE TERM `SEXUAL ORIENTATION’

In the late fall many articulate and passionate witnesses argued for and against bills affecting homosexuals before the Commons justice and legal affairs committee. It’s 15 members are chaired by veteran MP Warren Allmand, probably the most liberally minded MP in the House.
The three Reform MPs in the 15 oppose the homosexual legislation; so do two of the Liberals, Morris Bodnar and Tom Wappel. What follows are snippets from arguments. Most touch on proposed section 718.2 which adds “sexual orientation” as grounds for defining a crime as a “hate” crime to be punished more severely. Most snips are from meetings (on Dec. 1) which heard from EGALE (Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere), led by one John Fisher, and from Monica Rainey of CACE (Citizens Against Child Exploitation).
The core of Fisher’s witness on the bill as it would affect homosexuals was this: “The only thing controversial is that it includes the words `sexual or-ientation’ because for the first time we are seeking recognition that violence against lesbians, gays and bisexuals is just as heinous, just as offensive, and just as worthy of denunciation as violence against other targeted groups …
“Hate crimes do have a more serious impact on the person who is directly affected by them … All assaults are serious, but when a person is deliberately targeted because of their race, their reli-gion, their sexual orientation, it reinforces the disadvantage we suffer as lesbians, gays, or bisexuals … the criminal law is a necessary tool to educate the public and to delineate acceptable standards of behavior. If people know violence against lesbians, gays, and bisexuals occurs, and Parliament takes no action to address that violence, it sends the message this is not something Parliament treats particularly seriously.”
Toward the close of the EGALE presentation, Liberal MP Morris Bodnar commented on the distinction being sought by Rock’s bills and by the homosexual witnesses. He said:
“Even though I have all my life considered homosexuality to be deviant behavior, that makes no difference whatsoever because, I can tell you, in my opinion every-one deserves to be protected from assault. Perhaps you don’t like heterosexuals or my lifestyle, but I would hope you would protect my lifestyle in the same way I would protect your lifestyle.”
For years Monica Rainey of CACE has worked to improve protection for children against assault, particularly by pedophiles. She was even more passionate than the homosexuals and her cases even more shocking. She disagreed with Fisher and EGALE on the use of the phrase “sexual orientation” in the bill.
“While the intent of sexual orientation in this law is to protect the gay and lesbian lifestyle … and I do not support discrimination and hate crimes against gays and lesbians, but neither do I want a loophole in the law that will be used five years from now in the Supreme Court to say these sexual assaults, the desire of men and boys to have love with each other and commit sex acts with each other, are a sexual orientation and therefore to be accepted.”
Rainey said the Supreme Court has “lately made several rulings which put children at risk” after she had noted that public remarks by an accepted authority that pedophilia was a “sexual orientation” would mean its use as a defence under this proposed law. Even though there are both homosexual and heterosexual pedophiles, she believes sexual orientation must be defined. This a line Wappel has been hammering at minister Rock.
Before the same committee two days earlier Lee Lakeman, a witness for NAC, the status of women group, was brilliant and scathing about the police and the courts in emphasizing how little progress was apparent in reducing male violence against women. Later Lakeman was not directly challenged when she said: “I would really like to get to the day when I believe nobody in Parliament has beaten his wife. You know and I know I’m not there.”
She was not after harsher sentences and more males in jail. She said: “As a society we need to say out loud that we understand there are whole collective groups of people at risk with these crimes … we have a growing problem of people being beaten on the basis of racism, on the basis of being gay, on the basis of sexism, and collectively we have a stake in this.
“It’s not between the victim and the attacker. The rest of us have a responsibility to say which side we are on … I would like intervention that says, as a society, we know this is going on, we object to it, and we are going to change it.”
Few will disagree with that aim; the dilemma is how.

KEYWORDS: CANADA; HOMOSEXUAL; LEGISLATION

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Friday, January 06, 1995
ID: 13084260
TAG: 199501050146
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SERIES: Part 1 of 2

SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE HOUSE

There has been more discussion of homosexuality in this newish Parliament than ever before, thanks primarily to the legislative intentions of Justice Minister Allan Rock and the views of MPs such as Roseanne Skoke, a Liberal, and the BQ’s Real Menard, who has chosen to declare his homosexuality. Now Svend Robinson, the veteran New Democrat MP, is no longer the only open homosexual in the House.
This judgment is unquantifiable, but there has been more frankness and a much wider range to the current discussion than took place almost 30 years ago when Pierre Trudeau as justice minister set out to get the state out of the nation’s bedrooms. His bills stirred some resistance, notably from rural Creditiste MPs in Quebec. Of course, that was before the emergence of AIDS as a fearsome menace to health, linked in a major way to homosexual practices.
Ever since Robinson outed himself before the 1988 election and romped back to the House, his voice on the Hill for equality for homosexuals has been well and widely heard. The traditional cautions around the issue have faded but not disappeared, as Robinson would probably agree, given the edgy discomfort he and his mission have caused many of his NDP colleagues, even in the present caucus.
Homosexuality still rouses much antagonism among MPs of all the federal parties. You may confirm this by reading the voluminous proceedings of the House committee on justice and legal affairs in its study of several acts, in particular the Criminal Code.
Nevertheless, homosexuality is no longer a topic politicians immediately want to skirt when they are faced with it.
RECIPE FOR SURVIVAL
For example, no veteran MP today would give a new MP a recipe for survival which the late Paul Martin, Sr. gave me in 1958: never raise the following matters – homosexuality, birth control, abortions, divorce. And it wasn’t until tiny, seemingly demure Roseanne Skoke astounded her colleagues, the cabinet, and the whole House by opposing recognition and rights for those who engage in evil acts beyond the pale of Christianity that Robinson’s mission met vocal, direct opposition on Parliament Hill.
In federal politics over almost a decade, Robinson’s actions and words to advance the cause of homosexuality as a unique, honorable, attribute and the basis for a worthy way of life, have been well re-echoed by organized homosexuals, most effectively by lesbians using the feminist movement, but also by so many who report and editorialize in print and direct and produce for films and TV.
What we have now is quite distinct from the ’60s when there wasn’t this strongly favorable attitude among those in the media about homosexuality and rights for homosexuals. Viewers then would not have seen an MP put down as one was on CBC-TV’s Contact last week when Hanna Gartner was overbearing and judgmental with Roseanne Skoke.
Such temerity shows how far advocacy of spousal benefits for homosexuals and particular protections for them in the courts and in employment equity have been popularized among media personnel.
What has also impinged on the present debates without much open mention, as the House and caucuses consider at least two bills from Rock which deal in part with homosexual rights and recognition, is the grim rebuke the NDP government in Ontario suffered last year. It lost a bill on equity for homosexuals after internal caucus dissent forced a free vote.
NO FREE VOTES
Rock and Prime Minister Jean Chretien insist there will be no free votes on homosexual clauses in their bills. But such backbone has encouraged, not doused, speculation on the scale of antagonism both in the Liberal caucus and across Canada.
Some reporters polled for pros and cons of MPs without much exactness. It seems that the nine NDP MPs, one of the two PC MPs, several of the Reform MPs, and over 40 of the BQ MPs will vote for amendments affecting homosexuals. Taken with far more than 100 Grit MPs ready to follow the whip, the bills’ passage seem guaranteed.
But Chretien is no fool at reading the country. While he wants the legislation, he’s aware, despite media hurrahs, that there’s more antipathy than sympathy to the measures across the country. At least a score of his MPs are negative. (My estimate is some two score.) And a half-dozen are ready to jump the whip.
Chretien may postpone the bills and fix instead on fighting through the budget.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 04, 1995
ID: 13084057
TAG: 199501030064
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER

CBC’S FATE IS NOT CLEAR

What’s ahead for the CBC?
The great Red Book said: “A Liberal government will be committed to stable multi-year financing for national cultural institutions such as the Canada Council and the CBC. This will allow national cultural institutions to plan effectively.”
Fourteen months into a Liberal government it’s likely the CBC will go on through 1995 and beyond much as it has in its organization and financing. “Stable multi-year financing” is doubtful, either by a five-year guaranteed level of payments from the treasury or through earmarked fund-raisers such as levies on cable companies or on cable users or even by a special tax on sets and videos.
What’s brought me to thinking there will be nothing much new under the sun in 1995 for the CBC?
A small example came recently from Doug Young, the transport minister. He said on a televised panel that the way ahead for the CBC could not be outside the February budget cuts and restraints. And Michel Dupuy, the fussy cultural minister, has not reaffirmed the views of his early days in office that he planned assured funding for the CBC. He felt then that it didn’t deserve more budget cuts because of those already suffered under the Tories.
It seems fair to say only a small, though quite vocal, minority of citizens has been much concerned on behalf of the CBC. Most Canadians seem unaware how much there’s been since the Grits came in of witnesses, briefs, and exchanges of views about the CBC and by the CBC before parliamentary committees and in various hearings of the CRTC.
In particular, the House committee on Canadian heritage has put in hundreds of hours with evidence galore from CBC executives, friends of the CBC, rivals of the CBC in private broadcasting and enemies of the CBC (often, but not always, MPs of the Reform Party).
Aside from the latest president, Tony Manera, there was witness from former leaders like Pierre Juneau and Patrick Watson.
NO GREAT URGENCY
On this committee of 11 full members and four associate members, chaired well by John Godfrey, there seems a range of attitudes from very much for to somewhat against the CBC. But certainly there hasn’t been a sense of desperate urgency and it’s my hunch there’s a similar attitude in the PMO and the Grit caucus.
Basically, the Bloc Quebecois is not against public broadcasting, but it is critical about the share of money and services for the French side of the CBC and is satirical about the domination of American programs on English language TV and the small share of viewers CBC English TV earns.
The Reform Party’s line, put volubly by MP Jan Brown, is not strong for public broadcasting but its emphasis is on its high costs and inefficiencies.
Reform demands cuts in CBC funding to contribute to ending the federal deficit and it backs some arguments heard by the committee which would: a) divest the CBC of its communications technology and network lines, making it just a production agency; b) get CBC-TV out of commercials; c) get the CBC out of news and commentary.
SOCIALIST BIAS
Reform thinks private broadcasters and cable companies can distribute programming and do news, etc. without the spectre of either government interference or the current built-in socialist bias.
The Liberal line on the committee has been neither monolithic in enthusiasm for the CBC nor set critically against it.
They’ve not cheered as the likes of Manera and Juneau and the executives of the Friends of Public Broadcasting have made the case that beginning with the Tory budgets of the mid-’80s the CBC was forced to take funding and employee cuts on an even more severe scale than now faces federal operations as a whole.
They’ve not agreed that more cuts for the CBC go beyond gross unfairness to sabotaging the ability of the CBC to meet its parliamentary mandates. They’ve tended to approve (but not absolutely) that the CBC ought to have assured, planned government funding (see Red Book) and agree that it cannot milk much more cash flow from TV commercials.
The committee’s Liberals do see the CBC’s dilemmas – a few like Bonnie Brown and Tony Ianno very much so – but none has insisted directly or through a questioning thrust that the CBC must not be negatively affected by the February budget. And no Liberal has been strong for new money through fees or specific taxes to sustain the CBC.
So, a budget prediction: no increase in money for the CBC, and a 50-50 chance it will get 10% less in the next fiscal year.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1995, SunMedia Corp.

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