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Doug’s Columns 1997 « Douglas Fisher



Doug’s Columns 1997

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 31, 1997
ID: 12690309
TAG: 199712300673
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15


A TV roundup of the past year has put me to muttering about the state of Parliament. The program noted the deaths of Stanley Knowles (1908-97) and Jack Pickersgill (1905-97).
As I recalled this incredibly able pair I added a third name, Allan MacEachen, for a trio who figuratively dominated parliamentary affairs through almost three decades. MacEachen (born in 1921) is still alive, but he did retire this year from the Senate.
These three were more than any others the continuing maestros of the House and all its antics from the 1950s into the 1980s. Prime ministers and leaders of the opposition – notably John Diefenbaker – would draw the attention of more citizens to Parliament than they, but even Dief was a catch-as-catch-can performer and never the assiduous planner, schemer, caucus manager or incessant talker in the flow of legislation and scrutiny of the House.
Each of the three did have issues of his own to push but the course of the House as a whole was their interest. NDPer Knowles was a partisan but less so than the two Liberals. Today, both Jean Chretien and Paul Martin insist they love the House but they really mean they like performing in question period.
For Knowles, Pickersgill and Mac-Eachen, the House was where the government of Canada was answerable to the people through the interchange of ministry, opposition and MPs of any persuasion.
In retrospect, the period of the trio’s high influence was the long, last hurrah of the House of Commons as the national centre of politics. Certainly this is so no longer. It’s true Herb Gray is in his 35th year as an MP, and Don Boudria, the government House leader, is as busy as the trio whom I spotlight in their prime. What’s gone is the ability to determine so largely the tone, content and process of House matters.
It’s not my argument that the calibre of MPs in this or the last Parliament is below that of those in the Pickersgill-Knowles heyday. In terms of education, industry and dedication it’s as good or better than it was then, although few now come into the House with the debating skills of Knowles and Pickersgill or the oratory of Mac-Eachen.
One must begin explanations of the decline in importance and vitality of the House with the huge influence of TV on both the politicians and the public they address.
The effect of TV is most apparent in the more intense focus now on the prime minister and relatively much less on ministers, caucus and party. TV is insatiable for diversity and action and not suited for complex coverage of either big or routine legislation and scrutiny that takes so many hours of parliamentary consideration.
One side-tracker of Parliament became obvious in the late 1970s in the serious threat that Quebec could and would secede. It still remains strong and continues to mock the once mythic view of the Parliament of Canada as “the highest court in the land.”
Along with the threat of secession, and federal propositions to change the Constitution, the stock rose of premiers as nationally known personalities. A federal-provincial order in politics and administration took shape as well as a bureaucracy to which Parliament and its work has become largely ancillary.
Further, Parliament as the prime court and centre for public attention has felt the consequences of judicial interpretation of the Charter of Rights, Pierre Trudeau’s most memorable legacy. Judges’ decisions have knocked down the once familiar notion of parliamentary supremacy.
Two other shifts have taken much away from Parliament Hill as the major-league venue of Canadian politics: the increase in financial strength and capability for influence of interest groups and associations, and the increased use by the federal and the provincial governments of judicial inquiries into hard matters. Both draw media attention and public interest away from Parliament or the legislatures.
A decision this year by a Supreme Court justice like Antonio Lamer or a proposal by Tom D’Aquino from the Business Council is likely to outweigh something done by the federal Parliament.
Even as I recall how often I once heard someone say that I should “check it with Jack” or “Just ask Stanley,” I know such parliamentary luminaries are gone. Now it would be better to check with Jean Chretien’s Eddie Goldenberg or Preston Manning’s Rick Anderson. Of course, neither is in the House nor needs to be.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 28, 1997
ID: 12690155
TAG: 199712280680
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


This year in federal politics has hardly been a humdinger, Don’t expect any more action or passion in the next. As a miner might say: “The holes aren’t bored for it.”
Why haven’t they been? Because we do not have a scintillating, imaginative ministry pushed or inspired by a visionary opposition in Parliament.
Of course, we must also consider what is likely or possible, beginning with a basic, near certainty that in 1998 the chance of a federal election is at least 50-1 and the chance of a new prime minister about 20-one. One cannot imagine either a caucus revolt forcing Jean Chretien out or Lucien Bouchard gaining an electoral victory next spring in Quebec fabulous enough to push the Liberals to chose a new, federalist champion for the referendum to come.
There is a better prospect the Liberals, with their slim majority, will lose a parliamentary vote in 1998 than there is of an election or a new PM. Even so, such a defeat would not make dissolution and an election certain. Rather, expect a replay of the move which PM Lester Pearson used in 1968 of another House vote with every one of the Liberal ducks on hand.
I cannot foresee either a half-dozen or more federal by- elections in 1998 whose results would end the Liberal margin or any co-ordinated scheme by the four opposition parties to keep forcing House votes against the government from the entire opposition.
None of the federal parties is likely to have a leadership contest in 1998. Both Preston Manning and Alexa McDonough seem unchallengeable before the next election. Gilles Duceppe of the BQ may not have the full loyalty of his caucus but there seems no incipient star behind him. Jean Charest is the “iffy” one of the leaders, not because a dandy successor is on hand but because of the high appeal he keeps with Quebecois voters.
But how does Charest switch to the province or use such a cachet in national politics? He is a smooth, poised performer but has yet to find the drive or the tactics to exploit well from his No. 5 slot in the House.
Back to the chances. They are fair that Canada as a whole, including Quebec, may make it through the entire year and into 1999 without a big, constitutional hullabaloo. This is predicated on the Supreme Court taking that long to report on the federal reference it has received on sovereignty and secession.
Ontario’s rulers stirred the most political excitement in Canada this year but they are most unlikely to go to the people in 1998, and neither will those in B.C., the other really lively province, unless forced by a fugitive legislative majority.
A Quebec election? Possible but not a certainty.
Looking beyond our borders to the future is neither heartening nor the reverse. A nation-busting international crisis is conceivable but unlikely. We do have a minister of foreign affairs with the brightest of Canadian halos to illuminate dark corners of the world, but neither Lloyd Axworthy nor Canadian influence abroad excites a large following at home.
In sum, one may almost guarantee the year ahead, politically-speaking, will be ordinary, its tone and agenda largely set as this year’s was by a peripatetic and unfancy PM. He is backed by a PMO which has traditional Liberal adroitness at stonewalling in the House and to a quite unhostile media.
Almost all the matters of 1998 which will be controversial and get noticed by TV news and commentary and the daily press are familiar, having been in play this year, from stiffer law and order sought on the right to more generosity from Ottawa sought from the left to succor the rising host of low-income families.
The broadest contentions will continue. Should Ottawa move from the reduction of once massive governmental deficits to zero to: a) lowering the national debt and its burden of interest costs (now some $42 billion a year); b) reducing taxes; or c) funding one or two fresh national programs, perhaps for drug care or child care; or d) putting back more money into current health programs?
To close the forecast with a note on a politician, it seems obvious that Paul Martin as finance minister has the highest and hardest personal stake in these broadest contentions, not Jean Chretien. Martin has been asking himself: what does the country and my political future gain or lose by turning from frugality back into the federal tradition of buying public favor with more spending?
My hunch is that the only imperative he’ll respond to with major spending increases in 1998 is health care. But if he hangs tough, will he be left in his job?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 24, 1997
ID: 12690613
TAG: 199712230592
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15


This Christmas Eve it comes easy to greet readers with warm wishes and gratefulness. The year has been good to me on the Ottawa political watch and, it seems, to the Sun. The serious gap in my columnizing in 1997 was continuing to lag at replying to correspondence, either pro and con. My apologies to those who deserved replies and to those in public life to whom I was mean-spirited.
Doubtless this is an aspect of aging, but in muddling through items of recent interest I am struck by the profusion in obituaries of those met in politics and of new books about war, a subject vivid to me since my young years in an army uniform. So let me note both some of the just departed and three of the books about war just read.
Maxwell Henderson (1908-1997), Canada’s auditor general from 1960-73, was the most precise, blunt and arrogant public official I ever watched or tried to question. He first earned national prominence between 1957 and 1960 as quite a Trojan horse within the CBC. The Diefenbaker government, pleased with his caustic criticism of CBC extravagance, made him auditor general, opening up over a decade of open confrontations with both Tory and Liberal governments over his office’s reach and staffing.
My last encounter with Henderson came in the late ’80s when he and Darcy McKeough put out an anti-deficit tract. I phoned for an interview about it and was brushed off summarily: “I only give interviews to financial writers at the Globe and the Financial Post, certainly not to any tabloid.”
Harold M. Wright, a Vancouver mining engineer, was also born in 1908 and died this month. He was active for almost five decades in mining chances, not just in B.C. but around the world. But it was as much or more for his work in sport that Wright became a Companion of the Order of Canada. I found him a big, direct, cheerful man who valued amateur athletics and pushed them provincially, nationally and within the IOC. He competed in the 1932 Olympics and presided over the Canadian Olympic Association at the time of the Montreal Games of 1976.
Wilfred Kesterton, a gentle, kindly and long-retired professor of Carleton University died last week. Scores of people in the media will remember him fondly as co-founder of Carleton’s journalism school. Far more have used his straightforward History of Canadian Journalism (1967) and his essays on the law and the press.
Two of the war books I recommend may seem somewhat impersonal because of their make-up as collections of articles or essays, and the third is a genuine sleeper because of its form in letters and the rather uncommon role of their writer in World War II.
Props on Her Sleeves: The Wartime Letters of a Canadian Airwoman, by Mary Hawkins Bauch, is an illustrated paperback from Dundurn Press. The letters, written from 1943 to 1945, were to a former teacher who was dean of women at Macdonald College in Quebec. The correspondent, who trained in Canada, then served in signals at an RCAF bomber base, married an infantry officer (Black Watch) who was later taken prisoner by the Germans. To use a cliche phrase, Mary had “the real stuff” … earnest, Canadian stuff.
Canada at War, edited by Michael Benedict and published by Viking, is an assembly of 35 pieces from the archives of Maclean’s, beginning with one from 1916 about a Princess Pat infantryman in hospital and closing with a soldier’s account of duty in Yugoslavia in 1995. There are articles by many well-known writers such as Pierre Berton, Ralph Allen, Blair Fraser, Lionel Shapiro, Scott Young and Stuart Keate. It’s a readable, useful means of learning about the wartime efforts of Canadians – sometimes glorious, sometimes disastrous and mostly victorious through eight decades.
More specialized and very analytical are the dozen essays in the McGill-Queen’s publication, The Veterans’ Charter and Post-World War II Canada, edited by historians Peter Neary and Jack Granatstein. The latter is author and editor of many books about World War II and its aftermath, and here he has a fascinating, debatable explanation why the million men and women in the forces in 1939-45 never got their due regard from later generations.
Another essay, by historian Doug Owram, contrasts postwar adjustments of Canadians and Americans and outlines the huge surge in domesticity and the baby boom. Relatively, no other Allied country was more thorough and generous in re-establishing its warriors in civilian life while laying the basics of national health, welfare and housing programs. These essays make a reader understand that we went from working massively together in the war into wider, better services for the whole Canadian society. A very enlightening book!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 21, 1997
ID: 12690437
TAG: 199712190697
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


Even a federal election could not make 1997 a vintage political year in Canada, judging it from Parliament Hill.
The short answer to such a dour verdict is two-fold: a rather inconclusive election in its partisan effects, and more fascinating actions and agonies in other than directly political venues.
The election result was clear enough in confirming a second mandate for Jean Chretien and the Liberals, but it was neither fully pleasing nor a total rebuke for any of the five parties in contention. Each has active groups in the present House but as the fall sitting ended the government was in firm and easy control of the institution despite its slight margin in votes.
A diversity of parties isn’t proving to mean broad, deep divisiveness day-to-day over issues. Plaintive leftist opinions are heard, and so are righteous right-wing assertions, but a majority pragmatism prevails.
Such dearth of ideology in Ottawa is a contrast to both Ontario and B.C. politics, but it is long familiar, capital “L” Liberalism. The June election merely confirmed the same governing cast with the same practices, intentions and style.
As the year closes, not even Peter Newman has spotted a new political messiah for English Canada among the Liberals, or elsewhere, and despite the savvy of Preston Manning and the poise of Jean Charest the new House hasn’t a masterful spellbinder.
On Ottawa’s top topic unity – there may have been marginal federalist progress, but the perennial anxiety goes on. However, we’ve hung together for another year.
To underline the meagre satisfactions for federalists this year, consider what a PR dud the summer initiative of the premiers known as the Calgary agreement had become by the Christmas season and a dispiriting first ministers’ conference on “co-operation.”
Regardless of the pall cast by secessionists over English Canada there continues to be good news on the other deep concern – high government spending. The general public was desperate about it before the Liberals won in 1993. Ottawa and all provinces set at cutting deficits and downsizing. This year deficits kept dwindling. Now the public argument is mounting over what should be done. Cut taxes? Reduce the debt-load? Put back more into cherished services like health care? Liberals, being Liberals, want to do all three at the same time.
Political Ottawa’s relative eclipse this year owes a lot to more vitality and contention elsewhere, much of it in Ontario’s provincial and municipal politics.
The national media, centred in Toronto, have spread wide the fierce politics in Ontario between the “neo-conservatives” in power and the progressive interests. In leftist circles, Mike Harris is reaching Brian Mulroney proportions as a much damned villain. Such bitterness had no Ottawa parallel. The most exciting sparks here were from two near-to-blows incidents in the House over bruised Reform feelings.
Two happenings in the year, one in nature, one of human cupidity, were huge news stories, holding national attention for weeks. The Manitoba flood was a long, tense drama and the Bre-X gold fraud a fascinating melodrama. Each was somewhat tangential to Ottawa but a diversion from its doings.
Any political review of 1997 must mention the proceedings and some results of that peculiar Canadian phenomenon -public inquiries! Our governments set them up whenever their roles or competency are challenged.
Recall just three inquiries which reported this year: the Somalia inquiry into military murdering which turned into a hunt for high-ranking deceivers; the Westray inquiry into a coal-mine disaster in Nova Scotia for which no one would take responsibility; and the inquiry into the blood used in transfusions whose acquisition and distribution by the Red Cross wrought such grim consequences in infecting innocent recipients with hepatitis or AIDS.
The Somalia inquiry so discomfited the Chretien government it cut it short. The whole affair from the first violence to the truncated inquiry and its final report has done nothing to sustain Canadians’ confidence in their military’s competence. After several bleak years for the forces, 1997 brought the nadir.
All three inquiries were televised through most of their hearings. There were hours of prime-time reports, scores of talking heads, column inches by the thousands. And scandalous allegations, bristling denials, responsibilities dodged and lawyers all over.
This year there’s also been a rather parallel fixation of the public and media over some court decisions with high political interest. Take two: first, the widely debated leniency in the sentence at Robert Latimer’s second murder trial; second, think over the recent Supreme Court judgment which knocked down judicial defences against the acquisition of huge tracts in B.C. and elsewhere by bands of aboriginal people asserting their title since time immemorial to band or tribal territory.
In retrospect, 1997 may be become known for this stunning discard of a long trial and complex judgment.
There was only one truly major piece of legislation in the year. It brings reforms which amount to a big increase in taxation for those who contribute to the Canada Pension Plan. As the year closed, Finance Minister Paul Martin was getting this blockbuster through the House, enabling increases in 1998. I believe this fairly easy passage is a tribute to his success in downsizing deficits and curbing new programs.
Both before and after the election Jean Chretien made some trims and modest switches in his cabinet. The situation is that he and, somewhat oddly, Mr. Martin, bestride a cabinet which in the kindest light is heavy only with dutiful stonewallers.
The prime minister continues an astounding pace for his 63 years, 34 of them in politics and 21 in cabinet. He’s here, there and everywhere in Canada and over the globe, talking fast, making few apologies and disdaining a board-of-directors ministry for PMO domination.
He still enjoys rebuffing Preston Manning and his Reform MPs in question period but otherwise he’s no House of Commons man. He gives no hints of an early departure – quite the reverse. He whisks along without fearing the peril in so many ambitious backbenchers from Ontario and so few indicators of rising personal favor in Quebec, despite his more aggressive line with Premier Lucien Bouchard’s Parti Quebecois. Much federalist vigor came from two of the more recent ministers, Stephane Dion and Pierre Pettigrew.
If retaining office and holding it with tough discipline and no upsets on his own turf is success, Chretien has been successful this year. Of course, one does not see this in grand legislation or through a cabinet of legendary talent or from a projection of an exciting vision for the new millennium.
One may lay a considerable bill of critical particulars on Jean Chretien as the year ends, but he speeds on – an odd political miracle. Some partisan rivals credit his easy ride from a soft media crew which never savages him as it did Brian Mulroney.
How else to explain his gentle press and his following acts or failures to act?
– Cutting short the Somalia inquiry before it could complete its work.
– Not blocking a costly postal strike that badly hurt many small businesses.
– Failing after so many vouchsafes and declared intentions to attain a coherent plan with the provinces on carbon dioxide emissions to take to Kyoto.
– Leaving up in the air a failed police pursuit of criminal toll-gaters on the Airbus deal despite paying off a wronged Brian Mulroney.
– Failing to acquire badly needed helicopters, seemingly because of partisan pride.
– Botching so badly the implementation of previous Liberal gun control legislation that its coming into effect keeps receding as its costs keep rocketing.
Those many who recognize the Liberals as our natural rulers, might well say:
“Give us a break from such sourness. Look at the deficit. Almost gone. Savor the surpluses in sight. The economy isn’t bad. The eastern surge of the rednecks has been stopped at the Ontario border. Respect what Lloyd Axworthy and his foreign affairs people have done in shaping and wrapping up a global ban on land mines. See the graph line in opinion polling in Quebec. It’s not bad. Lucien looks fallible. The boss has his second wind and loyalty to him is rock solid.”
Yes, one can easily find those who rate the second Chretien government that high. So far.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 17, 1997
ID: 12689079
TAG: 199712160596
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15


The first run of the new, tight, five-party House broke away early for a long seasonal break without even finishing the week. The exit went quite unnoticed.
A recess reached in such a flaccid way signifies a government which wasn’t pushing its luck or desperate for legislation. And there was much in the swirl of political guff which mocked the government for its Kyoto confusions over environmental standards and the witless saga it perpetuates over buying helicopters.
In general terms of House performance, this has been neither a disastrous nor a fine beginning for either the government or the opposition. On balance, one has to see the fall sitting as a success for the prime minister, given his thin majority, because the Hill has had so little tension and excitement and, despite rumors, nothing yet in sight of a clutch of John Nunziatas within the caucus. (By the way, he’s doing well as a lone but quite common sense voice in the House.)
One could rate the Tories, under a poised Jean Charest, as showing better than expected, and the BQ under Gilles Duceppe as having much less impact than in the last House.
The NDP under Alexa McDonough was vigorous but its critique and demands have been so trite with social democratic righteousness, and without much electricity or wit from once able parliamentarians like Lorne Nystrom, Svend Robinson and Bill Blaikie.
As for Reform, probably Deborah Grey deserves a star for consistent, testy, and usually belligerent mauling of Chretien ministers, but it’s obvious Preston Manning and his advisers haven’t figured out how best to marshal and display a sizable caucus with much talent in personalities and subject knowledge.
However, Manning has been scaling up – not steeply but definitely – to a more respectful status. He’s getting fewer jeers or rants than he did before he had the chance to display himself as the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.
The heroes so far in this Parliament are Liberal backbenchers, as one told me last week. Given the tiny majority, they have been very loyal, their solidarity seemingly sound, and with attendance good to excellent.
At this recess time there’s surprisingly little speculation about the PM’s durability, in large part one thinks because he’s been so definitive about a long haul. On the leadership succession one hears more gossip that Industry Minister John Manley is edging himself into the succession pack of the already obvious – Brian Tobin, Paul Martin and Allan Rock. There are few straws in the wind on a cabinet overhaul or a PMO cleanout. The assumptions about the budget to come in two months or so are modest insofar as big jumps in spending programs and negative about any grand, fresh initiatives.
This week there’s been much chat about who will fill John Sopinka’s place on the Supreme Court. Much of this arises from an apprehension among many Ontario lawyers and some judges that the government is being roller-coasted into elevating Rosalie Abella, 51, a winsome, progressive, feminist Ontario judge. There has been a PR campaign on her behalf for months, graced not so unobtrusively by a renowned, retired judge, Charles Dubin.
If Abella is the choice it seems certain to open up the most critical scrutiny of an individual performance any appointee to the highest court has ever had. Many lawyers and judges see her as a light-weight – and almost as many see her as far to the left, a repetition in viewpoint of former Supreme Court justice Bertha Wilson.
The latter is famous or infamous (depending on your politics) for writing the decision which gave Charter rights to any foreigner who touches Canadian soil. This brought Ottawa to creating and operating a large refugee review board. So far the decision has meant spending well over $1 billion. Despite such costliness in the name of rights, there continues a large backlog of refugee claimants and thousands of missing refugees (within Canada).
Again and again one hears of Abella as either a Joan of Arc or as a rather American kind of show judge. Mostly I’ve been hearing from those who are very negative. They cite tales of judgments in Abella’s name which they allege were largely prepared and written by clerks. Of course, she has been active for many years in human rights causes and as an advocate of gender equality.
One useful consequence of the Abella appointment could simply be an unprecedented popular focus on the work of the court and the nine justices, and also on the process through which they are chosen.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 14, 1997
ID: 12688892
TAG: 199712120798
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


Both the broadcasts on private radio of Howard Stern and the Mexican exposure of Sen. Andrew Thompson have been generating more outrage than other, graver matters in our politics – the Chretien government’s fiddling on a new helicopter fleet or the inadequate explanations of the reasons for major changes in the Canada Pension Plan.
Distasteful as Stern’s opinions seem to be, no one is forced to listen to him, and we do have a costly, if cumbersome, governmental regulator of broadcasting. The CRTC should either direct that this programming from a Canadian site cease (and let the station-owners challenge this in court) or leave the matter of whether this opinionated American should be listened to by any Canadians to their free will.
In terms of time, the Stern case is obviously a brief blip with nothing like the gist and grist of such memorable cases represented by the names Morgantaler or Latimer, each of which will be argued in a popular sense for several generations.
As for Senator Thompson, he’ll lose that honorific in two years when he reaches 75, ending almost 33 years of having a salary which, with direct perqs, will reach a total value of over $2.7 million. And this for doing literally nothing in the Senate since Lester Pearson appointed him in 1967.
The widespread angry reaction to the Thompson absenteeism is grounded on attendance records that have only been kept day-to-day since 1990. You can take my word for it that Sen. Thompson was rarely on the Hill from 1967-90. The word was out as early as 1970 that he had serious, unmentionable, health problems. That’s why such a promising, new senator was so seldom around.
One should appreciate that before Pierre Trudeau figuratively popped out of nowhere in early 1965, a lot of Toronto Grits saw “Andy,” with his Irish charm and liberally minded views as their coming JFK. I was aware of such approbation and of Andy’s charm through sharing efforts with him in Epic, an organization that had a brief life in the early ’60s promoting political education.
It was hard for me to understand why such a potential vote-getter, only in his early 40s, would choose to go into the Senate a few months after resigning from the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party after a mere year at its helm. But it was even more baffling why he chose to do nothing as a senator but treat the task as an early-retirement honorarium.
Now let’s put Thompson’s cavalier view of the Senate into several perspectives.
First, the personal. There’s an inkling of what’s awry in a remark made to a reporter recently by his wife, seemingly in justification. She used the phrase “his distinguished career.”
Imagine! Seven years as a provincial MPP, one year as Opposition leader, then 31 years of doing nothing of moment in the Senate as a “distinguished career.”
Why didn’t I, or others in the press gallery or the MPs in opposition, go after the Thompson absenteeism long ago, in particular the NDP MPs, whose party advocates Senate abolition? In part it is simply because so few of us in the press see the Senate as important.
As for MPs, many Liberals and Conservatives cherish the prospect of some day savouring its benefits.
Further, through the decades there have been so many Thompsons in the Senate. Yes, almost as absent; certainly as useless in contribution. When something has been common in an institution – one might say from time immemorial – it is not seen as remarkable.
For the long-term perspective one should appreciate that although the Senate as an integral part of the parliamentary system has been functioning for 130 years, there has been repetitious discontent with it for almost as long. For over a century there have been many who would have the Senate reformed or, if not reformed, abolished.
One reform preached since the 1880s would elect senators rather than have them appointed by the prime minister.
Only rarely has the Senate been critically vital or destructive in either its legislative or partisan aspects. Only rarely has it filled the role foreseen for it as a chamber representing provincial rights. Indeed, such a role is a joke, given the distortion in the four Atlantic provinces having six more senators than the four western provinces.
Why has the Senate not become redundant or disused or archaic and in lapse? The answer, by and large, is because it is so wonderfully useful in various partisan ways to a prime minister and because of the broad advantage it has for two oldest parties over the so-called “splinter” parties.
Years ago I was rebuked by William Davis, then Ontario premier, for suggesting he stop putting MPPs of his caucus on boards of provincial agencies. I suffered, he said, from Ottawa myopia.
Had I forgotten that a premier had no Senate? Did I not realize the Senate allowed a a prime minister to elevate a minister out of harm’s way, or to open up a seat for someone fresh, or to reward a veteran MP for diligence and loyalty, or to provide a party fund-raiser or bag-man with both an honorific title and a base with office facilities, or to award the same to a proven cracker-jack organizer, or occasionally to give a tip of the hat to an ethnic group or a very worthy cause through a Senate post for one of its leaders?
Such is really the pragmatic stuff that sustains the continuance of the Senate, this far more than the occasional good committee work (which could as readily be done by elected MPs) or the critical oversight which senators give legislation or the brilliance and push of the half a dozen or so senators of great distinction.
On this latter point, most times in most years the Senate is not much noticed, even in Ottawa, nor is it rarely distinguished for much except on the occasions created and developed in pursuit of certain interests of a few senators who combine outstanding personality, idealism, and perseverance. One thinks of the late senators Arthur Roebuck (labor relations), David Croll (the aged), Eugene Forsey (regulations and process), Donald Cameron (the arts) or Jack Marshall (veterans).
There is an irony in the Thompson story, at least for me, that when I heard about his appointment in 1967 I thought he might join Dave Croll’s crusade for a better deal for old people.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 10, 1997
ID: 12688762
TAG: 199712090650
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
WHAT IF? … Prime Minister Jean Chretien speaks about the prospect of Quebec separating at a two-day convention of the Liberal Party of Canada (Quebec) last Sunday in Quebec City.


Although the subject has had a high profile since Premier Maurice Duplessis died in 1959, whenever a prime minister or a premier of Quebec says something fresh about the future of the province, it gets more than a cursory examination.
This is a long way to make a point that intense scrutiny is underway of the statements made by Prime Minister Jean Chretien last weekend to the Quebec wing of his party.
A press heading catches the gist of his remarks: “PM Says He Would Negotiate Breakup.”
That is, if Quebec votes affirmatively on a clear, unequivocal question on either separating from Canada or remaining in it during his term as prime minister. Chretien would negotiate the separation with Quebec, ensuring certain conditions were met.
In short, it would not be as simple as the Quebec government making a unilateral declaration of independence on winning such a vote and immediately displacing or assuming the federal roles, services, and resources in Quebec.
Before a federalist, either in or outside Quebec, takes any satisfaction in this fresh position staked out by Mr. Chretien, he or she should reflect on one of the plainest maxims in a real democracy, i.e., the acceptance of electoral defeat by those defeated.
The defeated are out! It’s a matter of course: you lose and you are out; the winner is in.
Perhaps one might recall the federal election of 1957. John Diefenbaker’s Conservatives won more seats, 112, and 39% of the vote, whereas the incumbent Liberals with 41% of the vote got 105 seats. The Chief had neither a clear majority of the seats nor anything close to a half of the total vote. What happened? There were very few second thoughts.
Immediately after this cliffhanger, James Gardiner, a veteran Liberal minister who came from the Chief’s home province and held him in contempt, braced his cabinet colleagues. They should not resign but meet the new House and work for a deal with some MPs of the splinter parties. As one in that cabinet told me years later: “Jimmy couldn’t accept that we had been beaten. But the closeness didn’t disguise that Canadians were fed up with us. They wanted someone else. We saw Diefenbaker as a ridiculous choice but he had the mandate. Ours was gone.”
Remember this about the next referendum when it is marshalled by Lucien Bouchard with Jean Chretien still leading the federal government. This is a third try. The memories of the previous attempts under the direction of Rene Levesque and Jacques Parizeau are still vivid, particularly in Quebec.
This is so, even if the question in each case was complicated and hinged to a prospect of a “sovereignty-association” of some sort with Canada.
At the time of each vote, in retrospect, it was a blunt case of Yes or No. And last time the Yeas missed by a whisker.
It seems as obvious that next time Yes means Out and No means In, despite all the talk since October 1995 about a clearer question and the possibilities of Quebec itself as divisible, or of the sheer common sense in wanting more than a majority of a mere few thousand votes for the affirmative to trigger such an irrevocable change.
We simply cannot hide from this prospect. If Lucien Bouchard gets the mandate through a victory in a referendum on a clear question about separation, there is one clear and absolute loser: the prime minister.
One may almost say that if this loser is Jean Chretien, he is without any further credibility as head of the federal government in either Quebec or the rest of Canada. Why? Because to lose the referendum in the very constituency which led to his choice as leader of the Liberal Party is fatal.
Somewhat more than in the West, Ontario voters have believed the surest way to keep Quebec in Canada is to have a Quebecer as prime minister. It’s a very familiar thesis. After all, how else to explain that a region with a fourth of the population has provided the prime ministers for 38 of the last 50 years? If the choice has failed… kaput the choice!
To repeat what is so obvious that even the most loyal of Mr. Chretien’s backbenchers know it: it is incredible that he, a Quebec MP, could be the negotiator with the PQ during the process and the particulars of Quebec’s separation or withdrawal from Canada.
Why, even the premier of Ontario would have more credibility than a prime minister who has just blown his paramount responsibility of keeping Canada whole. Indeed, the role of the provinces, in particular the ones which have the bulk of our economic resources, will instantly become a prime issue with a victory for the Yes side in Quebec.
What groups or bodies are going to determine the post-referendum shape and constitution of what is left after Quebec’s departure?
Should it be a colloquy of the premiers, less Mr. Bouchard, or can it be done through a parliamentary rump of senatorial relics and a House of MPs, 75 of whom have just lost their country?
However unpleasant it is to say it, it is not being unkind but sensible to emphasize to Chretien and his caucus that if the next referendum in Quebec goes Yes, he will be so discredited that in the aftermath he cannot negotiate for federalism.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 07, 1997
ID: 12688429
TAG: 199712050773
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


This gift-giving season there is not a wide or deep selection of major, new books for the reader who relishes the stuff of politics.
There is just one exceptionally entertaining book – John Crosbie’s No Holds Barred – and only one capable, critical biography – The Antagonist, Lawrence Martin’s journalistic appraisal of Lucien Bouchard. Otherwise, the choices seem largely of specialized or academic treatments of particular issues or institutions.
Of course, the Crosbie and Martin books have been out for many weeks and each has been widely reviewed, mostly with favor. Each has the dynamism of deeply felt opinion and a strong bent to the judgmental. Of course, Bouchard himself is a work in progress and his biographer doesn’t deny his gifts but dislikes his aims and distrusts his judgments.
No Holds Barred is the most vivid of all the relatively recent, self-told tales of a career in politics. It’s far more vinegary than Jean Chretien’s best-seller, Straight from the Heart (1985), and as genuine a replica of a politician-as-author as a reader will get from two previous memoirs of comparable worth by former top politicians, i.e. Mitchell Sharp’s somewhat moralistic, Which Reminds Me (1994) and Jack Pickersgill’s overlong but almost as racy, Seeing Canada Whole (1993).
In the Crosbie depiction of Joey Smallwood, Newfoundland’s father of Confederation, we have a boggling depiction of a larger-than-life character, a man who dominated his province’s party and people for a generation, despite, and perhaps because of, his treacherousness and ruthless immorality.
But as outrageous at lying and deceiving as Crosbie’s Smallwood may be, this is not just a malicious caricature, although considering Joey alongside other domineering leaders like the late Maurice Duplessis, Wacky Bennett and/or John Diefenbaker makes them seem relatively fair.
Crosbie’s editor, Geoffrey Stevens, trimmed the draft manuscript of well over half its words. In short, there could readily be a sequel. If so, I would as a reader, wish the sharp Crosbie mind will focus more than he has in No Holds Barred on the practices and personalities of his original party, the federal Liberals, so often and so long our political masters.
The most disappointing of the new political books is one whose title and ambit seemed to promise much to a parliamentary buff. It’s by David C. Docherty, a political scientist at Wilfrid Laurier University, and is titled Mr. Smith Goes to Ottawa: Life in the House of Commons (UBC Press). Oh, what an earnest, repetitious affair this is, based on much surveying and interviewing of MPs in the two most recent, completed Parliaments of 1988-93, and 1993-97. Its insights all seemed obvious.
The main worth of the study is for would-be participants in federal, partisan politics. In particular, the details unveiled show aspirants their ambitions face a system whose elected members are dominated by party leaders and their apparatchiks, by and large regardless of any excellence in talent or ideas that a newly elected MP may bring to the House and a caucus.
An unexpected antidote to the drudgery of Mr. Smith came from a book I kept putting to one side because it promised so little in topicality. But eventually a closer look at the book-jacket hit this pithy sentence about the author: “Christopher Moore lives in Toronto and is not a professor.”
That beguiling assertion took me into the pleasure of 1867, subtitled How the Fathers Made a Deal (M&S). It’s a romp of a read, its purpose to illustrate “constitutional deal-making in a parliamentary democracy.” It recreates the period, the cast of persons in the colonies and in Britain, and the negotiating and legislative processes through which Canada was achieved with relative ease and speed, in such contrast to the recent constitutional failures with the Meech Lake accord and the Charlottetown agreement.
But the jewel in the book, 1867, is an unexpected “postscript” chapter titled “If we had a parliamentary democracy.” Bang! Suddenly a reader realizes what the unacademic Moore is after. He makes us realize how stultified the federal parliamentary system has become. The over-riding control by federal party leaders through party discipline and parallel masteries by provincial “first ministers” of their governments and legislatures makes for inflexible politics or as Moore puts it: “The astonishingly autocratic and consistently unsuccessful constitution-making that our first ministers have engaged in for 25 years.” He goes on:
“The efficient secret of Canada’s parliamentary government in the 1860s was its ability to incorporate in constitution-making even those it kept from power. It was an idea the 1860s were lucky to have and the 1990s desperately lacked.”
One wishes each of the caucus sheep on the Hill today will read “1867” and wonder “Why not … ?”
Two of the best buys about politics are recent reissues in paperback of books which earned praise a few years ago.
One is a “second edition with a new epilogue” of A.I. Silver’s 1982 publication titled The French-Canadian Idea of Confederation, 1864-1900 (U of T Press). It develops a persuasive argument that English Canadians should stop boggling over a recognition that Quebec has been, is, and is certain to continue to be, a “distinct society.”
In effect, Prof. Silver now thinks we must recognize this constitutionally, or sever Canada.
The other fresh issue has an excellent format from its publisher, McClelland & Stewart. Trudeau and our Times comes in two volumes: The Magnificent Obsession (1990) and The Heroic Illusion (1994). The authors are husband and wife, with Stephen Clarkson a very political professor and Christina McCall a journalist who’s sharpened, not dulled her wits in studying the Grits. As a combination, they are more pro than con about the leader whose 16 years in power, with their Charter legacy, continue to affect us so strongly. Despite such bias the prose is good, the analyses sensitive and credible and many honest doubts about the hero are well-raised.
For my own special-interest period in Canadian politics I am relishing the recall of World War II through the memory and wide research of a soldier of the army sent to the U.K. and to Europe. George Blackburn, now 80, has buttressed the best accounts by a Canadian that I have read of action-warfare in The Guns of Normandy (1995) and The Guns of Victory (1996) with this personal overview of the war from the summer of 1939 to D-Day. It’s titled Where the Hell are the Guns? The publisher is McClelland & Stewart.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 03, 1997
ID: 12240054
TAG: 199712020812
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16


Less than a month ago the Chretien cabinet and government seemed positive and set for a fair and easy run to the next budget and into the next spring.
Evidence for the above generalization was in: a) good economic figures and ever better omens for deficit reduction; b) Quebec’s cooled-out premier, Lucien Bouchard; c) the immense distraction from hard criticism of Ottawa by the tough radicalism in education and health care by the Harris government in Ontario; d) sure control by the Liberals of their own caucus despite their slight majority in the five-party House; and e) repeated intimations that the prime minister, vigorous as ever, is in for the long haul into the next century and without either leadership aspirants or imaginable cabinet rifts to naysay him.
What has happened to crack the mirror of Jean Chretien’s control and handy management?
– Stupidity in dealing with the consequences of bad labor-management relations within Canada Post.
– Failure to organize and present a coherent, sensible, explainable policy and an associated long-term program of environmental pollution control prior to the unfolding of the global gathering on greenhouse gases at Kyoto, Japan.
– Misjudging the crowd control problems at the APEC summit in Vancouver and having reaction to police excess put Chretien himself forward as hard and uncaring.
– Leaving vitality in the Airbus affair by having the minister of justice refuse to withdraw the stupid, wrong-headed letter to Swiss authorities of two years ago which asserted Brian Mulroney’s criminal chicanery in office even though the government had paid its way out of the ex-PM’s lawsuit a year ago.
– Having the PM, first in an empty gesture sever the caucus ties of Andrew Thompson, a Liberal senator for 30 years, and then, in the same old Grit way, pick two new senators – in particular one from Alberta which has a process well backed by all parties there for choosing its own senators. Meanwhile, Sen. Thompson continues to enjoy the senatorial remuneration and travel privileges while seasonally living Mexico. He has rarely been present in Ottawa at Senate sittings for over 20 years, but it has taken that long, plus many recent media revelations of senatorial absenteeism, to bring his ouster from the Grit caucus.
The post office imbroglio has been so punitive to so many innocents in business, charitable, and educational enterprises – and the way around it through legislating a process of settlement without a strike both so obvious and with many precedents – that one has to ask where the cabinet leadership was coming from that insisted the situation should go to a strike.
Obviously, it wasn’t the choice of Alfonso Gagliano, the minister responsible for the post office. Months ago he signalled he thought a postal strike would be too unfair to small businesses.
Clearly, the strike route was not the choice of Labor Minister Lawrence MacAulay, despite the nonsense he has spouted the past fortnight. It wasn’t his choice simply because he is neither that decisive nor that clued in. He’s a decent fellow, but a close rival of Diane Marleau and Sergio Marchi as ministerial dunce.
The decision seems to have been made by Chretien’s longest serving aide, Eddie Goldenberg. According to one Liberal MP, Goldenberg insisted the workers should have their strike, guided by the views of his late father, Carl Goldenberg, who was famous in his very long hey-day as an authority on labor relations and one who believed that if a union had the legal right to strike it should not be kept from it by a pre-emptive legislative act.
Although Christine Stewart, the pleasant, well-spoken minister of the environment, has carried the can on the greenhouse-gas gambit, and in doing so has seemed increasingly unsure of ever putting forward a sensible, explainable Canadian policy to the global get-together in Japan, there are more responsible villains than her in this scenario. Obviously the PMO itself and its head got into this issue too late, and there was great reluctance and remarkable confusion over both scientific and cost factors in the ministries of industry and natural resources, headed respectively by John Manley and Ralph Goodale, far more senior ministers than Stewart.
If the senatorial nonsense sprung by the Thompson boondoggle antagonizes the far western provinces where Triple-E Senate reform is so cherished, think of the confusion and the arguments, particularly in Western Canada in the next decade, over who shall be charged for the marked reductions ahead in the use of oil, gas, and coal in Canada and how this will be determined.
A month or so ago I heard Finance Minister Paul Martin concede that perhaps he and his colleagues had not been as clear and instructive in preparing the millions affected for the changes being brought forward in Parliament for the Canada Pension Plan. And he undertook to make a better fist of explaining the necessity and the scope and effects of the changes.
This was a very modest admission of less-than-adequate preparation by the government. We deserve even more of such candor for each of the stupidities referred to above – the postal strike, the pollution farce, the Airbus serial and the senatorial farce.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 30, 1997
ID: 12687203
TAG: 199711280811
SECTION: Comment/Editorial
JOHN SOPINKA with the Varsity Blues circa 1956.


For young people, the death of a man at 64, just a year short of normal retirement age, hardly suggests he had not had enough time for fulfilment or to influence his community.
John Sopinka, the justice of the Supreme Court who died last week, had done much; nonetheless, more than in any passing of a public figure I can recall, there is a huge sense of loss, of an abrupt close to strong expectations. The loss is felt particularly by those of us interested in sport – the jocks! – and by those who delight when one with splendid talents rises so swiftly from obscurity without a lot of middle class advantages.
Also, many in and around politics have fretted over our judicial system and the mind-sets of those in its highest levels, particularly since the constitutional establishment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms 15 years ago. The Charter has made our top court such an instructor and nay-sayer to the legislative and executive parts of our parliamentary system that a slate of of nine appointed judges has an authoritative advantage over the politicians we elect.
Parliament as no longer “the court of last resort” opens us up to the faddism of political correctness, if the judges lack common sense. And, as a generalization, more and more the academics who staff our law schools seem so damnably certain that all that’s needed is more progressive or liberally-minded appointees with in-depth educations in law to the higher courts. Thus, a reign of enlightenment in Canada that has been denied us will come to pass. The old constitutional system left so much to the politicians and the stodgy, secretive mandarinate which sustains them.
John Sopinka was only one of nine Supreme Court justices, but such an important one. Not so much because the talents of the other eight have been slight or wrong-headed, but because he had so much common sense and a readiness for plain talk. He would not have the judiciary at its highest level be so arcane, mysterious, or inconsistent that ordinary people were confounded, left to mumble at our plague of lawyers and the burden of ever more encumbering laws and rules.
My acquaintance with John Sopinka was never close but first sight was long ago. It came at an intermediate football game in the early ’50s at Varsity Stadium before a very sparse crowd. A slight, rather bow-legged Varsity back went back to receive a punt from the visiting team. The kick went deep but very high, letting the horde of tacklers crowd the sacred circle of five yards distance from the returner. A cruel and hopeless situation!
But the little guy scuttled sideways, pivoted back, dodged and ducked and sidled. Suddenly some off-balance tacklers were sprawling and a few were pursuing this rabbity halfback up and across the field and out of bounds untouched for a run of over 60 yards. Wow!
I turned to the chap beside me, a member of Varsity’s senior team and asked: “Who’s that?”
He replied: “A transfer from Queen’s who can’t play for the big team this year but will next. His name is John Sopinka and he’s smart, smart, smart.”
A jock doesn’t forget such a dazzling mite. In the next few years John Sopinka was doing amazingly well for his size with Varsity, and then with the Argos and Alouettes while he became a lawyer.
Politics interplays with law, and as I followed the first I kept hearing of those athletes in law who were doing well, like John Turner and Roy McMurtry. By the mid-’60s John Sopinka was becoming a legend among Ontario lawyers and the many jocks who weren’t lawyers.
He was a polymath! Fit and quick. Still deft at any game. A capable but unpretentious musician. Superb on his feet in the courts. Getting bigger cases; being mentioned as a coming Robinette or G. Arthur Martin or as a sporting Bud Estey. Always there was the emphasis: “This is a good guy, not a jerk.” Adroit in argument, assiduous in research and broad-minded on social and cultural issues. All this without a cap of personal arrogance – the stock curse of clever lawyers.
He took with equanimity both his successes such as his counsel for nurse Susan Nelles at the Grange inquiry into infant deaths at Sick Kids and his relative failure when representing former cabinet minister Sinclair Stevens before what I consider a half-baked kangaroo court of an inquiry in which its head, a judge, let his commission’s chief counsel run awry.
When the Mulroney government put John Sopinka into the Supreme Court nine years ago as a replacement for Bud Estey (who was retiring early), I recall my enthusiasm, not least because here was surely a counterweight to the left-wing and very expensive (to the taxpayer) tilt of Justice Bertha Wilson. And I recall the exasperation of one law school dominie at the choice of one who went straight to the top court without experience on any bench or as a law school professor.
Subsequent to the Sopinka appointment, as a columnist and as a TV interviewer I talked at length with him on four occasions. Each ended with me full of enthusiasm for his directness and candor. He had the gift of being positive without putting down other judges or lawyers or even any politicians or reporters. He relished his work, his recreations, his family, his friends, his ethnic heritage, and his country. Further, he wrote more popularly phrased articles and speeches than any other supreme court judge, including Brian Dickson or the late Bora Laskin or the incumbent chief justice, Antonio Lamer.
To my mind the most important issue he raised in this way is the over-use and misuse and abuse by government-appointed commissions of inquiry. He emphasized how inquiries were increasingly used as devices to hoist or delay tough issues for politicians in power.
Lord knows we have enough immediate examples of the fantastic costs and delays, the reckless blighting of reputations and the bonanzas in publicly paid fees for lawyers: in the Somalia inquiry; the tainted blood supply inquiry; the reproductive technology inquiry and so on.
John Sopinka noted that what is so wretched about many inquiries as they develop is their inadequacies in protecting required witnesses as courts do, plus the often intense focus of the media, TV in particular, which fosters intense speculation of relatively uninformed opinion about people without defences who are drawn in because of the broad and often stretched mandates of an inquiry.
A challenge which John Sopinka wanted governments and their oppositions to face was less use of inquiries, with a preference for disposing of the issues by means of committees or panels of elected politicians or, in some cases, by direct references to courts or through formal charges.
As we regret the tragedy of John Sopinka’s death, with so much left he could have done, let us hope his replacement fits well with the blunt aphorism of law left us by the late Oliver Wendell Holmes of the U.S. Supreme Court: “Law is what the court will do next.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 26, 1997
ID: 12239236
TAG: 199711250646
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 12
The Queen’s Own Rifles storm the beaches at Bernieres-sur-Mer as part of the Canadian forces landing on D-Day in this O.D. Fisher painting.


Once again veterans of World War II hear of their inadequacies. The criticism is by Irving Abella, past-president of the Canadian Jewish Congress. His article in the Globe and Mail (Nov. 22) begins:
“Canadian war veterans are doing themselves an injustice when they reject the construction of a small Holocaust section in a revamped Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Canadian servicemen and women were instrumental in the fight against Nazism, and helped in the liberation of inmates from slave-labor and concentration camps.
“Frankly,” writes Abella, “both as a historian and someone with the the highest regard for the contributions of our veterans, I have been dismayed by the harsh tone of the criticism.”
Frankly, as a former volunteer soldier in World War II, I feel the criticism of inserting a Holocaust memorial into the war museum wasn’t “harsh.” It bothers me more, however, that a proclaimed historian seems insensitive to the many trials of veterans’ patience since they came home from fighting the fascists, such as the scant funds and promotion supplied by the federal government to the war museum. It’s been the “sad sack” outfit, in contrast to the National Gallery and the museums of civilization, science and technology and aviation.
The vets of World War II have had repeated slights and oversights in the half-century since they served. The contributions of Canadians, in particular those who fought in what most of them saw as a war to save humanity, have been so often downplayed or dramatized as disasters. In the military realm, Canada in World War II is portrayed so often as rife with poor planning, high losses and arbitrary acts.
Our historians tell us the real wartime triumphs were achieved in some part by political leaders who kept unity going, but mainly by able mandarins who counselled the federal ministers, managed resources and manpower and laid the basis for national health, welfare and employment policies while extending transport, communications and manufacturing.
And sometimes shoddy actions mirrored public bigotry, such as moving Japanese Canadians off the B.C. coast at the lowest ebb of Allied fortunes. What some thought sensible and legal in early 1942 became a postwar crusade for redress and a national apology, both of which came a decade ago.
One should also recall the view of Canadians at war in recent CBC and NFB productions (like the McKenna brothers’ The Valor and the Horror) or in books by historians J.L. Granatstein and John English on Canadian generalship in World War II.
Again and again any positive retrospective in Canada on what the volunteers for the army, navy and air force did at war has been buffeted by postwar developments and altered critical values.
Of course, the postwar Liberal governments had no wish to continue the mighty war effort as a national myth because of the divisive rancor rising from the reinforcement crisis of 1944. Why commemorate achievements in war when so many voters in Quebec had had so little commitment to it?
Postwar diplomats like Lester Pearson and Escott Reid took leading parts in the formation of the UN and NATO, becoming advocates of peacekeeping when clashes in the Middle East occurred. A new myth emerged: that Canadians were naturals at keeping peace, not in making war, and without peacekeepers civilization was threatened by the atomic bomb.
NATO was created to stem Stalin’s USSR in what became 45 years of the Cold War. The rapid shift of the USSR from wartime ally to dread menace roused considerable cynicism on what the “good war” had accomplished, not least in Canada after the spy scandals revealed by Igor Gouzenko’s defection.
The creation of Israel after the war owed much to the literally awful revelations about the Holocaust that became overwhelming in the 1950s. The infamy of this calculated massacre of European Jews by the Nazis became an emotional underpinning for Israel and help for its launch and survival.
The evidence from the Holocaust showed the Allied nations had done less than they could have to save Jewish lives. It was now clear that anti-Semitism before and early in the war was a factor in Canada’s denial of a haven to German Jews. By the 1960s the Holocaust had become both the dominating wrong of the World War II period and a default in the Canadian conscience. The victory in battle which Canadians shared came too late for so many Jews.
In the late 1960s a broader immigration program segued into a new national policy of multiculturalism. This gave equal value to every ethnicity’s heritage. Canada, now a global model, was disconnecting from the British heritage of parliamentary institutions and law. A fairly new theory of “two founding peoples” was abruptly widened to include the contributions made, and to come, of peoples from across the globe – and for many of them the Canadian war effort was meaningless.
Many today forget the quick transformation of Quebec’s French-speaking society from a conservative enclave fenced by Roman Catholicism to liberal secularism. A protective bent to a defensive autonomy became a proud movement for self-determination. To repeat, the Quebecois shared little in memories of deeds done together in World War II.
Finally, Irving Abella, critic of veterans, should think about the half-million war vets still alive. They keep remembrance of lost comrades and an often understated pride in what they and their units or ships and squadrons did. Set their present mind-set beside the postwar developments that cribbed or minimalized their roles, in particular the revisionist and peace-centred focus on what had gone wrong, not on what had gone well.
Is it so strange that some of them think the Holocaust should not be the centrepiece of Canada’s war museum (as it would)?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 23, 1997
ID: 12238537
TAG: 199711210545
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


What a useful decoy Premier Harris is for Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
Except for the first months of a mandate a government is always under close scrutiny and attack. But much real criticism of the Chretien government by the opposition and interest groups has been cushioned or dwarfed because of the high and very bitter attention the Harris government in Ontario has been drawing for its major recasting of the health and education systems and of relations with municipal governments.
Let’s bypass for a few paragraphs the bumbling and bungling of the second Chretien ministry. Now in its sixth month, it ambles along in contrast to the Harris juggernaut.
It may be because so many of my contacts through phone and mail are beyond Ottawa, but I cannot recall a time — not even during Bob Rae’s days as premier – when so many want to talk “province” and not “Canada.” And the divisions in opinion I meet are wider and deeper than I can ever recall. Everyone seems to have been shook up. Everyone seems to have a viewpoint, usually with his or her own immediacy in some concrete local or regional examples.
The rough measure I make is that a fair majority of citizens is angry over the reforms, or confused by them. Yet there is less personal hostility toward the premier and his government than one might gather from all the arranged and spontaneous theatrics of marches and confrontations. Perhaps this is because he is so ordinary and simplistic in purpose.
I find the deepest, and also the most querulous, political concern in Ontario is not about education but over the health system, centring around the immense shakeup and shake-down in hospitals. This agonizes much more than Bill 160 and the wrongs raised by the teachers’ unions.
Also, there is a Metro Toronto syndrome in what seems to be an overplay of both the outrage against the government and the public support for the teachers. In the vast hinterland beyond the great metropolis there is considerably more support for Harris’ determination to buck up the education system than there is for closing or telescoping hospitals. On the teachers’ issue I find a lot of support for primary school teachers and very little for high school teachers. Those belligerents who declaim on behalf of the OSSTF have put many future votes in the ballot box for the Mike Harris government as they remind the middle-aged of such past titans of the picket lines as Jean Claude Parrot, Joe Davidson and Hal Banks.
The sleeper of the three huge issues created by Harris in the sense of making or breaking his chances for re-election in the next two years may not be from angry teachers or worries about delays and shortfalls in medical treatment, but from municipal restructuring. If this results next year and in 1999 in substantially higher municipal tax bills it will be exit Harris, enter Dalton McGuinty.
Insofar as the Harris circus in Ontario goes, the province is merely a part of federal Canada. But because Toronto is so overwhelmingly the centre of both news organizations and public relations outfits for English Canada, those outside Ontario have had what must seem a surfeit of Harris and his revolution and less than there might have been on Chretien, Preston Manning, Jean Charest and Alexa McDonough.
In Ottawa, the ministry has been shining in only a few of its parts. On the whole it has been most unexciting despite its freshness and the growing evidence Chretien intends to stay beyond this second mandate won last spring.
One of the few flashes of light from Ottawa this year has been the rapid rise as worthy combatants of Quebec separatism of the two bright fellows the PM recruited early in 1996, Stephane Dion and Pierre Pettigrew. In particular, it’s been rather delightful following Dion’s transition from a rather fey and often erudite academic into a terrier chewing at the PQ and BQ and also an unapologetic advocate in English Canada of Quebec’s uniqueness in the federation.
One wants to commend Dion and Pettigrew for their forwardness as ministers because so many of their colleagues “stonewall” and brag, often in the same remarks, in clear imitation of the prime minister, who relishes constant counter-attack against the Reformers and their ideas or with the legacy of Brian Mulroney. He rarely makes a direct and fair reply, and his cabinet mimics him – although most of them smirk more at their evasions than he does.
The top ministers in demonstrating total assurance with little in accompanying substance are such Toronto MPs as Art Eggleton, David Collenette, Allan Rock and Jim Peterson, and, much of the time, Montrealer Paul Martin Jr. and B.C.’s David Anderson, now fisheries minister.
There is such slight substance in the responses of Liberal ministers on so many matters that the oral question period is almost a complete charade.
In rejecting any consideration of bad judgment and mismanagement the ministers reek confidence without a speck of humility, even though the legislative schedule is wispy in major intentions aside from the radical changes proposed in the levy on individuals and employers in order to save the Canada Pension Plan.
So the widespread outcry over the reforms being pressed by the Harris government has weakened the judgmental focus on the much newer Chretien government. Give the latter points for almost ending annual deficits, and to a real but lesser degree for dulling the edge of Lucien Bouchard and the separatists.
Beyond this we have not much to respect or applaud in Ottawa, but we do have lots of screwups to lament. Take the postal strike, or the global warming confusions, or the sleazy evasions over responsibility for the Airbus affair, or the salmon war with the U.S., or the continuing, substantial overcharging for employment insurance, or the buildup of court decisions on aboriginal affairs that have put in doubt the longer range future of the forestry and mining industries.
Perhaps we should wait until outrage over Harris dies down before expecting much real stuff from the Chretien crew. And it was obvious last week that Chretien can still be forceful. He booted Sen. Andrew Thompson from his caucus. Someone must have tipped him off although a lot of us on the Hill have known that the absentee senator was in his 31st year of pay and perqs without a modicum of participation in Senate work.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 19, 1997
ID: 12237404
TAG: 199711180653
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 12
JACK PICKERSGILL in 1955 photo. Longtime Liberal adviser died last week at 92


The liveliest, most cunning and partisan politician I have observed was not John Diefenbaker or John Crosbie. It was Jack Pickersgill, who died last week at 92.
Jack was hardly forgotten but he was no longer vivid to today’s politics and journalism. So it goes. The mighty and the luminous, even of several generations, fade away and new voices and crises arise.
Jack, or “Pick” as he was tagged on Parliament Hill, had significant roles as historian-author, top bureaucratic mandarin, cabinet minister, very partisan MP and, of course, as adviser to three Liberal prime ministers for some 25 years.
From 1937-77 Jack was at or near the centre of federal Ottawa. He began as aide to a prime minister and closed out as czar of a national transportation agency he himself created as a minister. He begat many legislative initiatives: a broader postwar immigration policy; the steady reduction of railway passenger service; bringing Newfoundland into Canada; a rational system for redistributing House seats.
In opposition, he master-minded the decline and fall of a huge majority government won by Diefenbaker’s Tories in 1958 through a critical tour-de-force in the House, month after month for five years.
To sketch Pick for those who never saw him in action, he had some real similarities to John Crosbie: high intelligence, a fine education, a zeal for argument, a fluid writing style and he was a glib, frank and entertaining talker. The big contrast in the two men lies in partisan dedication. Jack was as total and thorough a capital “L” Liberal as one could imagine whereas John began in politics as such but swerved to the Tories after choking on the cupidities of Jack’s alter ego in Newfoundland, Liberal Premier Joe Smallwood.
Another point of contrast between the men: John never readily suffered fools or simpletons, whether outside or within his party, whereas Jack could stomach almost any loyal Liberal. Once, in the mid-1960s, then-PM Lester Pearson elevated to cabinet a backbencher from Quebec whose good nature somewhat excused his slow mind. I asked Jack: “How could your boss do this? You’ve a horde of bright MPs eager to rise and he chooses a near-cretin?”
And Jack gave me his wisdom, just like this: “Fisher, realize that you’re now in partisan politics, not shepherding a class of teenage pupils. This cabinet already has too many would-be brain-trusters. So has the PMO. This is a smart choice. The man is reliable. He has eight kids, his parents had a dozen – all good citizens, good Catholics, good Liberals. He has an excellent deputy-minister and, thank God, he’ll never prolong a cabinet meeting.”
Despite his devotion to the imperative of keeping the Liberals in and the Tories out, Jack could be cruel in his considered judgment of some Liberals, though nothing like as severe as with Diefenbaker, whom he was still describing, years after he left electoral politics as a “truth-twisting four-flusher.”
Some years after Pierre Trudeau retired, Jack summed him up as “short on common sense, particularly about Quebecers.” He once told me that Walter Gordon, a former cabinet colleague, was a menace to the party because “his political judgments run to foolishness.” He also told me he had never met a more arrogant and self-righteous politician in his life than Clyde Wells (as the premier of Newfoundland whose actions wrecked the Meech Lake accord). And no friend of Keith Davey can forget Jack’s savage review of The Rainmaker, the senator’s memoir. He summed it up as “the trivial outpouring of a shallow mind.”
Jack revered Louis St. Laurent as a man and as a prime minister much more than he did other Liberal PMs he saw up close and at length – William Lyon Mackenzie King, Pearson and Trudeau. King was shrewd and very focused on keeping office but a petty human being, whereas St. Laurent was thoroughly decent and good. The late Paul Martin, Sr., once joshed to me that Jack’s worship of St. Laurent owed much to the part he had had in guiding this late-comer to eminence and sticking by him as chief adviser.
Future biographers of Jack Pickersgill will have a devil of a time sizing up his roles and their influence on Canada. He himself has written so much about his life and times, much of it as acerbic as his open personality as a politician. And his flair for extreme partisanship had a high content of hypocrisy, meaning he was unlovable to many, especially the moralists.
This point became vivid as I read “farewell to Pick” columns by Peter Newman, and the late Charles Lynch, W.A. Wilson and Arthur Blakely when Jack left cabinet in the fall of 1967. He was too much the absolute Liberal for them. But Jack didn’t give a damn for criticism by the press. He had a thick skin, and needed it, because he was never without belittlers. I never heard him whine about the press, nor did he play to it for attention. Maybe this was because he never had the ultimate ambition to be prime minister.
Jack Pickersgill was clever, had prodigious energy and relished dispute. And he liked French Canadians. As a parliamentarian he was a peer to both the Chief and Stanley Knowles. I think he rates alongside C.D. Howe as being more responsible for the shape and quality of our political economy in this century than any prime minister but Mackenzie King. Indeed, King’s choice and use of such contrasting characters as “Pick” and “C.D.” defines his political genius.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 16, 1997
ID: 12236481
TAG: 199711140592
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


An old axiom of the federal Liberal establishment that took shape in its long run in office from 1935-57 is: “Never hang a senior civil servant out to dry.”
Let me use a recent example of this in order to help you understand the Somalia affair.
When Prime Minister Jean Chretien preens about his government’s constancy of purpose in the face of criticism, he usually cites its maintenance of a tough fiscal line. A more troubling example for a citizen is its unwavering support of the military status quo.
No other department has caused the Chretien government as much embarrassment as national defence. During the Somalia commission’s hearings it seemed every day brought another tale of stupidity, incompetence and shirked bureaucratic responsibility involving those at the top.
The commission’s premature termination did not end the revelations of military misconduct, as senior officers have since been accused of commanding ships and aircraft while impaired, and of misappropriating funds.
The latest shocker is that all of DND’s senior managers were recommended for bonuses despite this litany of poor performances.
Throughout all this the PM has blocked attempts to hold senior departmental officials (military and civilian) accountable. All three of his defence ministers have been shills for the hapless generals, bitterly attacking the military’s critics, presumably on his orders.
The Chretien Liberals are paying a high political price for this. Why, then, this spirited defence of incompetence?
Long ago Chretien and his advisers determined that the risks posed by airing the department’s dirty laundry and holding accountable the senior officials responsible far outweighed those of muddling through.
During the 1993 election campaign the Liberals had undertaken to examine the deaths of Somalis at Canadians’ hands. On taking office they tried to pass this off with a series of internal investigations, but embarrassing details kept surfacing after ministerial assurances that the latest examination had resolved all outstanding issues. Eventually, the PM had to set up the commission of inquiry.
But with its creation the government faced a dilemma: those responsible for Somalia, including whatever coverup might have taken place, were the very people it relied upon for day-to-day advice and support.
What might senior DND officials do if they found themselves stripped of their traditional anonymity, exposed to public humiliation and their minister failed to support them? (A hint! Think of the Al-Mashat case and what happened to the Mulroney government after it chastened Raymond Chretien, a senior diplomat.)
People outside politics rarely realize how dependent ministers are on their officials, and their vulnerability should officials take revenge for the breaking of what senior officials see as an article of faith – that ministers carry the can for departmental screw-ups.
To an old hand like Jean Chretien, the dangers were (and remain) all too obvious.
There were other problems. Many of those most intimately associated with events in Somalia had been appointed to new positions by the Chretien government. If they were disgraced by the commission, the government’s own judgment would be questioned. And, worst of all, if the commission found a coverup, by definition it had continued on into the Liberals’ watch – and Chretien & Co. had failed to deal with it.
The PM tried to defuse these mines through the commission’s original mandate, which limited the investigation to the period prior to the Liberals taking office. He also appointed to the commission Ann Marie Doyle from foreign affairs, who just happened to be a friend and protege of Bob Fowler, the former deputy minister of the department and certainly its most exposed official.
The intentions were clear: any egg-splatter turned up at national defence headquarters would be worn by the previous Tory government, and the bureaucratic niceties would be observed – i.e. no senior officials would be singled out for public criticism.
However, this less-than-subtle attempt to fix the results of the inquiry before it even began drew fierce media and opposition ridicule. The government temporarily retreated, announcing the commission’s investigation would be open and unfettered and Doyle was dropped.
But this was not to be. The commission could not be allowed to examine a possible coverup, and its premature termination was almost inevitable.
Today the Somalia commission is well and truly dead, yet the new minister of defence continues to bluster at his critics in a manner reminiscent of his bloody-minded predecessor, Doug Young.
Art Eggleton may honestly believe the best way to rebuild the morale at NDHQ is by showing them he is with them.
But there is a more disturbing undercurrent at work here, one that explains why the government was not, and is not, more alarmed at the disastrous state of the armed forces.
Unlike the military’s most cogent and passionate critics (many of whom once served in it), the PM and his minister see no real need for an effective, combat-capable military. They’d be satisfied if it just managed to stay off the front pages, for then they could go back to using it for the only purposes they (and, apparently, most Canadians) can imagine it serving: spreading economic benefits around the country, while showing the flag abroad via heartwarming peacekeeping operations.
But as the continuing scandals show, even this modest goal seems to be beyond the department’s current management.
We must not expect any real accountability soon because the department’s political masters still view that as too risky a proposition.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 12, 1997
ID: 12235362
TAG: 199711110842
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 12
THEY SCORE … Colorado Avalanche forward Peter Forsberg puts one past Edmonton’s Curtis Joseph during last year’s NHL playoffs. The Nordiques left Quebec City for Denver in 1995 and it seems likely the Edmonton franchise will soon be leaving Canada.


There was more immediate criticism than acclaim for the recent launching of a federal sports study, in particular of hockey as a Canadian dilemma.
Reform MPs reacted as though this task was frivolous and affronted the sacred principles of free enterprise. Even Gordie Howe, not the most articulate of our heroes, thought this initiative wasn’t a chore for politicians, although he did agree pro hockey in Canada has severe problems.
Dennis Mills, the politician who got the study under way under the rubric of the House heritage committee, is in his third term. I’m not alone in admiring his liveliness and drive. The Liberal MP from Broadview and the Danforth is more than mere hockey fan. Most recently he led the revival of the St. Michael’s College team in top-level junior hockey.
I would concede that the core purpose of this study Mills has sparked seems quixotic in the extreme. It is to find ways and means to sustain the healthy survival of now tenuous NHL franchises in Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa, mindful of ones lately lost in Quebec and Winnipeg.
As one who has worked on five previous studies of sport in which hockey figured a lot, let me argue several points to those who think Mills and company are into a field politicians and governments should leave alone.
First, Mills is “on the net” in emphasizing hockey in our country is more than the prime sporting enthusiasm. It is a huge business in terms of spending, jobs and the involvement every year of several million of us.
House committees have examined the part governments should have in gun control, in helping the performing arts, in promoting multiculturalism and in backing federal cultural agencies like the CBC and the Canada Council. Then why not have a sub-committee examine a national obsession that is also a many-faceted enterprise with grave problems? Why should hockey be deemed non-political?
Second, there are precedents galore of governmental involvement in sport, including colossal spending. The history of such goes back many decades, occurring in each order of government – federal, provincial and municipal – and in every part of the country.
In a huge joint involvement of three governments, over $3 billion went into a single, sporting enterprise that lasted less than a fortnight. The costs of the 1976 Summer Olympics are still burdening taxpayers in Quebec and in Montreal.
Try to find an ice rink or an arena from coast to coast that hasn’t had much of its capital costs covered by a government. After World War II, as an act of remembrance, Premier Leslie Frost of Ontario backed the building of scores of rinks. Much later, the David Peterson and Bob Rae governments underwrote much of the SkyDome’s costs.
To recount such intrusions (and infusions) by governments is not to praise or advocate them. Many, like the Montreal Olympics, were downright stupid and riots of waste. And that well could be a task of the Mills committee – sorting out the score, the hits and misses, the costs and the gains, of so much governmental backing for sport, and in particular for hockey.
And what better region to begin with than the one most identified with respect for free enterprise – the land of Peter Pocklington, a region with very positive deeds as hosts of Commonwealth and Olympic Games at a considerable dollar cost to all of us in federal grants. Even our most frugal province and our most frugal city – Manitoba and Winnipeg – threw millions into a failed effort to keep an NHL franchise.
The committee should push beyond means to counter the difficulties of NHL franchises. In large part these stem from the mix of a disadvantageous Canadian dollar (which is unlikely to change) and the increasingly high players’ salaries, sparked by franchises in big American cities that have revenues beyond those possible in Canada from TV and merchandising.
Let the committee start by obtaining a succinct understanding of past and present involvement of all orders of government in all sport, from hockey to horse racing to yachting, but including tax deductions, grants, subsidies and facilities.
Get the good and the bad stories so taxpayers can judge how they’ve been tagged for sport.
Are there any rules of thumb for guidance beyond caution in putting substantial help into pro sporting enterprises?
How solid and durable is the recent, fantastic expansion of professional hockey in the U.S.? The competition for viewers and spectators is fierce between baseball, basketball, football, soccer and hockey. Is it sensible to wait and be cautious, assuming there must soon be a monster shake-out as choices proliferate? Perhaps in a few years an NHL franchise might fit Winnipeg again, or even a full Canadian conference within an international NHL. Is a truly national (but professional) league of junior hockey teams possible as an alternative focus to Canadians vicariously following American hockey clubs?
Would it not be useful for the Mills committee to search for some practicalities in getting the costs down and participation extended through more years in the huge base of recreational hockey – for girls and boys and adults unto oldtimers? Hundreds of thousands of us are involved each year; literally we spend billions. Critical as one may be of our most obvious common denominator (yes, Quebec aussi) hockey is worth an examination, even one that concludes an NHL franchise is not a good measure of a city’s worth.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 09, 1997
ID: 12234646
TAG: 199711071112
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


As children in school in the 1920s much was put before us each November about Armistice Day and its meaning. We heard or read about the bravery and suffering of the thousands of Canadians killed and wounded in the Great War against Germany. We tried not to fidget as we stood in silence after the striking of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. This was a memorable occasion.
Seven decades later it is repeated in our schools, of course with much less about King, Country and Empire or on the once hopeful theme of “the war to end wars.”
Most times there would be an adult neighbor in our classroom or hall who had served in the trenches of this grim war. Did the ceremony mean much to us as children? Were there positive consquences from the minute of silence, the joint chanting of In Flanders Fields, the making of the poppies we would wear for the day?
At the least it briefly put before us a slice of Canadian history, of Canadians focused together for a long period on aims beyond the domestic and the continental. It put content into what we took for granted — that is, being Canadian and getting a sense of patriotism.
Whether or not the event each November was more of myth than absolute truth, it placed Canada in world history. We could be proud of the deeds done together or singly by Canadians like Billy Bishop or Will Bird or nurse Edith Cavell.
And yet, because we had not lived during it or known those who hadn’t come home from it, the Great War had little immediacy for us in terms of soldiers, sailors and airmen, and somehow as the years rolled by, into the 1930s, we came to realize that the war had not settled much internationally. So, more and more, the emphasis in November was on the tragic cost in lives and disabilities of the war and less and less on the great victory and the wonders of peace.
And we came to know in high school something of the rip in Canadian unity caused by the Great War. High losses brought conscription and opposition, nigh to insurrection, in Quebec. French Canadians never had much enthusiasm or patriotic fervor for what so many of them saw as Britain’s war, even if both the causes and the battleground pivoted on France.
Through so much of the two decades between World Wars I and II our federal government was led by Mackenzie King, a very cautious but canny prime minister. One might say his enthusiasm was more for keeping himself and his Liberal party in office through an adroit use of French Canadian distaste for foreign wars and not for trying to have Canada as a big player internationally — on its own, or even within the British Empire and Commonwealth.
Another consequence of both King’s caution and frugality and the Great Depression was a near total unpreparedness for war in terms of trained and equipped forces.
A book of essays published in 1996, titled A Country of Limitations: Canadians and the World in 1939, demonstrates how unready we were for war, except in terms of a general resolve in English Canada to follow Britain’s lead in at last confronting Hitler and Nazi Germany.
The book was prepared by the Canadian Committee for the History of the Second World War, and a few months ago the same committee published a second book of essays, Uncertain Horizons: Canadians and their World in 1945. That is, where we were; then where we got to.
I wish that each November’s recollections in our schools made use of these two paperbacks, plus a third, larger effort published in 1995, titled The Good Fight: Canadians and World War II, edited by J.L. Granastein and Peter Neary.
Why such a wish? May my explanation not offend those, mostly in late middle age or older for whom remembrance at this time is of loved ones who did not come home or came home maimed.
In my childhood, looking at our visiting veterans, I never thought that decades later I would be one, a veteran of an army that fought a second time in Europe against the Germans. But as more and more Remembrance Days have come and gone I have found myself dividing its signficance into two rather distinct elements.
Of course, there is the personal, the intimate. How could I not remember and mourn in my mind the six pals with whom I fished, swam, hunted and skated in our teens? One drowned when HMCS Athabaskan sank off the Channel coast; one with the Winnipeg Rifles was killed on the beach on D-Day; two are buried near Ruhr cities they were bombing; and two were in a B-24 Liberator which disappeared in the Indian Ocean. Each and all are large in my recall, as are the close regimental comrades who were killed in battle.
When I recall those Armistice days of long ago I know there was little of such poignancy for us as children. I think remembrance of the fallen should be primarily for those who knew them or were of their generation. Meanwhile, for children and young people and the generations without personal experience of Canada at war, Remembrance Day should or could recall much more of what Canadians did collectively, and of course, poitically, economically and culturally in the wars.
It is impossible to read the three paperbacks I referred to without realizing how much only 11 million Canadians did together in “the good war” and how they emerged from it so much stronger and more diversified in institutions, skills, products, schooling, culture and recreations, with an entwined readiness and confidence to be bolder in the world as a whole. Despite the much lamented and often exaggerated disasters at Hong Kong and Dieppe and the Northern Atlantic or the crisis over conscription in the winter of 1944-45, we came so far, we did so much, and we did it together.
And this, I argue, we should focus on remembering on Nov. 11: We did it. We did so much of it well. We kept together. And we can do it again. Not, one prays, in wars, but fortified by the legacy created for us in and following the war of 1939-45.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 05, 1997
ID: 12233419
TAG: 199711040723
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


If you’re interested in those elected to Parliament and the provincial legislatures in terms of their pay, pensions and allowances for travel, accommodation and research, the 11th edition of the handiest analysis of such matters is in from the U of T Press. There’s little in this compilation on partisan politics but much on the terms under which members meet and work.
The book, Fleming’s Canadian Legislatures, 1997, is edited by Robert J. Fleming (the series’ founder) and J.E. Glenn. Eleven other researchers, singly or in pairs, contributed concise essays.
Fleming compiled the first edition in 1979 in frustration at the dearth of usable information about the pay and services for parliamentarians. It’s not exaggerating the effect of his series to credit it with improving the quality of services which legislators have provided for themselves in all our jurisdictions. The series has sharpened awareness inside politics that Canada has a bewildering diversity in pay, pensions and perqs.
One unique essay is by Erik Spicer, the Librarian of Parliament from 1960 to 1994. His survival in this office is a largely unknown miracle within federal politics. Why? He was plucked from a post as deputy-librarian of Ottawa by Tory prime minister John Diefenbaker.
Literally dozens of ambitious Liberal politicians, either for themselves or for friends, had their eyes on this post throughout the Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau years.
As soon as the Chief was defeated we heard in Hill buzz that Spicer would be also be out. When he continued on, the usual explanation was that Pearson wanted no part of the fuss his highly vocal rival would create if Spicer had been fired. Within a decade of the Chief losing office in 1963 every appointment he had made to the senior federal bureaucracy from outside its ranks had been bounced — except Erik Spicer. He was to go on and on.
The core reason, I think, was the high quality and frugality of his administration, notable at a time when both the House and Senate spending was skyrocketing and staff numbers were climbing unchecked. These weren’t checked until the mid-1970s when the auditor general of Canada stuck his nose into the Hill and everywhere found waste and rackets — except in the Library of Parliament.
Some dodgy mandarins in the PMO tried to embarrass Spicer into resignation by seeing he was denied raises due because of his position and the good work he was doing. Once they even had his deputy librarian earning considerably more than he, even though the deputy was not a professional librarian.
Spicer tells the story of his longevity in office without either sketching his difficulties in staying the course or naming those who tried to do him in. The story is one of careful but repeated innovations to give MPs, ministers and their staffs, and the committees of the House, the instant services on call for their individual and joint ambitions. In my first House as an MP in 1957 the library had two reference librarians of ability; by 1977 it had over 60, most with specific expertise.
The strongest critical thesis in this issue of the book is by its leading editor. With force but without rancor Fleming makes the case against what he calls “gold-plated pensions.” He also makes dignified fun of the Ottawa penchant for having pay and perqs of MPs reviewed by experts or by former parliamentarians but rarely accepting their major recommendations.
An essay that made me uneasy about my ignorance of computers is by David Taras, a teacher at the University of Calgary, and titled: “The new and old worlds: media coverage and legislative politics in Canada.” His case is that largely unnoticed, and with remarkable speed, the newer media are sliding into coverage of politics. As he puts it: “The revolution in cable and satellite television, with the `500 channel universe,’ on-line media, talk radio and television, and late- night TV are all part of the new realities of politics.”
More and more politicians have their own home pages and websites. More and more younger people are getting much of their politics from the Internet. New media rarely drive out the old, but the old adjusts, as TV and papers are trying to do with e-mail, faxes and bulletin-board style news. Anyone who travels the continent knows that few regions of the U.S. offer more choices in the coverage of politics by the new and old media than does Canada.
In Orwell’s 1984, the authorities, or “Big Brother,” were always watching citizens. Today you might say citizens are always watching their politicians. Taras touches briefly on the effect on political journalists of the new media, for example, in beginning to break down the raison d’etre of pack journalism or in reporters “travelling” without leaving their computers. In this he has a core for a fascinating book.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 02, 1997
ID: 12232707
TAG: 199711010299
SECTION: Comment/Editorial
ILLUSTRATION: photo by Reuters
PRINCIPLED PRAGMATISM? … Lloyd Axworthy’s explanation of Liberal policies is one that can be twisted in all directions.


Ever hear of “principled pragmatism”?
The phrase encapsules what Lloyd Axworthy, a long-time Liberal minister and openly on the humanitarian side of his party, says he is doing internationally as our minister responsible for foreign affairs. A few weeks ago he made a highminded and quite academic speech to McGill University titled: “Human Rights and Canadian Foreign Policy: Principled Pragmatism.”
When one begins to analyze the phrase it immediately strikes one as paradoxical or even contradictory but it does give a lofty tone to Liberal deeds and Liberal intentions. The phrase is a marvellous cover, even a send-up of political behavior which is slick and shameless; yes, that is without shame.
Consider some examples of the Chretien government figuratively dodging out of its own fiascos without a hint of apology or embarrassment.
First, take the Airbus fiasco, including its shock this week, with a key Mountie suddenly not a Mountie and the case closed on how the federal case against Brian Mulroney as a supposed grafter was blown.
Of course, the federal fiasco over modern, safe helicopters rolls on, as it has for four years. With a prideful blandness the current defence minister, Art Eggleton, assures the House there is no substance to any of the nasty questions about the decisions made and the costs incurred in cancelling the contract signed by the Mulroney government or about the fact that his officials in defence seem to be recommending purchase of the very aircraft in the cancelled contract.
The Pearson airport contract was also busted four years ago, but the need for airport expansion has not been met in any major way and the costs to compensate those deprived of the contract have been very high. Nonetheless, the principled Liberals are very pragmatic, refusing to concede an iota of bad judgment in breaking the contracts or poor management of the files in clearing away this decision and getting on with the expansion.
It was both pragmatic and open politics to turn military misbehavior in Somalia over to a formal federal inquiry. It also seems to have been pragmatic (although not so principled) to have summarily shut down the inquiry before it was completed. It may console some that the prime minister and his defence minister assure us now everything now is for the best in the military.
A fortnight ago a Liberal fund-raiser in Quebec was charged in a hurry with toll-gating contractors once the word was out about his requests for funds. When the matter was under investigation the ministers concerned said anything they said might harm the effectiveness of the investigation. Once the charges were made, the same ministers would not explain who amongst them had directed or allowed such acquisition of party funds. They cried “sub judice” and as honorable men, respectful of the courts, they could not talk about their roles in this affair, although the assumption they seemed to suggest is that they know nothing about such low antics.
Principled pragmatism seems the perfect phrase to sum up the character and processes of the Chretien government.
In my short dictionary PRAGMATISM is defined as “The quality or condition of being pragmatic, or practical and matter-of-fact; or a philosophy that tests the values and truths of ideas by their practical consequences.”
Digest that. Practical! Matter-of-fact! Surely not pie-in-the-sky. Do what will work.
Now look at the meaning of PRINCIPLED: “Showing, characterized by, or based on, high moral principle.”
See the wrench or twist that Axworthy creates with `principled pragmatism.’
Demonstrating high moral principle while being absolutely practical and matter-of-fact.
The beauty of the phrase as a self-description of political partisans and their party is that they can run in all directions with it.
For example, the Chretien Liberals would save the kids of the world from forgotten land mines. They roam the world, talking up the abolition but also patting their own backs for their leadership in rolling up support from many nations for a treaty to ban such mines. Very principled, indeed, very self- aware in their principles with regard to land mines, are our Liberals. At the same time, however, they are pragmatic in going after more and more trade with the major nations who will not agree to giving up the use of land mines.
Another current, Liberal example of blending principles and practicality has had the opposition popping the last week over where Canada stands or ought to stand at the coming conference in Kyoto, Japan, on joining a treaty to reduce global air pollution through commitment by individual states to certain reductions over certain time-lines.
Chretien made the matter both hot and “pop” by insisting that the government was late in producing its guarantees, let alone any particulars on its costs and the source of monies to pay for them, because it needed to know what the American president was undertaking for the U.S., in part in order to make sure that Canada could guarantee to do better. Principled and pragmatic, right? Yes, and when the point is reached where the American commitment cannot be met, almost certainly because of congressional interventions which the president cannot prevent, the Canadian government of the day, probably Liberal, will be able to remind us that in politics the best in principle must accommodate with practical matters.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 29, 1997
ID: 12112094
TAG: 199710280417
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


It has become too difficult to let the unlawful strike by Ontario public school teachers go without critical comment, even though it’s outside the usual territory of a columnist who deals with federal politics. But something this titanic has been overdue in education, not least because of the many confrontations in the ’90s between the federal and provincial governments with their unionized workers. In most cases the governments won.
My sympathies as an ex-teacher, as a union member for four decades and as a grandparent of children whom I know have good Ontario teachers may be with the teachers, but my head is on the other side, insisting that for the sake of parliamentary politics in Canada the Harris government must win this one and get its bill through into law.
And my head tells me the union leaders and their teachers should realize the Harris government will go to the public for judgment in two years or less. If the teachers’ cause is just and compelling the voters will turn the Harris crew out.
In the early 1950s the role of white-collar public service unions for workers in schools, hospitals, police and welfare departments and Crown corporations began to widen and achieve ever greater influence on the three orders of government — federal, provincial and municipal.
Legislation flourished in the late 1950s which not only sanctioned such unionism but accepted it even for those in the professions and sciences. Union organization and recognition literally took off in Lester Pearson’s years. Almost every group got the right to strike.
The pendulum swung well over to the unions in government across the land, not least in Quebec. Some unexpected unions emerged as very militant and, using strikes, won big wage jumps and generous work rules, in particular the two big unions in Canada Post.
Unlike almost all private sector employers, governments — especially the federal government and that of the rich province of Ontario — seemed unable to stand firm with the argument they had no more money and could not raise more by more taxation.
What made the pendulum’s swing slow down, stop and then begin a sweep back the other way? Easy! Ever-larger deficits and ever-larger debt loads in all orders of government, plus a large surplus of unemployed. A wider and deeper public awareness came of the paradox of endless debt despite high taxation.
Even a lunkhead can figure out that the largest costs to government are in the salaries, wages and pensions paid to those who work for them. The ways to cut costs are clear: lower the numbers of employees and freeze their wages; even cut them across the board.
Such moves have happened in every jurisdiction despite much protest by the unions and with only a few cases of limited success (e.g., with medical doctors). In Ontario itself, the scenario of deficit-fighting became high drama in the struggle of the unions with Bob Rae’s NDP government, whose election they had heralded as their triumph. In a general sense Rae lost office when the unions — the teachers to the fore — refused to stand with him on his “social contract.” So the unions opened the way for Mike Harris. They didn’t get the patsy they expected in Lyn McLeod and the Liberals.
Two federal governments in Ottawa between 1991 and today were more successful than Ontario was previous to the Harris advent in freezing wages and salaries and in downsizing staff. A strike by the most massive federal union was handily mastered, despite some parliamentary flinching at times as union leaders whinged and led marches and demonstrations for numerous newscast cameras.
Today in Ontario the most successful of all the teachers’ associations across Canada are at last meeting what was inevitable, given the domination they had achieved over almost every major decision a school board could make that affected spending and mill rates. No other unions in education, not even in B.C. and Quebec, have attained and kept such sweet levels of salaries, staffing, teaching-time, and input on curriculum decisions.
It may be for the best that this confrontation is between a rude, sometimes crude premier and cabinet, hell-bent on cost-control and efficient government, and an organized collective of five unions led by militants who are just as rude and some as crude and as hell-bent in keeping every bit of their turf, even seeking more “professional” in-put on education decisions. After the teachers lose thoroughly, both at killing the bill and with public opinion, they should appraise why they have been so judged before setting out to ensure the defeat of Harris and the victory of Dalton McGuinty or Howard Hampton.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 26, 1997
ID: 12111419
TAG: 199710240555
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


So often it is hard to see the relationship between cause and effect in political developments because so many persons and factors have been in play. Not so in the story last week about Canadian charities.
The cause? The personal efforts of John Bryden, Liberal MP for Wentworth-Burlington.
The effect? The appointment by groups banded under a nice name — the Canadian Centre of Philanthrophy — of Ed Broadbent, former NDP leader, to lead a committee to examine and report (to the public, so far as we know) by the end of 1998 on the charitable industry in Canada.
Press reports say Broadbent’s panel is to craft a new national policy to bring greater accountability to an industry whose active groups, as most people tend to forget, raise most of their moneys from donations. These donations are much abetted by receipts given to donors, which allow them a federal tax deduction.
Over many decades several thousand organizations have been “registered” and given this deductability status by Revenue Canada, including churches and voluntary organizations dedicated to research and the alleviation of particular diseases and groups seeking to sustain and improve activities of worth in social, artistic, educational and environmental fields.
Broadbent seems a perfect catch for the agents of philanthropy, given his years of struggle in partisan politics in the name of our society’s underdogs, plus his subsequent term (after he took his House pension) as leader of the International Centre for Human Rights, appointed by Brian Mulroney.
At first blush the former NDP leader seems almost an overpowering counter to Bryden, a mere government backbencher in the present and last House. But Bryden, former journalist, author and historical researcher, has used much of his time as an MP in investigating and describing the charity industry, and so much in it that is either haywire or unfair.
“Unfair” is usable regarding charitable agencies and foundations in several senses, including lack of financial accountability to donors or to Revenue Canada. And “unfair” in a political sense, since the right to use tax receipts is supposed to carry with it an obligation not to engage in partisan politics — say as the Roman Catholic bishops did in directly attacking the Mike Harris government in Ontario for several of its major policy initiatives.
In several long papers he has written, Bryden has demonstrated both the haywire inefficiencies and some dubious practices of many charities, including an almost total failure of the federal government (which awards tax deductability) to monitor them. Write to him at the House of Commons, Ottawa K1K 0A6, if you want copies.
Bryden has listed scores of charities recognized by Revenue Canada with indications of a high proportion of income going to executive staff and to fund-raising and little to the purposes of the group. He has made the case that the term “charitable” has not been defined in the Income Tax Act. Some very odd groups have become beneficiaries of this classification.
Bryden has pointed out a particular dearth of analytical appraisals of many charities that make effective appeals to donors’ generosity for activities outside Canada — particularly for succor of children and the poor in undeveloped countries. Often the charities are unexamined by professional audits or evaluated by federal officials abroad, and many are quite reticent about particulars of their administrations.
For critics of profligate awarding of tax deductability by Ottawa and its failure to police the operations of charities — and to ensure they are really charities, and interest groups perennially engaged in political activity — the touchiest issues in the industry are with regard to those with the longest, most entrenched access to tax deductability — the sectarian Christian churches.
Of course, the list of those under the religious canopy has been much extended by our increasingly diverse immigration and official multiculturalism. The regulations of Revenue Canada limit the “political” activities of “registered” religious charities to matters that are “ancillary and incidental” to their purposes.
Why bother over the ethics and administration of such diverse, voluntary organizations? Surely, the few billion dollars which their receipts may have deprived the receiver-general in taxes is just a tiny fraction of the annual federal take in income taxes. And though many of the causes advanced by these charities won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, most of us know of charities which have done, and do, good work. Shouldn’t the public issue be less about skullduggery and inefficiency in some registered charities and more on supporting volunteerism in public service?
Perhaps, but in my opinion John Bryden’s bravery and persistence in pursuing reform of federal registered charities merits backing, especially from parties in opposition. The best witness to the effect of Bryden’s campaign is this new unofficial panel led by Broadbent.
Serious, genuine charities should not be taking partisan sides in politics. They should be led and managed by citizens who realize that any abuse of the right to give receipts for tax deductions discredits the tax system and mocks those whose duty is to keep it neutral, fair and effective.
Citizens generally should realize that much of the cacophony we have in political discussion in this country comes from special interest groups. Many of these — especially in the fields of environment, peace, ethnicity and the arts — depend for their continuance on the right to issue receipts. And almost without exception they are always demanding more from governments and political parties.
Broadbent might first bend his mind and those of his panelists to an examination of the points developed by Bryden, in particular to appreciate how vulnerable those in electoral politics feel about being seen to advocate narrowing or ending the the privileges of a long-registered charity.
As a politician, Broadbent always made much of the huge sums available to the federal government for helping the poor and creating jobs. All it had to do was raise corporate tax rates and close the loopholes available to large businesses. Here we have a system of registering charities that is in a shambles, with hundreds of groups on the list very dubious as charities and ineffective in carrying out their purposes and with scores engaged in partisan activity through resources raised through posing and being accepted as a religious or educational organization.
We should judge the Broadbent panel very critically. Why? Because so many of the “charities” most active in interfering in politics are of the politically correct sort — i.e., on the left. Yes, even the Roman Catholic bishops.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 22, 1997
ID: 12110280
TAG: 199710210286
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


A month of the 36th Parliament suggests that neither its pace nor any pattern of partisan interaction is well set. Each opposition caucus, even that of the Bloc Quebecois, is upbeat and intent on the same foe – the Liberals – more than on each other. All were unified in anger by the severe limits put on debate of the Canada Pension bill.
This latter aggravation confirms our “natural rulers” are unshaken, as did their suave response to their first big scandal – over illegal money-plucking from contractors. It’s so simple: the matter is “sub judice” and not something they can talk about in Parliament.
As yet this is not a cabinet or a caucus under stress. One is hard put to get talk going about the PM or the several ministers who have been so wooden in the House. What may be developing down in the Liberal ranks is insistence on ways and resources for their input into choosing and framing legislation. But this is an old refrain, heard in past Parliaments, and such grievances have never rocked the governors hard.
Certainly the grievors address a confident PMO and cabinet. The reasons are clear. The small but definite decline in the PQ’s standing with Quebec electors, taken with the moderate to good news of economic growth, higher government revenues and more jobs has the Liberals very sure of themselves and disbelieving a rackety House ahead will challenge their slim majority.
So far the government has been fortunate in Preston Manning. He has three shots a day or more in question period but has not yet made consistent, effective use of his new priority. He loads his prefaces with Reform-minded judgments and data on issue after issue. Naturally, such stuff just brings Manning counter-aspersions about Reform, not direct answers. He really doesn’t seek information, he gives it – with his own spin on it.
Manning’s No. 2, Deborah Grey, now has a rollicking assurance in Question Period as she lambastes the Chretien government daily with pungent, accusatory barbs about its honesty and competence.
But Manning’s insistent piety and Grey’s calling down of hellfire have become trite. If neither can find a new gear they should sit back and let rise the half-dozen colleagues who are clearly more adroit when on their feet. If they don’t, what is already obvious may begin to get more press, i.e., the often astute use of question period by the NDP and Conservatives despite their slighter, later openings.
Yes, it’s silly to put such emphasis on a 40-minute stretch of each House day but its topics tend to be the core of most reporters’ agendas. However, Reformers should consider that often effective questions are not on “big deal” policy matters.
For example, last Monday as Manning hunted big game over tax policy and Grey reprised Grit toll-gating, no opposition MP raised two items which shrewd partisanship could exploit.
The first was a severe wigging of “the public” by Antonio Lamer, chief justice of Canada. He rebuked the angry chorus demanding more severe sentences and tougher laws for crimes of violence. One headline read: “Public’s Jihad (holy war) Threatens Justice.”
This is not the United States. There the judiciary is the third arm of government. Here there’s been an insistence that judges keep out of politics. Recall how the late Bora Laskin triggered disciplinary action when Justice Tom Berger sounded off outside his court on rights issues outside his court.
Let the justice minister or the prime minister or the Liberal party itself counter this alleged “Jihad” sparked by Reformers, not the chief justice of Canada at a public conference.
Reformers should insist such statements are out of line, and they should review publicly Lamer’s career. He was once president of the Montreal District Young Liberals and the founding leader of the defence attorneys’ association of Quebec. These were achievements of sorts, but why at this time, with his present responsibilities, is Lamer playing back to both those allegiances?
Another example of a good House question missed is one deeply tinged with Grit patronage. How has one Andrew Cardoza, 41, earned a cozy post as a commissioner of the CRTC? What are his credentials? Is it his two decades as a prime critic of those hostile to multiculturalism? Only 24 when he became a full-time ethnicker as aide to a Trudeau multiculturalism minister, he’s been a sometime Toronto Star columnist, ever ready with “racist” tags for those who decry the ethnocultural rainbow – notably Reform and Tory politicians. Just the kind of fair, temperate expert we need on the CRTC, eh?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 19, 1997
ID: 12109611
TAG: 199710170369
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


To use a familiar cliche, Paul E. Martin is walking very tall. His economic statement last week really radiated the theme of “Happy days are here again” or at least “almost here.”
“Here,” in the minds of more Liberals than just Martin, will be when Jean Chretien chooses to retire and the minister of finance, already high, stacks up as the near-certain prime minister, achieving his goal three decades or more. Let’s appraise the prospect by vaulting back to his father’s career.
Just a month before the Liberal leadership convention of 1968 won by Pierre Trudeau, opinion polls had the elder Martin in the lead, but his years of work and waiting for the top task were to be confounded.
My use here in the first paragraph of “Paul E. Martin,” not Paul Martin or Paul Martin Jr., was deliberate. His father was an MP when today’s Paul was born, and was to serve 23 years in cabinet under four prime ministers, twice losing bids to lead the party.
In the early 1980s Paul Martin Sr. retired to Canada after five years as High Commissiner to the U.K. and wrote an autobiography, A Very Public Life, in two volumes. In Vol. 1, issued in 1983, the book’s index has the son as “Paul Martin Jr.” In Vol. 2, issued two years later, he is “Paul E. Martin.”
What a very political family the Paul Martins were, and remain!
Clearly father and son had considered the positives and negatives of the “Junior” tag. Yes, father had been a very well-known politician with a distinguished record in four decades of parliamentary activity, but now he was retired and the time was near for the son to enter politics.
Wouldn’t it be better that the emphasis be all on him, not split with reminders he was a Mark II? And by 1985 the time was at hand. Paul E. was 47, Brian Mulroney and the Tories were in power, Trudeau was gone, and the Liberals, out of office, were led by John Turner, not a favorite of the Martin family.
Rereading today the detailed autobiography of the first Martin, one is struck by how involved the son was in his father’s politicking, from tagging along as he diligently nursed his riding of Essex East to working hard on his lost assays for the Liberal summit.
And the father set up the son’s career in business through his ties with two staunch Liberals, Maurice Strong and Jack Austin.
Thus, Junior went from law school to Montreal and Strong’s company, which shortly was to emerge as Power Corp. — first under Strong, then segueing into a Paul Desmarais enterprise as Strong went off, helped by Senior, into the first of a series of international roles (which continue today).
Junior, in becoming a businessman and rather quickly reaching top management and then ownership of a major shipping enterprise, was acquiring two very useful elements for an ambitious man which Senior had not had, to his regret: first, substantial money of his own; second, knowledge of, and reputation in, the Canadian business community.
In Senior’s cabinet years with Mackenzie King and Louis St. Laurent, his then leftish ideas and his status with the PMO had hurt his rise. Corporate Canada’s top man in the cabinet, C.D. Howe, had tagged him as a spender and a radical.
Close as father and son were, observers knew (and the autobiography confirms) that the son was much more like his mother than his father, not just strikingly so in appearance and complexion but in mannerisms and temperament. In Canadian terms father was a relative egghead in politics, well-read, grounded in history, and he had worked extremely hard to master electoral politics as an indefatigable greeter and mixer and a superb platform performer. He had become serenely smooth in vocabulary and syntax, and unflappable; in fact, so adroit that he became an archetype of the magnificently ambiguous politician who never utters anything fresh or visionary.
Familiars of Martin Sr. knew that underneath the imperturbable polish was an often wicked sense of humor and a cleverness at satire and teasing which he rarely showed in the open. Junior’s humor and wit again seems different, much more like his robust, sometimes earthy, rambunctiousness. One cannot imagine Senior flailing his arms and ranting on about the opposition’s stupidity in the House of Commons — antics which bring ovations from Junior’s backbench audience.
Whatever the gap in performace between the father’s grace and the son’s bumptiousness, to this stage the attained attribute of business experience and savvy has been confirmed by the near end to two decades of federal deficits and an assurance, admittedly modified by Liberal promises, that Junior will keep on at the huge national debt.
But the autobiography has other prompts for today’s considerations. The author thoroughly pondered his failures to win the leadership. In neither race did he have “the party etablishment” behind him. In 1958, at 55, they thought him too radical, too much of a spender. In 1968, at 64, he was too old and had been around so long and was too slick. His successes had stretched over so many elections that he had lost synch, no longer a modern, nor the man to lead Canada into the future.
In the year 2000, Martin Jr. will be 62, only four years younger than Jean Chretien, and he will have had 12 years in the House, eight of them as minister of what has traditionally been the portfolio that has most doomed its holder to wide unpopularity (often because of tax jumps not unlike Martin Jr.’s coming boost to payroll taxes for the Canada Pension Plan, or because of failures to bring down unemployment).
After decades of expectation and immense effort as a politician openly aiming for the paramount post, Paul Martin Sr. encountered short shrift from both the public and the key personae of his party.
His son is an excellent bet to have a better fate, but not only is it uncertain, so much can happen in the next two or three years.
Take the Quebec issue. Paul Martin Jr. has shown no extra aptitude for dealing with it or in bridging the West-Quebec gap. On the one hand he poses in his father’s place on the left-right spectrum. On the other, he often talks like a Tom d’Aquino clone.
Martin will surely remain a likable personality and a bearable politician whatever his partisan bent, but neither in the House nor in television bytes is he a compelling performer. Of course, if he is not Super-Paul, neither are any of the present Liberals or possible men-of-distinction who might be drafted into the party to succeed Chretien.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 15, 1997
ID: 12108496
TAG: 199710140270
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Given a rememberance of things past, a few of us who watch politicians expected that early in this new Parliament there would be a quick, concerted move to approve more remuneration for MPs. Now the odds on this seem to be falling as attaining unanimity of the five parties gets more unlikely.
Hope for a good raise has been palpable among returning Liberals. Of course, Bloc Quebecois MPs are from the province which best pays legislators. Reform Party consent is the most obvious key to a pay raise this Parliament, or even to a return to the formula for annual adjustments that was put aside two Parliaments ago in a general freeze of all federal pay.
The Reformers have earned a name for thrift. Nonetheless, Reformers have had their own parcel of propositions on pay, allowances, pensions and perquisites for MPs. These were aired during the debate on the relatively modest downward push of pension provisions in the last House. For example, Reformers argued for full pay of just over $100,000 a year for an MP. This may seem well above the present basic salary of $64,400, but that number is well supplemented by a non-taxable expense allowance of $21,300. The combination comes close to equalling a fully taxable total income of $100,000.
In modern times, no raise in pay for MPs has had the approval of the public. Two famous parliamentarians, John Diefenbaker and Stanely Knowles, earned much of their fame by taking public stands against such raises.
Most of today’s MPs are like their predecessors – aware of the harsh opinions many have of their integrity and work ethic. Thus, the perennial hesitation to be forthright in giving themselves more, despite the need so many have. There is almost always back-of-the-curtain talk going on among MPs of all parties about their pay and services. Remember that the veterans have gone over two Parliaments without a vote to give them more.
One aggravation in public relations which always riles MPs about this issue is that their raises always get entangled with the matter of senators’ pay and perqs. Not all MPs are assiduous, but all face turfing out by their voters. Each senator is safe, assiduous or not, until his or her 75th birthday without fear of electoral ousting. All the recent push for Senate reform, much of it raised in Western Canada by Reformers, has made it known that a goodly minority of senators makes little or no real contribution to Senate work and some continue in gainful professions or in roles as executives and company directors. Yet a few bold senators openly speak for higher pay.
The pattern in gaining a raise for MPs goes somewhat like this: a) have a study ready, even several; b) do the measure early in a Parliament without a lot of open foreplay; c) do it quickly without days of debate; d) give it the cachet of support from the finance minister; e) be certain the major opposition caucuses are onside.
There is on hand a largely unused study of parliamentarians’ pay and allowances done in 1994 by actuarial experts on compensation. They postulated a higher but fully taxable indemnity and suggested ways to have pay levels and services for MPs set by an “arms-length” commission or board.
One route suggested was a return to one suspended by the Mulroney government in which annual adjustments to parliamentary pay were based on cost-of-living and income data. Another was a formal response by the ministry and the opposition parties in the House to recommendations from the so-called Commission to Review Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament. Jean Chretien appointed such a one-shot commission in late summer. It has a make-up of former MPs, representative of three parties.
There is an expectation on the Hill that this commission will report quickly and recommend a good raise, and there are prayers the former Reform MP on it will broker a package with Preston Manning that his caucus and party can approve.
My hunch is Reform will get very edgy about backing a raise if it is clear or even possible that one, or both, of the NDP and Progressive Conservative caucuses intends to oppose it vociferously.
What would I recommend? I think a raise in income is needed by a lot of MPs, probably a handy majority, and that it should be brought into the House with a free vote laid on.
Even more than a raise, I believe most MPs need more money for staff in their ridings and on the Hill. As for senators, though I admire the work of a score or so, their pay and all allowances should be frozen until the institution is dissolved or until senators are elected.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 12, 1997
ID: 12107857
TAG: 199710100215
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


It is human, not just Canadian, to put a layer of niceness or what is called “political correctness” over hard issues. Last week Parliament was rich in examples of tactics used to counter tough critics and evade reality. Let me note some of them from the very serious to the ridiculous.
Take the use by Israeli agents of facsimile Canadian passports to get assassins into Jordan to kill a Hamas leader, along with the abrupt resignation of our ambassador to Mexico.
Take two examples of federal waste and inefficiency on a grand scale of public moneys: 1) in Ottawa’s costly programs to solve the jobless crisis stemming from the failing Atlantic cod fishery; 2) the extreme misuse of drugs and travel funds under the health programs for natives with status. These stories, and a lot more, are told in clear detail in the latest report from the auditor general and his nosy staff. Value for money is not easily attained.
Another issue which most of our politicians dodge around is immigration. Last week we learned a federal survey of attitudes to immigrants and multiculturalism has been done by one Douglas Palmer. Its contents have those who are most correct scourging any who are critical of the scale and make-up of our immigration. Metro Toronto has even been tagged as “Canada’s racism capital.”
And again we have a replay of an old scenario, i.e., the toll-gating of government contracts for the governing party, in this case by the Liberals this very year. When acts of this illegal, but long used, practice are revealed, those who lead parties always insist they knew nothing of it. They insist parliamentary discussion of it is out of order while the police and prosecutors are doing their duty. The Mulroney ministry was full of evasive gall over such skimming and, as with many other stances, the Chretien ministry is its match.
Probably the crudest in political posturing last week was most evident to those who recall Liberal antics in opposition. How they raged and blocked as best they could the legislating of both the GST and the trade deal with the U.S. by the Mulroney government. What a travesty was Tory time-allocation and closure of debate by MPs on these major initiatives. But last Wednesday, in his turn, Paul Martin shut down debate on the huge changes in the Canada Pension Plan at its usual, main stage, second reading, after a mere seven hours of speeches. And Martin, Jean Chretien and Don Boudria avowed sincerely that this was to get real discussion going by shifting it into a committee.
No wonder the Reformers, in their fresh righteousness, and the New Democrats, in their old righteousness, rose in wrath and walked from the chamber.
In this case, the camouflaging, the layering of innocence, etc. is a classic example of what was scandalous to a party when it was out of power is not so when it has power.
The other instances noted are of issues which have been touchy and tender in and across the parties and politicians for many decades.
For example, we have minimal open examination by our parties and politicians of the preference Canadian governments have shown for Israel over its hostile neighbors in the Middle East, which has been obvious since the early 1950s. Why so? One hesitates to say, so effective and feared is the influence of the Israeli lobby in North America and the dedication to Israel’s survival and growth among Canadian and American Jews.
For example, no sooner did Reform MPs sound off about the huge waste of money and the failure to cut the number of those in the failing Atlantic groundfishery than the PM emphasized both their callousness and Liberal compassion. His government would not let the fishermen and their families starve or this intrinsic base to the regional economy collapse.
Some 40 years ago the late Walter Gordon as a royal commissioner on “economic prospects” learned his idea that Maritimers should move to where they would find jobs was heartless. And by using a series of subsidy programs and unemployment insurance payments from moneys largely contributed elsewhere, governments have consistently put more into the Atlantic fisheries than has been taken out in dollar sales, with opposition backing. Criticize at your political peril such help for fellow citizens in trouble.
Jane Stewart, the minister for aboriginal affairs, responded to Reform outrage over the attorney general’s revelations of huge abuse and waste in native drug and health travel programs, much as Jean Chretien did on the fishery issue. She used the stock defence. Those who criticized the federal programs for natives and their high costs and many failures over the last 40 years were mean, lacking in charity and indifferent to past and continuing racism. Have they no sense of guilt or repentance for generations of dishonesty and indifference to native rights and needs?
As to the blurb that Toronto is the racist capital of Canada, this vacuous label is typical of the stock political responses to critics of substantial immigration and refugee intake, and the attendant federal program of multiculturalism that extols an equal worth in every ethnicity’s culutural and social values.
What has been smothered by the propaganda about such policies is the persistent dearth of broad public backing for either large immigration or diverse immigration from across the globe (with ever less from Europe).
At least until the advent of Reform in Parliament, a prime pretence of our politics has been that Canadians revel in providing the world a wonderful, positive model of diversity and opportunity. Such self-satisfaction would be grotesque if it had truth behind it. Instead, think how intractable our primary conflict remains – the one which began after the battle of the Plains of Abraham.
A question to remember and examine again later in this Parliament is how consistent the Reformers, the freshest and least inhibited by political correctness, have been on the issues of immigration, multiculturalism, first nations and Israel’s counter-terrorism.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 08, 1997
ID: 12107022
TAG: 199710070060
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


After just a dozen sittings, the new Commons rates from fair to good and is a welcome contrast thus far to the previous House.
In what ways? The answers are several, leading with that intangible – vitality. This element stems from three factors: 1) a government aware how easily it might lose a vital vote; 2) each day party rivalries pit Nos. 4 and 5 (NDP and PC) as much or more against No. 2 (Reform) than the government; 3) each party, even No. 1, has fresh talent although it’s most apparent in Nos. 2, 4, and 5.
It’s too soon to exalt him, but Speaker Gilbert Parent seems determined to respond more quickly to snuff long-windedness, even in the PM and the ministers. His pauses are briefer, so are his remarks. Also, he clearly has able deputies. Already in question period the chair has interrupted and left without an open microphone such confident, verbose ministers as Anne McLellan (justice), Pierre Pettigrew (human resources), Allan Rock (health), Stephane Dion (intergovernmental affairs) and Paul Martin (finance). McLellan and Pettigrew need the rebukes most. Both have become too sure of their mastery over issues and cases, and too windy in showing this.
The calculated shaping of the question period by the chair to allow more questioners has also shortened, though it has not yet ended, the adolescent prefaces by opposition questioners of critical diatribes on Liberal sin and stupidity before reaching a question.
Such temptation to diatribe had its first grand lure this Parliament in the news of a favorite practice of past governing parties – “toll-gating” of contracts awarded by the government for the benefit of party funds. In this case, $5,000 allegedly skimmed from a new motel in Jean Chretien’s riding.
The case is most embarrassing to the PM, forcing him to take refuge in the police. Yes,the police are investigating. Well, wager it will be a lengthy one. Nonethless, the issue has been handled without excessive sanctimony or outrage by opposition or government.
So, modestly, the daily question period may be or seems to be less a charade or farce than it has been, although a better test of an improved House is in what goes on in it before and after.
Attendance during debate is certainly up a bit, but not by much. Regrettably, the keenness of speakers and listeners has not been sharpened by the presence of many ministers or even of much in the way of opposition leaders. However, there have been lots of interventions of substance and even wit. A new Liberal MP from Toronto, Carolyn Bennett, has already made two speeches of note. Each time she was prodded for explanations and did well in response.
Preston Manning as leader of the official Opposition, has made three clear, superb speeches, the first on his party’s new role and what it seeks in policies and behavior from the government, the other two on specific topics – changing the Constitution to let Quebec change its school system and on the major bill to change the Canada Pension Plan.
Tory Leader Jean Charest has already spoken more than in several entire sessions of the last House. But he has such an anti-Reform chip on his shoulder! The NDP’s Alexa McDonough has also been busy. She is indefatigably chirpy, and a good contrast to her doleful predecessor.
The so-called PM-in-waiting did bypass a House chore he ought to have carried out. Paul Martin did not explain the bill altering the CPP to the House, leaving this to Tony Valeri, his earnest but far from convincing parliamentary secretary. Is the minister of finance too grand or too busy to take the lead in explaining what many think – perhaps wrongly – will be the largest tax jump ever?
Aside from the aforementioned Bennett, some other new women in the House seem sure to win recognition as capable politicians. Three obviously vigorous ones who are not euphemistically inclined are New Democrats: Angela Vautour from N.B., Libby Davies from Vancouver, and Louise Hardy from the Yukon. A fourth, fresh NDP female – Judy Wasylycia-Leis from Winnipeg – is already pushy and well-prepared by the party book. Sadly, she jelled long ago as an NDP apparatchik into very dour righteousness.
One could note many more new MPs of promise, particularly in Reform. But I close with just one Tory. In the Trudeau years there were few abler, bolder opposition MPs than Elmer MacKay. This old Hill watcher is pleased to find Elmer’s son, Peter, newly elected from Nova Scotia, is an instant, confident performer. He may be even more effective than his father because he does not use the same facade of rural bumpkin.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 05, 1997
ID: 12106345
TAG: 199710030223
SECTION: Comment/Editorial
Conservative Senator
2. photo of SVEND ROBINSON


It’s an invidious choice, trying to figure which is the more outrageous British Columbian in Parliament: Svend Robinson, NDP MP, or Pat Carney, Tory senator.
Call it a tie!
Once more Robinson has been ordered from the House by the Speaker, this time for a calculated and unfair crudeness in tagging Fisheries Minister David Anderson or his actions as “treasonous.”
Anderson, himself a good fit in the province’s menagerie of colorful, candid, and usually egotistical politicians, is very much an up-and-down character: one time dithering, next time forthright with profound assurance, next time off the topic altogether. His handling of the salmon ruckus with the Americans (rather ineffectually, thus far) triggered Carney’s launch of separation talk last week, as it did the New Democrat’s slur, uttered on behalf of his beloved and suffering fishermen.
A slowly acquired wisdom has made me ambivalent about chivvying at the often rude, and usually exaggerated, grievances orchestrated by such superb media trollers as Robinson and Carney. Without a small cadre of belligerent agitators within our partisan caucuses who are ever-ready to sound off outside them, our national political scenario would be too bland, too nice and too much dedicated to playing the Quebecois and constitutional issues as quietly and inoffensively as possible.
Much as one should respect the experience and past level-headedness of Roy Romanow on national affairs, he is too cautious in his role as a premier in the thick of the unity battle when he condemns out of hand both the argument for detailed preparations for secession by Quebec issued by the C.D. Howe Institute, and the media notice given to a possible exit of B.C. from Confederation which Sen. Carney sparked.
Romanow “prefers to think” there will be “some sort of unity agreement.”
Yeah, right!
In effect, Lester Pearson thought that after he agreed in the mid-’60s that Canada was divisible because of the right under the UN Charter which Quebecers had to “self-determination.”
Trudeau simply knew Quebec would not choose to leave and so behaved in his long pursuit of constitutional change and through the referendum vote which Rene Levesque and his PQ lost.
Brian Mulroney was sure he could get a better, fairer compromise on the Constitution than Trudeau, and thus master separatist aspirations in Quebec. But he lost his deals twice (though he came close once).
Until the shocking closeness of the referendum vote in 1995, Chretien always voiced his assurance that Quebecers were too astute to ever give separation a majority.
Yeah, right! Soft talk has not been effective. Externally expressed terms of endearment are sweet, but by and large a joke in Quebec.
When one goes back to the “autonomy” gambits of Maurice Duplessis in the 1950s and the “masters in our own house” theme of Jean Lesage in the ’60s, and then remembers three decades of unity melodrama with premiers Daniel Johnson, Sr., Levesque and Robert Bourassa, a serious federalist outside Quebec has to consider everything about a division of Canada.
Most of what seems implicit in the so-called Plan B, and which now extends to the so-called Plan C, is to work out the manifold consequences of separation, including issues like Quebec’s own divisibility or the support for those who will want to migrate to Canada rather than live in a state so dedicated to a lower status for those who do not speak French.
As a small counter to Romanow’s shush-shush advice, last week Chretien did say his government would not accept any referendum vote based on a question framed to confuse or deceive a voter. In short, the question must have utter simplicity: a clear-cut, total separation of Quebec from Canada, without qualifications about “sovereignty” and negotiation.
Of course, in the two referendums there have been thus far the questions put to Quebec voters did not meet such a test.
Put in your book of good citizens one Liberal, Pierre Pettigrew, minister for human resources. Months ago he sought an immediate investigation by the RCMP when he had indications of graft by persons either of his party in Quebec or posing as such.
His swiftness recalls the string of revelations of influence-skimming in Quebec when the Mulroney Tories were in power. Some of those cases are still in the courts, reminding us it takes vigilance by senior members of a party to squelch misuse of office. It would seem Jean Chretien’s government has been more than just lucky.
On the other hand, past bald practices of patronage are boomeranging at last on the Liberals.
Many, particularly in law, are reflecting on the Supreme Court’s strong criticism of the behavior of several justices of the Federal Court over dilatory handling of war crimes cases. So, 26 years after its founding in Pierre Trudeau’s times, editorialists are criticizing the raft of ex-Grits in the court — former cabinet ministers, former candidates and open backers of the party. Trudeau made the federal court a haven for old cabinet hands — this in an institution launched to handle litigation relating to federal administrations. The court has radiated an impression that federally the Liberals are our natural rulers.
What an unnecessary tilt from balance, given the plethora of lawyers who want to be judges.
Once again a pushy reporter has resurrected the always aggravating tale of the many senators who do not show up for sittings and use flexible rules to dodge pay being docked for their dereliction. This time open notice has been drawn to one long-running example of a useless but very expensive appointee.
The bluff has been that a former leader of a provincial party, one Andy Thompson of Ontario, has been a working senator with bad health. He’s been 20 years on the Senate roll, with two more to go. Through two decades his contribution in speech or committee hearings has been almost zilch. Party loyalty and kindliness has sustained this failed provincial politician.
Of course, there are a few other cases of much public money sustaining senators who give little in return by rarely participating. And several are not Liberals.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 01, 1997
ID: 12105128
TAG: 199709300245
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


The first week of the new parliament has been positive despite much threshing of old partisan straw. There is a lot of talent on the opposition side. The re-elected Speaker, Gib Parent, is reacting faster than before, and he has capable deputies. This may be a rare house – managed fairly and with procedural dispatch despite pushy opposition parties.
The government side seems more cocky than arrogant. This impression is set by the zip in the question period skirmishing of Jean Chretien. He bubbles with aggression and off-the-topic replies which tend to confound his questioners. The most raw Liberal boldness has been manifested by its star, Paul Martin, Jr., and by the next, best alternative as crown prince, Allan Rock, now Minister of Health. Each has been voluble, and in question period more the wise-guy partisan than the judicious senior politician. Each rouses his backbench tigers but Martin uses high-school histrionics and Rock presents himself as master of his portfolio and medicare’s integrity.
Each party has been pushing new MPs for statements, questions, and first speeches in the throne speech debate and most have shown well.
It’s early to prefigure the key issues but I’d bet the major contentions this session will rise over the pension reforms Mr. Martin will present. He will need all the goodwill earned as a deficit-reducer to get this big increase in payroll taxes and some severe decreases in pension size through Parliament.
As I read public opinion this season, a good majority prefer tax cuts, not tax jumps, and are not in favor of fresh or extended social programs like pharmacare or child care, despite the clamor by so many interest groups for more federal spending as budget surpluses come nearer.
Frugality remains a watchword; tax cuts would be relished. Reform will drum such messages week after week, notably on the pension reform bill.
Now let me refer to the passing at 74 of Alistair Fraser, the clerk of the House of Commons from 1967 to 1979. He was a sturdy, handsome man with warm, fine manners.
Last Friday in the chamber an MP from each party spoke to his memory. Three of them had known him personally and spoke of his helpfulness and ready advice. Alistair cherished the House. He liked those elected to it. His worst fault was being too generous in time given to MPs. His term as clerk of the House ended sadly before it should have.
Alistair was of a well-to-do Nova Scotian family whose father and grandfather had been in politics and the House. He served overseas in WWII in the artillery, returned, took law, began to practice in B.C., then came to Ottawa as executive aide to Jimmie Sinclair, a fisheries minister for Louis St. Laurent.
Twice Alistair was to run for the Grits and lose in general elections.
When Sinclair had a terrible accident on a visit to the USSR, Alistair stayed with him through a long hospitalization. They became close, explaining why Alistair was the one who found Jimmie’s daughter Margaret a government job in Ottawa in the early ’70s. The girl had met the PM, Pierre Trudeau, on a South Pacific island. She came to Ottawa to get him – and did.
In 1961, before his clerkship, Mr. Fraser was aide to the leader of the Liberal opposition in the Senate. As such he was the unobtrusive mastermind of a clever partisan gambit which brought James Coyne, the head of the Bank of Canada who had been fired by John Diefenbaker, before a Senate committee and its explosive hearings. The Coyne affair figuratively rocked the country and firmed the growing perception the Diefenbaker regime was incompetent and unfair.
Alistair was responsible under the Speaker for management of a House staff that was growing at great pace in the ’70s as MPs got new services and more help. Regrettably, he was too intent on the House proceedings and the members, too inattentive to the growing sprawl and attendant skullduggery. His inattention had its complement in Speaker Jim Jerome, also fixated on the Chamber.
As particulars began to boil around the Hill of grievous graft and waste, the fingers swung to the man in charge, Alistair Fraser. Without hubbub he resigned. Shortly, Speaker Jerome was made a judge, and then Jeanne Sauve, his successor, instituted big reforms in the Hill hierarchy.
As for Alistair Fraser, he was to have 18 years of quiet retirement in Ottawa, diligently working to better Beauchesne’s parliamentary guide for MPs. It was sad that MPs of several subsequent Houses hadn’t the chance to know and be served by this fine man.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 28, 1997
ID: 12745543
TAG: 199709260308
SECTION: Comment/Editorial
COLUMN: Backgrounder


It may be understandable, but it is nonetheless odd: salvoes of stories and pictures have been recalling a great national happening without notice or even mention of the key actor in the long drama, and arguably the crucial element from beginning to the grand denouement.
After all, Allan Eagleson chose and directed most of the initial Team Canada operations. He did it exuberantly, loudly, and flauntingly, not hiding any conflicts of interest (e.g., as both agent for some players but top executive of all of them).
Most Canadians, and particularly serious hockey fans, have had their memories twigged pleasantly by the stories and replays of the three momentous weeks that closed with a great victory over the Soviet Union 25 years ago this week.
The resurrected moments and personalities have been focused on the players – on Paul Henderson’s winning goal, on Phil Esposito’s gutsiness and his blunt demand for public understanding and on Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak’s sudden stardom. Fine! Recall the Mahovlich brothers, the “sleepers” like Bill White, Gary Bergman, and J.P. Parise, the ruthlessness of Bobby Clarke, the jack-rabbit streaks by Yvon Cournoyer.
But what about the man so instrumental in both series and victory?
Allan Eagleson was the core personality and catalyst, not just of the Canadian team in its lurch from disaster to victory, but in attaining and staging the whole series. He was the key wheeler-dealer, before and during the series, and for a long time afterwards in the course of international hockey.
In instance after instance his imprint of aggressive refusal to accept Soviet superiority was on Team Canada.
Of course, his belligerent behavior as the mastermind and spokesman for the Canadian endeavor created contention and a lot of appalled consternation at home.
Should it be forgotten in the repeated apotheosis of Paul Henderson’s winner that there was a raging public debate in Canada for weeks over “the finger” which Eagleson gave the Russian crowd as Canadian players rescued him from rinkside gendarmes and escorted him across the ice to their bench in that climactic third period?
If ever there was a sporting event whose creation required a lot of bargaining, official diplomacy and the fusion of many personalities and contradictions, it was the 1972 Canada-USSR series. It broke open hockey internationally, making what Canadians thought of as “our game,” everybody’s game – in its organization and in the way it was played and the players recruited and coached.
To attain the series took more men and the use of more institutions (e.g., Hockey Canada, External Affairs, the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, the NHL board of governors) than just Eagleson and his mastery of the National Hockey League Players’ Association, which he had launched and then built into an effective union by the late 1960s. He was to provide the vital assurance needed by Hockey Canada to get and hold the series with Russia.
Hockey Canada had been created in 1969 under the auspices of the Trudeau government to establish our due place in international hockey – so our best could play other nations’ best (meaning the Soviets). To do this the best players had to be available, and Eagleson’s clout as leader of the NHLPA assured this, coupled with the acceptance of American owners of NHL teams that their counterparts in Toronto and Montreal, supported by Clarence Campbell, the league president, wanted this “national team.” They appreciated the problems the Canadian government could cause the league’s owners if they didn’t co-operate with Hockey Canada’s aims.
This latter point was one that Hockey Canada’s leaders didn’t like to emphasize, but once Eagleson threw himself into the endeavor to play our best and “beat hell” out of the Russians he used it quite adroitly, in particular with the most influential Americans in Chicago and Detroit. (I know this from chairing the Hockey Canada committee for the series.)
So Eagleson picked the coach (Harry Sinden) and approved his aides. He planned and arranged the management and care of the teams, the travel plans, the schedules, the referees and the deals to televise and broadcast the games. A deal he struck with Air Canada brought 3,000 Canadian fans to Moscow for the series.
His TV deal proved very lucrative, and he himself flogged most of the major commercial time. The series was much like the later Calgary Olympics – a stunning financial success. So much so it awoke the barons of pro hockey to the advantages of hockey as a world, not merely a North American, enterprise.
Perhaps it should have been obvious – certainly hockey leaders like Father David Bauer knew it – but it was the NHL players’ head who made the owners of pro hockey teams realize that Europe was a source of great playing talent and future revenues from series and exhibitions, and nationalism added an enormous excitement to games. (Witness what’s shortly to happen in Japan’s winter Olympics.)
The 1972 series led by popular Canadian demand to the ’74 series – and our defeat in Moscow – in which Eagleson played no part. But he came back to the international forefront in 1976 with the Canada Cup series, which pitted teams from six nations against each other, including the United States.
A single example of what flowed from ’72 lives among those of us who watched the most exciting game of all one Christmas season when the Montreal Canadiens and the USSR fought to a draw.
For good or ill Allan Eagleson was more responsible than anyone else for there having been a Canada-USSR series in 1972 and also for so much that flowed from that series, particularly in more scope for both players and fans. In North American hockey there followed more thorough training for fitness and skills, more diversity in game strategies and tactics, plus a surge in skating speed and game pace.
Yes, a case can be made that much that has come to be in hockey today is retrograde, particularly for Canadians.
Our share of NHL jobs has markedly declined and the opportunities for successful franchises here are declining as pro hockey burgeons in the United States.
But all such consequences can hardly be laid at the door of Allan Eagleson.
Now he’s being shunned, a pariah of the sport, because of alleged misdeeds in his former role as head of the NHLPA and as director of several international series in the 1980s. He faces both court indictments and a weighing of his professional conduct as a lawyer.
As a reader, you may have a hunch that I hope he is cleared of wrong doing, in part because he is a friend, in part because his ambitious purposes led to better pay for players and better payoffs for fans.
And, of course, the famous victory we recall this anniversary.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 24, 1997
ID: 12745009
TAG: 199709230300
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


It is chancy to suggest the course of the 36th Parliament. One factor in it, however, has not been stressed, probably because a gang-up by the four opposition parties seems unlikely given the do-or-die need of each one.
The factor is simple: the Chretien government has a slight safety margin for any vote in the House. It will be assiduous in policing caucus loyalty and attendance. Yes, the partisan cleavages between the opposition parties are deep. And while antagonisms seem unbridgable, say between Reform and the NDP, many Liberal backbenchers are House veterans from Ontario and already restive.
In former Houses with tenuous margins of advantage, most unlikely opposition bedfellows have voted together to kill a government (e.g., 1964, 1974 and 1979).
In the session ahead there will be scores of House votes, most of them routine. But a minor portion will be votes of “want of confidence” in the government. If it loses just one of these it is almost sure to be done for and forced to go to the people. Attaining the sort of “reprise” vote Lester Pearson’s government got in early 1968 is unlikely.
Back then, a handful of absent MPs meant a lost third reading of a budget vote. Subsequent Tory generosity let Pearson have a second chance to pass the bill and to carry on to the long-planned convention that chose Pierre Trudeau as his successor.
In today’s House the prospects for such gentlemanliness are bad, at least at its start. None of the four opposition parties, whatever their mutual animosities, dreads a general election (which has not been the case in previous minority, or near-minority, Houses).
Those who think it unlikely this House will be sundered before a life of four years or more can also emphasize one certain Liberal advantage and one likely one: the recent good economic news; and the imperative of national unity which grips three of the opposition caucuses. They must not ruin the Chretien government’s campaign as Premier Lucien Bouchard gears for re-election in Quebec and then for a third referendum. Better times with an end to deficits and some elbow-room for spending should last at least two years or more, and it will take from 18 months to over two years for the PQ to win re-election (which is not guaranteed) and launch the referendum.
Meantime, the Calgary declaration is to become a nation-wide exercise, probably rousing a “last chance” spirit of federalism which would penalize any of those who kept the House of Commons lurching from one critical vote to another and, eventually, to collapse.
Let me suggest some likely qualities and strategies in this House with five parties. Surely its sessions must offer more content and activity to the MPs in the Liberal backbench and the four opposition caucuses than the charade of the daily question period, despite it being such a focus of both the parties’ and the media’s endeavors.
There is far more talent in each caucus than one might think. Figuratively speaking, Reform and the BQ are “loaded for bear.” Now the task of the separatists, as No. 3 party, is simpler and cruder – Quebec and separation is their all. Reform has the most distinct and developed policies of all the opposition. It seems readier in organization and assignments than previous official Oppositions.
One Reform aim for the House will certainly be shared by NDP and Tory MPs. It is to handle the legislation and the administrative record of ministers more thoroughly through the debating hours of the House and close examination in committee hearings and get away from so much stress on the circus of question period and its scrum trailers. This is a test of Preston Manning’s proven genius at organizing and the best way to demonstrate a credible cast of a government-in-waiting.
The matters on which the 36th House will divide and sustain the government – and perhaps eventually rebuff it – will include many proposals in the throne speech. But the more dangerous votes for the government are likely to arise ad hoc, say from a procedural wrangle which goes awry and then ferments, or from resurrections of old tensions, perhaps over gun registries, or the employment insurance fund or the reworking of old age pensions.
Federalism has needed a productive, constructive, interesting Parliament for years. By spring, and with a first budget before it, we will have a good line on the performance and quality of the ministry and the opposition crews, and of the urgency in the unity issue.
And it seems to me this could be the most House-tested cabinet in modern history.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 17, 1997
ID: 12744174
TAG: 199709160201
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Once again, a concerted move to keep Canada undivided. This effort, the Calgary statement, is sponsored by all the premiers but Quebec’s Lucien Bouchard. It’s approved by the prime minister and the leaders of three out of four opposition parties in the House of Commons. It has been ridiculed by Bouchard and his cabinet and not much welcomed by journalists.
Gordon Gibson, a West Coast pundit, is enthusiastic about the statement’s “framework for discussion” and even more for “the guidelines for the process of public consultation.” But he warns:
“There will be a full quota of media cynics as this process unfolds, particularly among Ottawa-based commentators … the same people who effused over Meech and Charlottetown and assured us (Jean) Chretien would have absolutely no problem with the Quebec referendum. If they dump on this renewal process, they will be wrong again.”
So be it. As an Ottawa observer, I “dump on this renewal process.” However, I take Gibson’s warning seriously because his sketch is fair on the jadedness of most Ottawa journalists from years of swirl over Quebec and the Constitution.
What is the prime obsession of our politics got its first, wide breadth from Lester Pearson’s royal commission on bilingualism and biculturalism in the mid-’60s. It took complex political and scholarly shapes with an initially successful assay in 1971 at reforming the Constitution. But Pierre Trudeau’s Victoria reform plan of that year, accepted by all the premiers, was reneged on later by Premier Robert Bourassa after he went home and divined that many Quebecers felt it wasn’t generous enough to their province.
Then the obsession took another scary leap in 1976 when Rene Levesque and the PQ won power. Since then there’ve been hundreds of conferences, thousands of speeches and study papers and billions of words in the media, plus two referendums on sovereignty in Quebec and one national referendum on the Charlottetown proposition.
We should also remember that twice – with Victoria in 1971 and with Meech in the late 1980s – we had deals which at first had seemed acceptable, not just to the PM and premiers but to the public generally. Both deals were lost after much open discussion.
And there was a lot of open discussion before and during the Charlottetown referendum campaign. And there was more of the same during the 1995 Quebec referendum in which the federal cause was sustained by the tiny margin which still frightens us.
From the Bi & Bi years till today, network TV, talk-radio, and the daily press have not stinted in the time and talents given news, comment and discussion of the Quebec-Canada issue. And since the magnetic Bouchard took hold of the Quebec government last year, the Chretien government has begun to focus on the requirements for any secession (so-called plan B), including a clear assertion without specifics that Quebec itself is divisible.
Ottawa has had nothing fresh in initiatives to make federalism more palatable to the Quebecois (so-called Plan A) beyond repleading in anglo Canada for a “distinct society” clause in the Constitution.
On the face of it, the Calgary statement must also be classified as Plan A – throwing up “unique” characteristics in lieu of “distinct society.” It would attempt something positive to get approval by Quebecers without rousing unacceptable hostility elsewhere.
But I wager that much of the public consultations to come in the other nine provinces will get into the Plan B field. That is, to the use of “sticks” not just “carrots.” Really, the sticks are what have brought positive responses to Chretien’s constitutional bird-dog, Stephane Dion, certainly in the rest of Canada, maybe even in Quebec.
How are the coming public consultations to crystallize or focus? They need practical goals, like a referendum ballot or the establishment of a a constituent assembly or a council of “wise ones.”
The Calgary initiative has the strong support of Preston Manning and this may be good. But the Reform party has a quite romantic confidence in consultations with the public prior to any definitive acceptance of a course of action by a party or a legislature. All so democratic, and so very hopeful. As a plain citizen one would like such “consultations” to work – to set the course and fix the goals. But they don’t. They may help create a majority opinion, usually on the negative side, but they are bootless if not led and directed by elected politicians.
Is it cynical to believe, particularly after years of the Quebec-Canada issue, that its resolution needs executive leadership in Ottawa, not public consultations in venues all across the land?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 14, 1997
ID: 12743824
TAG: 199709120210
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


The 36th Parliament gets under way next week. It will be the 14th which I have been around. At each of the past 13 openings I have been hopeful; and then, with few exceptions, eventually I have been disappointed. This one could be a very good one.
“Hopeful? For what?” you may well ask. And why might this Parliament be better?
My hope is for a House of Commons that collectively is more positive than negative, one that is energetic but whose partisanship is not always mean or nasty, one where both debates and committees are well attended. I hope for vitality and interest that goes far beyond the stagey, raucous question period each sitting day with its barrages of insults and crass assertions.
The last House was a scruffy dog. It had so much negative nastiness, most of it centring on the animus in the House against the Reform party. This was fostered from the beginning by the Liberals’ leadership. Their strategy was much abetted by the general scunner the Hill media have had against Preston Manning and crew. The Liberals chose it this way, preferring to knock down Reform to knocking back the BQ, the official Opposition. They took Reform as the more dangerous enemy. In one sense the election results last June confirmed their judgment but not the success of their strategy in the last Parliament. Reform is now the official Opposition.
The priority Reformers will have this time means much less French will be spoken in the 36th House. A broader, regular array of national and regional topics will be raised and opinions exchanged.
Such diversity will also have a boost from the official status as parties which the New Democrats and Tories have secured. Each has a score of MPs, many of whom are experienced and able. Most of the Reform MPs have House experience and many of these have showed talent as parliamentarians. And the Liberal backbench is loaded with MPs who know the House, have ambition and ability, and want almost desperately to have genuine work at both legislating and scrutinizing.
As for the BQ caucus of 45 MPs, its leader, Gilles Duceppe, may be a weak shadow of Lucien Bouchard, the leader when the 35th House opened. Duceppe has, however, a nucleus of zealous and clever MPs. They will be pushy despite smaller opportunities in this House.
In brief, this new Parliament has this prospect: a lot of capabilities and viewpoints through its whole roster and from the diversity in five official parties. Also, it has a body count that demands alertness at all times by the government whips.
Once the Speakers are chosen, the Liberals’ margin will be very slight and votes – vital votes on vital motions – may be lost.
In previous Parliaments which opened with a government in either a slight majority or minority position there were third or fourth party caucuses which had no taste for a sudden election forced by a lost “confidence” motion in the House. This set up arrangements by the Liberals – for example, with Social Credit in 1963 and 1965 and with the NDP in 1972 – that guaranteed no House defeats so long as the arrangement stood.
This new House strikes me as different. It’s not quite that the opposition parties would welcome an early defeat of the government and another election; rather it is that none of them dreads such a contest. Right now Reformers, New Democrats, and Tories could anticipate doing better next time.
Why? Opinion polling shows the Liberals haven’t had the usual bounce an electoral win brings.
Of course, this is not a prediction of an opposition gang-up in the House to send Jean Chretien back to the people involuntarily. It is to underline that all four opposition parties will be forceful from Day One and each has some real quality, notably Reform overall, and the Tories in an attractive leader who is beginning to loom as the ablest federalist foil to the magnetic Lucien Bouchard.
These intimations of purpose and force in the four opposition parties shouldn’t mean any certainty the Liberals and their ministers will be trampled.
Chretien and Paul Martin have going for them a fairly strong economy with an end in sight for big annual deficits. The PM is definitely crystallizing a tougher federal strategy for his most dangerous antagonists, Bouchard and the PQ government of Quebec. The reshaped Chretien cabinet is modestly stronger than its predecessor, and the PM has intelligent and diligent leadership for the House and his caucus in the ministerial duo of Herb Gray, the deputy PM, and Don Boudria, the House leader, plus an assured, competent chief whip in Bob Kilger, a former NHL referee.
To clinch the point about Liberal prospects, it seems to me Chretien has his confidence back to go with his redoubtable stamina. Oh, how he wants to be prime minister of a going nation into the 21st century.
Yes, a lot could happen out of the blue to wreck the hopes for a good Parliament. This House will need an alert, quick and fair Speaker, and given the position is votable, such is not guaranteed. Putting it pompously, an ineffective ditherer in the House chair can turn a promising House into chaos.
There is also a chance, slight but not inconceivable, of troublesome dissidence in several of the caucuses.
The Liberals have a score or more restive Ontario MPs who are critical of their leader and their ministers. The Reformers could be disturbed by the launching of official Reform parties in several provinces or by external moves to bring the so-called conservatively minded parties toward collaboration and eventual union. The Tories could be shaken by this too, or by a move by Charest toward Quebec provincial politics.
Nothing can be certain about the course of a Parliament, particularly one with this tight and diverse a composition in the House of Commons.
Nonetheless, I have hope for the 36th.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 31, 1997
ID: 12742419
TAG: 199708290182
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


This Labor Day weekend is the end of summer for most of us. But in Ottawa summer goes on and on. Figuratively speaking, Jean Chretien has called a political time-out. Why fuss about the nation’s business with the skies are clear and fairways are beckoning?
This long hiatus without day-to-day politics might make sense if Canada’s fate in the unity battle to come could be settled by a golf match between Chretien and Lucien Bouchard. (Surely the Chretien handicap is at an all-time low by now.) Unfortunately, what counts depends on the PM’s political skills on his home turf of Quebec, and he has given little evidence this summer that he realizes these may have atrophied.
The pretentious profile of Bouchard commissioned by Liberal MP John Godfrey and dutifully studied by the PM’s chief handlers isn’t likely to help much. Surely a man with 34 years of Quebec politics doesn’t need a Toronto psychiatrist to tell him that Bouchard views himself as the embodiment of his people’s aspirations and fears.
The tittering English media seem to have forgotten that a lot of Quebecers share Bouchard’s high opinion of himself. The premier’s ever-changing tune on what is best for la belle province may be seen as opportunistic flip-flopping in English Canada, but among Quebecois these changes of heart seem added proof he is one of them. He too has lived through and embraced changing times. In contrast, Jean Chretien seems to be seen in Quebec as an ancient relic who should be swept away in the next flood.
The PM, his staff and his caucus should have spent the past quarter developing a psychological portrait of Quebec’s voters. Find explanations why the premier’s tales of English oppression move them while the prime minister’s paeans to Canada’s greatness do not. Despite Stephane Dion’s honorable attempt at tough talk, the government appears to have squandered the lengthy parliamentary break it awarded itself. This is as true on other fronts as it is on national unity.
CTV’s Craig Oliver recently brought news forth from the PMO’s best and brightest of a determination to spend much of the budget surplus a booming economy and record low interest rates are about to deliver. National child care and drug plans top the list, and will be announced in the upcoming Throne Speech. And when will that be? The end of September!
Despite a whole summer to come up with these winners, the PMO brain trust needs another five weeks to finalize the speech announcing them. Pathetic.
Is it over-critical to characterize this government as very languorous? Take this example:
The defence department recently announced that next month it will reveal at last the winner of the contract to replace Canada’s 34-year-old Voyageur rescue helicopters. Press releases on the Liberal search for a replacement have been flying since Chretien cancelled the Tory government’s contract to replace them with EH-101s back in 1993 (at a cost in penalties of $500 million). Over the four years the government considered alternatives to the EH-101s, the Voyageur fleet has had a series of crashes and other mishaps that endangered not just the brave Canadians who fly these ancient machines but also the people they are charged with rescuing.
At least the Voyageur crews will soon know what their future holds. The same cannot be said of those who operate the equally venerable Sea King helicopters from our destroyers. EH-101s were also to have replaced their machines. They’re still in limbo and there is no word on what aircraft they may receive or when these might enter service. As a result of a quick Chretien decision in 1993, followed by four years of dithering, these poor souls will remain hostages to archaic tools into the new millennium.
Can a government be more enervated that this?
For a change in locale, but not in governmental inertia, consider the Hydro. What deja vu to listen to the litany of excuses from the high-priced help who have managed the provincial Crown corporation. Not only did none feel any responsibility for what happened, we learned they were the real victims, undone by a so-called nuclear culture which they were powerless to counter. Similarly, past and present directors–patronage appointees of three different parties–did not see how they might have acted differently. Former Chairman Maurice Strong insisted he warned the new Harris government of the problems in the nuclear division. My recollection of Strong’s parting comments for public consumption was his claim that he had taken the tough but necessary steps to prepare the company for eventual privatization. He was most proud of his success in cutting bloated middle management (achieved through very costly buy-outs). Isn’t middle management precisely where the nuclear culture was said to operate?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 27, 1997
ID: 12741946
TAG: 199708260071
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Lucien Bouchard as a very luminous leader is not a new phenomenon. We had another who lasted a long, long time despite aspersions – John Diefenbaker.
My recall of Diefenbaker is prompted by the big fuss over a revealed evaluation of Quebec Premier Bouchard by a Toronto psychiatrist that was commissioned by Grit MP John Godfrey.
No, Dr. Vivian Rakoff’s essay doesn’t strike me as a low blow. Partisan politics always produces analyses by the dozen of what has made and motivates this or that political enemy. Yes, most of such is nasty and normally kept within the circle. But there has always been such work, as Justice Minister Anne McLellan reminded reporters looking for a confounded reaction from her on the Bouchard story.
Within political journalism, there is a genre of biographical close-ups, often with some psychobabble. This stuff had a zenith of sorts in Pierre Trudeau’s heyday after the way for it had been opened by Peter Newman’s best-seller, Renegade in Power: The Diefenbaker Years (1963).
We had literally millions of words about Diefenbaker and Trudeau. Much of it was unflattering.
Diefenbaker and Bouchard share a rare quality and power, one that often baffles rational, educated citizens.
Somehow, in 1956, and for over a decade, the Chief got through to many electors as their champion. The majority of ordinary people in English Canada identified with him into the early ’60s. Clearly, Bouchard has a similar rapport with many Quebecois. He speaks for them; he is them.
Forty years ago many Canadians were fed up with the Liberals and welcomed Diefenbaker as a savior. There was delight in his hyperbolic antics. His inconsistencies were ignored or forgiven by many. Despite the savage criticism of his leadership which developed in a few years and surged with increasing venom from the business, academic, and journalistic communities, a large core of his voters never deserted the Chief. The attacks, coupled with a clamorous opposition and confusion on Canada-U.S. relations, wore away the big majority. Nonetheless, the Chief’s following remained substantial and was never to disintegrate entirely.
I recall this insight from an insider just before the Diefenbaker phenomenon flourished. It was in late 1956. George Drew, the Tory leader, was quitting and Diefenbaker won the succession handily, defeating Donald Fleming and Davie Fulton, each an excellent MP.
Before the convention I had a chat with Prof. Arthur Lower, Queen’s University, one of Canada’s leading historians and a former teacher of mine. I had had been in a Kingston hall in the ’53 campaign for a Diefenbaker speech and had found him exuberant and wonderfully mocking about “our Liberal masters.”
Lower was an old hand at analyzing politicians. In his middle years, half in jest, he had written a piece that used a classification of human body types – e.g., endomorph, mesomorph, etc. – rather than anything Freudian to elucidate the character and attributes of party leaders like William Lyon Mackenzie King and Arthur Meighen.
For several decades, Dr. Lower had been a bosom pal of Jack Pickersgill, a prominent Liberal and a very partisan minister of Louis St. Laurent’s government. This day he confided to me that despite Diefenbaker’s well-known advocacy of human rights, the man’s world view, so reverential towards Britain, had not impressed him and he had worried about his success. However, Pickersgill had just told him not to fret about “Diefenbunker” as Jimmy Gardiner, the testy veteran minister of agriculture, called him.
The two Grit ministers had joked about Dief’s instability and lack of stamina. They assured Lower they had “figured Diefenbaker inside and out.” He was a vain, self-centered prima donna, neither a real leader nor a team man. The Liberals, they said, would far rather face Dief than either Fleming or Fulton. As for Canadians generally, they were too sensible to swallow his platform histrionics. The verbosity could not disguise the shallowness.
The veteran Gardiner had clinched it for Dr. Lower by telling him: “This man might be dangerous if he weren’t such a fool.”
So, it strikes me that the defining by those who oppose Lucien Bouchard, as with those who faced and underestimated Dief, may give foolish heart to those vying against him.
Of course, Bouchard can be beaten. But whatever any alleged disorder of his mind, many who speak his language find him magnetic. Put most simply, with sheer presence he stands with them for their nation.
His enemies may tag him as odd or even nuts. That’s what the Chief’s enemies did, and, oh, how it cost them.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 24, 1997
ID: 12481107
TAG: 199708220186
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


A veteran cameraman whose beat is Parliament Hill puts the political summer this way: “The dullest I’ve known.”
And he sketched why: post-election exhaustion; rather good economic news; fair holiday weather; and Lucien Bouchard just marking time with separatism.
He added: “The election results haven’t really satisfied or wrecked anyone. The word is about a noisy, rowdy new House but I don’t get the feel the players are panting to get at it.”
This impression of the political situation vis-a-vis the Parliament which assembles a month from now seems apt to me. The man might have added that the huge political shock of the summer has really been Ontario Hydro’s nuclear power debacle, all $33 billion worth. To mention it is to get to the obvious. For the past year more of the political grist for all Canada has come from the pushes by the Mike Harris government and the reactions to them. Surely, this is the most aggressive provincial administration in a generation.
We do not have a federal government that is excited about the legislative program it will be presenting, and none of the opposition parties knows or, perhaps more fairly, is certain about what it should be preparing to hammer the government with, either negatively or positively.
Alexa McDonough of the NDP is the opposition leader who’s been sounding off the most (though not a lot) and, no surprise, it’s been about jobs, youth, poverty and the imperative that Ottawa spend more.
The uproar that began the summer over the angry and voluminous report of the Somalia inquiry has quietened. It is now odds-on the military will not be the major rumble of the session ahead. The same seems predictable for the showiest contention of the season — i.e., the West Coast salmon wars.
No one has been on to the topic much yet but the inelasticity of the Americans on this matter stems from an attitude taken in the Clinton White House to straighten out the Chretien government and External Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy, not with open nastiness but just by being hard, and hard again.
Why? It could be from exasperation over the recent, fouled-up Rwanda initiative by the PM and his nephew or over the Axworthy-Castro dialogue.
For me the significant emergence of the summer has been on the eternal matter of Quebec in Canada. This has not yet been openly expressed in detail by the prime minister. Instead — and this makes sense, although it does seem a bit tentative — the words and ideas have been from Stephane Dion, the political science professor recruited by Jean Chretien 20 months ago to carry his federal-provincial relations file.
In argumentative letters to the PQ leadership, Dion has been elaborating or firming up what has been called Plan B or “the tough option.”
He has boldly brought forward several federalist points. The boldest is treating as irrelevant the precedent of the two referendums which Quebec has held. In each there was the premise that 50% plus one would carry the issue.
Dion also enlarges the likelihood or possibility into a near certainty that partitioning Canada presages a partitioning of Quebec itself.
It’s early to evaluate what the durable reaction to the Dion presentations will be among the Quebecois in general. Of course, his lines are anathema to the separatists. But almost every indicator one can find is positive about the response to Dion’s initiatives in this regard in the rest of Canada. So much so that already political reporters are re-evaluating Dion as a politician with a luminous future. No longer is he shrugged away as a nice, woolly academic, too esoteric to be effective in national politics.
In any case, the Dion challenges and the responses to them make it likely that before facing the new House Chretien will put a pragmatic base under the Dion themes by announcing formal legislative intentions.
These might define what “the” referendum question must say for its results to be accepted by Canada as a whole. Perhaps he may indicate the margin needed for acceptance of a Yes verdict by Canada. He may even set out some particulars any separation settlement must contain, for example, about debt obligations, currency, passports and citizenship rights.
But to give prominence to there being a real and tough Plan B as I have does exaggerate greatly what seems the immediate concern among federal MPs and those who observe or serve them.
In their speculative talk, a lot of it is whether Gilbert Parent will be or ought to be re-elected as Speaker of the House. Although hardly anyone dislikes him, few see him handling a split House such as this adroitly and firmly.
There is sure to be a vote for the post, not an acclamation, but few MPs seem at hand who either want the job or would be good at it and be broadly acceptable in the three largest caucuses.
Because gossip of it still bobs merrily along, I return briefly to a topic I’ve previously discounted — succession to the prime minister, if he chooses an early exit. The most I’ll offer is my list in order of chances. The chance is very strong for the first one but it toboggans quickly to the next three, and down even faster with the rest.
The list: Paul Martin (far ahead); Brian Tobin (for sure a first try); Frank McKenna; Allan Rock; Lloyd Axworthy (creeping up); Ann McLellan (best longshot); John Manley; Stephane Dion; and surely several ambitious backbench Liberals like John Godfrey, Bill Graham, John Bryden or Dennis Mills.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 20, 1997
ID: 12480061
TAG: 199708190176
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


“Ontario MPs rip into Chretien” was the headline on a good story by Anne Dawson in this week’s Sunday Sun.
The rappers were Carolyn Parrish from Mississauga and Pat O’Brien from London, each first elected in 1993. They are running for the caucus chairmanship for the 101 Liberal MPs from Ontario. So far each has been an aggressive MP, above average in energy and gall.
What’s in the undertakings by Parrish and O’Brien to make the prime minister listen to backbenchers? Not very much, at least if one goes by past patterns on the Hill. The airing of such a grievance often emerges in Liberal caucuses when the party is in power.
This time the complaint has come before the new House meets. It reflects an over-large Ontario contingent of MPs, several score of them still very ambitious and upwardly mobile. It grates Ontario MPs that Alberta has only two Liberal MPs and both are in the ministry. Ontario has 101 MPs, and though 13 are ministers, 88 are not.
Often the focus of this grievance of disconnection from the PM has been on allegedly inadequate cabinet ministers who do not take counsel from MPs of their region or are weak influences in the PMO. For example: in the last House MPs from Northern Ontario complained that neither Diane Marleau nor Ron Irwin bothered much with them or a united front on their needs; and Metro MPs regularly groused about lack of leadership from their ministers – David Collenette, Art Eggleton, Sergio Marchi and Allan Rock.
It seems quite obvious Jean Chretien seldom worries about the quality of his Ontario slate of ministers, and that he does take his Ontario mob somewhat casually. According to some, he doesn’t even know their names and ridings.
Vis-a-vis his caucus, he’s a contrast to Brian Mulroney who nurtured and stroked his caucuses weekly and rarely missed a birthday or an anniversary call. But Mulroney came to power quickly, along with most of his backbench, and he kept the first communion running. Aside from Chretien being a less gregarious and more mobile personality than the former Tory boss, he got to the top after 30 years and 10 Parliaments, and he rose through a party in which the norm of staunch, internal discipline in the caucus was set in Mackenzie King’s many post-1935 mandates.
In making her pitch, Parrish even noted the PMO has used “divide and rule” tactics with its Ontario mob. Again and again the leaders chosen by and for the Ontario caucus have been promoted to secretaryships, interrupting continuity and coherent leadership. This seems a bit precious as a grievance.
Consider this paradox. The Ontario crew has many able MPs of cabinet calibre (I think about 30 are more promising than most of the 13 MPs from Ontario now in the ministry). How could such MPs be out of sync and influence with the PM because of rapid derricking of their caucus chairs? If such a numerous talent, irked by several years of being ignored by the PM, cannot come up with explicit reforms in the systems of caucus to give them more influence and input, do they merit public sympathy?
It would seem too many of them still hope for promotion or have yet to realize a prime minister in our sytem only needs most of his ordinary MPs on the Hill to establish and maintain its “confidence” and, of course, as an applauding background in question period.
O’Brien’s example of a dictate he thinks should not be suffered in this Parliament was the order to backbenchers in 1995 to keep their mouths shut during the Quebec referendum. Yes, the Chretien unity strategy then almost led to a disaster. And so did the strategy this year of an early election. But in the parliamentary system, a party chief, particularly one in power, must be seen to make the decisions and outline their context. In both the referendum strategy and the election decision a consultation beforehand with the caucus would have caused at least some contentions. These would have been quickly known, and the media crew would have presented Chretien as being tentative and unsure.
In the past, the prospect of a leadership contest has usually enlivened a Liberal majority caucus simply because aspirants begin to recruit backers in the caucus. Late in this new Parliament such a prospect is likely but only one obvious heir-apparent is now on hand on the Hill. He is not from Ontario.
The Ontario cluster of 101 MPs doesn’t seem to have even one certain candidate with great abilities and ambitions. How to explain this contradiction: many able Ontario MPs but no superb leadership prospect? Perhaps it could have been a design of Jean Chretien.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 17, 1997
ID: 12479515
TAG: 199708150155
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


Most people outside Eastern Ontario and Quebec are unaware that a huge campaign by Franco-Ontarians has saved the Montfort Hospital in the east end of Ottawa from extinction.
Months ago the Montfort was so ticketed by the commission restructuring hospitals in Ontario for the Harris government. Last week the commission announced the Montfort would keep going as a French-language “ambulatory” hospital, but with fewer beds and less services than now. This result delighted most of the advocates, even though it was imperfect.
I was one of the local, unilingual Anglos who advocated the Montfort be saved. As a patient I had been pleased with the care given me in what is primarily a French-language institution.
But it was clear in the months of a high-profile Save the Montfort drive, that many anglos in Eastern Ontario were fed up with it, particularly after PQ and BQ politicians like Lucien Bouchard and Gilles Duceppe challenged the first decision to abolish the hospital with talk about repression of French in Ontario.
A column I wrote in favor of the Montfort brought me letters and calls which revealed a strong animus against the hospital and a cynical belief that the politicians would save it but not two other very popular Ottawa hospitals, Riverside and Grace (a beloved Sally Ann institution).
The biting cynicism beneath the normal day-to-day surface of the capital region about our politicians’ antics on language and ethnic issues is staggering.
Often I heard statements like this: “Of course, they’ll cave in. The French always get what they want.”
One snarky caller asked me: “Why do you cater to the Francos? This isn’t Quebec.”
I sense a common opinion is abroad that all levels of government in Eastern Ontario are scared of the propaganda and voting pressures which French Canadians can generate. Rarely does a social occasion with folks in the Ottawa region who are non-media and non-political pass without talk about lost jobs or promotions in the military or the federal agencies because of bilingualism’s imperatives. Sometimes I think a Yes or No referendum on bilingualism here would draw a two-thirds negative vote.
The Montfort case has caused a big blip of hostile talk about bilingualism and favoritism for francophones. It is unlikely to disappear in the Ottawa region unless or until Quebec goes. Then one could anticipate a savage response against bilingual services in Ontario, federal or provincial.
My support for the Montfort was not an enthusiasm for bilingualism in Ontario. It was in sympathy for those with a facility only in French. When ill they should be able, wherever possible, to find hospital and medical personnel who talk their language.
And despite the interference of the PQ ministers in this issue, overwhelmingly the Franco-Ontarians who use the Montfort are federalists all the way. Also, the majority of Quebecers across the river in Hull, Gatineau and what they call the Outouais are federalists. The Capital Region of Canada is far from PQ country.
Another factor in my sympathy to the Montfort campaign is more general and diffuse. Some time after the 1971 census came out, a perusal of its language data, in particular comparing it with previous censuses this century, made me realize both the French language and French ethnicity was on a slide.
Looking back 50 years and looking ahead 50 years, I see a language in retreat. Francophones are fighting a long, defensive rearguard action in which there can be no final victory.
When I was in public school, French Canadians comprised just over 30% of the population. Now the percentage is just under 25%.
Outside of Quebec and a small part of New Brunswick, the census demographic data has repeatedly been showing the loss of their French among those in the diaspora. Despite bilingual programs in the past 30 years, French is not a language on the ascendant in Canada, and the omens in popular culture or in business and communications technology are unpromising.
An article in The Beaver for August, by Calgary historian Donald B. Smith, reminded me that in my youth many saw the future of Canada as very French. At the time the French Canadian birthrate was very high and immigration had almost ceased with the Great Depression. One forecaster, the lawyer-poet and rights advocate Frank Scott, argued in a text used in many schools in the 1940s that the French Canadian was “likely to outnumber the British” by 1971.
B.K. Sandwell, an editor of Saturday Night, wrote in 1941 that the natural increase of the French would ultimately give them over 50% of the population.
Bruce Hutchison, a superb author and columnist, wrote in 1942: “The 60,000 Frenchmen conquered by Wolfe have grown to more than 3 million, about a third of the Canadian nation, and, at their present rate of fertility, will some day be the largest part.”
In 1947 a prominent journalist with Montreal’s Le Devoir, Paul Sauriol, foresaw the day when the largest language group in Canada would be using French.
Is the birthrate in Quebec, which went from highest to lowest in Canada in just three decades and has stayed there, likely to reverse? Is steady assimilation to the majority language of the country, the continent and of business likely to stop? Are there scads of French-speaking prospective immigrants in France or Haiti or Algeria ready to come to Quebec?
Once one takes “no” to be the right answer to these questions, surely one must have some sympathy for compatriots who speak French and realize it is in decline and, in the Montfort case, that they had to fight hard to keep what they have had.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 13, 1997
ID: 12478637
TAG: 199708120062
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


This post-election summer has been flat. Partisan stuff has been over minutiae. Federal ministers have been low key, most notably Finance Minister Paul Martin. The prime minister has been busy with lots of flights and occasions here and abroad, but most of this has been routine or ceremonial.
Whatever Jean Chretien’s schedule, he thrives. He radiates vigor and confidence. And while he’s far from chubby, I’d bet he’s heavier than at any time in our acquaintance of three decades. His bounciness makes me chuckle at the recurring talk, particularly in editorials (and an article of faith with columnist Allan Fotheringham) of Chretien being guided shortly out of politics by his wise wife. And as he and she retire Martin will ascend to the PMO.
It seems likelier, given his energy and confidence, that Chretien has his mind on a long haul; certainly for at least three years, but I think longer, even through another election.
It’s true bubbles of dissent are rising from a few bolder backbenchers about Chretien’s poor chances of mastering the unity issue and Lucien Bouchard.
After any election, a somewhat tentative bravery is not uncommon among government backbenchers, often from some irked at being passed over for the big jobs. Such roiling fades and is forgotten once a new House gathers and the gang has a few stirring caucuses. So take with a proverbial grain of salt the scatter of Liberal MPs demanding the leader consult more with his MPs.
Liberal ranks will tighten into a firm phalanx once the session opens.
Remember, the margin for government error in the numbers game is small in this new House. The survival instinct has always been stronger in Liberal caucuses than in those of other parties. Last Parliament, Chretien could take calmly the bolts by MPs like John Nunziata and Warren Allmand. Now he is without the sweet margin of 25 votes there was in the last mandate.
Liberal MPs have been superb in sticking together, even when down as low as 40 MPs (1984-88). They cohered to get back in power. They cohere to keep power, and of course to sustain their basic function of keeping Canada together. They are also the critical barrier to the surge of Preston Manning and his Reform reactionaries.
Every Liberal MP is, or will be, aware that it will only take a bolt from the party whip’s directions by a half-dozen of them for a “want of confidence” vote in the government to pass. And even a series of cliff-hanging votes, say surviving by a margin of one or two or three will destabilize the country. And not just Parliament Hill, but the business world, the stock market and millions of citizens will be upset. The cries for stable government, not one parliamentary crisis after another, will became a roar that sweeps the nation.
Do I exaggerate this prospect of Liberal solidarity? Well, there is some ironic stretch in the way I put it, but if there’s a simple explanation why the Liberals have been Canada’s governing party so often it lies in the recognition by a continuing cadre at its centre since Mackenzie King became the leader in 1919, that to gain power and to keep power leaves little room for dissenters within the party, and particularly within the parliamentary caucus.
Despite such solidarity — and this is the extra bit of Liberal genius — there have almost always been some MPs in the caucus and the cabinet who are to the left, ideologically speaking, and some who are to the right. This was best symbolized historically in the postwar King governments in Paul Martin, Sr. on the left and C.D. Howe on the right. Today’s left wingers are Lloyd Axworthy, Sheila Copps and new minister Andy Scott. The right wingers are anchored by Paul Martin, Jr., John Manley and Art Eggleton.
This stuff of differing left and right bowers within the Liberals will get its play in the coming session. Chretien is not a fool. We shall hear of arguments in cabinet and caucus over what moneys may be used for “real Liberal” programs, money usable because of the diving deficit and the healthier economy. First within caucus, then outside it, Chretien will both define the choices and the eventual decisions. The utility in all this for him is obvious. It is an outlet for backbench energy and contentiousness, first with caucus limits, and then in the debating hours of the House and in its committees. Such advocacy and defence will encourage the whole team to confront and beat down the worst enemy. Of course that is neither the “official” remnants of the NDP and Tory parties nor even the down- sized, third place “sovereignists.” It is the detestable Reformers.
A canny party leader can do much with a dangerous, hated enemy, and Chretien has one to bond and band his followers.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 10, 1997
ID: 12478077
TAG: 199708080138
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


There is more than wit, calculated distortions and meaty revelations about federal and Newfoundland politicians in No Holds Barred, the book coming soon by John Crosbie.
Remember him? Now 66, he was both a provincial and a federal minister between 1966 and 1993 and a losing candidate to be Newfoundland’s premier (1970) and as leader of the federal Tories (1984).
Much of the author’s cooler thoughts come in a closing chapter, “On Reflection.” He ponders half a dozen topics, from abolishing the Senate to celebrating federalism, much as Pierre Trudeau did, because it spreads authority and suborns dictatorship at the centre.
He is philosophical on the imperative of strong political leadership but underlines its regrettable consequence in too intensive a fix on whoever is No. 1 to the detriment of cabinet government and real parliamentary input. But his topic which I most want to paraphrase is on the fundamental question of Canada’s survival. And if it doesn’t survive, what then?
Crosbie’s attitude on this core issue goes back to his experience as a youth who only became a Canadian in 1948 after two referendum votes in Newfoundland. After the robust humor in so much of the autobiography this segment seems very cold-blooded.
Crosbie thinks too many Canadians, including Prime Minister Jean Chretien, have “a grand delusion.” They believe Quebecers’ own self-interests, especially economic ones, mean the advocates of separation will never win. Wrong!
He argues from the Newfoundland experience in referendums that “emotion is a stronger force in determining voting decisions than reason or logic will ever be.”
“Most French Quebecers will cast their ballots on the basis of emotion – as a result of their historical memories of their treatment as a minority in Canada or the appeal of being `masters in our own house.'”
If the Quebec vote favors leaving, Crosbie believes “both Quebecers and the residents of the rest of Canada will suffer immediate and immense economic damage … and the greatest damage will be suffered by the residents of the Atlantic provinces and, in particular, by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
He says, “Separation is not an issue for Quebecers alone to decide. It is particularly vital for the people of Atlantic Canada, whose four provinces depend so heavily on the government of Canada for fiscal transfers to their government and through direct support to individuals through the Employment Insurance system, the CCP, Old Age Security, the Guaranteed Income Supplement … etc.
“It’s time for a reality check,” Crosbie insists. “I don’t believe that Canadian federalism will survive if Quebec leaves. And if federalism collapses, Atlantic Canadians will be the first victims … most of whom are living in a fool’s paradise …”
So many Canadians, east and west, are “thinking that if Quebec leaves nothing much will change” and assuming that “the nine remaining provinces will carry on without Quebec … and that all the social programs, all transfer programs … will carry on.”
Crosbie writes: “It is high time Atlantic Canadians started to consider seriously the five options that face us: to continue as part of the present Canada; to become part of Canada without Quebec; to become part of a new Atlantic country composed of the four Atlantic provinces; to become independent countries again, as Newfoundland was until 1949; or to become states of the United States of America.”
Unfortunately, all the options except continuing as part of a united Canada are “cataclysmic for the ordinary person in Atlantic Canada. Despite this self-evident fact, the issue is not even discussed. Our heads are buried in the sand.”
Crosbie thinks both Ontario and Quebec are essential “to the continuation of Canada as a nation. If either leaves Canada ceases to exist as a nation. If Quebec goes it would not be in the interests of Ontario, British Columbia, or Alberta, each of which is capable of surviving well as an independent nation, to carry on with Canada.”
And if they did “cobble something together” the financial arrangements would be much different and the new federation could not continue to dispense charity to Atlantic Canada.
“The best Atlantic Canada could expect would be less. the worst would be nothing at all,” he believes.
Crosbie is sure the Atlantic provinces couldn’t come together as a nation, not least because there really is little empathy or affinity between Newfoundland and the others. And Newfoundland going it alone would have a terrible time.
The last option, of joining the U.S., may seem open to either one or all the Atlantic provinces. It is often tossed out as a possibility.
Few realize the Americans are not likely to want them because of how they would skew U.S. politics. Few appreciate that Washington has nothing close to the generous programs for the states that Ottawa has for the poorer provinces.
And so Crosbie concludes: keeping Canada together must be the absolute and immediate priority, particularly of politicians in the Atlantic provinces. Therefore, the latter and those in federal and provincial politics elsewhere must make some matters very clear to Quebecers before another referendum. He sketches some seven points to be emphasized.
– There must be a clear question which the ordinary voter can understand.
– Repeated votes on the question over an indefinite period of time are out.
– For any referendum, the timing is to be determined by “all of us, not just by the government of Quebec.”
– There must be prior agreement on the margin of the Yes vote that will be decisive.
– Quebecers must not assume that the boundaries of Quebec would remain as they are today.
– The arrangements vis-a-vis Canada and a sovereign Quebec regarding such basics as future currency, passports, citizenship and the role of the central Bank of Canada must be spelled out beforehand.
– Crosbie believes Canadians have as much or more at stake in Quebec’s separation than Quebecers have. Everyone must shed themselves of any prospect there would not be great disruption from separation or that there could be a gentlemanly and friendly scenario.
Each of us, not least in Quebec, has to realize that “breakup will inevitably produce tensions, conflict and strife …”


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 06, 1997
ID: 12477154
TAG: 199708050254
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Last week, while reading of Robert Bryce, dead at 87, and in his long Ottawa heyday a renowned mandarin, the mailman dropped off a book in draft form, No Holds Barred – My Life in Politics, by John C. Crosbie (with Geoffrey Stevens).
What I was remembering of Bryce was his modesty. Never have I met such a self-effacing personality among either leading federal ministers or officials. Between 1965 and 1970 I had watched him, as deputy minister of finance, explain budgets to the annual press “lockup.” And on my own I often pushed him for information or opinions. He was always direct and succinct, clear and plain.
Then I ripped open the packet from McClelland & Stewart to face a color photo of another former giant of Ottawa, John Crosbie. It has him in an oratorical stance with both fists raised. And my immediate thought was: What a contrast! Crosbie, the most immodest, among mostly immodest, successful politicians – sharp, gesturing, witty, a rollicking “tell it all as it is” partisan – and Bryce, the epitome of the unassuming, neutral public servant – a mandarin even John Diefenbaker trusted.
Before noting how the very quietness of Bryce served to fascinate, then to enhance whatever he would say, I should make clear his modesty was not typical of the Ottawa mandarins. Indeed, I found the first Clerk of the Privy Council, the late Arnold Heeney, as arrogant, cocky and self-assured as John Crosbie. And no one in electoral politics ever outdid Simon Reisman (the federal official who worked up both the Auto Pact and NAFTA) at flaunting his panache.
Since time immemorial, at least once a year the prime minister or the minister of finance has stated that Canada “has the best” or “probably the best public service in the world.” Sometimes, particularly a few decades ago, they really meant it. After I had dealt with Bryce a few times I would nod at such remarks. Like many journalists I kept a general confidence in our mandarinate so long as Bryce was there, top and centre. He was such a wholesome model – able, loyal, and modest. He gave a sanction of integrity to the federal administration as a whole. After his departure from regular work in the early ’70s, both economists and historians were to write about and argue over his role in bringing Keynesian economics to Ottawa in the late 1930s and getting aspects of it applied.
Bryce took a low key, slow tempo part in the rather esoteric debate which arose about the Keynes factor in Canada. He was rather quizzical about Canada’s relative inability to ignore situations in other countries, notably the U.S., in dictating lower interest rates here. And he was candidly puzzled in trying to understand how Canada had attained the seemingly contradictory afflictions of high unemployment and rising inflation. Not for him the status of the elderly wise man who could explain everything.
What a leap it is from the perfect public official to John Crosbie. It’s true that in common with Robert Bryce he had an exceptionally high academic record, a capacity for both intense study and grasping the essence of an issue or a contentious situation. But Crosbie is rough, ready, direct, outspoken, given to vivid metaphors and vulgar anecdotes and – this is his grand and saving grace – immense candor; in particular, candor about himself.
No Holds Barred is seven weeks or so from printing, but look for it when it’s available. It can be savored on at least three levels. On the most high-minded and least partisan level it has a running analysis of our forms and systems of government and where they have been going wrong, including the debasement of Parliament and of cabinet.
On the far more contentious plane of partisan politics, Crosbie deals roughly, often derisively, and sometimes fairly, with recent and current luminaries of the federal PC party. And for balance he includes some mocking of his own conduct and the agitation it has often caused in his colleagues. Of course, he reduces Liberal leaders like John Turner and Jean Chretien to mean-minded nitwits and prevaricators (although he has mostly good words for Pierre Trudeau, savoring both his arrogance and his contempt for the media).
But the level in No Holds Barred I find most central in this “political life” is the evocation of Newfoundland. Crosbie is frank. Much like so many Quebecois, he is not a Canadian first and foremost; he is first a Newfoundlander. And this explains the cool detachment of the most striking stuff in the book for me. It is the Crosbie analysis of how federalists should cope short-run with Premier Lucien Bouchard and the PQ, and the varying alternatives which will face Newfoundland, the Maritime provinces, Ontario, the Prairies and B.C. if Quebecers vote to separate. (More on this analysis next time.)

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 03, 1997
ID: 12476452
TAG: 199708010139
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


The annual meeting of the Assembly of First Nations, including the choice of Phil Fontaine as the new grand chief, is my hook for looking for parallels elsewhere to what seems shaping among Canadians generally, and many of the 600 or so bands of status Indians.
My hunch is that post-Ovide Mercredi we shall hear more from the chiefs on the responsibility they and their associations have to better themselves wherever they can; and there will be a relative surcease of belaboring other Canadians for native misfortunes and in demands for a constitutional place for Indian nations within Canada and its provinces.
The aboriginal situation came to mind as I read a story in the NewYork Times (July 27) from Jerusalem by Serge Schmemann — “Why Israel Shrugs At the Swiss List.”
My long reach may strike some as absurd, others as distasteful. The factors in common are guilt and the assigning of guilt.
First, there is societal guilt; something that is acknowledged widely by nations. Second, there is the determination of those who suffered and their heirs to never forget the terrible abuses, nor let those who were guilty and their heirs forget the justice in reparations.
How long does societal guilt last? Does it eventually become distracting and a barrier to the future? What leads those who have felt guilty to ease away from the burden of it? What prompts those who have suffered to turn to more immediate and tangible matters?
Forty years ago (when I came to Ottawa) the federal spending annually on native affairs was less than $60 million and there were about 200,000 status Indians. In the ’60s and ’70s the parlous conditions of Indians’ health, housing, education, and employment were widely recognized. So was the scurvy treatment they had had from governments, churches, merchants, and neighbors. Quickly the Indians developed their grievances into stories of horror. They assigned guilt and condemned the Indian Act.
Those accused of guilt — i.e., all non-natives and their antecendents in the land — accepted it and regretted it, particularly the people in politics and the media. And so the numbers in both dollars spent and in the status population rose annually beyond any other governmental cost or census group. In four decades the number of `status’ Indians tripled and the federal spending soared over a hundredfold. Of course, those who speak as Indians or for them (e.g., lawyers and sociologists) have become familiar, notably through TV. Few subjects are more a TV staple than natives and their friends recounting their problems, their sufferings and poverty because of acts by whites and their governments.
Their tales are matched by the profusion of politicians who have accepted the guilt and vow to assuage the suffering and restore usurped rights. Examples? Try the demands for national apologies in the recent royal commission on aboriginal affairs. Recall recent remarks by the governor general, Romeo Leblanc.
He insists Canada must move more quickly and generously to meet native claims and allay their hardships.
All this may seem far away from Israel and Swiss bank accounts. However …
The New York Times story began with the disinterest in Israel over the big international story on the details and significance of the published list of dormant Swiss bank accounts.
It said: “In fact, the entire storm over assets of Holocaust victims held in Switzerland never really made any waves in the country where, it would seem, the reaction should be most intense.”
There follow several explanations for the difference between Israeli and, say American, reaction. First, Israel has much prime news of its own each day because of its intense domestic politics and the Palestinian factor. But in probing among Israelis, reporter Schmemann found a “far deeper” explanation — “a different understanding of Jewish history and of the Holocaust than that of Jews abroad, and to a certain unease, even annoyance at the way the issue has been seized on by Jews elsewhere.”
“For Americans,” said one Israeli writer, “the Holocaust seems like a religion in itself, while for Israel it’s part of the national myth, of the national psyche, of what we all came here to flee.”
For American Jews the campaign against the Swiss bankers was “almost a sacred mission, an affirmation of their Judaism. These were passions and needs Israeli Jews had long moved beyond in the tempestuous, contentious, and often violent process of building a Jewish nation-state. There is no challenge of assimilation which American Jews are so obsessed with. Nobody fears there can be another Holocaust.”
Other Israelis told the reporter that “the moral issue of reparations played out in Israel 45 years ago.” After a bitter debate Israel accepted what became billions in reparations from Germany in the name of the Jewish people and has positive relations with Germany. Also, most Israelis are veterans of more immediate wars in and around their embattled country, and World War II was a long time ago. Thus trumpeting about the guilt for the Holocaust which the world, particularly the Western world, should bear, and continually seeking retribution, have given way in Israel to defending and sustaining the nation.
Of course the Israeli-Holocaust scenario is far from a close fit for the causes and consequences of decades of mistreatment and a discount of Indians by their fellow Canadians. Nonetheless, as I read both the politicians and the natives, they are now coming to accept that throwing money, land, and external expertise at the huge and scattered situations of Indians has allayed some suffering and filled some needs. But progress has been slow, with too many failures. Accepting guilt and throwing more money at the maltreated hasn’t worked well.
This year in this particular national dilemma more is emerging than just the Chretien government’s bent towards pragmatism, to try one thing at a time, to do what is possible wherever it is possible and not craft an array of native governments within the Canadian state.
I sense, particularly in politicians but also among a lot of the chiefs, a revulsion at the more complex constitution entailed in the grandeur of the royal commission recommendations. More and more Canadians seem to be shrugging off their part in collective guilt. More positively, more and more Indians, figuratively-speaking, want to cultivate their gardens where they are. They seem sated with belaboring the guilty while demanding they must have their own grand garden of Eden for ever and ever. But we shall see this either confirmed as nonsense in a few months as Chief Fontaine, ably guided by Winnipeg adviser-lawyer, Jack London, measures his task, including Jane Stewart, the new minister for Indian Affairs.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 30, 1997
ID: 12475437
TAG: 199707290089
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Readers write, often to be critical. Here are arguments from two bright ones.
W.A. Sullivan of Westmount, P.Q., thought my obituary of the late Gerard Pelletier too flattering. He has a harsher appreciation of the Pelletier contribution as a federal minister from 1968 to 1975 and as friend and fellow in purpose with Pierre Trudeau, notably on sustaining federalism through a bilingual Canada. He writes:
“You have overlooked the fact that this proponent of bilingualism as secretary of state was instrumental in depriving Montreal of the status of an official bilingual federal district. Despite the fact Montreal was the largest bilingual district in the world, Mr. Pelletier and Mr. Trudeau had this key recommendation of the “B & B” (Bilingualism and Biculturalism) commission scuttled in 1972.
“In 1975 they also ignored a petition for disallowance of Premier Bourassa’s unilingual Bill 22 from Frank Scott, the famous B & B commissioner and eight other members of both linguistic communities, including the batonnier of the Quebec Bar Association. The exodus which followed accelerated with the election of the PQ in 1976 and its successor to Bill 22, Bill 101.
“In the 22 years since Bill 22, Montreal has been downsized from a head office city to a regional centre as 14,000 head office jobs and 40,000 service-centre related jobs relocated to escape this restrictive and ethno-centric legislation. These linguistic and cultural taboos have made Montreal the poverty capital of Canada with 25% of its residents dependent on unemployment insurance or welfare benefits …
“Montreal had been a thriving cosmopolitan area in which a large English-speaking sector had been joined by a large French-speaking sector to create one of the world’s truly cosmopolitan places, but Mr. Pelletier seemed to favor a `Chicoutimi-on-the-St. Lawrence’ where one language and culture should be predominant … The bilingualism policy polarized the two language communities in Quebec and gave the nationalists the notion they could do anything they wanted to do, including the separation of Quebec. Now English-speaking Canadians in southwestern Quebec are considering partition as their best alternative in response to the nationalist’s aggressive disregard of Canadian values and traditions … Viewing Gerard Pelletier as a champion of bilingualism, is untrue if you look at his record as minister … Certainly the consequences have been an economic disaster.”
Indeed, Montreal today would be a worse economic disaster than it is if Ottawa had not poured in so much federal money in support of the aerospace industry there in the past 20 years.
In a column a few weeks ago on the Somalia affair I asserted there had been a deliberate cover-up of it within the defence bureaucracy, that it had begun very early, and that the commission of inquiry had not really described the genesis of it before the grim misdeeds of some airborne soldiers became a major public outrage.
Colin Marmo of Ottawa has sent me a succinct sketch of events in Ottawa following the deaths of civilians in Somalia in 1993.
At that time, Kim Campbell was minister of National Defence, the favorite in the race to succeed Brian Mulroney, and Robert Fowler was her deputy-minister. Marmo cites six documents filed with the commission, dated from May 2 to May 26, 1993. Most of them are handwritten notes. The notes are by Capt. Fred Blair (RCN) then Assistant Judge Advocate General.
The gist of Marmo’s argument from the documents centers on the last one of May 26, an “e-mail” message from Capt. Blair to Fowler, which summarizes a meeting he attended with the D/M and then Chief of Defence Staff General John de Chastelain (CDS) on May 12. The key instruction for Capt. Blair and his superior, the Judge Advocate General (JAG) was this:
“Only we (D/M and CDS) offer advice to minister, national defence. That includes legal advice, or mixed legal/other advice. The Judge Advocate General is not to give advice to minister or minister’s staff without D/M-CDS concurrence. (Point reinforced by CDS). Only exception acknowledged by D/M: Advice by JAG to minister on her quasi-judicial role in the code of service discipline. D/M challenged A/JAG to discuss this with JAG and come back for further discussion if JAG has a problem with that.”
Sure enough, the brief e-mail explains why years later Campbell was so exercised over suggestions she was a part of any cover-up.
She only knew what Fowler and de Chastelain let her know.
As a cynic might point out, the subsequent government took care of her, placing her in L.A., and took care of Fowler and de Chastelain even better, one at the U.N., the other as a saviour in Ireland.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 27, 1997
ID: 12474833
TAG: 199707250156
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


Some think Canada’s history as a discipline or study is sick. Maybe this is why our unity is in jeopardy.
National History is the name of a quarterly which some historians launched last spring. The first issue has been in my hands for months and several times I’ve re-read the first article by Doug Owram (University of Alberta). At each reading I tell myself: “You should try to popularize this.”
Why do so? The Owram essay, some 10,000 words long, has a rather opaque title: “Narrow Circles: The Historiography of Recent Canadian Historiography.”
Whatever the title, the piece should have broad consequences among our historians and political scientists. It sets out how Canadian historians lost an explanatory and unifying historical myth which for a short time seemed to sustain and knit a unique nationality and polity. It had crystallized during and right after World War II.
In part, this myth was capsuled in the titles of Professor Arthur Lower’s best-selling history of Canada, From Colony to Nation (1946) and Professor Donald Creighton’s majestic The Commerical Empire of the St. Lawrence (1937).
Our senior historians of that time — academics like Lower, Creighton, William Morton, Frank Underhill and Harold Innis — had crafted and elaborated much of the myth which explained our nation while Canada built up a huge military and a busy war-time economy that continued to astound us by booming along after the war.
And then, after a remarkably brief span of wide acceptance, the myth rather quietly fell apart in the 60s and 70s. It happened despite so much retrospect galvanized by our Centennial and as historians and social scientists were multiplying and specializing. The elder, nationalist cadre of historians were followed by hundreds of fresh scholars at swollen or new universities.
The national myth we did have has been described as “the Laurentian thesis.” As Owram writes:
“A generation of staple theorists created a national and nationalist interpretation of Canadian history in which the consolidation and expansion of settlement gave Canadian historiography its focus and framework. Common to these historians was an assumption that Canadian history as a form of national synthesis did exist. In the second phase of history writing this unifying theme disappeared as the discipline disintegrated into sub-disciplines, each of which was intended to redress omissions in the old history. This fragmentation, however, left only a void where the national interpretation had once existed.”
In short, for several decades we have been without a new umbrella synthesis, one to replace the Laurentian thesis as an organizing principle.
Our current textbooks are without a dominant nationalist line. Most of the research and publication that has been underway for several decades in the sub-disciplines (such as aboriginal, military, constitutional, environmental, sport, regional, urban, and women’s history) has not been worked well into such a definite line.
All this rings my bells. Fifty years ago I took lectures from professors Underhill, Creighton, Innis, and Lower, men who created the first myth of nationhood. Also, as one of the near million in uniform in World War II, I had a confidence I was sure most of them shared. We knew what Canada was. Oh, our sense of Canadianism was vigorous, even if we were fuzzy in expressing it. We “knew” there was a Canadian national identity and quality. For the past two decades, however, I and a lot of my generation have had a growing regret that our myth has fallen away.
In trying to explain the disintegration, some of us wonder if it was because of the Quebecois emergence. Or did it owe something to the deliberately anti-nationalist views of Pierre Trudeau and how his very American charter of rights ekevated principle and suborned precedent? Or has it been the unsubtle pressure of popular American culture and its dynamic myth? Or was the over-arch broken down by strengthening regional identities and loyalties, in particular those prospering in western Canada?
Through the years as the once-held myth collapsed there were attempts which Doug Owram lists “to define what it is that makes Canada unique. Metropolitanism; the frontier thesis; Hartzian fragments and tory touches; multiculturalism; violence and redress; even victimization.”
One myth with some currency which offends my common sense is put by some enthusiasts of multiculturalism. They see a myth of a people whose early collective experiences and community values nurtured and developed an admirable concern for others. This has led inevitably, given Canada’s working success at `peace, order, and good government,’ to a multicultural state — a deliberately diverse one which is both seeking to be, and coming to symbolize, Earth’s “rainbow.” This is a global Samaritan Canada, its citizens peacekeepers and care-givers.
Doug Owram insists that the “malaise” of his profession cannot be blamed on penny-saving governments or a nipping of chances for new academics to get their work published. A quarter century of unprecedented support and activity has done much to advance individual studies but little to contribute to our understanding of Canada as a whole. Indeed, the opposite might true.
“The profession,” says Owram, “seems unable to bring all its efforts together and to say, at least tentatively, `this is Canada.’ Yet this is what the general public wants of history. The result is a growing sense of pessimism within the profession and disengagement from it by non-historians.”
He notes the irony that those most successful in giving the public the history it has wanted (and been rewarded well for it) have rarely been the academic historians and social scientists in allied disciplines but such writers as Pierre Berton, Peter Newman, James Gray, and Grant McEwan.
The message in the Owram argument is aimed at those who study and write history. His closing exhortation is to them, not to Canadians generally. Of course, we could benefit if heed is given to his insistence there must be more to historical work than ever more specialization.
Mr. Owram wants historians to do more weighing and measuring of Canadian experience and achievement against that of other nations. “We must try,” he says “for overarching interpretive frameworks.” We must “think consciously about the issue. Then and only then shall we see if the two processes of reintegration and a new interpretation of Canadian history is feasible.” The interpretation might even be that the Canadian myth is of a people with a system so pragmatic, flexible and dynamic that it needs no frame of unifying nationalism.
(Note: The quarterly National History is published by Irwin Publishing, 1800 Steeles Ave., W., Concord, Ont. L4K 2P3)

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 23, 1997
ID: 12473802
TAG: 199707220076
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Many Liberal MPs gathered in Ottawa this week for caucus. None of the few I chatted to ventured into talk of a change in their party’s leadership.
Paul Martin? Allan Rock? Brian Tobin? Frank McKenna? Anybody? No. No one was keen to talk about any of them, or about anyone else as the next prime minister.
There was no readiness to take apart Jean Chretien or even to dwell on his recent, cautious repairs to the cabinet. A seeming indifference by the MPs to leader-talk is understandable. It’s too soon after an election victory which, however narrow, gave them a majority. Obvious apprehensions about getting a new leader won’t be to the fore with most Liberal MPs until the shape and intensity of the new House of Commons with its five `official’ parties becomes clear. That might be by the Christmas recess, more certainly by the mid-winter budget.
But if an alternative to Jean Chretien now is not immediate with those who make up his majority, it always will be bothering political reporters (as in this example). We may not push the topic hard for a year or so if Mr. Chretien and his cabinet have a stretch without scandals or baleful economic news but we won’t leave it lie for long.
Take this example. Since Anne McLellan has been given the crucial justice portfolio, I’ve heard a few colleagues assessing her respectfully, even hazarding that she may be a contender for the top job in a year or two. Premature? Probably, but as Sheila Copps recedes and recedes from another leadership bid, McLellan is emerging as the top female aspirant. As one colleague said: “Suppose she cleans away the controversy across Canada over gun control and the recent gun registration legislation?” Certainly that would vault McLellan up and up. One recalls a precedent, and it includes the justice portfolio. Kim Campbell went from being a newly-elected MP to prime minister in a mere five years, the crucial ones being three years as minister of justice.
The only new name among ministers other than Anne McLellan’s which has been mentioned a few times lately as a potential leader is Pierre Pettigrew. He has a major economic portfolio relating to the labor force. In 18 months as minister he has radiated enthusiasm and thoughtfulness on job creation, and unlike most previous Quebec ministers he is not disinterested in Canada beyond Quebec. In my opinion he may be too urbane and too obviously the bachelor to win the disciples whom a franco candidate from Quebec would need in the rest of Canada.
As one freezes out Pettigrew from a prime place on the slate of prospects one might also subtract Copps from it even though she ran last time and still makes much noise. It’s harder to be so certain about Premier Brian Tobin of Newfoundland. He’s down but is he out?
Just this week the Tobin candidate lost a by-election in a riding which usually favors Liberals. Some of the Tobin slide in Newfoundlanders’ approval has come with a laggard but remorseless realization in Newfoundland that Captain Canada really didn’t win the turbot war with Spain in the gut matter of allowable catch. The Spaniards are into a 10-year deal with a tonnage ceiling over twice of Newfoundlanders. And it seems, going by federal seats lost on the Rock that as Mr. Tobin’s popularity has slipped there so have the federal Liberals.
Of course, the remnant of Atlantic MPs at this week’s Grit federal caucus is chewing over the grim turn of fortune for their party. Imagine losing ministers so prominent and self-assured as David Dingwall and Doug Young, each sometimes mentioned as a leadership prospect. And all Liberals know little is hunky-dory for any of Atlantica’s Liberal parties. Even the middling but long-steady stock of Premier Frank McKenna as a possible prime minister has been crimped considerably. Six Liberal seats were lost in N.B., four to the Tories and, more shockingly, two to the NDP.
Over in Nova Scotia there’s a new Liberal premier, Russ MacLellan, a federal MP for 18 years and highly regarded by politicians, staff and journalists on the Hill. To retain the post he has less than a year to engineer a huge rise in Liberal backing among Nova Scotians. So provincially and federally speaking, in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland for sure, and to some degree in New Brunswick, conjuring serious contenders for Chretien’s succession is hardly on, at least for a couple of years. So … back we go and await, most likely, Paul Martin and, perhaps Allan Rock, perhaps Anne McLellan, possibly Premier McKenna.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 20, 1997
ID: 13046287
TAG: 199707180157
SECTION: Comment/Editorial
ILLUSTRATION: photo from SUN files
ANCHOR WARS … CTV’s Lloyd Robertson consistently draws a larger audience than Peter Mansbridge at CBC. But that could change as the winds of change blow through the networks.


Here are two questions which at first may not seem relevant to federal politics.
Why has CTV’s national newscast presented by Lloyd Robertson at 11 p.m. consistently had a lot more viewers than the CBC’s national newscast presented by Peter Mansbridge now at 10 p.m.?
Is this long domination by CTV in numbers of viewers going to be affected, even ended, by any or all of three pending developments? First, there is the takeover of CTV by Baton Broadcasting, an Eaton family enterprise. The CRTC seems certain to give this its final approval. Second, CTV is launching an all-news channel on cable in September. Third, CBC has said it plans to repeat its 10 p.m. national newscast on the network at 11 p.m.
Some viewers have a plain answer to the first question: more people simply prefer the personality and delivery of Lloyd Robertson over Peter Mansbridge.
Others figure 11 p.m. is a more propitious time-slot for catching the swatch of viewers who’ve had their prime-time programs and take their last switch before bed with Lloyd and CTV. If this analysis has worth, one may expect that some time this winter CBC news managers, fortified by double-barreled news showings, will be pointing out that CTV can no longer tag its newscast as the most watched and Mr. Robertson as the man most trusted by Canadians.
A further explanation of CTV’s big margin is at hand for those who follow the stock “ratings” books of viewers and shares. Most CTV affiliates across Canada have higher viewer numbers and shares in their pre-news hour than CBC stations have in theirs — and, figuratively-speaking, most of such viewers carry on.
A few analysts persist in emphasizing another factor as a real if rather intangible cause of the durable CTV hegemony. They say (and by and large I agree) that CBC news is always trying to do good, to teach and advise while informing. A lot of Canadians want their TV news straight, not borne on the freight of social righteousness.
It seems there should be no contest. The CBC, a crown corporation largely funded by Ottawa, has such a huge Goliath to David advantage over CTV in both budget dollars and in reporters, producers, editors, cameramen, and bureaus. For example, the CBC has more people at work in England alone than CTV has in total outside Canada.
Most viewers can gather that the CBC news has more “swift” and “reach” than CTV, plus more diverse faces and voices. That’s why one searches for reasons such a talent-rich and facilities-laden operations has been trailing for some years. One wants more than just presenters and time-slots and carry-on.
And even those uneasy with Mr. Mansbridge usually admit he is very much the professional presenter and a thorough journalist — now almost as non-threatening and familiar as Lloyd Robertson.
The criticism of the CBC news as too ideological in a social democratic way has often been made by citizens and groups with right-wing or conservative attitudes. It has not just been Conrad Black who has decried the CBC-TV news colossus for a consistent, radical cant suffused with feminist, environmentalist, multicultural, homosexual and anti-market biases.
I would twist that explanation a bit. CTV news items tend to be presented more neutrally and “square” and are less given to bearing value judgments, especially in politics. CBC news finds so much more that is wrong in Canada and the U.S. It gives such prominence to those in the array of the public interest groups which stress the causes of society’s alleged ills, usually in the name of its underdogs.
I believe a fair fraction of viewers avoid this daily dose of good-cause advocacy and bad-cause critiques. Of course, the frame for it was put openly some years ago by Mr. Mansbridge himself and one of the news chiefs. They said they did not intend to have their daily slate of news determined by the agendas of governments and politicians. Instead they would set the agenda and priorities of politics themselves.
A re-run of the CBC’s National at 11 p.m. may give the CBC the totals over CTV which it needs for its collective ego.
Over on the CTV side, who can foretell what the takeover by Baton and the big job of establishing the 24-hour news channel will do to its rather narrow budget and capabilities.
It would seem that a CTV owned and run by Baton will not have fresh and major resources behind it, given the financial difficulties of the Eatons, in hard straits with their famous merchandising operation.
At present Baton has its own news stable of producers, editors and camera crews, including prominent on-air performers like Tom Clark and Mike Duffy. In the trade, Baton operations have become known as even more spare and cost-conscious than those of CTV or Global. The duplications mean the merger is sure to bring shake-ups in rank and departures in staff. At the same time there will be the new, voracious need of items for the new cable channel.
Interest in the questions addressed here today will be high among those who work in television or in journalism and among the politicians, particularly in the light of the new Parliament and its unparalleled, fractured make-up.
Hill politics has always provided more grist for national news than any other source. Television’s news coverage is the most attended by citizens and politicians and their staffs. The changes in aim by CBC to gain ascendancy in viewers seem linked to a need to justify the burden on taxpayers for what has become the nation’s major gatherer and reporter of news and public issues. The changes from new responsibilities and a re-organization of CTV-Baton will certainly alter TV-politics on the leading private enterprise provider in some ways or degree.
The tussles ahead to be viewed on our sets will be in and from an arena with fascinating, partisan strife, and of course, with national unity in hazard. May the fairest newscasters do best.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 16, 1997
ID: 13045800
TAG: 199707150067
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Political Ottawa is in a not uncommon mid-summer hiatus. The intensity over the Somalia affair has faded. So has the uproar in the media over droll blurts by the PM at NATO about the American Congress and president. Almost daily come largely routine releases of government appointments (including jobs for defeated Liberals) and of role assignments in the five parliamentary caucuses. Full pressure partisanship is at least seven weeks away.
On the Hill itself few MPs are to be sighted and won’t be until after Labor Day. Within the environs staff gossip is of a rising mistrust over accommodation and funding. Who shall get what in the five Hill buildings with offices for MPs and caucus research? The House leaders and whips are negotiating warily, in part because no parliament since the early 1920s has had such a diverse make-up.
Clearly, intense planning is underway in each opposition caucus for instant parliamentary war in September. Much of this has to be tentative because none of them is sure what character or nature the new House will have. So much hinges on how how tight or loose a House the government tries to run.
Veteran House watchers have two main assumptions about the next one.
First, the government has such a small margin for error that what goes on daily in the proceedings of this much split House and its committees will draw and keep a far higher attendance of MPs and get more media notice than has been the case since the last minority government (1979).
Second, the prospect of a House with the likely dilemma of serial crises raises questions about a key figure in any House but vital in this one – the Speaker!
Where does the government – better, how may the government – get the best Speaker for such a dicey House?
The Liberals have already trumpeted that their enemy of enemies in this mandate (as in the last) is the Reform party but they also underlined they see responsibility and common sense about the major issue of unity in the programs and track records of the New Democrat and Conservative MPs. And neither of the latter groups will want the Chretien government falling on a want-of-confidence motion for at least a year. So the Liberals are almost sure to try for a co-operation of sorts, tacit rather than open and formal, with one of the fourth and fifth parties.
It’s a fair question to which party’s advantage a rowdy, racketing, divisive House will be. It won’t rile the Liberals if Jean Charest and Alexa McDonough and their followers continue their contemptuous diatribes on Preston Manning and his bigots. But what happens to the figurative stock-levels in public opinion of each party through a session that the nightly TV news presents as barracking and incessant argument over procedure and points of personal privilege?
Each new parliament now chooses the Speaker of the House by a secret vote of MPs. Gilbert Parent, an experienced Liberal from the Niagara peninsula, won a close contest last time. It is apparent from his speeches this summer that Mr. Parent wants to continue as Speaker. As Speaker he was liked as a benign, modest, considerate man and a goodwill ambassador for parliament but far from a crisp chairman with quick, lucid decisions in touchy situations over hard issues. And from day 2 or 3 of this House there will be a parade of such contestation. Some Liberals will not have forgotten what developed in their favor in opposition during Brian Mulroney’s first mandate when he put forward a nice man as Speaker who proved irresolute and often confused. He let the Rat Pack of Copps, Nunziata, Tobin and Boudria, a small group in a not very large caucus, create uproar day after day, turning many governmental acts into scandals, alleged and real. It is very easy to name several hell-raisers in each of today’s four, striving opposition caucuses.
Of course there is no guarantee that another choice than Mr. Parent whom the governent could promote for the crucial task will win the vote and, if he or she does so, be sure to do better. A most able prospect, David Kilgour from Edmonton, is scratched because he’s been made Alberta’s second minister. Another possibility, like Kilgour in quickness and certainty in the chair, is Peter Milliken, the Liberal MP for Kingston. He’s an authority on rules and has an authoritative bearing and style. It is guaranteed the Liberals will not have if they can help it any opposition MP as Speaker.
The Liberals handling House affairs are not fools, notably House leader Don Boudria with Herb Gray, the deputy PM always at hand, but the most astute House management can be undone by a dithering Speaker and inconsistent and contradictory rulings. Watch for such prospects in the House come October. It is unlikely to be pretty.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 13, 1997
ID: 13045514
TAG: 199707110104
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


After the report of the Somalia inquiry was released, Peter Desbarats, the journalist-commissioner, chatted about the chore with interviewer Martin Stringer of CPAC, the parliamentary cable TV channel.
CPAC had presented many hours of the inquiry’s proceedings. Such exposure, said Desbarats, had brought a lot of reaction. This made the commissioners appreciate the wide interest and concern over the state of the armed forces. They knew they were not operating in a public opinion vacuum of indifference. It helped them defy the rising impatience of the Chretien government. They knew thousands wanted their critique.
Desbarats’ comment about CPAC reminded me how much I have been learning from its political coverage. It is no longer largely a channel for the proceedings of the House and its committees. Over three-quarters of CPAC programming is out and away from Parliament Hill. In the past year, under a new program director, Barry Conway, CPAC has become the single, greatest purveyor of political content on television.
In this widened scope, Conway’s peripatetic crews went forth and shot extraordinary detail of the recent federal election. Several three-person crews with ENG cameras ranged from coast to coast. They did riding profiles, including candidates, organizers, canvassing, voters’ opinions with views of local housing, commerce and landscape. They shot radio talk shows in progress and the editors and producers of networks and big papers as they planned and carried out their electoral coverage. They were at the big gatherings for party leaders. They gave us press conferences of those speaking for interest groups or lobbies with political objectives.
Again and again CPAC would rerun videotape of past performances by the leading protagonists. This stuff showed what they had said so one could put it alongside what they were now saying.
All this CPAC coverage was so much more informative and interesting than what I got when zooming across Canada in the cocoons of leaders’ planes and buses. Through CPAC, for thousands of viewers this was the most open and available campaign ever in almost all its facets.
Nevertheless, CPAC’s contribution in informing us about the issues and the parties and the people has had remarkably little notice, let alone praise. I thought several of the riding segments should become classic items, notably one shot in St. John’s, another in the Okanagan.
Now when politicians are “scrummed,” particularly in Ottawa, CPAC’s cameras record such interfaces with reporters and present them straight, without comment or editing. Regular viewers may even draw conclusions on the perspicacity and values of our political reporters. Certainly more and more in journalism and on political staffs are following CPAC’s daily “scrums.”
The contrast of CPAC production with the highly edited and far punchier political items on the networks is striking and consistent. The CRTC’s license for CPAC confines it to actuality and that means a full, unedited format or record. No script; no news desk; no reporter in sight.
Interviewers are impersonal and not contentious. The main one, Martin Stringer, is alert but unobtrusive. He always seems well prepared without flaunting erudition. He never tries for knockouts. He lets the men and women of public affairs perform. Let those at home draw their own conclusions.
One forgets that this kind of rather raw or unpolished presentation is really old-fashioned filming — the cinema verite or documents of actuality, pioneered by the National Film Board in its early days.
Since mid-1996 the content of what is happening in political Canada as offered by CPAC has surpassed any other single source of information, even CBC Newsworld or any major daily paper. And CPAC doesn’t comment or editorialize or advocate. It gives any citizen what it gives me as a political columnist — public affairs!
Its coverage goes far beyond the big players and the big topics to the sprawling cast and diverse agenda of the whole country. Yes, the schedule is a smorgasbord. Many items may drag and one often wishes for some interpretation. Nonetheless, CPAC has become far more than a channel for single MPs speechifying or the often stagey farce of the parliamentary question period.
May we not lose this diverse, fundamental record provided by the cable industry.
I would underline such a wish because a fortnight ago I lost the chance to read one of the best political columnists of the country. The Globe and Mail stopped Robert Sheppard’s column “The Provinces.” He wrote it for eight years. As a devotee of Sheppard’s prose I thought he was getting better and better in acute, literate and informed columns, rich in both reportage and sensible analysis of the provincial political scenes, related astutely to the national scene.
To be well-clued for political judgment or analysis each of us who interprets needs to follow the fare of others. Long before CPAC or Newsworld or the Internet I’ve counted on other columnists. This goes back to the 1950s and the late Blair Fraser (Maclean’s) and Michael Barkway (Financial Post). My favored models, Peter Newman and George Bain, were always imperatives. I had to follow the differing ideas and style of columnists Anthony Westell, Ron Haggart and Charles Lynch. And in their Ottawa days both Richard Gwyn, and Don McGillvray were necessities.
Not only do I think Robert Sheppard belongs in this galaxy of writers, he has seemed to me the fairest political analyst “the national newspaper” has had since George Bain. However the boss who axed Sheppard may be at politics, he or she is a know-nothing.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 09, 1997
ID: 13045060
TAG: 199707080073
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 12
ILLUSTRATION: drawing by Susan Dewar, Ottawa Sun


My column last Sunday about the ridiculing response of Jean Chretien to the Somalia inquiry was barely in print before the phone calls started to come.
One man said, “I can’t make head nor tail of it.”
Another said, “You went off in all directions.”
A columnist can’t hide or withdraw a piece. The last one was worse than forgettable because it was too arch about blame and guilt, too round-about on “responsibility.”
Questions were put and not answered directly. No, I wasn’t cowering. There was, and is, a coverup. As for the inquiry’s report, it is far from a convincing synthesis and is both too long and diverse.
I believed there was a concerted coverup by senior officers and high-ranking bureaucrats, including some in the Prime Minister’s Office, long before the inquiry was appointed.
And the coverup still goes on. Repeat again the simple response of Chretien to the inquiry’s report: “There was no coverup.”
I would describe this coverup as the stock, defensive reaction within the federal bureaucracy to any misdeeds within its purview.
This one began with the realization on the scene and then at defence HQ in Ottawa that some shameful acts by Airborne soldiers in Somalia would shock Canadians; therefore, the affair, including the facts to be disclosed, required close management.
So the reality and the shape of the coverup were there well over six months before the Chretien government took office.
But why did the new government allow the coverup to continue?
Remember this key point in the catechism given the new PM by his long-time mentor, Mitchell Sharp.
He was to instruct his ministers to trust their deputy-ministers. Trust them and they will trust you. Trust them and they will back you.
Sharp probably added: “That’s the way Liberals govern.”
And so the coverup was transferred to the successor ministry and sanctioned, perhaps tacitly, but certainly understood, by the top cadre of the Chretien government.
Of course, continuing this seasoned strategy, meant the Somalia episodes of wrongdoing would not become witness of incompetence in the top cadre of generals and civilian officials. How could they be responsible for “a few bad apples” in a distant place?
I hear comments by many who cannot understand why far from stupid Liberals like Chretien, David Collenette, Doug Young and, most recently, Art Eggleton would seem to condone the continuation of the coverup.
Because someone quite high, either the PM or one of his top counsellors, chose to abide by the advice he got from those covering up the most at defence headquarters.
In short, the politicians in power have covered up for the double-barrelled senior bureaucracy we have in the defence department and our military. They have insisted almost all the way that despite “some mistakes” and those “few bad apples” in Somalia there was nothing systemically wrong in the forces or in DND then and now that they haven’t corrected or set about changing.
The question which seems to frustrate concerned citizens is: will the Liberals get away with this?
That is, with rejecting so absolutely the critique in the report by justices Letourneau and Rutherford and journalist Peter Desbarats?
Of course the Liberals will get away with it. The government will not fall over it or admit to a coverup. It will go on with its “reforms” and “improvements” to the forces.
In keeping with both the tradition and the practices of our system of parliamentary government, we continue to have most of the key and touchy affairs of our federal and provincial ministries carried on in secrecy despite access-to-information laws, despite public officers like the auditor general and the human rights commissioner, or the litigious opportunities of taking on the state which were opened to any citizens by the Charter of Rights.
When the new House meets this fall there will be some oral skirmishing over this coverup and the belittling of the inquirers.
The government caucus will stand firm. The other parties are almost sure not to cohere with a continued insistence on the truth about Somalia.
The case won’t be wholly forgotten by either the opposition or many citizens.
Desbarats may even have a best-seller this fall with his “journal” as a commissioner.
Nonetheless, the worst for the Liberals is very iffy. It would be fresh revelations of troop misbehavior, say in Bosnia or Haiti. This might vitalize two issues which Somalia should have opened up and hasn’t.
First, do we still want a military with a core of tough troops, trained to kill, or would we prefer a force largely trained to police, rescue and succor the afflicted.
Second, should Ottawa accept so many peacekeeping and peacemaking assignments abroad?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 06, 1997
ID: 13044767
TAG: 199707040088
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


Even with the report of the Somalia inquiry in hand there are some puzzling questions for the serious citizen.
To start — and this may seem out on the rim — what prompted the Chretien government to such gracious magnanimity as to give Kim Campbell the neat job of representing Canada in California?
Remember she was the minister of defence at the time Canadian troops were misbehaving in Somalia. Also remember that an employee of the federal government has limited scope for sounding off about its actions.
Why did the Chretien government also appoint Robert Fowler, Campbell’s deputy minister at defence as a representative to the splendid sanctuary of the United Nations?
Remember Fowler was both a highly-regarded senior mandarin with personal ties to several of the PM’s closest backers and who as the senior official in the defence department informed the top people of the forces and DND at the time of the Somalia expedition that they must be very circumspect on matters of real or potential controversy because Ms Campbell, their minister, was engaged in the contest for her party’s leadership and the job of prime minister.
Of course, Gen. John de Chastelain, chief of defence staff as the Somalia corps was chosen and sent, had moved on before Fowler did to honorable international chores for the government.
Why did the Chretien government draft such relatively narrow terms of reference for what is now popularly known as the Letourneau inquiry after its chairman, a federal judge?
Why was the government so intent on confining the inquiry to the period when the Progressive Conservatives were in power?
This limit seemed to carry an assumption that whatever wrongdoing or cover-up had taken place, it was not during the Liberal watch.
And yet, if there had been a cover-up or a “whitewash” of the Airborne’s violence in Somalia, would it not be sensible to assume that all or most of those who took part in it were still in the military or in DND under the Liberals (who took office eight months after the worst incidents there)? Surely, for the inquiry to be thorough, it needed to examine the defence regime under the Liberals, including the transition from Robert Fowler as deputy minister to the successor deputy minister.
Isn’t it obvious Robert Fowler should or could have been the most vital witness of all for commissioner Letourneau and his fellows?
What had made the Chretien government accede to opposition requests for an inquiry?
Both documents leaked to the media and some obtained by access-to-information, plus public statements by a military doctor with the forces in Somalia, plus revelations of crude and racist behavior by the very Airborne troops who had been in Somalia, had stirred up a barrage of parliamentary questions. David Collenette, then defence minister, was awkward and woolly in open dealing with the file. So the Chretien government chose to “refrigerate” the issue for an interval of nine months, the time given the inquiry, along with a truncated period for the inquiry’s focus.
As the inquiry seemed to dawdle and the government’s own role came more into question, Chretien and his advisors lost patience. No more time for the inquiry. No more waiting for its recommendations. No need for them. Everything vital to know about or as a result of Somalia was known. They would get on with what they called (last March) “Compendium of Changes in the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence.”
The foregoing questions and comments prompt me to wonder why commissioners Letourneau and Desbarats have expressed surprise at the obvious and continued hostility on the part of Chretien ministers — for examples, former minister Doug Young’s tough criticism when he cut off the inquiry, and now Art Eggleton’s forceful dismissal of almost everything in the bulky report of the inquiry and its several meaty research books after he had been just three weeks at the defence post.
Didn’t the commissioners realize almost at the start how cribbed the government wanted the inquiry to be?
Wasn’t that clear to Letourneau and Desbarats when the third commissioner who was first appointed, one Anne Marie Doyle, had to be dumped when her close ties to both political Liberals and Robert Fowler became known, along with the realization none of the original trio had had any military experience?
While the formal inquiry was lumbering in its early going, developing demands for more documentation from the military and the department, the military pushed ahead with its prosecutions of a number of soldiers in the Somalia force. Several were sentenced to jail for wrongdoing — most noticeably Pte. Kyle Brown, one man present when a Somali teenager was tortured to death.
Putting it in the vernacular, “the few bad apples” were being removed. And as soldiers’ videotapes became shocking TV items of hazing and initiation antics by the Airborne troops, the Chretien government solved that uproar by dissolving the Airborne regiment. In short, no long, dreary waiting for whatever the inquiry revealed and recommended.
One has to wonder why the Chretien government was so determined to put the Somalia incidents and their implications so thoroughly behind it?
More particularly, why was it, and is it, satisfied that the military prosecution and punishment of a few lower rank soldiers and the dissolution of a regiment with a proud tradition have been enough to let the past be past?
Why has Chretien and the PMO been so set on barreling ahead, his defence minister now asserting although there were some mistakes in the past most of any needed reforms are underway or in train, and the quality of the senior leadership was high and continues to be?
Why such continued confidence in the generals and colonels, the deputy ministers and the AMs, who have had the responsibility for the government’s defence policies and the standards of the forces, and clearly who continue to have it?
It may be the simple answer is friendship or collegiality, with an “esprit de corps” in the defence mandarinate, military and civil, that binds and protects those at the top or heading for it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 02, 1997
ID: 13044362
TAG: 199707010123
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


What has become clearer in national politics since the federal election one month ago today? First, remember it was an election which gave neither a wonderful result nor an absolutely stunning setback to any of five parties.
A short answer to the question is that nothing surprising or odd has turned up beyond the Stornoway foolishness; and nothing much is likely to before Labor Day.
Without much fuss or keen outside interest, the winning candidates have been sworn in; each caucus has had meetings, been organized, and has key roles assigned. None of this really caused a stir in Ottawa, despite bravura tries by the NDP and the PCs at hyping.
Benign weather, an economy still on a heartening comeback and a batch of big events and ceremonies have over-laid or buried the rather limited amount of electoral post-mortems and prognosese for the new House.
Even the modestly rearranged and improved cabinet has not brought much stern appraisal. Given the grim Liberal results in the east and the far west, there has been little speculation on a new Liberal leader. Nor, given the repeated Liberal sweep of Ontario, has there been much assaying of where it fits with the hard, continuing legislative drive of the Harris government and the premier’s astonishing, poll-proven popularity. Yes, Paul Martin is to hand. Nothing is known of plans to vault him or anyone else into the Liberal leadership. Some seers, for example columnist Allan Fotheringham, say not to worry: the astute Aline Chretien will derrick her Jean at the right moment for both Canada and the party.
There have been few blurts from loose-lipped insiders within the parties about their failures or successes, nor as yet have journalists or pollsters or academics developed major critiques of the campaign, sorting out the many shortfalls and misjudgments across the board of the parties. For example: simply why and how the Liberals blew their opening lead, particularly in the far west; or why the Tories came so short west of the Ottawa River; or what ruined high NDP expectations of 10 to 11 seats in Roy Romanow’s Saskatchewan?
Yes, there has been some analysis of Reform, much of it gratified (but still vengeful) and fixed on its zero seats in Ontario, with that seen as a true measure of a stalled progress on the route to power.
Yes, there has been a bit (but not a lot) of puzzlement at the Liberals’ decision to repeat a strategy they adopted immediately after the last election – that Reform is the chief enemy to be rebuffed. That is, in 1993 and through his first mandate Jean Chretien and crew chose to play parliamentary ball, figuratively speaking, with the Bloc Quebecois, and they “stiffed” Manning and cohorts again and again, while largely ignoring the NDP and Tories, too few in MPs to be recognized parties in the House. This time – and he began it on election night – the PM picked out the newly “official” NDP and PCs as welcome help in his fight to save Quebec from the PQ, and again he gave Reform a backhanded priority as the unCanadian and dangerous force in federal politics, rather than even mentioning Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc caucus, now back in second place among opposition parties in the House.
Neither Jean Charest nor Alexa McDonough bluntly rejected this role of aiding adjuncts to the Chretien’s federalist forces in the war against the chief promoters of divisiveness, i.e., Manning and Bouchard. However, the Tory leader has continued to crank out more bitter scorn toward Reform than to either the Bloc or the Liberals. As for the NDP leader, she has been frank. While making occasional scornful references to Reform as reactionary she has kept emphasizing that she and her caucus are ready to be co-operative with the government, dependent on its readiness to adopt or adapt some features of the NDP’s election program. It is rather wry to hear so much post-election reiteration of an electoral program from an opposition leader who gained just 21 of 301 seats with it.
We know, mostly from the French-language media which don’t rate him highly, that Duceppe has many leadership difficulties in a parliamentary caucus rife with disrespect for him. At this stage the best prediction on the BQ in the first session is that it will emphasize its social democratic heart rather than parrot separatist intransigence. Of course, its MPs will join almost certainly in the parliamentary chorus to come of Liberal, NDP and Tory horror at the brutal social attitudes and racist inclinations, especially toward the Quebecois, of Preston Manning and Reform.
And all this indicates a far from heartening parliamentary prospect come mid-September for those who hope for statesmanship, civility and a goodly modicum of common cause from our 301 federal MPs.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 29, 1997
ID: 13044059
TAG: 199706270130
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


The Stornoway gambit of Preston Manning reminded me of a few wimpish ditherings long ago by another party leader from Alberta, Joe Clark. And the incident is likely to haunt Manning and his Reform MPs as the “lost luggage” trip did the former Tory leader.
I thought I had some understanding of the Reform leader but the Stornoway volte-face baffles me.
Why decide to use the “grace and favor” rams’ pasture for leaders of the official Opposition after mocking the property and its extravagance on election night TV?
Why did he do it, given how it scuppers Reform’s righteousness about its imperative of frugality? I haven’t any answers but I know Reformers brought FRUGALITY (in capital letters) with them to Ottawa after the 1993 election.
Of course, there were other earnest vouchsafes: They would be both open about their party’s proceedings and civil in their behavior; they would not contribute to the raucous, partisan mockery which had lowered the public’s esteem for Parliament.
Frugality! Openness! Civility! When politicians claim such attitudes they register with both rival politicians and reporters; the latter have to check relentlessly on their observance and publicize contradictions in their practice.
The early witness to Reform frugality in Ottawa was of both minor and major proportion.
Minor in such a self-discomfiting gesture as not to use the services of the parliamentary dining room or the Hill barber shop or to take the trips abroad arranged by various international associations of parliamentarians.
Major in refusing (with a few exceptions) to participate in the parliamentary pension plan. MPs’ pensions are seen by thousands as notoriously generous and over-rich in their payouts, largely because of persistent outrage from the National Citizens’ Coalition, a lobby which generally has found Reform preferable to the other federal parties. Its new vice president, a former Reform MP, is nonplussed by the Manning switch on Stornoway.
The services or “perqs” which offended the simplicity and frugality of Reformers had developed over many decades, as I can vouch as a former MP, much involved in the early 1960s in attaining as payment by the House of MPs’ air travel home, their long distance calls and their printing services. The aim was to free up time and open opportunities for an MP to do a better job — not just for his or her constituents, but as an active participant in House and committee proceedings.
For serious, vigorous MPs — which most try to be, not just Reformers — those so-called perqs made doing one’s job easier.
The Reform line on frugality emphasized a core distinction. Reform MPs would not be part of any clubby enclave. They would not let themselves be taken over by the capital’s egocentricity and luxuriance.
As the last Parliament developed it became anything but civil. Rather, it was bitter, disjointed, anti-social and short on warmth and generosity. I would neither blame Reformers for this, nor excuse them. It seemed to me they chose a crude and self-sacrificing way to make a point to voters, and it hadn’t proved worth much out where the voters are.
That is, Reformer took themselves to be models of frugality but it only meant much to their own awareness of who they were. And, of course, to a portion of their active loyalists.
With the Stornoway decision, Reformers have turned its frugality gambit into hypocrisy, and this after wasting opportunities over four years for normal or routine social familiarity with other politicians, lobbyists and public servants.
They helped drain the House and the community of Parliament Hill of humanity. It is a cold, barren institution now most hours of every day of the week, and it is relatively spiritless aside from the staged challenge and response or, as the cliche on debate goes, “the cut and thrust” of question period.
Once Parliament in session did mirror, even symbolize, the capacity of diverse Canadians to get along despite sharp differences in aims and values. It’s no longer such a model, and it seems clear Reform is not to be a strong agent in restoring vitality to either the community or the proceedings of Parliament. The Reformers in Ottawa have not done much to enhance the popular myth of Western Canadians about themselves as friendly, sociable and forthright.
It’s hard not to make a connection between Reform’s righteous attitude towards the House and its affairs and the obvious preference of Preston Manning for performing outside it. He spent almost as few hours in the last House as Jean Charest, and often in its question period he seemed uneasy in the place, maybe because he finds the House too stagey, or perhaps because it is so disconcertingly various and negative that he cannot teach his simple verities.
Like Pierre Trudeau, Manning prefers: a) teaching the people to debating rival politicians; b) popularizing major themes to mastering often arcane details of laws and spending programs. Of course, he treasures the role of official Opposition leader as a better one for reaching the public and turning its opinion toward Reform as the means to honest, decisive, open and forward-looking governance.
Stornoway is a very pettifogging issue. But now, at its best it signifies the seduction of a high-minded movement by either custom or materialism, and at its worst it shall trigger more partisan jeers in the 36th Parliament than any other event.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 25, 1997
ID: 13043521
TAG: 199706240116
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Four politically active men have left us since Stanley Knowles died earlier this month. I want to comment on each, starting with Gerard Pelletier, an underrated federalist.
Pelletier, 78, a journalist, Liberal party politician, and close colleague of Pierre Trudeau is gone rather suddenly. PET had him in his first three cabinets, most prominently in the cultural portfolio which pushed official bilingualism. Later, after Pelletier gave up his Commons seat, Trudeau sent him to France as ambassador and subsequently to the United Nations.
Pelletier died in Montreal a week or so after an international development project in his name was launched. I had many chats with him between 1963 (when he was editor of La Presse) and his departure for office in Paris. Always I met an equable, magnanimous man of dry wit – a contrast to his rather surly sidekicks, Trudeau and Jean Marchand, with whom he came to Parliament in 1965 as saviors of federalism. None of the three knew much about Canada to the west of Ontario or east of Quebec but I found Pelletier realized this while Trudeau and Marchand did not.
Without question, Pelletier – modest unto self-effacement, and empirical in judgments – was taken by most in federal politics and journalism as contributing much less than either Trudeau, Marchand, or their fourth wheel, Marc Lalonde, to federal initiatives of the Trudeau era. I doubt this, simply because I found him more level-headed and persistently thoughtful than any of the other three.
Also, despite his respectfulness for his prime minister, he was also droll and readily satirical about Trudeau’s penchant for domination and his open eccentricities in behavior and dress. The next decade should bring us many reappraisals of the Trudeau years. I expect Pelletier will emerge in them as the colleague who had a unique and strong influence on Trudeau through three or four decades.

Ron Collister, 68, reporter, broadcaster, columnist and, briefly, in the 1974 election a would-be Tory politician, died a fortnight ago in Edmonton. From the Hill he had reported for the Toronto Telegram, then for the CBC’s national TV news, and then for the Toronto Sun.
For a few years in Ottawa I shared an office with Ron and never have had a cheerier or more helpful colleague. It’s my rough judgment from scanning work on the Hill by several hundred reporters that Ron was among the top half-dozen as a straight “main story” reporter – accurate, fair, readable (often racy) and splendid at context. He also was an affable but persistent interviewer.
What happened to him after just a few years in Alberta shocked me at the time. The swift, easy wit from Liverpool had become an aggressively total Albertan. When the outrageous National Energy Program was launched Ron saw all his old confreres in Ottawa as tainted and suspect through long exposure to an arrogant government. He died not just as a fighter for the west, but deeply skeptical of Central Canada.

Larry Grossman, 53, lawyer, former politician, cabinet minister and ex-leader of the Ontario party, was such a complete fan of sports that every time I thought of him I recalled a sign-off phrase used by Joe Crysdale, a broadcaster of Leaf baseball games four decades ago – “And for good sports, it’s always a good night.” Larry was smart and quick-silver in action. His disposition was unlike his father’s. Allan Grossman, also an Ontario minister, was one of the grumpiest politicians I ever met. Larry would have been a fine premier for Ontario but in failing at that and losing his seat in 1987, he behaved with lightness, dignity and sportsmanship. Gone too soon.

When Cape Bretoner John M. Macdonald died this week at 91, the Ottawa Citizen hailed him as the last “lifetime” senator. The usual entitlement of a senator from Confederation until 1965 was until death; then Lester Pearson set an upper limit of 75 for a senatorial career. Subsequently, some senators appointed before ’65 chose to retire even though they were entitled to carry on. Not Macdonald, and for the past four years only he and one other survived as a `lifer’ senator, Dr. Orville Phillips, now 73, a dentist, and a former PC MP. It is not to embarrass the Citizen that I emphasize Orville is still alive and intent on working as a senator till his last gasp.
As a senator, the best to be said of Macdonald, a most inoffensive man, was that his attendance was good. On the other hand, Phillips, an abrupt, cantankerous partisan, has been busy in Senate affairs, particularly with war veterans and defence policy.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 22, 1997
ID: 13043206
TAG: 199706200150
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


What factors, beyond seven fresh faces, led me (in part one, on Wednesday) to describe Jean Chretien’s second ministry as likely to be better than the first one formed in 1993?
Let me line the factors up in a row of four.
First, there is the far greater reach and influence which the minister of finance, Paul Martin, now has compared to three years ago. A standing that he earned above any others in the cabinet and which has been illustrated by continued strong backing from the prime minister and the eclipse of those who would spend and spend such as Lloyd Axworthy (neutralized at foreign affairs) and David Dingwall (defeated in the June 2 election).
Martin’s status will be aided, at least in the short run of a year to 18 months, by the progress in most of the sectors of our economy. His determination “to stay the course,” already reconfirmed by the PM, will not foment a fierce criticism from Reformers who now will have by far the largest share of opposition time in the House and its committees.
Second, there has been a firming up with fresh ministerial personnel of what one might call the sensible centre of the whole government caucus. And the latter, just a bare majority of the House, is dominated by the mob of Ontario MPs, most of whom are aware of the strong public support for Martin’s policies on deficits and debt load.
Each of the seven new members of the ministry has proven capable and industrious as a mere MP: Herb Dhaliwal at revenue; Lyle Vanclief at agriculture; Andy Scott at solicitor general; Al Graham as government leader in the Senate; and secretaries of state David Kilgour, Jim Peterson and Ron Duhamel. None of these additions is a fool or a drone. And the same may be said for the new environment minister, Christine Stewart, bumped up from a secretary of state post and replacing the windy Sergio Marchi (who has gone to international trade and trips galore).
The other ascension from the secretariat, P.E.I.’s Lawrence Mac-Aulay, the new labor minister, was quiet and kept out of trouble the past two years while supervising veterans affairs. Some of the very liberally minded in the caucus and the media are heralding the return to the cabinet of David Collenette (to transport) as a major reinforcement of the overshadowed left wing of the party. It may be so, but he showed as defence minister that he is neither articulate nor dynamic.
Third, there was much shrewdness in giving Herb Gray the role of deputy prime minister in place of Sheila Copps and in replacing him as government House leader with Don Boudria.
The venerable Gray makes a far smoother and gracious stand-in for an absent prime minister than could the crude Copps, and he will be a ready buttress for Boudria. The latter is not yet well-known beyond Parliament Hill but, believe me, he has reached where he is by industry and braininess, not by the influence of any patrons. He has a thorough grounding in parliamentary affairs and caucuses and excessive partisanship. (In the mid-’80s he was the first of the Grit Rat Pack to distance himself from its rabidness.)
This will be a contentious House and Boudria has modesty, a plain style, and both the stomach and the stamina for it. If, as seems likely, Speaker Gib Parent is voted back to the task by MPs, the government leader will almost certainly have to handle many kerfuffles because of Parent’s easy nature and the agonizing slowness of his decision-making. This is almost sure to be the most procedurally preoccupied House in two decades and we shall hear and see a lot of Boudria and, probably, Parent.
Fourth, the unity issue, or whither Quebec, is still the most vital matter for the government, the House, and the country as a whole, and frankly no particular changes of the new ministry seem designed or destined to affect greatly that matter.
Clearly, Chretien’s moves in the last mandate which added to his cabinet from outside, first Robillard and then Stephane Dion and Pierre Pettigrew, have not been obvious successes for federalism in Quebec although simply as departmental ministers, Robillard at citizenship and Pettigrew at human resources, are more positive than negative members of the cabinet. Dion, the professorial constitutionalist, has not done well despite frank lectures from one end of Canada to the other, either in convincing anglos about the worth of a “distinct society” or in being accepted in Quebec as the popular voice of Quebec federalists.
So the threat signified by the Parti Quebecois government headed by Lucien Bouchard and his sovereignist compadres of the Bloc Quebecois in Ottawa continues to be daunting, although not quite so perilous as it seemed in the first year after the October referendum of 1995.
Statements by Chretien in the recent campaign indicate he and his advisers are far closer to a hard position about the nature of an acceptable referendum question, the requirement of a clear majority and the need to partition a separating Quebec in order to meet the wishes and rights of the Crees.
Lord knows a federalist triumph is not in sight and there is no federalist pied piper at hand in the Chretien cabinet to lead Quebecois out of the sovereigntist thrall. But alternatives and choices for the federal ministry are now far more apparent than they were in the first mandate and will get higher, keener consideration than they did in the first Chretien mandate.
This even extends to the availability within the cabinet of the obvious successor to the PM if he wavers or realizes someone else could better face — and master — the PQ’s Bouchard.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 18, 1997
ID: 13042680
TAG: 199706170059
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


In a modest way, Jean Chretien’s new ministry seems more promising than either his first of 1993 or what that had evolved into by dissolution in April.
It takes a year or so to get a fair measure of a ministry. Most early judgments owe too much to performances in the House question period because it is an open drama, whereas we are rarely privy to ministers’ other roles except through leaks or aides. At times a good measure can be made if a minister has to put through controversial legislation. In short, my opinion that this is a better cabinet than the last rests heavily on its ministers’ past performances.
Early appraisals have had much on Ann McLellan as the most powerful woman in Canada (replacing, they say, Sheila Copps) and on the west getting more ministers despite fewer Liberal seats there. Francophone journalists have been harsh rather than approving, jibing at McLellan in justice because of her poor French, and arguing that since Quebec elected a few more Liberal MPs this should have meant more ministers.
(My prime doubt about McLellan’s future will seem niggling and petty to many: simply put, she is a trial to listen to at any length despite good content and diction because of a shrill, pane-shaking voice.)
The new ministry needs to be more effective because the opposition is going to be far tougher.
Why figure this lot is an improvement? Simply because it has more talented people with experience and brains.
Anyone who proclaims an improvement knows his case must face an obvious objection. And that’s Chretien’s loss of the three cockiest of his original ministers. David Dingwall and Doug Young left by the will of voters, Ron Irwin by his own choice. Each man had a large, complex and dicey ministry and each has been replaced, euphemistically speaking, by very slender reeds in Allan Rock, Art Eggleton and Jane Nixon Stewart.
In part because of heralded superlatives earned in Rock’s figurative lordship of the Upper Canada bar, he became an even more noticeable bust in the first cabinet than the dithering ex-ambassador, Michel Dupuy, a readily forgotten heritage minister.
Of the ’93 crew, Dupuy edged out in incompetence and bad judgment two other Liberals who proved miscast as ministers but whom a forgiving leader still retains in this second cabinet — Sheila Copps, who was deputy prime minister and is now merely heritage minister, and Diane Marleau, first in health, then derricked to public works, and now minister for international co-operation and Francophonie.
Although Eggleton and Stewart have not been woeful as ministers at international trade and revenue, neither has been especially forward with memorable analysis or ideas, and each now has a department that requires a masterly minister, not least because neither defence nor Indian affairs seems to have a capable mandarinate with a high morale.
Whoa! Does it seem my case of an improved ministry is self-destructing with these doubts that Rock, Eggleton, and Stewart are able and tough enough to hack it at difficult tasks?
Of course, none of this trio is guaranteed to fail, particularly Eggleton. So far he has been adroit enough to earn the “Teflon” tag. Stewart has the cruelest of departments, one with a grim legacy of guilts, animosities and extravagant spending, much of it bootless. Rock is bright and that rarity — a politician who can think while talking. He needs, however, to become less a lawyer with absolute certitude and more a politician who listens.
Chretien carries on with his two-tier reform of 1993 — a ministry of 1) cabinet members; and 2) non-members of cabinet, defined as secretaries of state. Today there are 28 in his cabinet and 36 in the whole ministry. The distinction hasn’t seemed of much utility beyond making a cabinet meeting at one table more practical. However, two of the new cabinet members were formerly secretaries of state: Christine Stewart, now environment minister; and Lawrence MacAulay, now minister of labor.
Four new secretaries have been added and four continued from the last ministry. The latter include three visibles minorities in Ethel Blondin-Andrew, Raymond Chan and Hedy Fry, and young Montreal accountant Maurice Cauchon.
It was the good quality of the four new secretaries (David Kilgour, Ron Duhamel, Andy Mitchell and Jim Peterson) and two new ministers plucked from the backbench (Lyle Vanclief for agriculture and Herb Dhaliwal for revenue) which led me to divine an improved ministry.
My next piece on Sunday explains this argument.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 15, 1997
ID: 13042382
TAG: 199706130166
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


Preston Manning’s baptism under fire as leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition came at his first Ottawa press conference held, fittingly, on June 6, the 53rd anniversary of D-Day.
As the press corps’ big cannons pounded him it became clear that the media, like other Canadian elites, wish to destroy Reform’s beachhead in Ottawa before the party gets its ideas onto the national agenda. This was the first real exchange between the Establishment and Reform since the election, and it set the pattern for future battles.
Until recently, Canada’s political, media, academic and business elites treated the western upstarts with disdain. But with 60 MPs and the perqs of the official Opposition at their disposal Reform can no longer be dismissed as a one-time wonder. Not that Reform is to be accorded legitimate player status — quite the opposite. The arguments used to try to silence the party have been expanded and given new urgency. All were heard at the press conference last week.
Surely that’s a bizarre charge given that conventional wisdom holds electors vote against a government rather than for the alternatives. It’s also patently undemocratic. If Canadians chose to use their ballots to protest the status quo, are those responsible for the status quo entitled to object?
Let me underline this. Those who dismiss the Reform movement as mere “protest” take the opposite tack when it comes to the Bloc Quebecois/Parti Quebecois vote. My, my, all Canadians must heed that voice of protest.
If the Reform vote was mere protest, what were 2.5 million Canadians protesting? Why would they do so by supporting a party characterized by all the other political players and the media as a pack of bigots?
Perhaps it was because the Tory leader ran on a platform he didn’t believe in, borrowed from people of whom he is contemptuous?
Or was it because three national parties insist on foisting a twice discredited distinct society concept on a weary public, still refusing to acknowledge that the constitutional impasse is no longer essentially a Quebec problem? Other Canadians, by several millions, also reject the status quo.
If Reform’s vote was mere protest, then what was the NDP’s? So many who damn Manning are celebrating Alexa McDonough. The NDP’s only real success came in the Maritimes, where it has no deep roots and where the electorate voted against the Liberals rather than for socialist precepts. The effort to rebuild the NDP’s traditional Ontario base failed, and it continued to lose ground to Reform out west.
This is true only if one looks at MPs elected. Reform managed 103,000 votes in the Maritimes despite its strong line on fiscal restraint and devolution of federal powers. In Ontario it came second (879,000 votes), posting solid second-place showings in suburban Ottawa ridings that aren’t exactly hotbeds of western alienation or anti-French bigotry.
Reform’s message can reach beyond Western Canada. Hence the panic and nastiness at the Ottawa press conference, where the media went after Manning about the need for compromise and for national parties to act as bridges. Of course, these vigilantes for moderation overlooked the reality of national parties: they are based on conformity. (Just ask Warren Allmand or John Nunziata.)
If Reform is a regional party, it is because many Western Canadians believe the national parties are no longer willing to accommodate their needs or desires.
Unlike the Bloc/PQ, Reform does not seek to withdraw from the federal system, but to change it so it can meet the concerns of its supporters. (Many of the party’s opponents view such changes as tantamount to the destruction of all they know and love.)
Instead of being inward-looking as the regional moniker implies, the west is perhaps the most outward-looking part of the country, thanks to NAFTA, Pacific Rim trade and investment and massive immigration. The old defensiveness which characterized so many western-based political movements is gone. Nine million people and the nation’s fastest growth rates mean the west is more determined than ever not to be dismissed as a region.
Really? If Jean Charest’s supporters can argue (as they did in his run for the Tory leadership and the just finished campaign) that there are advantages to having a leader from Quebec handling the unity issue, why is it bigoted to suggest there might also be disadvantages?
Implicit in the Tory and Liberal practice of alternating between French- and English-speaking leaders is the belief it would be unfair, even dangerous, to choose from only one camp. Why, then, is it verboten to express dissatisfaction with the fact that in the last referendum campaign all four key figures in the debate over Canada’s future were Quebec-based?
That Quebec-based politicians bring to the unity debate a different perspective than those from other parts of the country is self-evident. With their own seats on the line in the province, they are personally vulnerable to adverse reaction there, and this inevitably affects their perceptions and judgments. This can be both good and bad. Conventional wisdom holds that cabinets need a regional mix. Why, then, is it bigotry to insist that national unity decision-making does too?
The hostility of the media and the old parties toward Reform has little to do with supposed bigotry or regionalism. These are convenient labels used to disguise the real source of unease: the unspoken but accurate assessment of Reform as a radical party which, if permitted to establish itself on the national scene, could challenge Canada’s political orthodoxies and ruling elites as never before.
Reformers reject not only the notion that today’s Canada is a nation of two founding peoples, but also the big government/strong central government paradigm that has held sway since 1945. In doing so they threaten the politicians, media, academics, and business interests (in Ontario and Quebec) that have dominated Canada’s political agenda since Confederation.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 11, 1997
ID: 12845264
TAG: 199706100177
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 12
ILLUSTRATION: drawing by Susan Dewar, Ottawa Sun


Stanley Knowles was probably the most influential non-ministerial MP in our House of Commons’ history. And if the institution had historians, I think they would have him alongside Mackenzie King and Wilfrid Laurier as its mostly masterly members. But King and Laurier were party leaders and prime ministers for much of their respective 32 and 42 years in the House and Stanley Knowles was usually just the whip or house leader of a minoity party caucus that never had more than 32 MPs in any of his 13 parliaments.
Stanley came into the House as a CCF candidate in a Winnipeg by-election in 1942, succeeding the late leader and founder of his party, the Rev. J. S. Woodsworth. Like the latter, Stanley was a Protestant clergyman. He lost his seat in the Diefenbaker sweep of 1958, won it back in 1962, and held it until he gave it up in 1984. But he remained in the House through a unique honor as “honorary member”, with a life-long chair at the Clerk’s table on the floor before the Speaker’s throne.
His grand career in Ottawa was well and widely-known a decade ago, but the glow from it has been fading as elections and governments come and go. It is hard for anyone who knew Stanley to understate his wondrous qualities of intelligence, diligence and decency. In organized mental acuity I place him with two famous professors of the University of Toronto – the literary critic Northrop Frye and the economist and communications seer Harold Innis.
I came to know Stanley as a party and caucus colleague (1957-65) and then as a columnist who often fed off his analytical powers and memory. One couldn’t find a more generous giver of counsel. Despite a slight frame he worked hard and with awesome organization through long days. His stamina and durability were phenomenal, and he was abstemious and frugal. He could master quickly very complex subjects – for example, actuarial appreciations of pension proposals. His humor was gentle and wry. Up close, his day-to-day speed and range in memory used to blow me over. His worths were so obvious, the question always came up: Why not the ultimate political goal? Party leader? Prime minister?
Why not? First, he was modest even unto mild self-mockery of his own political wares as a physical presence or as an orator who should be able to rally thousands. Further, he had an early friend, Tommy Douglas, whom he thought the perfect leader, and after Douglas had his leadership run, Stanley had a similar regard for a later colleague, David Lewis.
Stanley was a do-it politician: to the point; follow the agenda; use every minute. He had scant time for chit-chat or the banalities which lace so much of politics. Stanley’s frugality extended to pay and perquisites for MPs. He never really forgave me for taking the lead in demanding higher pay, air transport, and long distance phone service for MPs. Despite his parsimony, his caucus colleagues never tagged him as pious or always the sky-pilot. He was without meanness and though totally loyal to his party he was never nastily partisan.
Each sitting day he spent long hours in the House, ever ready to intervene and guide. In my time, no other MP was so often engaged by others, in the House and beyond. And a reporter, strapped on anything, would be told by his fellows: “Ask Stanley.” He developed a mastery of two subjects beyond others: first, the parliamentary process and its precedents; second, a national social program whose core should rest on universal old age pensions, plus generosity to disabled persons and war veterans.
He became a truly national figure through the adroit use of his procedural expertise in 1956-57 to slow the infamous TransCanada pipeline bill advanced by the St. Laurent government. After John Diefenbaker and the Tories profited electorally from the pipeline uproar and “the mockery of Parliament”, the new PM offered Stanley the speakership of the House. Though he may have done much for saner parliaments, he refused the task because he couldn’t forsake his people. He could not be a neutral with better pensions and medicare still to be won.
Shortly, he lost his seat in the ’58 sweep, and then joined the Canadian Labor Congress to organize a “new” party on the base of the CCF, the co-operative movement, and trade unions. From his return to the House until Trudeau’s last mandate, Stanley was a key figure in almost all the shifting scenarios until he chose not to run in ’84.
Was there a “down” side in the work of this prodigious parliamentarian? Not a large one, but I close my respects for the ablest man I’ve known on the Hill with three criticisms that a few of his caucus mates have had for him.
First, Stanley was too literal and reverent about House procedures. He insisted the caucus should vote on the merits of each motion and bill before the House, regardless of strategic considerations such as not defeating a minority government. This happened in 1963 and 1979, to the NDP’s misfortune.
Second, that as the fount of parliamentary wisdom he was too often available to the Liberals, first to Jack Pickersgill, second and more obviously to Allan MacEachen in 1974. These two wily House leaders for the Grits were shameless in exploiting his advice to confound the Tories.
Third, for the NDP’s sake, after the 1960s, this ablest mind in all politics should have focussed on either economic issues – monetary and fiscal policy – or to the Constitution, not on procedure and pensions. Instead, the NDP, nominally socialist, drifted on being Keynesian and garbling about financing humanity’s needs by taxing the rich and corporate mighty.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 08, 1997
ID: 12844922
TAG: 199706060145
SECTION: Comment/Editorial
COLUMN: Backgrounder


The question today is: how likely is any merger of the federal political parties of the so-called “right”?
The succinct answer is this: so unlikely as to deserve neither worry nor hope on the part of anyone.
One has to explain at some length about being so categorical. A merger does seem sensible to a lot of people who dislike what the Liberals represent, and see common philosophy on some matters in Reform and the federal Progressive Conservatives.
A merger would seem to zoom the chances of ousting the Liberals. Together, Reform and the PCs have 80 MPs. Combined, their votes came to five million, matching the Liberal total.
Wouldn’t it be good for all of us and for the two parties? Perhaps, but the proposition dismays the devoted in each party.
Neither our political history nor the present components of Reform and the Progressive Conservative parties — including their respective leaders — gives any real hope for a merger.
At its baldest, the Reformers are staunchly conservative in both economics and on social issues, whereas the active cadre of federal Tories is only moderately conservative on economic issues and rather liberally biased on social matters (and a strong role for government in dealing with them).
Aside from the disparities between the leaders, there is a wide gulf between them on almost every social matter. (See gender or culture or aboriginal issues!)
The short shrift I give to the merger proposition may seem too absolute to those who follow politics, but have never been active in any party organization. These citizens see some common points in the platforms of Reform and the PCs on the handling of deficits, debt load, tax cuts, and a leaner public service. They see similar programs being pushed by Tory governments and premiers of Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba.
Further, in Alberta certainly, and to some degree in the other two provinces, those who vote Reform federally have been voting Tory provincially. Also, in the west where Reform is very strong and the Conservatives weak, a goodly percentage of Reform backers were once loyal Conservatives.
This affinity emerged in strength when John Diefenbaker came to power in Ottawa 40 years ago, and was solidified in Alberta when Peter Lougheed succeeded in ending the long reign of Social Credit. But these Conservative voters in the west began leaving their federal party in droves during the late 1980s when the government of Brian Mulroney outraged their sensibilities about integrity and frugality — and with regard to Quebec.
Preston Manning caught this wave of discontent with the Tories a decade ago when he launched a brand new Reform party.
Remember that his father, Ernest Manning, a respected former premier of Alberta, long ago advocated party realignment in Canada on both the left and the right. He foresaw an elision of Liberals and New Democrats on the one hand, and of Social Crediters with Tories and right-wing Liberals on the other.
This would give Canadians the common sense choice between one party of the right and one of the left, the situation in American and British politics. Manning Senior’s ideas were neat and logical, but absolutely nothing came of them.
A wide diversity of persons and groups have launched political parties in Canada. The proliferation really began during and just after World War I. There have been several especially fruitful periods, including the Depression and the 1960s, with the explosion of interest in issues like peace, the environment, multiculturalism and bilingualism.
Several dozen federal parties have come and gone. One man still politicking, Paul Hellyer, has not only been a prominent Liberal and Tory, he also has launched two distinct parties of his own.
Few of the new parties last long, and the old ones, notably the originals of Confederation — the Liberals and Conservatives — have survived despite many routs and bleak periods.
There have been two long skirmishes around the idea of putting together a concerted left-wing party in Canada, the most recent developing in the early 1960s after the Liberals had been bludgeoned by Diefenbaker. The earlier, longer skirmish came out of World War I, when the Progressive party was formed and did astonishingly well in the 1921 vote, sending 64 MPs to a House in which the new Liberal prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, had the most seats but not quite a majority.
In the 1960s, the NDP was formed from the Depression-spawned, socialistic CCF and the trade union movement in English Canada. The founders expected a lot of “liberally-minded Canadians,” but not that many joined, nor did enough vote NDP to ever get it close to official Opposition status.
Last Monday night, indirectly, Preston Manning outlined the uniqueness of Reform’s achievement. In just 10 years it has come from nothing to be the official Opposition, a feat that NDP politicians as able as Tommy Douglas, David Lewis, and Ed Broadbent never came near. Why should he give a Reform-Tory merger priority, given such success? Why especially, given that the Tories have a young, ambitious leader in Jean Charest, who says Manning and Reform are bigots?
The Progressive Conservatives have a long history behind them suggesting that mergers are rare and negotiations of one — even discussions — are self-destructive. What happened to the Progressives in the 1920s indicates that patience and carrying on is better than swallowing or being swallowed.
With a sudden swatch of 64 Progressive MPs in Ottawa from the 1921 election, 39 from the west, there was much talk that Mackenzie King would work to bring the two parties together, especially because some MPs who had once been Laurier Liberals had become Conservative MPs. But King knew that parliamentary collaboration of Conservatives and Progressives was unlikely. Over the next nine years, and through three elections, he gradually picked up some Progressive switchers.
The Progressive party fell to two MPs in 1930. It went into oblivion in the Depression as two fresh federal parties were born in Alberta and Saskatchewan — Social Credit, based on an anti-banker monetary policy, and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, committed to non-Marxist socialism.
From 1935 on, the CCF and its NDP successor has had MPs in the House. Social Credit had MPs in 10 of the next 11 Parliaments after 1935. But neither came close to major party status and nowhere near what Reform has attained in a mere decade.
Reform puts a huge emphasis on participation by citizens in both developing and rejecting policies, and in keeping the party answerable to the people through the use of “recall” and national referendums on major and contentious proposals. There’s no way the federal Progressive Conservatives, Red ones or Blue, could fit for long or well with such populism.
Many Canadians in Central Canada, particularly in the media, find Manning and the populist individualism of Reform hard to take. It is all so out of line with the responsibilities of the federal government in welfare, health, and monetary fields, which have become politically correct for most. It’s also clear the Progressive Conservative party through Diefenbaker, Bob Stanfield, Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney, Kim Campbell, and now Charest, has not been ultra-conservative either in an economic or a social sense. It was never, even in Diefenbaker’s hey-day, populist, but had a due respect for elites and mandarins.
It was a party which kept to hoary patronage patterns, an appointed Senate and total command from the leader’s office on Parliament Hill. While continuing “old” party practices, the Tories have been adaptable to changing social mores. The Red Tory tag has been used so much because for decades the party has not been very conservative on economic or social issues.
Reform is obviously a genuinely conservative party on economic affairs, with a strong tilt toward small business, and away from regulatory intervention by the federal government.
One would have to be blind not to notice an overweening righteousness in its attitudes on social and cultural issues.
It seems to me a Reform-PC merger is so impossible that in betting terms it is a 100-1 shot. Even a modest understanding in Parliament on issues such as amending the new gun control law or in advocacy of tax cuts is most unlikely.
Which party will become the more dominant over time? If Canada should get past the next Quebec referendum intact, I would place a small bet on the Progressive Conservatives. If it doesn’t, who would try to guess what parties, including the Liberal one, will rise out of the chaos?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 04, 1997
ID: 12844441
TAG: 199706030384
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


It’s unlikely either the new Parliament or the present prime minister will carry on into the 21st century. And whether they do or not, their course and our politics will be very contentious and raucous.
Why do I make such a grim forecast? Surely, you may say, the past Parliament was such a lame one most MPs realize they must do better and be more constructive.
Not likely! With but 155 seats the Liberals will have to be under close supervision of the whip and the PMO at all times. Their majority is slim and deft control of issues and agenda, particularly in House committees, will be in perpetual peril. In past House scenarios where the Liberals had little or no margin they made working deals (e.g. with the NDP in 1972-73). This time neither of the smallest caucuses can risk its newly regained integrity through ready compliance with the government’s peruasions.
There is a second Liberal difficulty.
As in the last House, far too many of their MPs come from Ontario. By the election call they had become a generally restive and unhappy component in Jean Chretien’s crew. Why? Their cabinet representation was indifferent to weak, and without a single outstanding personality. Further, the Ontario caucus reeks with frustrated ambitions of many able MPs. Many also want bolder social and cultural policies, and these are expensive. Believe me, the near-sweep by the Liberals in Ontario has not created an Ontario “Happy Gang.”
Most members of the last House are back, and they have been tutored by scores of crass performances and partisan belittling of rivals. The Liberals have almost 140 re-elected incumbents, Reform about 45, the Bloc 40, the NDP six or seven. All have been shaped by a badly behaved House of Commons with indifferent attendance and a cabinet that by and large ignored the institution. I forecast that the enmities and distrust forged in the last House will endure, and not be buried for long by post-electoral goodwill and much real respect for the most prime of all issues, national unity.
Of course, most of the nastiness in both the last House and the campaign swirled over Reform. Early on it was fostered by the prime minister himself and given repeated prominence in media coverage by reporters and commentators, most of whom had, and still have, a scunner against Reformers whom they have typecast as narrow reactionaries. Japing at Reform in and outside the House even became the favorite sport of that nicest of Liberals, Paul Martin.
After an initial bemusement in 1994 with the hostility they met in the House, Preston Manning and company stopped turning the other cheek to taunts and jibes. By Parliament’s dissolution, Reformers were far away from their initial preachments about civility and decorum, guyed into it by repeated barrages of slurs and insults, especially from the Liberal benches. If you want symbols of the warfare ahead in the new House consider that the most rugged partisans from the last one are back: Sheila Copps and Deborah Grey.
It’s unlikely the House will choose a sterner Speaker than Gib Parent, although either veteran Liberals David Kilgour or Bob Kilger would likely be firmer and thus fairer in handling the unprecedented competition implicit in a House with five official parties.
Give Jean Chretien due regard for closing election night with modest and positive remarks all round. He faces the most difficult task of any prime minister since Mackenzie King encountered and then lurched through the crisis of late 1944 and early 1945 which arose over a desperate lack of trained soldiers in Europe. He has not had a brilliant cabinet. He no longer has much voting room in Parliament. And Manning is the shrewdest and most self-convinced leader of the official Opposition since John Diefenbaker. To boot, both Alexa McDonough and Jean Charest will be very vociferous.
And beyond Parliament what awaits Chretien but Lucien Bouchard, as shrewd as Manning and far more charismatic. Squeezed between the two he has to come up with a definitive strategy and plan for keeping Quebec. Premier Bouchard will likely strike first with a provincial election next spring. He might even try a double-strike of election and referendum in the fall of 1998.
Few can envy Jean Chretien. He has never been a parliamentarian par excellence and now he needs to be for a time. It will not be easy to replace him in the short run, even with his minister of finance, the only obvious alternative. Though hardly ever visionary, Chretien is a very proud man, and if on this renewed watch he turns back the PQ he will earn a far higher ranking than he has at present in the minds of Canadians – and in the history books.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 01, 1997
ID: 12844013
TAG: 199705300121
SECTION: Comment/Editorial
COLUMN: Backgrounder


So, as we survey the country, a question hangs on: why did Jean Chretien pull the plug?
It was unnecessary this spring or even this year. It was not to put a new, major program forward for a fresh mandate. Chretien had a handsome, docile majority and few problems in getting legislation through. The government was not beng ripped apart week by week by a coherent and effective opposition. Further, all seemed forgiven so that he kept going with Brian Mulroney’s big items — the free trade deal and the GST.
“Teflon” has been the tag for the Liberals because of the slight effect on their fortunes of expensive mistakes like the still unimproved Pearson airport, no replacements for aging, crash-prone helicopters, maladroit shots at Mulroney’s integrity by a cocky minister of justice, and a cumbersome law on gun control which most provinces reject as an over-costly regulatory nightmare.
Even the lamentable lapses of federalist leadership in the tight Quebec referendum vote in 1995 didn’t narrow the opinion polls’ gulf between the Liberals and the other parties.
As April closed, the economy seemed on a steady course of slow but real improvement (and still does): interest rates remain low; an end to federal deficits just over two years away is near certain; and our U.S. neighbors, so prime to us economically, are on the best and least inflationary roll since the 1960s.
Even in the often uneasy mine field of federal-provincial affairs, the Chretien cabinet had few major difficulties despite making big cuts in transfer payments. It had also been enjoying an odd advantage. The premiers of the two biggest provinces, Mike Harris and Lucien Bouchard, had been intent on their own grand exercises. Harris, in particular, was somewhat of an escape valve for Chretien by exasperating strong interests with sharp cuts in funding and radical changes in health, education and municipal systems. This meant less noticing of Ottawa and so less animus. Or so it seemed.
The sum of all this fair news and the Teflon syndrome so noticeable in Ontario was irresistable to a veteran warhorse of 10 elections. Chretien remembered 1978, when Pierre Trudeau hemmed and hawed and put off the election to 1979 — and misfortune. Grab the big majority. Now!
And, yes, Chretien was far from desperate. Polls kept high and his rivals were tattered, particularly the BQ. Popular Hill wisdom had dismissed any Reform push into Ontario.
Some of us guessed Chretien was taking a bigger risk than he realized. I thought this in particular because of the recuperative powers inherent in Tory and NDP backing that had shrivelled in 1993. And there was too heavy a discount of Preston Manning’s craft at clear exposition of telling points. The Albertan may be an indifferent parliamentarian, but he’s as good as you get on the hustings, especially when the nation’s rupture is near.
The Chretien crew thought Manning the least of their worries. Worse, they ignored recent Ontario voting patterns and the wild, wide ambivalences in provincial election choices. These suggest it would take fools’ luck to once again take all but one of Ontario’s many seats.
Now it is arguable, if not yet clear, that Chretien and his circle, mostly from Montreal, misjudged both his popularity and that of the party through Canada outside Quebec.
Day after day from the opening of the recent House, the Liberals had ridiculed Reform and its leader as a spent force and too kooky for sensible Canadians. As Parliament first met, they chose to guarantee separatist MPs the status of official Opposition and to deny the NDP and Tory MPs (and their constituents) any substantial opportunities to perform. In short, the Grits suppressed opportunities for the critical voices in the Rest of Canada to have a say. Instead, they opted for the Bloc Quebecois, a party and a movement that’s galling to more than three-quarters of the population.
And now, in this campaign the Liberals miscalculated the attention Manning would get with firm stands on issues other leaders and parties tend to fudge. Of course, early on the polls kept putting down Reform, as have so many political commentators. A Tory resurgence, fixed on Jean Charest, was almost welcome to Liberals as a stopper of Reform’s potential.
The Liberals’ egos confirmed another Chretien majority government. The state would be theirs through to 2002, ensuring that they, so competent and so representative, would deal with the next PQ referendum challenge. They saw this arrogantly, of course, but not without some nobility in their minds.
Traditonally, had it not become both duty and prerogative for Liberals as the one, genuine national party to save Canada?
It’s a very good wager that the next House of Commons will be far more awkward than the last for Chretien. His future as leader is immediately at risk if he doesn’t raise his seat total in Quebec substantially or is reduced to half a dozen seats west of Winnipeg.
Here is the rough frame I draw of the likely range in seats of the parties: the Liberals should get from 150 to 165; Reform from 55 to 65; the BQ from 35 to 45; the Tories from 35 to 40; and the NDP from 10 to 15.
To tighten this and be inordinately specific on seat totals, try: Liberal 159; Reform 58; BQ 38; Tory 33; NDP 13.
If it should be close to this, Jean Chretien will regret the early dissolution of the amenable House he had.
Now to turn from forecasting the next House to the actual X which millions of us will mark on a ballot tomorrow for a candidate in one of the 301 federal constituencies.
Long ago, after a stint of my own as an MP, I began to prefer voting on the basis of the local candidates’ attributes, rather than those of his or her party’s leader or the party’s program or record. Parliament desperately needs lots of strong-willed and able individuals in it and too often gets MPs who are either sheep to the caucus whips or cowed by the leader’s advisers and the threat of lost promotions and perqs.
In this campaign there seems no overwhelming choice of a particular leader or party program. Thus, it’s a better situation than in 1993 for what I advocate: voting for the ablest candidate in your riding. This practice I commend never became a strong movement, nor is it likely to do so.
Unfortunately, since TV’s advent the media’s focus has tightened on party leaders and rarely notices exceptionally able constituency candidates.
Analysis by students of elections has made it clear that most voters go for the leader and/or a party, and are relatively unconcerned about merit or its lack in local candidates.
In my home riding the incumbent, a Liberal, is at best an earnest, confused alderman sort. His House work has been meagre but he is loyal and doesn’t expect much; the kind of MP leaders and whips cherish and prefer in large numbers.
Some researchers think a candidate of obvious, exceptional abilities is worth at best from 10-15 points at the vote count — a shade lower in the big cities than in the hinterlands.
Regular redistribution that alters riding boundaries after each census has made it even harder for voters in big cities to know who their candidates are or who their MP is.
Incumbency is usually an advantage to the MP up for re-election, particularly outside the cities. In those general elections which produce sweeps because of a huge issue (free trade in 1988) or a massive hatred (as in 1984 and 1993 over Trudeau and Mulroney respectively) a lot of able MPs were turfed. Their worth was either unknown or ignored. And most of them faced the general disrespect that has come to be associated with the mere backbencher.
Have you had an exceptionally able MP? Are there any such possibilities in the candidates before you?
If you do a bit of work you can get a fair answer to both these questions. Take Ontario, with almost 90 Liberal incumbents running again. In my book a score of these are very able, another 30 or so sound diligent and the rest, at best, just minders of constituency beefs. I prefer those proven able, or the candidate sure to go to Ottawa to raise hell.
It’s almost certain we’re not going to have a massive sweep across Canada by one party and leader. Try making the candidate pre-eminent, not the leader and/or the party. In a lot of close races such choices could give us a significantly better House composition. Good choosing!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 28, 1997
ID: 12843437
TAG: 199705270114
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


A comment to his peers by a parliamentary reporter back in the John Diefenbaker era came to mind after reading so many columns attacking Preston Manning.
The attacks came from diverse writers – a jocular cynic like Allan Fotheringham (Maclean’s), the careful Jeffrey Simpson (Globe and Mail), the alert voice of francophones, Chantal Hebert (La Presse) and the radical Dr. Tom Walkom (Toronto Star).
The comment back in the ’60s, much remembered in the news trade, was made during a campaign by Val Sears of the Star.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “Let us about our business. We have a government to defeat.”
To be topical, a latter-day Sears of the press gallery would put it: “Friends, we have an opposition party to destroy.”
Given their way, a host of columnists and editorialists would have Manning and his Reformers wiped out or reduced to a minor aberration in a far corner of the House of Commons. Why? For dividing Canadians. For appealing to their baser instincts and unmodern prejudices. For scoffing at such an attractive theme as “distinct society.”
The attacks on Manning are more evident and fierce in print than on TV. This is not because the networks’ anchors, commentators and reporters are much less anti-Reform than their print colleagues. They are more subdued because their medium over-emphasizes any animosity or bias and usually causes wide offence among viewers. (Example: Newsworld’s Ann Petrie has drawn e-mail flak for her anti-Manning lines and grimaces.) Nonetheless, TV reporters have been zealous in finding and bringing to Manning’s notice naive and politically incorrect remarks by any ignorant redneck with a Reform label.)
This swarm of angry criticism directed at Manning tells me he and his party are doing very well and are almost sure to be the official Opposition. What a cross for my colleagues to contemplate!
I came to treasure Reform’s advent in numbers to the last House. Before I stress the reasons why, let me sketch some aspects of Manning’s politics which I find regrettable.
First, he is neither a natural parliamentarian nor even keen on the daily work in the House or its committees. He comes to Parliament with too much of his mind back with the electorate and its wants (which are so hard to read and calculate between elections). He seems to see little intrinsic worth in the process of legislation or the scrutiny of government by keen parliamentarians. Second, he has too much faith in ensuring proper government through referendums and the use of “recall” – i.e., constituents forcing MPs to answer for failures to keep promises. Third, he has more faith than is sensible in the efficacy and generosity of private enterprise and individual philanthropists in sustaining uncommercial cultural endeavors.
Such debits from Manning’s worth as a leader are more than outweighed for me at this stage by what he and his MPs have done to crack open a monolith of political correctness which had come to stultify debate or even discussion on many topics and programs. Here are some examples of subjects blown open since the advent of Reform in strength in Ottawa, beginning with the recognition, even by the federal NDP, that annual deficits must be lowered and some sensible long-term management developed for our huge debt load.
I credit Reform’s influence for the following.
– For the first time in years the accepted wisdom on refugees and immigration levels has been breached. Rather quietly the Liberals have tightened entry for refugees and put the immigrants’ influx more in line with the job situation.
– At last the Liberals put a stopper on the escalating squander of money on native affairs, even burying a mammoth, costly and very stupid royal commission report.
– Many interest groups which fattened on federal grants have had them cut off or cut down, especially those with gender, ethnic, and multicultural notions.
– Above all, the most vital issue is up for real debate: whether or not Quebec leaves Canada. Here Manning has forced into the open the core approach, shared by Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats, to fudge the issue! That’s been the case ever since the 1960s when the Pearson government agreed the French Canadians of Quebec had the right to a unilateral declaration of independence.
The fudging has let the PQ present two vaguely worded referendums in a row and to contemplate a third.
It is Reform that has brought Chretien to say there must be a clear question, that Quebec itself could be divisible, and that 50% plus one voting Yes is not enough.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 25, 1997
ID: 12843020
TAG: 199705230217
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


One reiterated theme of Jean Chretien in this election campaign has pushed me to consider voting for a Liberal candidate — a deed I have avoided for five decades. To explain is to begin with Mitchell Sharp.
Most political buffs know that since 1993 Sharp has been defined as “special adviser to Prime Minister Jean Chretien.” This fact some of us note daily as we hear Chretien emphasize his chosen mode in governing is to tackle and master one big task at a time, not many. So far, his main one has been reducing deficits. He will not deceive us any rhapsody of vision or grand designs. In short, our PM is a practical, one-step-at-a-time guy.
This pragmatism is old hat to those familiar with the Sharp guise. The adviser, now 86, is 23 years older than the PM. Their affinity began 31 years ago when the younger man was made parliamentary secretary to Sharp, then newly placed as minister of finance by Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson.
Sharp was a veteran federal mandarin before entering partisan politics, a deputy minister when he resigned in 1958 over some very partisan antics by the new Tory prime minister, John Diefenbaker. In just two years Sharp emerged as a capital “L” Liberal thinker and candidate.
Sharp’s task in finance was to reduce both the confusion in the business community and its antagonism to the Liberals after two years of Walter Gordon, surely the most prolific and radical “idea” man to ever hold the finance portfolio.
Sharp went all out to see that his new and ultra-ambitious aide from Quebec had every chance to learn how government worked and to perform openly on financial topics, e.g., to give speeches to Quebecers on the benefits of fiscal federalism.
Older Liberals remember that before he resigned his House seat in 1978, Sharp always seemed in cabinet, caucus, and conventions to be taking on the Walter Gordon faction over several Gordonian proposals. For example, he won delay of the drive to full medicare. He never liked the continual advocacy of grand ideas or the great scale of new programs and the many agencies floated and launched to meet the wishes of some vocal interest group.
Before any legislative initiative, Sharp liked thorough planning, done by the bureaucracy. He always wanted to know what the costs would be and how and from whence would come the needed funds.
Frugal. Spare. Punctilious. Thorough. And no showboat! This was Mitchell Sharp as both bureaucrat and political minister, and anyone who has read his 1994 memoir (Which Reminds Me …) or talked with him recently knows his attitudes and values haven’t changed as he serves as special adviser to his long-time protege.
When Pierre Trudeau vaulted back into power in 1980 after a brief retirement episode it was at once clear that he and several colleagues had major legislative intentions, in particular to bring home the Constitution and incorporate in it a Charter of Rights and to put in place new policies for energy and the environment. Interest rates went sky-high, the dollar dropped into the low US80 cents, and the annual federal deficits boomed over $10 billion, then $20 billion then, $30 billion.
Those action-packed years of Trudeau’s last mandate were the cap on an almost unbelievable fertility in federal initiatives that had burgeoned after the Liberals ousted Diefenbaker in 1963. There were conferences galore. Almost every year there were new federal departments and commissions and task forces. The numbers and salaries of the mandarinate soared; so did the wage settlements of the federal public service unions. Ottawa threw expertise and money at anything and everything from kids’ care to youth (CYC) to women (NAC) to gays to natives to art to sport to our ethnic rainbow to oil wells to fish plants, to not growing grain, and to infrastructure — a veritable catch-all for any fundable project.
Occasionally, Sharp and I would talk about that last Trudeau regime after meetings of an editorial board on which we sat. He was never what one could call anti-Liberal or anti-Trudeau, or even unsympathetic to the government’s chief aims. But it was clear he believed Ottawa was trying to do too much and spending too much in too many fields of endeavor. Sharp would stress the complexity of both politics and administration in our big, diverse federation. There was too much confusion over the relative responsiblities of ministers and their officials and of Parliament itself. Ethics had become a muddle. A profusion of consultants on contracts and a swarm of lobbyists had made ministerial responsibility diffuse. There was too much clutter in Crown corporations, advisory agencies, and ombudsman figures. Too many mandarins had become major figures in news and political commentary.
For the sake of both competence and frugality, Sharp would narrow the focus and shorten the scope of Ottawa. He wanted a return to the values and practices for governing which prevailed in the decade after the war — what one historian has called Ottawa’s “Golden Age.”
By the later 1980s, as it became clear to me that Brian Mulroney was both a liberal spender and addicted to big issues, not a conserver, I would find myself nodding more often: “Mitchell is right.” The ideal government was simply competent and a modest and frugal one.
Now, as I hear the Chretien of the campaign repeating the key prescriptions of his special adviser, I wonder what excuses I have for not marking my X for a Liberal candidate.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 21, 1997
ID: 12842466
TAG: 199705200116
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


It’s time to adjust the result I forecast when the the federal election was first called.
A clear majority is 152 seats. I foresaw a Liberal majority by a rather small margin of 10 seats or so: i.e., Liberals 161; the BQ 50; the PCs 40; the Reform 35; the NDP 15.
In the campaign since that forecast, the striking development has been the shakeup of intentions in Quebec, pivoting on favor for Jean Charest and the Tories and thus harming chances for both Bloc and Liberal seats – particularly the former.
Take note from past federal voting in Quebec that when favor swings in strength toward a leader during the campaign it lasts through election day. When the Quebecois take a scunner at a leader whom they take as stupid or weak, they seem unforgiving. As witness, they are now giving Gilles Duceppe the same thumbs down they have given Jean Chretien for years. Many Quebecois are undeterred because Jean Charest is a longshot as prime minister.
Stereotypes on the federal choices of Quebecers were broken in 1962 when so many beyond greater Montreal went for Creditiste candidates. Over the many elections since, the Quebecois have not been obsessed with being with the big winner. This is somewhat like Albertans’ federal penchant of knowingly going for a party certain not to form a government.
The rise of the Charest phenomenon in Quebec means the BQ is most unlikely to be the official Opposition. I would lop 20 seats off the BQ, giving them a caucus of some 30 seats. Give Charest and the PCs about 25 Quebec seats and the Liberals from 15-20.
Now here’s what both polling to this date, and my own contacts suggest is likely in the Atlantic provinces, Saskatchewan, and B.C.
In 1993 the Liberals took 31 and the Tories one of the Atlantic region’s 32 seats. It seems possible NDP Leader Alexa McDonough will win a Halifax seat, sending the NDP’s hopes westward through the time zones for the further 11 needed to regain “official” party status in the House. The striking shift in the Maritimes, however, will be in 8-12 Liberal seats which now seem Tory-bound.
In Saskatchewan most intimations I get are for a good showing by the NDP. The party seems primed to add four seats from the Liberals and one, maybe two, from Reform to the five they had. In short, the NDP would move on to B.C. with from 10-12 seats already in the bag. Also, they have had one and could win another in Manitoba.
There is no amazing resurrection of the Tories east of the Ottawa River, and one can emphasize that for the four western provinces.
In B.C., Reform should return at least as many MPs as last time (26) and may even pick up two from the Liberals and one from the NDP (edging veteran MP Nelson Riis). In Alberta, there should be very few shifts from the majority batch taken last time by Reform.
Let me translate such hunches into the national splits.
The NDP should be up from nine seats to 15-18.
Reform won 52 seats in 1993, and should hold as many. Given helpful splits in four-way fights in Ontario ridings it could win up to five ridings around the rim of Metro. So give Reform at least 55.
This leaves some 200 seats, just over half in Ontario, a big majority of which will be taken by the Liberals. Last time, Jean Chretien’s crew took 176 seats, 99 in Ontario. They should drop about 10 seats in the Atlantic region and from 5-10 west of Ontario.
As yet it’s hard to divine a major shift in Ontario’s 103 seats. As many as 85-90 may stay with the Liberals. Unless, as is unlikely, the Charest campaign takes off in Ontario, the province seems sure to guarantee that the Liberals win the most seats and head the government. Their majority may, however, be slight or not there at all.
But if Charest wins 10 or more Ontario seats the next Parliament will be a circus – and probably a short one.
Assume the Tories win nothing west of Ontario but take 10 Ontario seats, plus some 10 or more Atlantic seats, plus 25 Quebec seats. This would give them 45 seats or more. There may be a toss-up between Manning and Charest for the leadership of the official Opposition.
Even more significant, the total of four opposition parties’ seats would be up or down just a few from 145. In short, the Liberals would have either a minute majority of 10-12 seats, or even less.
If the Liberals return with a picayune margin, or none at all, it will not be because Chretien has foundered in Canada outside Quebec. But the unity crisis will be seething on and the big question will suddenly become this: what profit for a united Canada if the No. 1 national party has a leader who doesn’t rate in his own province?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 18, 1997
ID: 12842156
TAG: 199705160218
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


The Bre-X hoax has stirred up the past for me. I grew up in a bush town in the Laurentian Shield country. There we would call what happened at this Far East property “salting the strike.”
I first heard the “salting” phrase used during the excitement in the coming and going to the Red Lake Gold Rush of 1926. Much of it went north from our town, Sioux Lookout. The chances for riches and jobs excited everyone, even the kids; and their dreams and the vistas opened by the Rush have kept reappearing. Prospectors still comb the huge Shield hinterland and every few years there’s a strike, a staking rush, and fresh stock promotions — Red Lake; Woman Lake; Pickle Lake; Long Lac; Berens River; Senneterre; Bissett; Blind River; Manitouwadge and so on, even unto Indonesia and Ireland.
And always there is a temptation for a prospector or geologist or stock promoter to gussy up claims or bounce a penny stock with witness of assays with high values.
Salting can be very simple. Let me give a rather silly example.
At a Pickle Lake mine in 1938 I and an underground partner did it. For a few weeks we sprinkled high-value rock into some so-called “grab” box samples. These had rock taken daily from the working faces of the drifts and stopes of the mine. These were assayed on the site.
We were 18 years old and our intent was mischief, not gain. The staff guy running the mine’s assay office was young, educated, and so superior to mere muckers. We would confound him.
A few miles from the mine there was a disused shaft and a small, old ore-pile. As the saying went it was a property that never ran to depth. But we knew that we could pick some high-value stuff from the pile.
As a lark, we decided we would baffle the big shot in the assay office.
We gathered a few bags of the rich ore and slipped them into the bunk-house. Each day for about 10 days we would go down with a few handfuls of the rocks in our lunch pails. At shift’s end we’d slip some of it into a few of the dozen or so sample boxes piled beside the shaft.
After a week or so the shift bosses came round to all those miners taking samples. They wanted to be sure the rock came from their face. Recent assays from drifts through waste rock zones had had high and baffling numbers.
Our ploy had worked. Unfortunately we had to savor it in silence. To crow openly meant the axe, and catching a plane out to the track. Of course, with the years I realized how childish it had been.
Two years after this salting I did a few days paddling canoe to some staking along the Sturgeon River for an engaging American geologist, a graduate as I remember of Tulane and Yale. Let me call him Ron Black, a fictitious name. He worked for a racy Bay Street stock promoter who would send him to “hot” areas to stake or buy claims.
Ron Black fascinated me. A big, bluff man and a talker, a novelist would call him a romantic. He would speculate vividly on where and when he’d hit the mother lode.
A few years later I was overseas in the army and got a brief press clipping from home. A geologist had been sentenced to jail for “salting” a gold prospect in the Val D’Or region. He had fired very high-grade ore along a quartz vein using re-loaded shot-gun shells. The assays had been grand, and then someone squealed. I never heard any more about Ron Black but his employer was still promoting in Toronto into the 1950s.
My last anecdote has many affinities to Bre-X in intensive salting and a prospect of mammoth millions. It was a few years after World War II; the locale of the would-be billionaires was the Canadian Lakehead and the prospect was almost the whole valley of the Blackwater River that enters the east side of Lake Nipigon. Unlike Bre-X, the story of this scam has never been published. Why not? Simple. Too embarrassing!
Those taken in by a very smooth and veteran prospector were friends — prominent and prosperous men of Fort William and Port Arthur. They knew prosecution of their bilker would reveal them as unbelievably gullible and greedy.
The prospector came to them as men of means. He had assay reports of samples taken from the sands of the Blackwater’s valley. Were they interested in pursuing search and development, all on the quiet?
They were. As assay results piled up they began multiplying millions of tons of Blackwater sand by assay values which suggested $300 a ton and up. They brought in a few more friends, swore them to secrecy and began to plan, even unto a Bank of Northwestern Ontario.
The values were genuine. The prospector had brought a bag of gold sand and dust back from a Yukon visit for local use. A relative of his worked there on a hydraulic, gold-mining barge.
In the early 1960s I heard of the huge hopes for Blackwater gold and the awful letdown from a very minor partner. Although he had no money he was given a 1% share because of his known skills at public relations. Before the balloon burst and cast the partners into rage and shame he had figured from the assays his 1% share was worth at least a hundred million.
Among the partners the debate had been fierce about going public with the find and selling shares or keeping it quiet, all for themselves, thus avoiding the rush before they were actually mining the sands. What burst their bubble? In his travels the wealthiest partner met a famous Canadian geologist who laughed at the story of a valley of golden sand. There was no way the geology of that region could have such a phenomenon. “You’ve been taken,” he said.
And so Northwestern Ontario’s mightiest prospect ever ended, closed, known to few, and unreported. The wily prospector dropped out of sight for a time, but not forever. In my file of wallpaper shares are some I bought from him before I heard of his gift for salting. They are for a prospect even more improbable than gold — a marble quarry!
Mining is a very risky proposition.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 14, 1997
ID: 12016215
TAG: 199705130113
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 12


Let skeptics scoff and cynics sneer, Monday night’s big political show on television was not bad.
Once one concedes the format was clumsy and the agenda a jumble, the event can be seen as almost a triumph. It captivated a lot of people. It was lengthy, but afterwards the many contrasts it revealed were still vivid and most useful for those who would think before they vote.
A sharpening in the evaluations of the choice to be registered on June 2 is just what this campaign has needed, not only in the choice of leaders but in such key issues as the efficacy of tax cuts or who best to overcome the Quebec dilemma.
After the show the comments of viewers I heard indicated how engrossed they had been. Few were frustrated by the show’s veers and sometimes rubbishy argument. No one was talking about the moderator of the occasion, or its TV journalists, or its citizen questioners. Just the five leaders.
Yes, Jean Charest was both the Bill Clinton and the Brian Tobin of the night. In the often confusing babble he was the most crisp and assured competitor. In manner, form and rhetoric he had an edge even though political aficionados were wincing at the trivial substance of his program — for example, on his “unity covenant.”
Those of us who try to predict what the division of seats will be the morning of June 3 are weighing whether Charest’s eclipse of his rivals is fleeting or unimportant. Frankly, we will be unsure until we get a few opinion polls in the next week.
No, Jean Chretien never shone but he did endure. He kept his bad temper in check through a slew of derogatory provocations. His blunt, one-step-at-a-time pragmatism would sit well with cautious Canadians, and a lot of us are.
Did you smile wryly when the PM tagged Preston Manning and Charest as leaders of “the two right-wing parties.” Lucky for him, his most confused and vapid responses came from the now peripheral issue of why an election now. He fumbled around with job numbers again and again but he was no emptier than his critics on job creation. (Take one Charest promise — a mammoth economic conference. Just like Brian Mulroney sponsored in early 1985.)
Yes, in clarity and logic of explicit argument Manning may have been superior, but as such was overshadowed by his palpable righteousness and the reiterated ploy of “Tell us, yes or no.”
Why such over-simplification? Why pre-empt the moderator? Above all, why hang so much on the arcane process of “recall” as Reform’s panacea for chastising politicians who leave electoral promises unfulfilled?
Regardless of these caveats about the Manning performance, even during the program and much more since then I keep thinking that his expository style and conservative content would be well taken in the West.
Yes, Alexa McDonough was vigorous, even raucous at times, in hammering home the need to have more Robin Hood MPs to demand each sitting day in the House that more be taken from the rich and the corporate to help the poor and the hungry. She may be an attractive proposition to those who seek a better opposition for the Liberals. She did remind me far more of a former NDP leader. No, not Audrey McLaughlin but Ed Broadbent.
Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc? Thank heaven he is a long stretch short of Lucien Bouchard as an articulate and persuasive politician. Occasionally Duceppe bumbled into the run of talk without ever seeming relevant or even hateful enough to be taken seriously. This was not the test of tests for him. Last night’s encounter in French was.
I thought Charest’s best moments were obvious from the applause he drew by emotional words on the country he would never stop trying to keep together. He pre-empted Chretien’s “I love Canada” line. He seemed to radiate credibility when he insisted again and again that he knew French-speaking Quebers and most did not want separation but to keep Canada going. He was just as assured but far less convincing on the jobs and economic recovery that will come with the tax cuts he has promised.
It seemed as though Charest was almost writing off the West by savaging as divisive and over-simple Reform’s prescription for the unity crisis — equality between citizens and between provinces.
Is Charest shrewd to play to Ontario and shrug off Alberta and B.C.? Certainly, the best means to get some Tory MPs from Ontario is for Charest to demonstrate he is almost sure to get some in Quebec.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 11, 1997
ID: 12015526
TAG: 199705090135
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


Maybe Jacques Parizeau’s memoirs will bring passion to this election. Whether Canada is to be or not to be should be the great issue. Thus far, it has not been. What has? Rhetorically speaking, who knows?
To this point, two weeks down and three weeks to go, although three of Jean Chretien’s four rivals — Preston Manning, Jean Charest and Alexa McDonough — have not been doing badly, the romp he anticipated still seems likely.
Although Chretien, himself, has not scintillated, he has neither been goofing about day after day nor exposing a dwindled stamina. He may be too well enveloped. Nonetheless, unless his competitors get to him soon as stale and failing in past performances, notably in still whistling through the constitutional graveyard, he is home free and Canada can count on another bad Parliament.
Even voters with a desultory interest in politics should be twigging that all the rival leaders and their counsellors are really not shaping to form a government but to raise their prospects for office at the next go. Who wants to vote with eyes on the next election?
Perhaps this modesty in hopes explains why so much in the Reform, Tory and NDP presentations thus far has hinged on programs. Each has the equivalent of a Liberal Red Book but none of them savages and satirizes the revealed incompetence and evasions of Chretien and his cabinet.
To get voters to reject a governing party on a large scale needs attack and revelation — scathing, ribald, documented, and reiterated. This is more effective politicking than posting superior promises like tax cuts big enough to create jobs galore or wiser spending to sustain high-calibre medicare.
It is true that campaigning with the line that “We have the best program” is positive, but it has not been doing much to convince voters by the millions they must rid themselves of the Liberals, say as they did with anything Tory in 1993.
This time the campaign is almost three weeks shorter and as yet the only obviousness in speculation is about who shall be, or should be, second, third and fourth.
There has been so little on Liberal mismanagement and broken promises.
Why not go after the Liberals? Why are its key figures so over-confident, often smirkingly so? See not just the PM, “Mr. I love Canada” but the effulgent Paul Martin, a ratty Doug Young, the pious Allan Rock, or Lloyd Axworthy as Manitoba’s succor with “blank cheques” on hand.
This is a Liberal government that almost blew the referendum and the country but still keeps a dithering patience as its core strategy for national survival.
This government has been crowing of its deeds on the deficit, yet the fearsome debt burden has kept on soaring since its advent despite the remarkably low interest rates here and abroad. What happens to such self-satisfaction when our interest rates take off? And they will when those of our neighbor go up, as they will.
What’s the rub? Or, what’s rubbing me about the campaign thus far? It is beyond my normal optimism about the Canadian voters to believe any prospect is emerging for even a minority House with the Liberals having the most seats, let alone a chance of a clear Liberal defeat.
Thus far the campaign has not struck sparks as a national political happening, although the Red River disaster may have come close, at least in the West.
Jacques Parizeau’s outrageous revelation — that if he had won the referendum which he barely lost when premier, he would have broken away immediately — may turn the last three weeks of the campaign into a rouser.
Or, the televised clash of the leaders next week may electrify us with contrasts and crystallize our antipathies.
As readers and viewers of the campaign you must have noticed that most of us who are paid to appraise politics have spent much time and space in logic-twisting. To what end? Mainly trying to charge up a real race.
We have tried to find threats to the easy Liberal win foreshadowed in the party’s big lead in nation-wide polling, before and into the campaign.
In our antics most of us have granted the colossal stature to the Liberal party but emphasizing that it may face five distinct regional battles with varying opponents. We have speculated that in several regions, particularly in Quebec and Ontario, the Grits could go awry. We have stretched such chances into the Liberals losing majority control of Parliament.
But none of us into such analysis even dares to hint strongly that another party — say either Reform or the Progressive Conservatives — could separately zoom from where they were in the last House to enough MPs to control the next one.
Aside from polls so favoring the Liberals over other parties, they continue to tell us the top concern of voters is the lack of jobs and of job security. This comes well ahead of making sure Quebec remains in Canada or getting down to the debt burden.
One can understand why so many, even in Quebec, are tired and beg off much more on allaying or compromising with Quebecois nationalism. But surely it is, or ought to be, the gut question as we consider our choices. Who, and with what prescription, is best for keeping Canada together?
At heart the unity issue is not primarily one of left or right, of liberal or social democrat vs. conservative. It is the lack of jobs and dealing with the debt which takes us into issues of left and right and the extent of the role most of us want the federal government to play.
It may be my wishful imagination but it seems apparent after scanning the policies of almost every provincial government and the sizable approval for Paul Martin’s work in reducing the federal deficit that the majority view continues to be conservatively minded. More voters favor frugal government and more dependence on the private sector for creating work than on government “pump-priming” and Crown corporations.
To transfer such a reading of preference to the partisan choices is easier to say than to do.
On the face of so much of what their leaders and programs say, we have before us three parties to the right of centre: the Liberals with a few deviant promises and old lag spenders like Sheila Copps and Lloyd Axworthy; the Tories with just glints of their old “Red” element; and the Reformers with the most faith in free enterprise, a small Ottawa and more power to the provinces.
And we have two parties clearly to the left of centre: the NDP which, without belittling its chances, has only a few pockets for good prospects scattered through the West, and the Bloc Quebecois which has neither candidates nor fans outside Quebec.
Such swirl and overlap in appraising chances has also led to much bumph on “strategic voting.”
Vote NDP to get enough noisy MPs to make the Liberals humane and Parliament lively.
Vote Tory or lose an historically, genuine, national party.
Vote for Charest, not Manning, as the sensible, alternative to a Liberal on the unity issue.
Vote Liberal to get everything from frugality to a national drug plan to more for child care and culture.
Vote Liberal because no one else has a chance to win. Load them up; leave them no excuses.
No matter how strategic the voters outside Quebec want to be, how can they reach a goal most of them want as much or more than anything else? That is, to rid Parliament of any prime role for the BQ. To get that we have to have a party which will colloquially “lay it on the line” to Quebecers for leaving Canada or staying with it. Who knows the voting strategies to achieve such a goal?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 04, 1997
ID: 12013714
TAG: 199705020138
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


These are largely disconnected comments on the federal campaign to this stage with the vote 29 days away.
First, the four party leaders who are contesting in Canada outside Quebec — Jean Chretien, Preston Manning, Jean Charest and Alexa McDonough — seem very fit and “up” and each seems to have well organized campaign tours and at least some distinctive strategies.
Despite talk two and three years ago of debt-burdened parties, none seems cash-strapped or so short of funds the leader and the program will not get a fair news presentation, especially on television.
Second, it is already clear that CBC News, with good co-ordination between the talents of both CBC Radio and TV, is putting everything available into a coverage of the campaign that is extensive and balanced. In particular, Manning and Reform are getting their time and space, and McDonough and the NDP, although hardly getting prominence, are not being overlooked as irrelevant.
My hunch is that we will have the most fair media coverage of a general election in modern times, in part because of the campaign’s brevity, in part from the frugality being imposed on so many editors and producers.
Third, neither the criticism of Chretien’s judgment in calling the election as the flood crisis in Manitoba heightened nor the glitch in the Liberal campaign caused by Manning pre-empting the launch of the Liberals’ Red Book II have put the governing party into disarray and the polls published last week were mildly reassuring for its expectations.
Fourth, a moderation of Liberal forecasts should arise, however, from two early warning signs in the polling: a) the likely loss of a few seats to the Tories in the Atlantic provinces; b) the unexpected rise in Quebec of the Tories as bona fide contenders and Charest as popular. Suddenly there’s the possibility of Quebecois votes and some House seats going to the Tories.
Fifth, so far not even the New Democrats are front-lining the aborigines’ issue of the widely forsaken royal commission report. Chief Ovide Mercredi’s call for open protests may bring testy confrontations but don’t count on this being a great issue.
Sixth, the aforementioned slide of the Bloc and the rise of the Tories in Quebec suggests the most crucial head-on confrontation of the campaign is a fortnight ahead.
It may be that Chretien has to do well in the televised debate in French of the party leaders. My few Quebec contacts tell me that when televised speaking in French, Charest is more lucid and appealing than either Chretien or Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois.
Seventh, to twist a word it is “non-plussing” that in the first week’s campaigning the critique of the prime minister and his government has hardly made anything of those foul-ups which mock the Liberals’ assertions of their competence and integrity.
One explanation is that the prime, and more noble, task of the opposition party leaders is to get their policies publicized, not to be nasty knockers of all things Liberal.
The broad acceptance of Liberal competence is really based on knocking $20 billion or so off the deficit, not ending it. So one wonders why there have been few romps over such Liberal fiascoes as: a) the repeated botches of military affairs, deepening a mess that is no longer the Tories’ doing; b) the Airbus affair, so politically mean-minded and stupid; c) the screw-ups in both creating gun control law and in setting up the controls’ regime; and d) the costly, tawdry ways in which the Liberals fulfilled their promises last election to cancel contracts signed by the Mulroney government for the Pearson airport extensions and control and the purchase of much needed EH-101 helicopters for military and search and rescue purposes.
Eighth, the governing Liberals are trying to feature other than the leader in the campaign — Paul Martin in particular, but also less sturdy pillars such as Lloyd Axworthy, Sergio Marchi and Ann McLellan.
We have had slight emphasis on the quality of any Liberal electoral team since Mike Pearson’s last run in 1965. After that the presidential-like phenomenon of Pierre Trudeau enshrined the domination in campaign emphasis of the wondrous leader.
Ninth, rather indirectly the matter of whether Chretien’s second mandate will be a fugitive thing came up on a CBC-TV noonhour show a week ago.
A forecast by a history professor (I believe from York University) knocks for a loop my reading of Chretien’s determination. She projected a handy Grit win. Then, after a year or so, long before the next election, Chretien, astutely guided by his wife, Aline, will resign. Then the professor foresaw a contest between some very talented Liberals like Martin and Frank McKenna.
Well, it’s possible!
And it makes a fair question for the prime minister: are you in it for the long haul?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 30, 1997
ID: 12012670
TAG: 199704300087
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


It was a plain question. Do you think the Liberal party has given us good government?
Last Friday this was the daily “Yes or No” question which readers of cablevision’s printed news could respond to by phone. Naturally enough, I wondered how it would turn out. On Saturday I found out how haywire my guess of a result close to 50-50 had been. That is, I thought about half would say the Liberals had been giving us good government, the other half would say they hadn’t.
For over three years credible pollsters have consistently found Jean Chretien’s Liberals far ahead of the other parties in the responses from those asked the regular question: “Which party would you vote for if a federal election were to be held tomorrow?”
This Liberal lead was evident in two major polls released over the weekend. That is, whatever quite distinctive regional variations there have been in the sampling nationally — for example, in Quebec and Alberta — the Liberals have been running from 30 to 20 points ahead of their nearest competitors.
So, last Friday, with almost everyone sure about the election call on Sunday, I expected the Liberals to do fairly well in response to the cable TV question about good government. Also, I understood the majority of those who register their opinions to these questions live in Ontario, the province which elected 98 Liberal MPs out of 99 ridings in 1993.
Ontario is also the province in which the regular pollsters like Gallup and Angus Reid have found those approached for an opinion have consistently been more favorable to the Liberals than to Reform, the federal Tory party or the NDP.
Friday’s cable TV question drew 958 phone calls, about 10% to 15% more than the daily question gets on average. And knocking down my expectations, a huge 82% of the respondents said the Liberals had not given “good government.” Only 18% believed they had.
The result may be an aberration. It may foretell absolutely nothing regarding the results from the 41/2 weeks of campaigning ahead. Or Friday may have been a frustrating day for a lot of people, which showed up in their determination to take a kick at the gang in charge.
Before turning to my crude estimate of how good the Liberal government has been from this overwhelming snapshot result against the Grits as good governors, let me admit the result shook me up. Why? Because it fitted with some forebodings I had been getting from the basic connoisseurs of elections — backbench MPs.
In the past few months my chats with MPs usually turned to the coming election. Again and again — off the record — Liberal MPs told me they themselves were in for a tough fight. In my judgment none of these MPs was being mock-modest about his or her re-election prospects. Most hold ridings in Ontario, a few from the Maritimes. None was from Quebec.
From where did these MPs expect the tough rivalry in the election would come? Most mentioned Jean Charest and the Progressive Conservatives. A couple of Grits from rural Southern Ontario spoke of strong Reform activity in their bailiwicks.
In any appraising of either recent opinion polling, or that to come in the campaign, it seems obvious the splits of the parties in the whole-Canada sample are much less significant than the respective splits in the five regions of Canada — the Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies and B.C. For example, the Tories are unlikely to do well west of Manitoba whereas Reform and the NDP should. But Reform and the NDP have no chances in Quebec and scant ones in the Atlantic region.
As for my own reaction to the cable TV question, I prevaricated, beginning a review of the Chretien record since 1993 that led in many different directions. After much of good, bad, and indifferent opinions I wound up fixing on what I think are the four most important challenges to the federal Liberals.
First, the Chretien record is good and moderately reassuring on the vital need for deficit reduction and facing the debt burden.
Second, on the prime issue of assuring that Quebec stays in Canada, the record is very shaky and so uninspiring it scares me.
Third, at creating jobs and reducing unemployment, the record is just fair in the west and poor elsewhere, notably in Quebec and the Atlantic region.
Fourth, on Parliament as it could be — the most essential forum for the nation — this government’s record has been poor.
So not solidly a good government, but not a totally bad government.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 27, 1997
ID: 12011939
TAG: 199704250124
SECTION: Comment/Editorial
COLUMN: The Nation


Although I share the widespread uneasiness among political buffs of all persuasions as this federal election campaign opens, let me hazard the rough shape of the result which seems probable at the start of it all. Although this is my first, it won’t be my last forecast:
Liberals, about 160 seats; Bloc Quebecois, 50 seats; Progressive Conservatives, 45 seats; Reform, 30 seats; New Democrats, 15 seats.
The five-week campaign will be the shortest ever. Its launch ends the impatience of all the federal party leaders to close out this miserable Parliament and get to the people. But this impatience is not a mass fixation across Canada.
There’s been some speculation, I think overdone, that voters will penalize Jean Chretien for coming to them well over a year before he must, and without a really major imperative in policy for approval or an immediate threat to national equipoise.
The general uneasiness to which I refer seems to run the grain of polling results and wagering that has been favoring the Chretienites and suggesting a margin as large or larger in Liberal MPs over the sum of all others.
It seems obvious that in Canada other than Quebec the mainspring for the uneasiness is the fear of citizens that the separatist party will come back again as official Opposition and repeat the skewing of criticism and distorted focus of so much performance in this Parliament.
My contacts with citizens beyond the Ottawa circle are not extensive but they do indicate many voters would like to ensure that the Bloc will never again be what it cannot be — the official alternative to the government of the day. But they cannot fathom how to get this done.
Do they go more for Reform and Preston Manning, or take the Tories and Jean Charest as the better chance?
Could this undermine the Liberals enough to deny them a majority? For example, by much cutting their almost total hold on Ontario’s five score seats?
Of course, implicit in the drift of this column thus far is the firm opinion that in Canada beyond Quebec there isn’t any surging enthusiasm for either the prime minister or his first administration. This has not been seen as a goverment par excellence, led by a beloved PM and sustained by popular, pervasive good will.
As for more ideologically minded citizens of either the left or right, they are puzzled, with the leftists being most bothered, by the genuineness or expediency in Jean Chretien’s shifting of the Liberal party to the right.
Some wonder about going for the NDP and Alexa McDonough as a means to get more voices into the House against the big interests and to argue collective solutions to a range of social and economic hardships. And those on the right have the devil’s dilemma of Manning or Charest — or Chretien.
The bugbear for me in being coldly rational about this election is the Bloc Quebecois.
I may exaggerate because the BQ’s role has irritated me since 1993. The Bloc’s destructive intent for Canada should never have been enhanced by accepting that it should be the official Opposition and alternative to the government. It became so when this Parliament first gathered because of deliberate Liberal strategy, based on a self-protective reading that the Reform party and Manning were a worse threat to the governing party than the BQ and Lucien Bouchard.
Now, as the election balloon goes up, there are not indicators the party of the “official” Opposition may be routed into a third- or fourth-place caucus in the next House.
To force the point about the BQ as a menace to a sane Parliament, I think concern over the choices by French-language voters in Quebec will haunt this campaign as it has this Parliament. Certainly, the slender federal win in the sovereignty referendum of October, 1995, has sustained rather than undermined the menace of Quebec separatists to unity and a positive Parliament.
Like most Canadian voters in my lifetime I have not been enthusiastic for long — certainly never past two mandates — for any government and prime minister, beginning with R.B. Bennett in 1935, and through King, St. Laurent, Diefenbaker, Pearson, Trudeau, Clark, Trudeau again, Turner, Mulroney, Campbell, and Chretien.
What may be too much experience and observation of prime ministers and governments has been reduced almost to absurdity in what I want as a citizen and as a columnist from the federal government and Parliament.
Warily, not expecting much, but hopeful, I want a result from the campaign which bodes well for two fundamentals.
First, more certainty that the federation will continue and Quebec will stay.
Second, a government that is competent and frugal, and which works within a Parliament that thrives on energy and enthusiasm.
Easy to state, but how to achieve? I don’t know.
But for me it should begin with the election of a swarm of able candidates rather than with a particular party or leader.
To swing back from wishfulness to the likelihood, more of the Grits seems sure … but they have not been so able and competent as to have become either invulnerable or indispensable.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 23, 1997
ID: 12010796
TAG: 199704220082
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


On this day in 1897, Lester Bowles Pearson was born. He was our prime minister from early 1963 to early 1968.
Was he one of our greats? Or mediocre? Or by and large a bust? There’s arguing material for each of these three judgments.
Today remembrance of Pearson as national leader is topical. A two-day symposium is under way in Ottawa on his life and times. And a Maclean’s polling of historians (not the public) has rated our 20 prime ministers from best to worst. Such exercises are far more common in the U.S., where ratings of the presidents from George Washington to the incumbent Bill Clinton issue regularly from scholarly mills. The latest one raised Franklin Roosevelt (1932-45) to the level of Lincoln, the savior of the union.
In the Maclean’s poll “Mike” Pearson ranked 6th, behind Pierre Trudeau, who was behind Louis St. Laurent.
The top three were William Lyon Mackenzie King, Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Our lone female PM was last.
The 8th-place rating of Brian Mulroney, with Jean Chretien 9th, reflects the choice by academics, not by “vox pop.”
I think the measure of Pearson by scholars rests less on his work in the highest office and more on his diplomatic career. Pearson and C.D. Howe were very different men but they, along with St. Laurent, were the great performers in King’s later governments. Polled on the most successful Canadian ever, historians and economists are torn between Pearson or Howe.
With Pearson, one should recall that his successor, Trudeau, seemed a vivid contrast in style, themes and personality. Further, he was to have almost 15 consecutive years in office.
As soon as PET won the top post, he emphasized his cabinet would not be like Pearson’s, leaky and bumbling. Though this line was credible because Pearson had come to be seen by so many as an inept prime minister, there was a rather mean-minded readiness to ignore the Pearson years. Serious students of his times have and do stress the fertility of Pearson’s regime in innovations and laws, most notably the completion of the health and welfare state and shaping policies to meet the vigorous challenges from Quebec.
After rereading my Pearson files, it seems to me “Mike” was more appreciated by the country’s mandarinate, academics and senior print journalists than any other PM, before or since. It was often baffling to such admirers that this able, modest, wise man, our first “hit” in international affairs, did not catch on with the electorate. No majority House after four elections! He was neither widely detested nor much cherished during and after his political phase. And as yet there has not been a resurgence of popular interest in him or the five action-packed years of his two minority governments.
There were Pearson’s own memoirs, several biographies and much about him and his government in books by or about such colleagues as Jack Pickersgill, Walter Gordon, Paul Martin and Mitchell Sharp. And there were several gripping TV documentaries on the Diefenbaker-Pearson era. None of this has done much to further the notion that Pearson was one of our great prime ministers.
To be fair to Pearson, most retrospectives, learned or not, emphasize the scorpion-like intensity of his rivalry with Dief, usually damning the Chief but sketching Mike’s inadequacies as a partisan warrior. And little is made of the broad context of his term, i.e., the West’s tempestuous social revolution of the ’60s. Think of flower children, marijuana, Vietnam and draft-dodging. And, here, the political-social earthquake that struck Quebec after the dictatorial premier Maurice Duplessis died. The long-running but usually comatose issue of national unity was suddenly prime. And it still is.
My appraisals of LBP as prime minister, made after his resignation in 1968, were harsh. Instead of judging either his government’s legislative initiatives or the experiences I had as an opposition MP with him, I fixed on the arguably scurvy treatment he gave to ministers such as Guy Favreau, Walter Gordon, Judy LaMarsh, and Lucien Cardin. However, recent scouts through my files on Pearson of the 1960s made me marvel at the quick responses he gave to my direct representations as an opposition MP. Several times he was spontaneously gracious about some House work of mine.
In reflecting on LBP’s fair and decent responses to me long ago I began to multiply them by the scores of other MPs from his own and opposition caucuses who would have been bracing him with cases. And I realized how I had overlooked both this stamina and generosity. No PM I’ve known was so considerate with backbenchers, including partisan rivals. Would that we could see his like again, soon.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 06, 1997
ID: 12079139
TAG: 199704040093
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


Last January I doubted any good would come of the reports commissioned by Defence Minister Doug Young on the problems plaguing Canada’s Armed Forces.
I shared a popular view that the minister’s real intent in soliciting the opinions of academics Jack Granatstein and Desmond Morton and jurist Brian Dickson was to deflect criticism from his decision to wrap up the Somalia inquiry before it could investigate the possibility of an Ottawa-based coverup involving senior officials with ties to the present government.
But the minister’s crude cynicism was not the principal reason for my pessimism. As I read Canada, no support exists within the government or the country at large for the changes and spending needed to restore our forces’ morale and provide them with the tools to execute well the various roles assigned to them.
The experts’ reports and the minister’s response to them are now in, and we doubting Thomases were right.
Consider the various appearances, in print and on the box by professors Granatstein and Morton. Both historians have been busy explaining their findings to the public, and what is most striking is their fatalistic tone.
As befits someone of Grit sympathies, Granatstein is the more strident of the two in insisting “the situation remains salvageable.”
In a response to a full page article in the Ottawa Citizen by lawyer John Pepall that pondered why Canada, a prosperous nation with a proud military history, cannot field even modest combat forces equal to those of nations a fraction of our size, the former York university professor argued that the first step in restoring Canada’s forces is for “the government to make clear that the ceaseless process of budget slashing and personnel cuts that have been the norm … since the 1960s has come to an end.”
Does Prof. Granatstein believe this is likely? No. He opened his piece, acknowledging “there are few signs of governmental willingness to see Canada rebuild its defences.” Throughout, he accepts that ongoing cuts to the military’s personnel and budget will continue.
In another recent Citizen article explaining his own report’s conclusions, Prof. Morton noted that despite being self-governing for 130 years and responsible for its own defence and foreign policies for 66, “Canada has yet to develop its own defence strategy.” For Morton a “made-in-Canada strategy would determine the roles, nature and capability” of our armed forces “in a world where intense but limited wars remain painfully possible.”
Granatstein shares his colleague’s views on the opacity of Canada’s defence planning: “What is clear is that, today, no one in the forces or out truly knows” what our military is supposed to do. Granatstein likes the government’s 1993 white paper reaffirming Canada’s commitment to collective defence through the provision of combat capable forces to NATO and NORAD.
Unfortunately “the government seems to dabble with quasi-neutralist doctrines at times (and) to commit forces to UN operations without much preparation or thought,” leading those in our military to conclude that “there is neither a vision nor a sense of direction in government.”
Granatstein and Morton are jaded and jaundiced over the continuing fixation with peacekeeping, believing that Canada can, and should, field forces of significant combat capability, as the ticket to the tables of international influence and as insurance against unforeseen developments.
To achieve such capability they argue our troops need better pay, improved educational opportunities and new equipment. Can these needs be met within a defence budget of $9-$10 billion per year? It seems impossible. No other nation’s military manages such a broad mandate on so little cash.
Where do we go from here?
As Granatstein notes, fixing what ails the military “requires strong political leadership working hand in hand with the senior officers of the Canadian Forces.” Are we likely to get it, from either this minister or his prime minister? Not likely.
Doug Young for all his brusque assurance gives no impression to me of possessing a genuine interest in the future of the forces, let alone a committment. Throughout his biff-bang months in the defence portfolio he has been guided by a keen sense of what is required for him to survive it and move on.
Examples? The dismissal of Gen. Jean Boyle; the termination of the Somalia inquiry; ridiculing the notion of a coverup at defence headquarters; and stalling on re-equipment plans set out in the white paper. All that is perhaps clever partisanship, but far from high-minded.
In January I asked whether the outspoken Young might be the sort of man to finally tell his cabinet colleagues the ugly truths about our overstretched forces, and force a decision on either increasing their resources or cutting their commitments.
He has not been.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 02, 1997
ID: 12077942
TAG: 199704010073
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


What is the prime political bias in the Canadian media? It has, I would argue, been to the left. Is that changing with most daily newspaper circulation now provided by Conrad Black and the CBC short of funding?
In the U.S. it is now taken for granted that a preponderance of reporters, columnists, producers and editors are “liberal” or “liberally minded,” whereas most of the owners and publishers of the papers, chains, and networks for which they work are taken to be “conservative” or “conservatively minded.”
The Americans use the tags of “left” and “right” less than we do. Our use of left and right is roughly equivalent to their use of liberal and conservative. To reiterate, Americans accept that their journalists tend to be more liberal-left than conservative-right. In Canada those on the left have rarely conceded that years ago (I’d say by the late 1950s) their kind attained a majority among those working in this country’s political media.
In the U.S. if media bias favors the Democratic programs, as a counter the Republicans raise more funds for political action in the corporate world. And despite the “liberal” media bias, the right has a modicum of its own in journalists like Rush Limbaugh and George Will.
In Canada, where the left, or the liberally minded, won’t concede their heft in the media they are still stressing how the big corporations pay the piper for the big, old parties and get mostly admiring media treatment. They won’t even agree that in its news coverage and the selection and primacy given topics, CBC news and commentary is not neutral or anchored over the political centre. A left-leaner like columnist Rick Salutin, or even a spoofing lefty like Allan Fotheringham, does not grant that our political left generally gets a fairer display in the media than does the political right.
Perhaps the plainest example of this has been the harsher measure given Preston Manning and the Reform party in this Parliament than that given Jean Chretien and the Liberals, or even to the Bloc Quebecois, by most political reporters and commentators. Even the leftist critique of the Chretienites emphasizes their expediency in forsaking “real” liberalism. And the now raging critique of Ontario Premier Mike Harris and his Common Sense Revolution emphasizes both its American origin and his scorn for Red Tory values.
Does either this leftward tilt or the reiterated denials that it has been, and still is, present matter very much? It hardly seems so although it may have helped alienate our West from the East, though probably not as much as a rather parallel perception in the West that governments in Ottawa give paramount attention to Quebec issues.
The buzz of concern over the alleged tilt toward the right in the media will grow louder, but not so much about it being a factor in the federal contest at hand as concern at the consequences from Conrad Black’s takeover of the biggest Canadian chain of papers. There have been striking changes in Southam management and staffing, most notably a remarkable “reorg” of the Ottawa Citizen.
For years it was the only big daily that consistently, and with a sometimes woolly nobility, hewed to a social democratic line editorially and through most of its columnists. No more! Beyond a shift right, the Citizen has become a staid, serious paper on the right.
This reversal in their daily reading material has shaken up a lot of Ottawans, especially those in government. The capital has generally voted more left than right. Black’s Citizen has not banished left- wing writers, nevertheless, the contrast with the past is a stunner and the talk — some say the dirge — of the town. I find other readers are in the same box I am, struggling without a daily fix of social democracy.
I’ve offered solace to colleagues on the left about the Citizen but they give short shrift to my line that the Black ascendancy has hardly moved the whole media to the centre from the left. They still have CBC news and commentary. They still have the Toronto Star, the biggest daily and almost always small “l” and large “L” Liberal. They still do rather well in Maclean’s (which has so much more reach than Black’s Saturday Night). And on social and cultural issues like abortion, homosexuality, gun control and censorship, the so-called “national” paper is with them.
The familiar scenario of those who report and comment on federal politics continues. Despite the recent, perhaps profound, shift to the right by hosts of Canadians, despite Conrad Black and his hirings, the media’s working people are still much more grouped to the left than to the right.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 30, 1997
ID: 12077461
TAG: 199703300141
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


The Hill in Ottawa is quiet. The MPs and senators are away over Easter, and I turn from election-guessing to a situation that has been little noticed, and if so only as a tiny sidebar item to a lamentable Parliament that is almost done.
One might put it this way. In the House the Bloc Quebecois has been Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition but the Chretien government has had more obdurate opposition from the Senate, largely but not entirely from Progressive Conservative senators.
Oh, how difficult the half hundred Tory senators have been for the Chretien government, even though their party lost its narrow majority to the governing party over a year ago. The latter’s margin, however, remains slight.
At the core of this sturdy obstructionism is one John Lynch-Staunton, 67, a Montreal businessman appointed by Brian Mulroney in 1990. The double-barrelled name is an old one on Parliament Hill. A Lynch-Staunton was a war-horse there through the 1920s and 1930s.
But the predecessor is long gone and forgotten and the leader of the Senate opposition is still little known in Ottawa and simply not a national figure, even though he merits more notice simply for forging a crew of blockers from a most diverse crew of former Tory MPs and party loyalists.
Without ballyhoo or big threats they have waylaid the Liberals on some sensitive, partisan issues.
An excellent example of this has been the contract for improvements at Pearson airport which Jean Chretien cancelled so gleefully after the last election. Liberals now flinch in recalling that flourish.
The bill prepared by the masterful Allan Rock to snuff off any recoup of substantial damages by those who had their contract killed did not gain passage by the Senate. Now the government must take its chances in the courts or settle, substantially of course, out of court. The bill as law would have squelched the suits entered for major damages. In this case, Rock and the Metro Toronto Liberals are still twisting in the winds of their own making.
Rather amazingly, neither Lynch-Staunton nor any of the Tory senators who have been most busy on behalf of a beleagured party down to its last two MPs in the adjacent House, have been making much of the coups they’ve counted on the Grits.
Of course, their highhandedness began early in this Parliament because the Tories still had a slight majority of senators when the new Chretien government took office. This advantage only slipped away last year through retirements and new appointments. Despite the government’s seeming control by numbers, the embarrassments have continued, abetted by a Liberal senator or two.
A particular example of the latter was the successful objection by Anne Cools to an unfair onus she saw being put on the husband and father by a government bill on divorce settlements for which Justice Minister Rock had done much preliminary preening. She, and the Tory senators who backed her, got the amendments she sought in Rock’s bill.
Why haven’t the Liberals been trying to rally the nation against this devilish obstruction of an elected government by unelected appointees?
They haven’t the gall. The original chapter and verse for a Senate thwarting a ministry was fashioned in the mid-1980s by Allan MacEachen, a recently retired senator and famous Liberal strategist. You must recall how he, swaggeringly backed by noisy partisans like Royce Frith and Jacques Hebert (of hunger strike fame) blocked the free trade agreement bill in the Senate long enough in 1988 to force Mulroney to call an election and get the victory which sanctioned the deal with the United States.
As parliamentarians took the Easter break the senatorial Tories had just boxed in Paul Martin’s bill to legitimate a harmonization of the federal GST with the sales tax in three Atlantic provinces, and the mightiest of Chretien’s ministers had to give up a key provision that would have hidden the merged tax from consumers.
On March 20 the government also moved to accept a proposition from Tory Sen. Lowell Murray that a Senate committee finish up what the terminated Somalia inquiry could not complete. Considerable public criticism arose from Defence Minister Doug Young’s summary stop on the inquiry.
It’s true the Senate committee-to-be will not be able to get rolling until the fall if a June election is called, so the senators can hardly mar the campaign with such investigations. Even so, what a grovel this has been for a prideful government.
Further, the Tories have been debating at length a fairly minor government bill to ban a gasoline additive (manganese!) and have readied an obstacle run for Health Minister David Dingwall’s tough bill on tobacco products. They also exposed the health minister’s awkward gaffe about glass in Swedish chewing tobacco, and drew attention to his evasive apology.
Some Tory needling of the government had nothing to do with legislation but it probably exasperated the cabinet as much as warping its legislative aims for the Pearson contract. Lynch-Staunton and friends filed a huge swatch of printed questions and kept up a rolling barrage of oral questions through much of 1996 about the Airbus affair. In effect, they signalled to the PMO that, from Montreal, Mulroney had his libel suit against the government in the hands of a few senators he had appointed. The questions indicated a cornucopia to come of awkwardness for the government and many of its officials and friends.
Figuratively, the questions prefigured why the abysmal problem the government had created for itself had to result in an out-of-court settlement, including an apology.
But the classic nutcracker by Lynch-Staunton’s gang came almost without warning a fortnight ago. It led Paul Martin, Jr., of all ministers, to cave in, and accept amending his cherished legislation to “harmonize” the federal GST with the provincial sales tax of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and New Brunswick. The harmonized tax was not to be a hidden tax as Martin had planned.
When the mighty MacEachen retired last summer the honoring he’d received had for almost two decades reached a crescendo.
Although he was not an immodest politician, John Lynch-Staunton is even more modest, and one doubts he will have much public honoring to speak of.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 26, 1997
ID: 12076263
TAG: 199703250143
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


The federal Progressive Conservatives could hardly have hoped for more than the many and varied reactions to last week’s release of Let The Future Begin, the 61-page paper, sub-titled Jean Charest’s Plan For Canada’s Next Century.
It is clear – as with the Liberals and Reform – that for the federal Tories the leader is the party and the party is the leader. And theirs is young, personable, very much bilingual, and engagingly confident.
There was considerable expectation in the media of this parallel to the Liberal Red Book. But this happening did not begin and end with a one-day blitz of reportage and opinions. It spun on for many days on TV and in print. The canvass of reaction within politics was intense, and a remarkable host of columnists, editorialists, and academics have had something to say. While a lot of this has been critical, even nasty, most of it shows Charest and party are being taken seriously in this election. Neither the presenter nor his content was really slanged with contempt by the usual neutral observers.
This has been a positive and generally welcomed show.
At a guess, the reception to Charest and his vision seems worth a dozen seats. I have upped their possible tally to 50 MPs.
To be sure, many holes have been picked in the Charest plan and much emphasis has been drawn to the bravura forgetfulness in the young leader’s remarks of his party’s very near past. Still, it seems to me a Tory rebound is widely welcome and expected, given so few outside the other political parties are trashing Charest and his vision as fatuous or silly.
Notice taken is preferable in partisan politics to no, or little, notice.
The immediacy and roughness in the responses by the enemies has had to hearten core Tories still living with the shock in 1993 of going from a majority caucus to merely two MPs in a House of 295.
The general rightward shift of voters in Canada apparent in the last four or five years has had mirror images in all four national parties – Liberal, Reform, Progressive Conservative, and New Democratic. And in line with this, and with Ralph Klein and Mike Harris, Let The Future Begin tacitly but thoroughly puts Red Toryism aside. It will stay outside, at least until Charest and his advisors find out moving right has worked with the voters.
Anyone scanning the plan, in particular an appendix that details by department the cuts, mergers, and abolitions of programs and agencies, will see this stuff fits badly with such consistent Red Tories as Joe Clark, Dalton Camp, Hugh Segal or Flora Macdonald.
Of course, some critic will go back to 1984 and remind us that Brian Mulroney came to power with a program more “Blue” than “Red” and that he was backed most by the right-wingers of the party and caucus. But once in office he governed by and large as a Red Tory or a mock Grit, most notably in sheer spending and in economic intrusions. Naturally, Preston Manning scoffed at the dishonesty in Charest’s shift to the right. It was merely a ploy to regain those who had switched to Reform because of Mulroney’s costly and politically immoral brand of conservatism.
The Reform leader knew what was coming from Charest. He mocked and jeered, but he also swung two heavy clubs at the young leader. He stressed the bond of protege and patron Charest has with Brian Mulroney. He underlined the continued Charest devotion to a constitution that must recognize Quebec as a distinct society.
Even better than having Manning give him so much attention, Charest’s material on tax cuts and spending plans drew an attack which ridiculed his “math” from Paul Martin, both the heir-apparent to the PM and the most credible personality in the government.
The finance minister’s response made it easy for Charest to counter-attack, beginning what will likely be the most attenuated campaign issue, aside from which leader you like.
Tax cuts! How much? How soon? We may have the most economically-detailed campaign of modern times because of this matter of tax cuts. It merges into the problems which the Chretien administration is having with the so-called “harmonized” GST in the Maritimes and from outrage at the recent budget’s big jump in Canada Pension Plan contributions for individuals and their employers.
At least the Liberals can be thankful that few in rival party politics are even touching on the case against going to the electorate too soon. Clearly, Manning and Charest, both much refashioned in appearance and style, are off the mark, and the Bloc will be now that Premier Bouchard has his cutback plans past the unions.
Let’s go.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 23, 1997
ID: 12075562
TAG: 199703210096
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


Len Hopkins, a Liberal member of the House of Commons for 32 years and a winner of nine elections, will not run again.
Today I offer Hopkins as an apt counter-point in the fuss over Jean Chretien’s moves to get gender balance into his next caucus by ordering the nomination of a few women candidates.
Better the PM put his mind and support in how to use the talents of most of the backbenchers he has behind him now, and may have again. Let them make genuine contributions to the development of legislation and in scrutiny of spending programs.
In a period when far more than comics deride MPs, I see Len Hopkins as symbolizing the industry, honesty, and seriousness of many backbenchers, most notably in the majority party which has underused his and their intelligence and judgment. This is a curse of the Canadian parliamentary system.
Yes, as a group, these MPs do chorus raucous approval of their chief and his ministers during the brief theatrics so handy for TV news which the oral question period provides.
Yes, in parliament after parliament most of these MPs do busy, busy work — notably at riding chores.
Yes, the caucus has an array of in-camera committees by region and often by subjects in which MPs work. Also, most serve on one or more parliamentary committees.
Yes, every Wednesday when the House is in, the backbenchers may, and some do, bark briefly to their boss, warning of trouble and giving opinions.
But by and large the PM and ministers consort mostly with handlers and mandarins. They hive off tough matters to outside inquiries. For them, backbenchers should be loyal, supportive, and not cause trouble; and, to be frank, should keep a low profile on the Hill and let the chief and his chosen few get on with it.
Consider the abolition last year of the Airborne Regiment over acts in Somalia and some hazing rituals. Before that decision was taken did anyone, from the minister on down in defence, consult at length with the one politician who knew more about the regiment, its members and its qualities than anyone else? No. Even though the home life of Len Hopkins, the MP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, has centred on Petawawa and the military base there for longer than he’s been an MP.
That oversight reminds me of another. Before the Oka crisis exploded in the Mulroney years, the local Tory MP warned about pending violence but no one listened until it was too late. She was only an overly concerned backbench MP.
Len Hopkins grew up on a rugged, Eastern Ontario farm, and at 14 decided he’d try to become an MP, taking the Liberal label of his dad and his model in the local MPP, an astute Liberal who won and flourished in Leslie Frost country.
By teaching grade school Len put himself through Queen’s University slowly, and he and his wife, Lois, kept thinking about a good community to settle in and some day there, try for a Liberal nomination.
Shortly after Hopkins was first elected in 1965 an historian at Queen’s called me and suggested I take an interest in him. Why? The professor said something like this: “Because he’s the archetypal good citizen. He’s fair and decent. He’s not brilliant but he’s thoughtful, steady, and energetic.”
So I’ve noticed Hopkins’ parliamentary work through his three decades in the House and am familiar enough with his Ottawa River riding to know his constituents like and appreciate him. He has confirmed the plain billing the professor gave him. Even as a rookie he was a broker of good will and trust in an institution where behavior is so often nastily, rather than constructively, partisan.
Now the “dean” of plain MPs in the House, Len Hopkins is as respected as a government backbencher ever gets on the Hill, the last of the 53 new MPs of 1965. Year after year he’s been an earnest, diligent member of many House committees, and he has chaired a few major ones very well. In the Trudeau years he was several times parliamentary secretary to defence ministers, and in opposition chaired the public accounts committee.
Fortunately, as the shrewdness and savvy of politician Hopkins grew, so did his ability to ignore slights and being passed by. He shrugs dismissively about never making cabinet: “If I had I’d have never survived so long in the House.”
He looks around and backward with satisfaction at what politics and his constituents have done for him and his wife and his children. And he’s looking ahead to writing on both the nuts and bolts of linking a constituency to the operating government, and about the scores of politicians he’s known and, by and large, admired. He wants to put a few PMs and major ministers into his focus, particularly Mike Pearson, whom he cherished, and Pierre Trudeau, who always reacted promptly and usually favorably to his requests.
During the election I will write about a day with Len Hopkins, getting his wisdom on what’s developing along the Ottawa River as we both watch someone new trying to take over his old territory.
But today I offer Len Hopkins as a symbol for what we have had so much of in Ottawa without finding any prime use in legislating and inquiring: scores of underused but able backbenchers.
Which, may I add, includes most of the present women MPs.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 19, 1997
ID: 12074437
TAG: 199703180053
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Did you wince or wonder over two recent items in our international relationships?
First there was the incredible news story of an American congressman nominating Lloyd Axworthy, our foreign affairs minister, for the Nobel Peace Prize for his purposeful leadership in the global campaign to stop the making of land mines and to lift and destroy the myriads of them buried in a lot of Third World countries.
Then there were the indignant protests made to the U.S. government and the strong apologies received by the Chretien government over a long article on Quebec’s push to independence by David Jones, published in the latest Washington Quarterly.
Jones was a political counsellor at the American embassy in Ottawa until mid-1996. He has been chastised by his superiors for this essay.
For myself I both winced and marvelled at these stories. Why?
The Nobel nomination for Axworthy is plain silliness. The nominee has been the proverbial wonder-to-come of our politics for three decades as the “left” pillar of his party. The promise is still unfulfilled. He didn’t even aspire to the Liberal leadership last time. Coming off a failure as human resources minister, he has been noisily guying the Yanks over Fidel Castro. If he merits the Nobel Peace Prize, the world is undone.
As for the bleats to Washington over the Jones essay, I wonder if any sensible official at the PMO or foreign affairs read the whole piece. It is a model of balanced judgments and common sense. The analysis of personalities and attitudes is remarkably fair and without malice. It tells things as they have been, and could be.
Several times Jones says the official U.S. preference for a united Canada should be continued. He does not pretend separation of Quebec will come easily or even that it is inevitable. He stresses the high economic costs, particularly for Quebecers. And he makes a few points many Anglos hate to hear. For example that the Quebecois have the attributes for a nation: being economically viable, inherently democratic and not bent on separation with violence.
David Jones is not my friend, or even a good acquaintance, but twice last year he interviewed me about our politics and most of all about Quebec and the rest of Canada.
I have talked in Ottawa with many American ambassadors and counsellors. Jones seemed as well informed about us as any of them and the least full of American destiny stuff. I took Jones to be a New Yorker of middle years, well travelled, intense, quick in speech and well read, particularly in North American history. His questioning was organized. He seemed fascinated by the dilemmas and responses which Quebec nationalism forced upon the rest of Canada.
What he wanted from me began with why Canadian politicians had accepted back in the 1960s that their country was divisible, that the Quebecois could choose independence for their land?
Why had voters in the rest of Canada been so ready to vote in prime ministers from Quebec – Louis St. Laurent, Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien?
Why has there been so little strident antagonism to those in Quebec who press for autonomy?
What explains the remarkable patience of citizens beyond Quebec with an “official Opposition” in the House of Commons that is almost wholly dedicated to breaking up Canada?
I gave him opinions which jibe with what he says in his essay about Quebec’s attributes of nationhood. These came to me years ago when I plumbed the disinterest of Quebecers in Canada beyond Quebec. I suggested he visit the Saguenay or the littoral on both St. Lawrence shores below Quebec. He had done so, and taken in what I had – a dynamic society functioning wholly in French, of lively towns with their own popular culture and unique health, welfare and educational systems.
I had concluded back when Rene Levesque lost the first referendum that sooner or later Quebec’s distinctiveness would not be contained in Canada without profound change in the division of constitutional powers and a wide acceptance that Quebec’s people and their politics would be different and distinctive.
Broadly, David Jones doesn’t see in the scenario as it is developing – and neither do I – how such profound change is to be negotiated and confirmed. Therefore, all of us, as well as our neighbors, must accept that Quebec separatism will not fade away.
So why bleat to Washington about a foreigner who states the obvious about Quebec and Canada?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 16, 1997
ID: 12073818
TAG: 199703140117
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


If Paul Martin, Jr. can face another parliamentary term in the finance portfolio why can’t Ron Irwin continue at Indian affairs for the next mandate?
Irwin, the MP for Sault Ste. Marie, is 60, two years younger than his chief, Jean Chretien, who held the same cranky portfolio for six rough-tough years from 1968-74, running through a federal election in 1972. Chretien took the ministry after five years as an MP, whereas Irwin had four such years.
What’s the point of the numbers and back-references?
Simple! This is not an old and worn politician, and for the first time since Chretien held the particular ministry the man now in charge just shrugs off the abuse of native leaders. He won’t wallow in “white guilt.” Best of all, he reiterates without making it a big song and dance that Indian affairs’ spending has gone very high. It must now bear its share in deficit-busting frugalities.
Perhaps most exemplary, Irwin has not been rattled by the huge and costly report of the recent Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples into any backing for the report’s most extravagant and nonsensical recommendations such as the creation of 60 to 80 permanent “nations” within our land mass with powers comparable to those of provinces. Nor has he hurrahed the idea of an aboriginal parliament as assembly and legislature for the “nations.”
Irwin has even dared to respond to demands by Ovide Mercredi, that the PM replace him by saying that Mercredi has blown his six years as the grand chief of the first nations, and does not speak for most Indians.
Perhaps you may think the Irwin caution is what one should expect from a minister of Indian affairs. Yes, one might think so, but look back at past ministers such as Warren Allmand (1976), John Munro (1980-84), David Crombie (1984-86) or Tom Siddon (1990-93). Each of them took the basic attitude that the minister should share the lamentable guilt about past and present and get on by throwing money, lawyers and lands at the abused victims.
Irwin has been the first minister to speak openly about the fearsome costs of it all. The total bill — federal, provincial, and municipal — for a populace which is guessed to number somewhere between 700,000 and 1.2 million is between $11 billion and $13 billion a year.
Despite such staggering costs and much mismanagement (see auditor’s reports) there would be higher costs to the major recommendations of the royal commission. And yet, some prominent people insist the Chretien government get cracking on them. Take two “right honorables” who have recently spoke to the report.
The Governor General, Romeo Leblanc, did what he should not have done as the Queen’s representative in stating that it was regrettable the high costs of the royal commission recommendations had had so much public emphasis without fair attention being given to the even higher costs of inaction.
And Joe Clark, ever the Red Tory, has urged ever more compassion with action in a long speech which appraised the report and the aboriginal situation. For him and for all fair-minded Canadians, the “status quo” in native affairs is unacceptable, “a source of shame.” There must be a keen, even “a ferocious debate” on the report. Why, such a debate and the actions that followed to meet the aboriginal peoples’ wants and needs could “renew a country that many of us feel we are at risk of losing.”
Such high-mindedness has been the stuff of Canadian political correctness on native affairs since 1969 when the Trudeau government forsook its own “bronze paper” on Indian policy. If that opened the era of self-flagellation and an absolute determination by white Canadians to repay amply the downtrodden, surely the phasing out of the era began with the Oka standoff and all the mindless notice given to confrontations largely galvanized by gun-toting thugs from distant bands.
The transition toward the practical and away from the “blueskying” of the royal commission sort was helped along by the sidebar role of native affairs in the rejection of the Charlottetown accord. Some began to see that a victory meant a patching of Canada with a surfeit of self-determined “nations.”
To cap the transition, the commission itself took so long — five years — and cost so much — almost $60 million — and was so unreadable at the end — five heavy volumes.
The definers of the future ruined their projection by an untidy wearing away of public patience. They even exhausted the patience of both the PM and Irwin.
I sense that jointly Irwin-Chretien know the public attitudes to natives that seemed absolutely in their favor since 1969 have gone. And it is not slurring their expediency as politicians that this explains some of the Irwin insistence on pragmatism in native affairs. He wants to proceed by steps here and there where bands are ready.
Let’s have such a minister in this particular portfolio carry on. Granted, his tongue can be harsh and his opinions blunt. But he’s not mean, say like Doug Young. I think he understands his ministerial constituency as well or better than Paul Martin does his mandarins and bankers.
Perhaps best of all, Irwin doesn’t pander to the wonders of multiculturalism or to rainbows of nationalities and loyalties in our Dominion. May he run again, and if he and the Grits win, let him keep going as he has — with pragmatism and cost-consciousness.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 12, 1997
ID: 12072827
TAG: 199703110078
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


A federal election in June now seems certain. It is hard to see trouble serious enough in the next 40 days to put off the call from late April to August.
The new, permanent voters list will soon be under way, its results almost sure to be in hands of the parties by mid-May. Of course, on the Hill there is an all-parties’ impatience with this Parliament.
The Liberals are advanced in practical preparations like nomination of candidates and spurring the faithful with praise and brag. There is no serious disloyalty in sight. The only redoubtable alternative at hand, Paul Martin, Jr., has been precise on his future happiness in leading us into budget surplus and debt reduction in the next mandate.
And the PMO is tightening focus on simple themes while buffing the image of a peerless, on-the-move leader. Jean Chretien is so full of drive. And his love of Canada should shame those who dare suggest he is unravelling.
The omens for the Liberals, mostly in steady points in polling data, remain good, particularly as critical voters are clearly and neatly split in most of the country between at least three alternatives to the majority party.
A bonus for the Liberals is the group dynamic in the political media corps this season. The corps is not obsessed with defeating or even much rebuking the government. It doesn’t hate Chretien or dote on an alternative, although it shows some tilting to Jean Charest as underdog but even more against Preston Manning as a dinosaur. Any bent to Charest is weakened, however, by a disbelief in a Tory resurgence strong enough to gain official Opposition status.
And so it has become for the Liberals: let’s get it over with. We will go with what’s out there. And return with a stronger mandate and more support in every region. Then Liberals shall concentrate on the two major aims of the renewed mandate: first to rebuff the referendum bid for separation which Lucien Bouchard will lead in 1998 or ’99; and second, to shift back to traditional capital “L” Liberalism with national social and cultural programs that a federal budget surplus two years or so hence will make possible.
Now that was a long prelude to a few questions, some of which belie any assumptions that the Liberals have a ready romp to a dandy majority.
How will the Liberals protect their showcase asset, Jean Chretien, from possible embarrassments? For example, in televised leaders’ debates?
How will he handle the daily waves of picketing and heckling that have become such staples in TV campaign news?
It seems improbable Chretien can get out of the TV debates. And the one in French may become a grave situation for him. Gilles Duceppe will guarantee brutality on issues, and Charest is both more adroit in argument and more fluid in speech than the PM.
In truth, Chretien’s remarkable shortfall in Quebecois approval could be disastrous if its significances begin to reverberate in English Canada, especially in Ontario.
Why give a huge mandate to a politician whom Lucien Bouchard so clearly outguns? Why not consider a different and younger Quebecer as best for tackling Bouchard?
Regarding Quebec, how do Chretien and his advisers keep the emotions of the unity issue out of the campaign’s forefront?
Preston Manning and Reform may parade Liberal incompetence and high taxation but they also have to play their Quebec card, dangerous though this may be in Ontario.
Somewhat similarly, Charest and his Tories have no other choice except to push their Quebec themes if the party is to rebound much in Ontario.
My guess is that the Liberals will handle the twin problems of their leader’s possible shakiness and his gaping vulnerability on Quebec through a continuous flow of brief but well-organized and secured showings at which his remarks will be short, optimistic and on a high ultra-Canadian plane. They will use their Martins, Rocks and Youngs for rugged rebuffs to those who belittle the PM. There will be few explicit promises or undertakings, nothing like the bones and sinews for a Red Book II.
The Liberals will be delighted if the opposition parties emphasize joblessness or the merits of tax cuts rather than Quebec on the edge. On those fronts, their answers are that more jobs and lower taxes are coming. Why, Canada’s finances are looking so globally good that soon all Canadians can be where their hearts really are — Liberal!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 09, 1997
ID: 12761523
TAG: 199703070145
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


How quickly one can be turned off the old constitutional trail and say to hell with it. My present pique about our basic issue results from reading the “factum” the federal government formally filed with the Supreme Court a week ago.
Last September, Justice Minister Allan Rock gave notice Canada would refer the matter of Quebec’s secession to the high court, embodying it in three questions for the court to answer.
Secession as a political goal has been around for almost 40 years. Why did it take so long for the government of all Canadians to go to court for a ruling on whether either domestic or international law provides the right of a people within a democratic federation to determine they shall leave it unilaterally?
In part, the answer has been political cowardice; in part a refusal to believe a Yes vote for separation would ever come.
Last year Jean Chretien’s hand on whether separation is legal was forced by Guy Bertrand, a citizen in Quebec who espouses federalism, not separatism or sovereignty. He took the Quebec government (PQ, of course) to court, insisting sovereignty for Quebec was illegal and denied him his rights as a Canadian. Quebec moved to have Bertrand’s move dismissed. It wasn’t. A judge in Quebec agreed that certain questions Bertrand raised should be decided by a trial judge.
The Quebec government has chosen not to participate in further hearings. So Ottawa decided to create a venue for the issues by referring them to the Supreme Court. Last week’s factum made its written case on the questions it sent the court. The questions are on the issues perceived by the judge who heard the Bertrand motion.
Although Lucien Bouchard and company will ignore the hearings (and their outcome) other provincial governments and some native groups will file factums.
In part, Ottawa was shamed into taking part by Bertrand pushing his case before the court. Further, the closeness of the last referendum in 1995 has badly shaken the Liberals’ confidence that a Yes vote could not happen. But for some 50,000 votes, Quebec would be going, and without any process or formulas or laws for its achievement of independence, let alone what this would mean for the remainder of Canada.
So, at last the powers in office at Ottawa have been thinking beyond a Yes vote, and also considering a far tougher line against Quebec’s departure, a line which stresses how disruptive and costly the break will be. Even Chretien has repeated since the referendum what only a few bold federalists claimed two years ago: that if Canada is divisible, so is Quebec.
Quebec will almost certainly ignore the court’s answers, unless the justices decide not to reply to questions and declare the issue of separation or the right of a people to self-determination are not matters for courts and judges but for negotiations between the elected governments of the federation.
The genesis of Quebec’s indifference to this court reference really began with the United Nations Charter of 1945. It declared that a people had “the right of self-determination.” (It also guaranteed the territorial integrity of independent states.)
The problem of separation was first boldly put to the federal government in the 1960s by a civil servant, scientist Marcel Chaput. He openly advocated Quebec’s separation. A few Anglos cried “treason” but Prime Minister Lester Pearson decided the man was entitled to his opinion and could hold his job so long as he did not advance separatism while at work. Several times in reply to questions about Canada’s divisibility, Pearson noted that the UN Charter upheld the right of a people to determine their own destiny. This was all Dr. Chaput was doing.
The Pearson thesis was fuzzy but underlying it was a belief there was no likelihood of Quebec’s secession. Those who advanced the idea could not be suppressed in a post-colonial age in a country that had led in establishing the UN and the Charter.
Pearson also dealt with Quebec discontent by setting up the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, and its work underpinned the huge and still continuing programs for bilingualism in Canada. All federal parties backed bilingualism as encouraging French Canadians to share in the whole country. Also, all of them agreed it was not treason to advocate the division of Canada.
With Canada divisible, the federal problem became — and remains — how to keep it from happening. Even Pierre Trudeau as a cabinet minister and then as prime minister from 1968 to 1984 never took the line that Quebec could not separate if a majority voted for it.
This has been a foreword to setting out the three questions which the government of Canada now has asked the top court to answer.
The first question asks: “Under the Constitution of Canada, can the National Assembly, legislature or government of Quebec effect the separation of Quebec from Canada unilaterally?”
The second question asks whether “international law” gives Quebec “the right to self-determination” and so to effect the secession of Quebec from Canada unilaterally?
The third question asks: “In the event of a conflict between domestic and international law on the right of Quebec to secede unilaterally, which should take precedence in Canada?”
Notice that each question contains the word “unilaterally.” If Quebec can separate, can it do so all on its own? Of course, the questions suggest that a workable and legal partition has to be a joint affair of the governments in Canada.
Since our Constitution is without provisions for separating, unilaterally or otherwise, the prompting from Ottawa seems to be for the Court to recommend a process with schedule and rules for negotiating both future referendum questions and the separation itself.
My hunch is that the court will not reject the unilateral right of Quebec to secede. More likely it will put the onus back to governments. Let the federal and provincial governments jointly develop the gist of referendum questions on separation and the consequent steps if a vote approves a separation.
I cannot believe the Court will recommend a separation must hinge on changing the Constitution through the present rules.
Of course, it is a vain hope that the court will be bold and simply state that Quebec may not secede unilaterally under either domestic or international law.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 05, 1997
ID: 12760982
TAG: 199703040192
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


My first theme today makes me a copycat of Jean Chretien, Lucien Bouchard and Jean Charest.
They have pleaded to the premier of Ontario and his Health Services Restructuring Commission that reconsideration be given to the planned closing of the Montfort hospital in Ottawa – the only hospital in Ontario with French as its language of work.
My plea is the same as theirs, but mine may be more credible because I have been a patient at the Montfort and I do not speak French.
The Montfort is a smallish, 200-bed institution in the capital’s east end. I became a patient simply because my family doctor is a Franco-Ontarian and when I needed surgery she found a surgeon who operates at the Montfort. In I went and although I was very sick for almost a week I was very pleased at the treatment given to a unilingual Anglo.
The Montfort is to be closed, its services and staff folded into the far larger operation of the Ottawa General hospital, which is considered to be a bilingual institution. At the same time, the administration of the large General is to be merged with that of the even larger Ottawa Civic hospital, considered to be a unilingual Anglo institution. Each of the latter monsters retains its site, many miles from the other.
Two other small hospitals in Ottawa about the Montfort’s size are also being jettisoned. Each has a particular loyal patient base and a staff which cherishes its hospital’s specialties and reputation. Only one of the four smaller hospitals in Ottawa is to carry on largely as is.
During my 40 years of observing Ottawa no other happenings have so disturbed the various loyalties and rivalries within the community as the swatch of determined reforms to the systems of health, education, municipal organization and taxation which Mike Harris and his cabinet have been pushing so hard.
Consequently, the discontent and, above all, the frustrations of the people in the capital and the neighboring Ottawa Valley are huge, with the hospital changes the most bewildering. Why, oh why, knock off human enterprises which are working well?
For weeks the hospital closings and restructuring have been the stuff of local news, At a time in federal politics when a general election is at hand, the top political talk should be about Jean Chretien’s chances and Jean Charest’s hopes. Instead, even on Parliament Hill the whys and hows of the Common Sense Revolution dominate.
Already we election buffs are puzzling what the uproar in Ontario over provincial and municipal politics will do to interest and the partisan lines in the federal campaign. If the Harris pace continues, as does the resistance and the criticism, we could have the least interest and participation ever in Ontario federal ridings.
In the meantime, personally, I want to declare from this pulpit that the Montfort hospital should be left going as it is. Not only was I a pleased patient there, I also later spent a week sick with pneumonia in the big General hospital into which it is to be folded. Comparatively, the staffs in both places spoke far more French than English as their first language. So the General will give Franco-Ontarians service in their own tongue, but … the comparison is not so simple.
Without question, French had more primacy at the Montfort. Yet I never found this awkward as an Anglo. Given my experiences, I much prefer the Montfort as my hospital of choice.
Why? Simple enough! A pleasant, good-natured, essentially happy, pull-together staff – from top to bottom. The staff was more closely-knit and like a grand, extended family, a positive people place, whereas the General seemed merely a big, neat, well-organized, impersonal hospital warehouse.
My Montfort experience told one who came to it almost tilted against the unilingual French Canadian that here was a decent community effortlessly radiating an attitude of service that is worth keeping. If it douses something as distinctive and workable as the Montfort, the Harris government is depriving a sizable community within the greater Ottawa community of a fine, pleasant service.
Perhaps I shouldn’t close without mentioning one aspect I noted about the Montfort staff during my stay, and in later out-patient visits.
Roughly a third of them seemed to live in Quebec rather than Ottawa, and roughly more than three-quarters seemed to prefer using French whenever possible. But my question, whenever I got the chance to put it, was whether or not they were federalists or separatists. It did influence me favorably that almost all said they were federalists.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 02, 1997
ID: 12760653
TAG: 199702280086
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


Two of my columns some weeks ago brought me much criticism. Here is some brief rejoinder.
First, I tried to explain why John Diefenbaker and his government had to snuff out the Arrow project because of sky-rocketing costs and no prospects for outside sales. Second, I advanced the Sheldon Kennedy case as a blow to the well-organized and relatively successful push by homosexuals that they be taken as normal and fully acceptable in society and the community, not just in law.
Now the shock from Kennedy’s revelations of what went on in Swift Current’s junior hockey in his youth has been topped and extended by the allegations of man-boy sex at Maple Leaf Gardens through many years.
The campaign over three decades for fair and equal treatment in society for homosexual lifestyles, sexual acts and same-sex marriage has been so successful there were hardly any references in the Gardens’ stories to the “h” word. Pedophilia is the euphemism of the day.
Some of my critics ripped me for not distinguishing the pedophile from the homosexual. Yes, I know one is more specific and that many homosexuals are not pedophiles. Nevertheless, I reiterate that the immense worry and public anger over the revelations of such goings-on around hockey is a reminder of how far the homosexual movement has to go before most “straight” Canadians really accept homosexuality as normal.
Now to the belittling I got for my piece in defence of the Arrow’s cancellation.
May I suggest to the many who believe the Arrow to have been a super fighter plane, far ahead of its contemporaries in actual and potential performance, that they review data on roles and records of fighters in the 1960s and since in annuals such as Jane’s or in back files of magazines like Aviation Week. They will find the Arrow was good, but not extraordinary, and did not promise flexibility in use. It was huge, heavy, long-range and almost Mach II — but early ’60s strategists wanted more dexterity and not so much astounding speed in their fighters’ capabilities.
The harshest letters came from those still seething because the few finished Arrows were chopped up. As the PM of the day, Diefenbaker gets the blame for this alleged “crime.” Some people, myself included, do not think it was Dief’s decision. (See the chapter on the Arrow in Dennis Smith’s biography of the Chief, Rogue Tory.)

Jean Chretien can be very mean, and, occasionally, generous. Witness his appointment of Warren Allmand, the Liberal MP for Notre Dame De Grace for 32 years, as Ed Broadbent’s successor as our global ranger checking human rights.
Allmand has been the indefatigable left winger of the Liberal caucus since 1965. Yes, even more so, and longer, than Charles Caccia, the MP for Toronto Davenport since 1968.
Allmand has been more out of sync with leader and cabinet since 1993 than even the departed John Nunziata, and has emphasized this openly though not quite as pungently. He speaks as “a real liberal,” and was baffled by the Chretien cabinet’s conservatism. He was not going to run again and almost certainly wanted some chore at the gift of the PM.
I believe he never imagined a left-winger’s plum like Broadbent’s globe-girdler. But common ties and collegial experience won out over the wide variance on the political spectrum between appointer and appointee.

Of course, you have heard of or read about the rising bellicosity of Ovide Mercredi. Reader’s Digest for March has a robust assault on the long and costly roster of recommendations from the recent report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People, written by Robert Nielsen, former Toronto Star editor, under the title Giving Canada Away Claim By Claim.
The author makes good use of a topical book attacking our over-generous and romantic Indian policies: Our Home Or Native Land? by Mel Smith, a B.C. constitutional lawyer.
It is now clear it will take an immense shift to the left in the next federal government if the royal commission is to have even a small modicum of effect, no matter how much violence Mercredi and other chiefs may stimulate. A tide of informed opinion in government and in much of journalism is running against spending ever more money on Indian programs and giving huge chunks of land to aborigines. In the coming federal election campaign only the NDP will make much noise about native policy.
One sharp question by Nielson is worth repeating:
“Should all who live in Canada be equally subject to its laws or should a minority continue to have exemptions, services and benefits based on racial ancestry?”

Walter Cronkite’s autobiography, A Reporter’s Life (Knopf), now a best-seller in U.S., is an interesting but light read. His only Canadian reference is to Charles Lynch, the late pillar of the Parliamentary Press Gallery and as a war correspondent in 1944 in Normandy a fellow traveller with Cronkite.
While I found the book a good companion for the recent CBC-TV series about the camera and news, Dawn of the Eye, produced by Mark Starowicz, an even richer companion is a new book from Houghton Mifflin, written by Stanley Cloud and Lynne Olson, titled: The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism. It particularly emphasizes the important legacy in good writing and succinct opinions which the top radio reporters passed on to television.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 26, 1997
ID: 12760143
TAG: 199702250102
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Most people tire of a contentious political tale which goes on and on and on. So they readily drop it when it seems over. Example? The Airbus case. So why return to it? For this reason:
Seven weeks ago a settlement was struck between the Crown and Brian Mulroney. One item in the settlement defies my acceptance. I thought it should have caused controversy, and a bit of that did come and go last week with several questions in the Commons.
The questions by a Reformer and a New Democrat were based on data attained by access-to-information seekers that a private firm of consultants, Earnscliffe, has been under contract for several years to the department of justice, supplying “strategic communications advice.” So Justice Minister Allan Rock was questioned.
Earnscliffe is an intriguing outfit, at least to journalists. But more later on that. Let’s vault back to Jan. 6 and clause 9 of the Airbus settlement – a strange clause which many have personalized as being between Mulroney and Rock. It reads: “The parties accept that the RCMP, on its own, initiated the Airbus investigation; that the minister of justice was not involved in the decision to initiate the investigation; and that before Nov. 4, 1995, the minister of justice was not aware of the Request for Assistance and the RCMP investigation.”
In remarks after the settlement (which had included an apology and costs to Mulroney) both Rock and other Liberals, including Jean Chretien, interpreted this clause as a clearance of Rock and his alibi. It was stressed how even Mulroney had cleared the justice minister of early involvement in the Airbus case or of any advance knowledge of the letter to Swiss authorities which his department, pro-forma, had framed and sent at the behest of the RCMP.
As was reiterated, “Mulroney agrees … ” or “Mulroney accepts … ” that Rock himself was unaware of the letter or the investigation of wrongdoing by the former PM until the gist of the letter appeared in the Financial Post and triggered Mulroney’s libel action.
Even a dunderhead will realize that whatever Mulroney agreed should be in the settlement, neither he nor his lawyers could have known what went on in Rock’s operation. Mulroney’s acceptance in clause 9 is nothing more than accepting Rock’s word. Maybe it was necessary to clinch the deal. Maybe Mulroney had come to believe in Rock’s ignorance of Airbus before FP broke the Swiss letter.
Mulroney could not have known firsthand what part Rock may have played. An extra irony in the use of Mulroney’s acceptance of Rock’s ignorance and the readiness of everyone else not to bother about its lack of merit lies in the obvious ill will of millions who believe the ex-PM was untruthful and his regime rife with chicanery. And yet vouchsafes for Rock’s “hands off Airbus” conduct were sought from Mulroney, attained and flaunted. What a crock!
Now to last week. A Reformer and a New Democrat wanted Rock to explain why “strategists” from Earnscliffe consultants “were paid to try to make the justice minister and his government look good during the Airbus scandal?”
The minister stuck to the line that the contract had been a normal one and “the service used for a variety of legislative purposes, in line with standard government practice.”
But he did say: “It is true to say there was advice with respect to Airbus but that was one of the smallest aspects of the contract.”
Ha! This zooms my doubt of Rock’s unawareness of what was going on in the investigation and in his own department. Why? In large part because the key “communicator” and “strategist” of Earnscliffe is Elly Alboim. Though not a national figure, before this job he headed CBC-TV News in Ottawa through most of the Mulroney years.
In political reporting, particularly for those dedicated to “investigative journalism” Alboim has been the guru of gurus – messianic like Stephen Lewis, glib like Hughie Segal and as sinuous as Jim Coutts. He, along with Peter Mansbridge, who spoke of it openly, created the objective aim that CBC-TV News should set the national news agenda through its questions and investigations, not the government and politicians.
It was in such spirit of boldness that CBC’s fifth estate, often in tandem with CBC-TV News, pursued Airbus, Frank Moores and Mulroney. Remember the informer, George Pelossi? And that business card with the Swiss bank account numbers?
For two years Earnscliffe and the clever, TV-savvy Alboim have been advising Rock’s advisers, for example on Airbus. But if you believe Rock and Mulroney, not Rock himself until very late in 1995.
Believe it? Not I.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 23, 1997
ID: 12759847
TAG: 199702210104
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


Last Tuesday’s budget lockup was the 35th for me and, I think, my last. The magic it once had is almost gone.
My first lockup was early in 1966 for the initial budget of the new finance minister Mitchell Sharp. Jean Chretien was his parliamentary secretary. (Their association still goes on; and to explain the sum of 35 lockups, several times since ’66 there were two budgets in a year.)
That first lockup was almost under the Peace Tower in the historical “railway committee room,” somewhat jammed with about 200 men and half a dozen women from the media. Less than a dozen mandarins were on hand for deep questions.
Last week’s affair was in a cavernous former aircraft hangar many miles from Parliament Hill. The space was crudely partitioned for different segments of the media and functionaries by dark blue curtains. This cut down the pasturage and well-separated “print” from “electronic” journalism. The mob seemed around 600, of whom about a third were women. I figured 400 or more were not of the parliamentary press gallery and about half seemed not to be journalists at all but finance officials and a lot of academic and corporate experts/economists, statisticians, graphic designers, cartoonists, computer and communications technicians — most imported by the big dailies, the networks and the chains.
For me these occasions have gradually lost magnetism as three memorable features have faded: the intense curiosity about a budget’s content; the relative simplicity of the content and the themes; and the pleasure, even the fun, of the event as a recurring chance for chattiness with colleagues and competitors from across the country.
First, the prospect of excitement through surprises in the content has almost gone. More and more prime ministers and finance ministers reveal the top items beforehand. This increasingly became the mode after crises stemming from infamous MacEachen budgets in the early ’80s. More and more the cabinet’s intentions of substance are well known beforehand. Also, there is now much prior, open “consultation” to reduce chances of a budget shocker and an ensuing national uproar.
Second, although the pile of so-called budget papers has actually become smaller in the last few years than it was a decade ago, as a whole there is escalating complexity, especially in taxation policies. The complexity of so many federal-provincial files and in the timing of taxation arrangements and cuts in personnel has certainly justified the import of experts for those who distribute news and opinion on a budget.
Even the big media players need help toward lucid insights into so many arcane topics.
Item by item, however, most of the budget detail is of little utility to a generalizing columnist. This has become clearer at the same time that less esoteric and more contentious fare is to be had quickly on the Hill after a lockup. Even as the budget speech ritual goes on, in the halls by the chamber there are many trollers. Each is primed to speak for an interest group. There are lots across a broad spectrum from left to right.
Both before and after a budget such interests create and sustain more substantive public debate and contention than the rivalry between the political parties. The profusion and the variety of their readied, often skeptical, critiques beforehand, and their praise or blame after the budget’s release, have reduced the impact and any lengthy immediacy of the budget for an unspecialized commentator.
But the third factor behind my readiness to forsake future lockups is the most persuasive: their decline as an “old home” day. In this sense, the budget as a much savored event has another Hill parallel in the annual dinner of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.
The changing composition in occupations and ages of those whose base is at least nominally in the gallery, combined with a feud over the dinner’s tradition of being “off the record,” gradually undermined this once relished event, so much so that a few years ago its continuity was interrupted, a sharp indication of a loss in the collegiality that was so noticeable in both my first lockup and the gallery dinners of the 1960s.
For well over six decades the dinner brought reporters, MPs, top mandarins and many publishers and editors together for an annual, private gala of roasting and roistering. The traditions in the songs and skits were cherished and held to by a core of experienced members like the late, well-remembered Charlie Lynch. The core has thinned as print has waned and TV brought roles into the gallery which are ancillary to journalism. The turnover in political reporters has more than matched that of MPs caused by big electoral swings like those of 1984 and 1993.
As with the budget, the dinner’s eclipse as a grand happening also owed something to the prolifer-ation of national pressure groups and lobbies. Clearly, their activities have made the House and most MPs more and more insigificant or irrelevant except as backdrop for the executive in office and the lesser parties’ leaders. Almost no note is taken of what may be said in the House beyond question period, in contrast to what may issue from the mouths of Tom d’Aquino, Bob White, Matthew Barrett, Maude Barlow, Angus Reid, Michael Adams, or any of the leaders from the 10 or so “think-tanks.”
In both day to day politics and at any crux, the PM and the PMO and the finance minister have the mastering, political importance. Further, so much on the really vital issues no longer stems from Parliament but from the courts and public inquiries launched by governments and from the steady train of public opinion polling.
I may be lamenting the passing of something personally appreciated, but on the budget itself the overall situation for interested citizens seems better to me than it was in 1966. The budget and its papers are more complicated, but that is more than compensated for in a more open budget process and a wide range of criticism of it beyond the parties.
As for the media chatter from this last lockup, long before the budget was revealed the simplifiers among us had it right: Chretien would “stay the course.”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 19, 1997
ID: 12759326
TAG: 199702180083
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Last week Jean Chretien took away any anticipation of surprises in this federal budget. He gave a speech to a business crowd outlining its chief points – notably “staying the course” on deficit reduction, plus four or five modest spending initiatives on kids, higher education and the health care system.
This proprietorial sort of speech reminds us how closely this PM guards his own turf and the significance of the budget as top scene-setter for a June election. Even so, a skeptic has to wonder why he made the speech and, even more, why he left Paul Martin to announce very sour news the next day – bigger whacks off millions of individual earners to bolster the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).
When you think about it, the CPP increase is the first big blight on Martin’s exceptional success in the finance ministry through three years. In doing well while other ministers did ordinarily or poorly, he is the only clear, strong, prime minister-in-waiting.
Preston Manning’s Reformers insist the CPP deal is a huge tax increase, comparable to the GST. Call it whatever, it hits so many very hard for so long. The younger one is, the grimmer.
The news about the CPP figuratively crept into partisan debate. First day little; second day agitation rises; by the fourth day an opposition with a campaign bonanza.
Was it the PMO spin that CPP would soon be eclipsed and almost overlooked by the budget, normally the biggest news routine in most federal political years? Or even something quite mean: that this deal would give the pushy Martin something to choke on?
Of course, if the CPP deal had been left for the budget it would have dominated coverage as the surprise.
As it is, one already divines that the CPP will lose the reigning party many voters. On the other hand, if this becomes the people’s most unpopular money drain since the GST, it won’t enhance Martin as the man to push forward as a needed replacement for a PM who shows signs of faltering and continues to lack support in his home province.
It may readily be argued that carrying the can for the CPP fits Martin’s penchant for candor. He has never sought pre-budget mystery. He has gone for a lot of interchanges with provincial governments, economic experts and interest groups to define their wants and to make for a widely acceptable budget. Recall his candor about “an honest mistake” on the GST issue and how it triggered the PM’s anger and the resignation of her seat by cabinet mate Sheila Copps.
Why focus at this time on the Chretien-Martin equation? I note first that Martin is very popular across Quebec and Chretien is not. The prime Canadian issue for this year – and probably every year for decades – is national unity. In a negative sense it is the issue that has the PM and his handlers dead-set on going early to the voters, not rounding out the four or five years of their mandate.
Yes, there are particular “Liberal” reasons for going sooner other than the present hiatus in constitutional urgency because Lucien Bouchard is concentrating on domestic problems. Canada’s economic prospects are fair, with interest rates low, export trade good and the American economy strong. There are the favorable opinion polls. The opposition is so deeply split anything other than another Liberal majority seems ridiculous. Also important is the awareness in the Chretiens’ minds of his aging. Recently he has been revealed as vulnerable and easily addled in open performance. Oh, not horribly so but enough to set gossip and doubt going among Liberals.
Doubts in a big party whose ranks teem with aspirations always promotes both apprehension and designs on the succession.
The PM is not yet a pensioner, but for 37 years he has been in full-tilt politics. He wants to top his career by leading Canadians into the 21st century, with all its attendant jazz — historical and visionary. Therefore, it is personally very politic to go to the people as soon as possible. Get it done, get the coming honorifics assured before speculation becomes undermining.
Given Chretien’s toughness and his superb sense of partisan warfare don’t be surprised if he keeps his obvious heir in the finance post so he may proudly usher in the first deficit-free budget in 2000. This would, of course, wear away Martin’s chances in the leadership contest that Chretien would announce late in 2000 for early in 2001.
Sadly, much more than Martin’s chances to fulfil his father’s dreams may be shot by then if Chretien does not muster a majority backing in Quebec for the next referendum. On the present face of things there would seem a safer Canadan chance with Paul Martin.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 16, 1997
ID: 12759029
TAG: 199702140097
SECTION: Comment/Editorial
COLUMN: Backgrounder


A well ignored discussion in Parliament on Feb. 6 sent me back to words in Centennial year, 1967, by the late Northrop Frye. The renowned critic was talking to this question: “What is it, in society, to which we really owe loyalty?”
His answer began: “The question is not easy to answer in Canada.” He canvassed some of our history and past enthusiasms like the Group of Seven for our landscape and a few negative distinctions like the insistence we are not Americans. And he noted the obvious: “We have few ready-made symbols of loyalty: a flag perfunctorily designed by a committee, a national anthem with its patent ending, an imported Queen.”
He concluded ironically: “One of the derivations proposed for the word Canada is a Portuguese phrase meaning `nobody here.’ The etymology of the word Utopia is very similar, and perhaps the real Canada is an ideal with nobody in it. The Canada to which we really do owe loyalty is the Canada that we have failed to create.”
The recent House debate was a carry-over from one last November on a motion put forth by Reformer Deborah Grey to the effect: “That, in the opinion of this House, the government should return the word `Canadian’ among questions of ethnic origin on the Canadian census.”
The nub of this issue Grey has taken up has a long history.
The Constitution requires Statistics Canada to take regular censuses. For over 100 years such official questing evaded the word “Canadian.”
Years ago, with help from the Toronto Sun editors, I sought backing for my right to identify myself to census takers as a just a Canadian, not a hyphenated or double-barrelled one.
Our campaign to get citizens to write in “Canadian” as their ethnic identity helped encourage several hundred thousand to do so, and before last year’s census StatsCan made it clear that “Canadian” was an acceptable self-description even though it made it harder to identify the groupings of multiculture.
The results from the ’96 census will begin to come out in by late spring. We should be very interested in the results from two particular questions in the so-called “long form” questionnaire (which 20% of households were to complete). Questions 17 and 19 were framed and both discussed and approved by the Chretien cabinet.
No. 17 was to take care of “ethnic origin,” and for the first time “Canadian” was among the examples offered of ethnic origins.
No. 19 was intended to produce data on the visible minority population (getting a line on the white, black, red, yellow, and brown in our population).
StatsCan says such data “are needed by both government and employers to administer and assess the impact of the employment equity legislation passed by Parliament in 1986.
In the split debating of Grey’s motion, the Liberals put up two parliamentary secretaries to loop and evade her trenchant Canadian dander and the arguments of other Reformers.
To my surprise, the Bloc Quebecois came on with vim — in French, of course — amending Grey’s motion and unleashing the most provocative MP of all, Suzanne Tremblay. Much in her remarks irked me but they do speak of Quebecois thinking and the wimpishness in the rest of us. And so I’ve made a selection from her speech.
See that there is the continuing aptness to the definition Northrop Frye noted of Canada as “nobody here.”
Tremblay opened with astonishment that an agency of StatsCan’s repute should produce vapid questions, especially No. 19, which she then said, “Reads as follows:
“Is this person — and here come the problematical points — white, Chinese, South Asian (for example, Indian, Pakistani, Punjabi, Sri Lankan) — here nations and regions are being confused, since the Punjab is a region and not a country — black (for example, African, Haitian, Jamaican, and Somali), as if a person could not be white and born in Africa — Arab, West Asian (for example, Armenian Egyptian, Iranian, Lebanese, Moroccan), Filipino, Southeast Asian, Latin American, Japanese, Korean, or other?'”
Tremblay underscored the “very definite confusion between race, ethnic group, nationality, region, language and country.”
Why couldn’t Statscan get at data on race more effectively?
“As for ethnicity,” she said, “this is an item of no scientific value, since the majority of people forget their ethnic group of origin. When I myself answered the questionnaire I did not say I was French in origin since my ancestors came to the country in 1657. I am Canadian in origin, born in Canada. For me, that presents no problem.”
But now comes Tremblay, the provocateur:
“Except that if someone asked me something more specific, to find out what group I really identify with in Canada, I cannot identify myself with a Canadian. There is no such thing as a Canadian.”
“It is all very well to spend a lot of money to make one exist, but a Canadian as such does not exist, in my opinion. At least not yet.”
“I am of Canadian origin, of course, but I belong to the Quebec nation. My origin is the one I have in common with people who live in the same area and have the same common characteristics.”
“We are aware of a certain unity that exists among people who are in Quebec, and increasingly `Canadians’ are defining themselves as Ontarians, Manitobans, or Newfoundlanders. Many Newfoundlanders do not feel any more more Canadian than Quebecers.”
Tremblay asks why StatsCan made these particular census questions so unclear. Her answer: “No doubt in order to emphasize Canada’s multiculturalism policy and convince us that Canada exists, that it is the most beautiful country in the world and that ours is a society compromising every country. People are Ukrainian-Canadian, Italian-Canadian, Chinese-Canadian — I could name all of the 200 countries in the world. We probably have people from all those places.
“I have no objection to that, but it is the source of Canada’s problem. And it is: a lack of Canadian identity. Maintaining multiculturalism in the country means that no one want to become Canadian and we end up not defining what it means to be Canadian.
“In my opinion,” Tremblay concuded, “if Canada wants to progress and better understand itself — it will doubtless be very useful to us as neigbours one day — there is no reason to be afraid of identifying what one considers one’s nationality.”
She is not so afraid, but she thinks many of us are.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 12, 1997
ID: 12758513
TAG: 199702110050
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


In governmental Ottawa there is a definite split between spenders and savers, but as yet it hasn’t threatened the unity of the Liberal ministry or caucus. The savers dominate cabinet; on the backbench, spenders seem to outnumber the savers – but not by much.
Such a split has many antecedents. A similar one roiled the cabinet and caucus of the Mulroney government. But we know by the debt load of $500 billion bequeathed to the Chretien government that the Tory spenders dominated the savers.
In this last week before a pre-election budget, the savers or deficit-reducers in the Chretien cabinet face the most collegial pressures thus far to spend more or to loosen up. We don’t see much of this in the open. For example, a few weeks ago ex-minister David Collenette, concerned about unemployment, called for a return to liberalism, i.e., to more government spending, but few of his fellow MPs shouted their approval openly.
Sheila Copps, minister for heritage, has been prompted by lobby groups like the Friends of the CBC and by a World Trade Organization ruling against restrictions on some U.S. magazines, to go strongly for more cultural money. In her indelicate way she revealed the split baldly after the summit-like weekend talks which she and ministers Art Eggleton and Lloyd Axworthy had with those who speak for cultural interests and agencies. She said the ministers had received many good suggestions. Would these become policies? Well, that would be determined “in the next week” (i.e., by the Martin budget).
The split over thrift vs. more spending is not a topic Grit ministers or plain MPs want to talk about “on the record.” Off the record, however, they’re less chary, particularly those on the backbenches who want more spending.
In chats and calls to backbench Liberals I found more spenders than savers, especially among those who readily identify themselves as “real Liberals.” I first hit such avowed Liberals after the 1957 disaster of losing office after 22 years. The pre-election budget of finance minister Walter Harris was much blamed by backbenchers who lost seats. The budget only raised the Old Age Pension a measly $6 a month. This stern frugality was blamed by the “real” Liberals on cabinet pinch-pennies with a business orientation such as ministers C.D. Howe and Robert Winters. (The budget’s curse did not affect Harris’ health; he’s still an active Liberal at 94.)
This season “real” Liberals readily (but privately) finger their Howes and Winters, the ministers who stand most firmly for staying the course on deficit-cutting and against major new spending. They are Paul Martin Jr., Doug Young, John Manley, Art Eggleton and Ron Irwin. And Copps, the prime advocate of spending, has nothing like the influence that was excercised for so long by a prime spender in many previous Liberal cabinets – Allan MacEachen.
The Liberal MPs seem sure the PM and his staff are on the side of frugality, encouraged by a respected icon of thrift, Mitchell Sharp. Most I talked with think frugality will continue, and so will self-eulogies on deficit reduction achieved and the balanced budgets in sight.
What might swing a reversal in emphasis? Only opinion polling that shows intense, widespread concern over the lack of jobs is a threat to re-election. Intriguingly, four of the Grit MPs from Ontario I talked to referred gloomily to recent polls that show the massive cuts in health, education, welfare, and provincial employment by the Harris provincial government have not dented its popularity.
As one MP said: “What I assumed was to be a short-lived lurch to the right is already durable enough to force my party’s centre well away from where I think it should be.”
He wondered if I saw Mike Harris as a dramatic symbol of a shift in political ideology, maybe confirming “the Canadian Revolution” which Peter Newman’s last best-seller argued has taken place.
I’m intrigued by the lack of critical reaction in Ottawa by the federal parties, but nost notably by the governing Liberals, to the busiest, most radical provincial premier since socialist Tommy Douglas took office in in Saskatchewan in 1944.
Hindsight shows that Douglas was the most open vouchsafe of a leftward-turning Canada. The shift endured almost a half-century. Like the Grits with whom I spoke, I see that the Harris phenomenon runs deeply and widely: less and less government spending, fewer programs and more privatizating of government services.
The gloom of these “real” Liberals means the savers still manage the Chretien cabinet and have shaped the Martin budget. Further, power and office are so palatable, even to real Liberals, one may predict it won’t be a divided Liberal party that goes to the polls.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 09, 1997
ID: 12758210
TAG: 199702070092
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


Nasty heckling last week in the House almost brought on a fist fight. Briefly, very briefly, a Reformer stalked toward a Grit MP. Next day both bowed to the Speaker and apologized for their crudity.
Has such an incident many precedents? Fewer than you might think, given the vicious remarks of rival MPs almost every day. Such verbal heckling grows in scale and meanness toward the close of most Parliaments. With an election in sight, some of the most innocuous backbenchers, particularly on the government side, become tigers.
In my knowledge of the Hill over four decades, no genuine blow has been struck in that period in the chamber itself. Once — in 1957 — there was a very slight wrestle after a Cape Breton Tory dashed across the floor to get at a jeering Grit from New Brunswick. Mutually, they turned to rush behind the curtain for a suitable fighting space and this gave time for a throng of pacifiers to separate them.
The Grit didn’t survive the election that came very soon.
Twice that I know of, force was used by MPs. Once it was a headlock which a big, powerful Tory from the Prairies put on a caucus mate from the East who was seen as disloyal to the Chief. This was during the heated crisis within the caucus in 1963 over John Diefenbaker’s leadership, and took place in the so-called government lobby.
The next memorable incident happened in the mid-1970s at the outer door of the House (now the place for scrums after question period). It was very, very brief. A vigorous Tory, representing a riding on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario, knocked down a needling but very sedentary Grit MP with one punch.
So far as I know, neither this knockout nor the comradely headlock became a matter for the Speaker and his discipline, unlike the hassle last Tuesday which featured a heckling, tubby Liberal, John Cannis, one of a half-dozen government backbenchers from Toronto whose main distinction is their ethnicity, and Reformer Darrel Stinson, a husky, middle-aged ex-merchant from the Okanagan.
I think Stinson realized rather suddenly as he moved into the Liberal seats and came near the butterball who had taunted him with “racists” that it would be a never-forgotten scandal if he struck such a hapless, defenceless character. So Cannis was saved from Liberal martyrdom and Stinson from the tag of bully forever.
Preston Manning’s announced response to the now systematic taunting from the government benches is to launch libel actions action against any vituperative Liberal who says outside the House what he or she says inside it. This will certainly not create a form of the “libel chill” some journalists think Conrad Black has fostered. The taunting of the Reformers in the House will just get louder and nastier and Speaker Gilbert Parent is not a quick, incisive master in his chamber. He’s weak at catching what’s said and timid in rebuking or punishing taunters and ridiculers. At this stage in the life of this House his style of speakership is a gift to the government in its denigration of Reform.
The only effective way to silence the Grit chorus is to match it week after week in nastiness and persistence, particularly by focusing on Jean Chretien, his honesty (!) and his faulty recall of his own antics. After all, it was Chretien’s PMO that drafted and circulated the memo to party workers and candidates across the land to begin attacking and keep attacking Reformers as “extremists.” The antics to this effect in the House have been part of this strategy.
It strikes me that Preston Manning brought his band of half a hundred green MPs into this Parliament with a quite Christian determination to behave fairly and decently in words and policies. He and they came, however, without an appreciation that here was a long-running institution with deeply ingrained patterns of procedure and both group and individual behavior. In particular, in modern times for the Liberals, politics is a species of organized warfare.
In the short run, given their numbers and third-place status in House affairs, it was impossible for the Reformers to alter such partisan patterns substantially. Obviously Manning and the Reformers were very short on any attained authority as legislators or enough MPs to be a threat to government plans. They were not the official Opposition.
Further, the BQ represents a dilemma which these Liberals, much like the Liberals in the mid-1960s in dealing with the Creditistes, have chosen not to maul in Parliament (and so raise Quebecois hackles). On the other hand, the Chretienites have taken every chance to slang the Reformers as redneck reactionaries. And the BQ has been no support for Reform. As official Opposition it has no ambitions to improve the decorum of the House because it is the quintessential national institution. No, no, not for them.
Also, it has been clear since day one of this Parliament that the Reform Party leader neither liked nor relished performing in the House, preferring the steady campaign of speaking in halls across the country and talking, as he says, “with real people.”
Manning has it in his head that between elections you do not prepare for “the next wave” in the House of Commons. Colloquially speaking, Manning is a 100%-plus politician all the time but he did not come to Parliament as a natural or convincing parliamentarian or with a plan to make his gang into a warring, dominant band within the institution.
He and his caucus also faced a further, crucial threat to being effective on the Hill and they responded to it very slowly and ineffectively. I refer to the unmistakable antipathy of most reporters and commentators who cover federal politics toward Reform.
The immediate and relentless hostility of the Liberals to the threat which Reform poses for them complements the hostility of the press even though the respective causes of it are on different tracks. In the one case, it’s the usual, normal cutthroat game of politics; in the other it’s more the skepticism of a younger generation of journalists, few of whom are from the West and most of whom think the Reform Party, at best, is a throwback to an archaic, repressive past.
A libel suit is so piffling compared, say, to harsh, noisy, oral counter-fire of contempt every day in the House in making the public aware the dominant Grits are a mean, nasty crew of politicians, cued by a mean leader.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 05, 1997
ID: 12974258
TAG: 199702040132
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Read no further if you want to keep believing the federal Liberals are in deep trouble. For many years the daily House question period (QP for short) has been depicted as a democratic jewel, even our democratic core.
This ignores the vapidness in its quality and its dearth of acute perceptions and wit. In part, the inflation is TV-driven because QP provides such handy and cheap histrionics of challenge and response for TV news and commentary.
Except on very rare occasions, QP is what John Turner tagged it after he came back to the House in 1984: a juvenile farce.
Nevertheless, because politicians and scribes take it so seriously, one cannot discount QP’s significance and its assumed part in the rise and fall of party fortunes and of the leading participants.
And so, as our MPs resumed sittings on Monday and Tuesday, the main focus was on the QP. Four or five dramas in the recess seemed to cause doubts about Jean Chretien’s brag of honesty and competence. But by the close of Tuesday’s QP the Liberals had to be heartened.
First, although they were loaded for bear, neither the BQ nor Reformers scored a verbal victory over any of the ministers challenged, from Jean Chretien down the line – most notably Defence Minister Doug Young and Justice Minister Allan Rock.
Figuratively-speaking, the critics gained no advantage beyond parading their assertions of bad or inadequate conduct by the PM and other ministers on topical, celebrated files or cases.
Of course, some of such opposition slams made the later newscasts, but most of snippets included the usually confident, partisan and summary responses by ministers. Outrage and scorn matched by nastiness and scorn.
To predict the obvious, there will be little devastation of the Chretienites because of their performance in the House QP in the last months of this mandate. And the why of this goes back a year.
Hindsight shows how judicious the key cabinet changes were that Jean Chretien made last year, mostly early, although one, stemming from David Collenette’s derricking, came late in the year.
It replaced a QP dummy with a QP ace in Doug Young.
The sharpest moves had long been obvious. Ditching Michel Dupuy, then minister of heritage and culture; switching Diane Marleau, then minister of health, to the relatively innocuous post of public works; elevating Andre Ouellet, the veteran Quebecer, to head Canada Post and out of the post of foreign affairs; and importing two fresh Quebecers, Stephane Dion to handle the unity issue, and Pierre Pettigrew to replace Lloyd Axworthy at human resources.
Axworthy’s not yet any sensation at foreign affairs but in House terms is more open and less evasive than Ouellet. Dion is somewhat light and fey when questioned, but he responds with considerable grace. Pettigrew is more and more a ministerial asset in the House simply because he is voluble, understandable, and enthusiastic about his responsibilities. Like Doug Young, he relishes questions.
David Dingwall, an aggressive, partisan with lots of debating mileage, replaced Marleau. Compared to her, he is invulnerable in the House as he’s shown in shrugging off stuff on the blood inquiry and tobacco advertising. Sheila Copps took up the chores of the hopeless Dupuy, and though she’s crude she never concedes to the opposition.
It’s striking how Young’s abruptness and assurance in the House, which aided him a lot as transport minister, has been even more useful at defence. He has rescued the government from the Somalia maze at least for a half year or so; and he’s more than smooth in QP – as Rock is most of the time. He delights in the competition of QP and in knocking down critics. Just for deviltry, on both Monday and yesterday he used some Eaton slogans to lampoon the Reformers mindful that the great family retailers have been backing them.
Don’t take this as a paen of praise for a good cabinet, just a reminder it’s an abler crew in House terms than it was, and unlikely to be riven or deeply embarrassed before this House is dissolved.
A further advantage for it in this Parliament’s last weeks is the optimistic focus which the budget due in a fortnight will provide.
It is tough to ridicule a finance minister who heralds an end in two years of 25 straight years of deficits.
My hunch is that the governing party doesn’t become vulnerable until the campaign is under way, and then it may be because a lot of voters will turn away from it because they find its leader boring and inadequate on the highest national purpose – keeping us together.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 02, 1997
ID: 12973903
TAG: 199701310177
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


Women in Parliament! It’s a worn topic that once again is a part of pre-election discussions. So far the public seems to dislike any plan (such as the one advanced by Jean Chretien) to ensure the election of more women by dictating their nomination as party candidates.
Fortunately (or so I will argue), such an attitude that seems anti-female, and may be in part anti-feminist, has no clear causal link to the makeup of today’s House of Commons, which has more women MPs than any previous one. This seems a poor to bad House, but only a misogynist would lay blame for that on its women MPs.
A lot of Canadians, signified by both many editorials and several opinion polls, think it wrong for Chretien as Liberal leader to direct some constitutency associations to nominate women candidates, and to refuse male nominees. The PM did this at least twice before the last election to ensure women candidates in safe Liberal ridings in Toronto. (They made it, and each has seemed a fair go as MP.)
Before the last election the NDP’s council declared the party would ensure that women constituted at least half of its federal candidates. The instant, scornful public reaction and much griping within the party made the leadership back off the scheme, although the NDP did wind up with considerably more women as candidates than the Tories (66) and the Liberals (64).
So on the face of it there is an attitude abroad that neither political parties nor the electoral system should create particular advantages to get more women candidates for the House of Commons.
It brings no pleasure to note that this has been an unsatisfactory Parliament. Of course, this is speaking of Parliament as a debating institution or as its group of partisan caucuses function. I tire of puzzling why so much individual talent and dedication, taken MP by MP, functions with so little dynamism and generates such scant public interest.
As I survey the present host in the House, individual by individual, the female MPs stand up well to the male MPs in talent, dedication and hard work. And it’s clear each party has given its female MPs their proportionate share — or more — of the lead roles. The Liberals have nine women as ministers, four as parliamentary secretaries and eight as committee chairs. The five busiest BQ MPs in the House, after its leader and whip, are women; and, frankly, the Reform contributions would be very flat without those of Deborah Grey, Sharon Hayes, Diane Ablonczy and Val Meredith.
Surely the work by such women MPs cannot have created the antagonism to deliberate steps to ensure more women get party nominations, although this seems an obvious way to help bring elected representation in line with the population split of 52% female, 48% male.
My hunch is the reaction stems from a sense that such advantages are unfair and not democratic, rather than an lingering mind-set against women as politicians.
The Canadian proportion of women with legislative seats has become considerably higher than that of either the U.S. Congress or the Mother of Parliaments in the U.K., but lower than the proportion in Scandinavian legislatures.
Each of the six federal parties with MPs in the House now has at least one woman: the Liberals have 35; the BQ 8; Reform 6; the NDP and the Tories one each, and there’s independent Jan Brown, moving toward the Tories. There were 53 successful women in the 1993 election out of some 275 female candidates.
As I see it, the proportion of women MPs will grow — slowly. It won’t relapse. However, I have several dicier opinons on women in the House.
First, I generalize that there has been negligible, real difference in the performance of women and men MPs in terms of assiduity, intensity of partisanship, loyalty to the party leader, devotion to caucus solidarity and service to constituents.
Let me put that another way. Those optimists of several decades ago were wrong when they foresaw that more women MPs would bring a less contentious House of Commons with more care and emotional backing given to issues like pensions, welfare, health, child care and fairness in employment and remuneration. Nothing of the sort has happened.
If anything, the fiercest and sharpest-tongued partisans in this House have been some of its female MPs. And on issues, women MPs have ranged across a broad spectrum, from global environment to national defence, from employment insurance to child care, from jobs to natonal unity.
In brief, most constituencies with female MPs are getting much what they had or would get from male MPs. Really no better, but rarely anything worse. In particular, women have been brought nothing to shake the deep pattern of parliamentary partisanship; that is, of team game politics dominated by the team leader and his or her advisers. (Yes, this was even the case when teams were led by Audrey McLaughlin and Kim Campbell.)
Some Hill observers will insist the women of the Liberal caucus have pushed legislation such as more severe gun control and tougher enforcement of separation payments.
Of course they’ve backed such initiatives, but so have most male Grits.
Two Liberals from eastern Ontario who have announced they won’t run again illustrate my point there’s nothing much between a male or a female MP. Len Hopkins has represented Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke for 32 years; Beryl Gaffney has represented Nepean since 1988. They have many similarities: decency, stability, industriousness, courtesy, and consistent activity in both constituency affairs and parliamentary duties.
One hopes the voters will choose replacements as sound — male or female.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 29, 1997
ID: 12973401
TAG: 199701280054
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


It seems a simple assertion: “We have given the country honest and competent government.”
It may not be grabby enough for an election slogan – i.e., “Vote for honesty and competence” – but politically the claim was the pithiest remark Jean Chretien made last week after a rally of his caucus in Quebec City discussed the election now four or eight months ahead.
How would this assertion by the PM resonate with the thousands who must have heard it? I’d guess that most who noted it wouldn’t have reacted, “That’s bull!” Because at first hearing it seems rather modest. Of course, opposition MPs will scoff at it as “bull.”
Let me give my take on the honesty and competence question.
First, the “honesty” of the Chretien government is far more defensible than its “competence.” To support this opinion I must underline how much is relative rather than absolute about honesty in governance. A skeptic like me must say this has not been a remarkably dishonest government in terms of found or suspected graft, and gross misuse of public funds. No prominent Grit or mandarin has been nailed for such skulduggery. But Chretien’s team has continued the traditional patronage practices of previous Liberal administrations.
Further on “honesty,” there have been enough contradictions between Liberal undertakings (see the Red Book) and what they have and have not done to say they’ve not been scrupulously honest and above board on a handful of issues, notably by failing to end or much amend either the GST or NAFTA, or to create a practical system of gun control or set up dependable funding for a strong CBC.
But the issues just mentioned are more signficant as revelations of incompetence than they are of dishonesty.
It’s become popular to rate performance of individuals and institutions on a scale from 1 (very incompetent) to 10 (very competent).
In my rating of honesty I can with a smidgin of kindliness get the Chretien rating up to 6 out of 10. On competence, however, I simply cannot get above 4 in my rating. And that’s a struggle, during which I gave more credit than many would to the success of Paul Martin, with Chretien’s backing, in reducing the annual deficit.
Yes, it’s at least three years away from being wiped out. Yes, the debt load and so the interest burden has kept rising. Yes, comparatively Ottawa has done less in deficit reduction than provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan. But the deficits are lowering.
The handsome rating that deficit reduction earns has, however, many counterfoils, and not only in the most durable national issues – unity and employment. Take the costly hangovers from 1993 that are still unresolved: the cancellations of the contracts made by the Mulroney government for a privatized and modernized Pearson airport terminal and for a fleet of helicopters.
Consider how the Chretien team took over a military with glaring problems and somehow has confused and worsened them. Take the fiasco of gun control legislation, whose regulations are in disarray and whose enforcement half the provinces reject or refuse to support. Reflect on the Airbus embarrassment, and its confirmation that Chretien has a most ineffective minister of justice.
Being kind, the federal cabinet is very ordinary and, shockingly, is well below the common denominator of talent in the Liberal caucus.
Take Parliament. A long, slow decline in good performances there has speeded up. The towering feature is not serious debate but the stagey farce of the daily question period. From day one the PM chose to give prime play to separatist MPs in order to bypass the Reform party, a major threat to him in English Canada.
The Quebec issue is more life-or-death for Canada than high unemployment, but both were serious when Chretien took office and on neither has there been marked improvement.
Yes, on unity and jobs the legacies taken over were unsound but three years later the PM and his ministers with these two files continue to be unimpressive, even scary.
On Quebec theLiberals are simply marking time, praying Lucien Bouchard screws up as premier. This is not reassuring to those who remember their overconfidence before the 1995 referendum.
Neither the lowest interest rates (and inflation) in many years and a dollar at a good level for export trade has encouraged a scale of private entrepreneurship that creates lots of jobs. Even scarier are indications that many Grits want the old nostrum of government spending to create jobs, at least for this election year.
So, I give them 6 out of 10 for honesty while stressing how relative honesty is in politics; but in the kindest light they’ve earned just 4 out of 10 for competence – and that almost totally for deficit reduction.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 26, 1997
ID: 12973092
TAG: 199701240076
SECTION: Comment/Editorial
ILLUSTRATION: photo from SUN Files
DREAM GROUNDED … Landing gear problem caused this Avro Arrow to skid off the runway in photo from 1958. Fisher believes the decision to terminate the Arrow program was correct.


Both its high ratings and the keen responses in a host of letters to editors tell me the CBC-TV movie on the cancelling of the Avro Arrow in 1959 has had a powerful impact across the country.
It has made John Diefenbaker even more, and evermore, a villain in our popular history. It’s unfair, but now almost impossible to change. The myth is now so secure, so sure to agitate several more generations with the broken dream of a Canadian superplane (with a Canadian engine, too!) that was ahead of all other jet fighters. Then a callous prime minister with a government and military too much under American influence brought it to an abrupt, mean-minded end.
I believe the real story of the Arrow’s abandonment and the conduct of the politicians involved in it is of a reasonable, though harrowing, decision. The ill consequences were worsened by a distrust in political Ottawa that crude tactics by Avro executives had earned.
At the time, as an active opposition MP, I had a very tiny but in-close chance to follow the politics of the decision. I had sat in an Arrow cockpit and spent hours at the Malton plant talking with engineers. I spoke about the plane’s prospects in the House and its committees and I saw Crawford Gordon perform. He was the CEO of Avro (played by Dan Aykroyd in the film). One morning I was a witness in the prime minister’s office to the contempt Dief and Gordon had for each other.
To me the film overdid both the Conservatives’ antagonism to the Arrow project and the major margins in technological leadership which were jettisoned with the Arrow. Despite persuasiveness as a drama, the film’s story is often inaccurate and misleading, at least in relation to the real life scenario. In fairness to all the politicians who went along with the cancellation — and I was one — I wish the screenwriters and producers had considered the following factors.
Firstly, there was a long, sturdy and often belligerent defence of the Arrow project by many Tory MPs, particularly those from Ontario. Their efforts dovetailed with those of Ontario Tory MPPs led by Premier Leslie Frost. Frost was determined the Arrow should go on and he warned his friend, the Chief, that cancellation would shred his national popularity and mandate. He was appalled at the grievous loss in jobs and of superb skills.
I emphasize the pro-Arrow Tories because it underlines the real merits there had to be in a decision contrary to their views. I also know there was less than absolute and complete enthusiasm for pushing on with the Arrow among MPs in the parliamentary caucuses of the Liberals and the CCF. Everyone knew about the skyrocketing costs and the distortions these would cause in budgeting for land and sea forces and about the impossibility of getting the U.S. or Britain to buy Arrows (even though Hawker-Sidley, Avro’s British parent company, was very big in the U.K.).
Secondly, Crawford Gordon, no piker at bullying, had been threatening the government for a year of losses in jobs and production in much more than the plane and engine plant (12,000 jobs). He was also the top man for Nova Scotia’s biggest employer with coal mines, steel and railway equipment plants (20,000 employees) owned by Hawker-Sidley.
Gordon’s instant decision on learning of the PM’s announcement was to fire all Arrow production workers. Such pettiness ignored provisions by the government of a well-subsidized transition for the closing.
Thirdly, a fair person who reviews the subject of the Arrow, as touched on in the biographies and the memoirs of leading politicians of the time, will realize both the diverse arguments for and against the cancellation and the deep consideration which the politicians gave to them. See books on John Diefenbaker (like Rogue Tory by Denis Smith), or the excellent biography of George Nowlan, the Nova Scotian minister, or the autobiography of Donald Fleming (then finance minister), or the biography of Alvin Hamilton, a Western Canada minister. And there’s a fair account on the Arrow in a biography by Reginald Roy of George Pearkes, VC, then defence minister. I knew Pearkes as an honest, thoughtful man, far from the Great War Colonel Blimp of Duncan MacPherson’s cartoons.
On the Liberal side, the memoirs of Lester Pearson and several books by Jack Pickersgill, plus the autobiography of Paul Martin, Sr., and a biography of C.D. Howe indicate to me that despite the partisan advantage which the Arrow cancellation brought them, these Liberals had grave doubts about the Arrow, and if the St. Laurent government had won a majority in 1957 it would have phased down the Arrow project.
Why? Because of escalating costs, bleak sales prospects, conundrums over a weapons system for the plane, and changing plans in Washington for North American air defence rising out of an increasingly competent Soviet rocketry.
Planes are so fascinating. A sleek fighter is far more memorable than most other products of man and of public funding. So the Arrow is mourned — deeply! It makes such a contrast to many other contracts which politicians have cancelled or mothballed during my watch. Most were as costly or more so than the mighty Arrow.
Consider the Pickering airport fiasco (and wish Ottawa had been as brave about the white elephant we have at Mirabel).
Remember the abandonment of the Spadina Expressway and the traumas this created in Metro Toronto.
Recall the elongated, expensive promise of the home-built armored personnel carrier that never came — Canada Car’s Bobcat.
Think of that huge mausoleum in memoriam to Allan Mac-Eachen’s genius: the heavy water plant in Nova Scotia.
Why, compared to the Arrow, is there so little regret over the continuing inadequacies of Pearson airport terminals? Surely these are tied to the bold cancellation by Jean Chretien of the contract for Pearson III.
And we still are unsure what millions we will pay for his cancellation of the contract to buy multi-purpose helicopters made by the Mulroney government.
Our present PM, even though he cannot kill the GST, is more than a dollar match of John Diefenbaker as a killer of projects and jobs. But so far, the developing myths about his deeds have nothing as exciting as the Arrow. And Airbus, so far, is not really his myth but that of another unpopular Tory prime minister.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 22, 1997
ID: 12972564
TAG: 199701210060
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


This long note is not so much about either politics or journalism as about a suddenly opened witness to what I would say is a fair judgment: that on sexual relations we are collectively much less sophisticated than our popular arts and recreations would lead one to believe.
My topic is the current strain in journalism and organized sports over homosexuals as coaches of under-age hockey teams.
The Sheldon Kennedy-Graham James shocker was into its second week as a prime subject before the stories turned from “sexual assault” to use of the words “homosexual” and “homosexuality.” There remains in society, just below a thin surface of broad relativism and a readiness to take any human conduct as self-fulfilment, a vast unease about male homosexuals, their needs and practices.
Both the wonder and the difficulties in junior hockey engaged me in th mid-1950s, when I did PR for a junior league at the Lakehead. And through the 1970s as chairman of Hockey Canada I was involved in the development of international junior tournaments, and also wrote a private paper on junior problems for the NHL, the CAHA, and two of the junior leagues, none of which welcomed my suggestions. The latter dealt with disagreements over the first draft age (i.e. midget) and its effects on a boy’s future, a definite age floor for any boy to be taken into the NHL, and fairer remuneration for owners of junior teams for those of their players drafted and signed to professional contracts.
Any old “snowbanker” knows one irony about the hullabaloo over coach Graham James, now in jail for sexual assault. There has always been a plain and awkward sexual issue in and around junior hockey players, but it was and is heterosexual. Of course, it is the penchant and practice of young girls “grouping” and pursuing boys on junior teams, often with sad consequences for both boy and girl in broken hearts, pregnancies and youthful marriages. This was a problem for managers and coaches at the Lakehead 40 years ago. A friend who billeted junior players in Ottawa for over 20 years – and enjoyed the association – confirms the added bother to her boarders of pressure from hockey groupies.
As the junior leagues professionalized after World War II, they expanded, sold and bought franchises and divided up the pending stock of hockey aspirants, the teams passed a point where most of their players had faraway homes and families. And if a player taken in the midget draft didn’t move for a tryout he was taken to be either a dropout from “competitive” hockey or “a brain” who opted for the longer college route to the NHL, likely on an American athletic scholarship. The stress in junior hockey on the boys from 15-19 was for both team success and individual improvement of their worth and future value.
One has to wonder why Canadians, generally not much overwrought at boyhood heterosexual encounters of players besieged by girls, seem so disturbed that boys on some teams have been inveigled into acts of homosexual love by some coaches and managers.
Homosexual acts, given limits of agreement and non-violence, are not illegal. For the decade-plus since AIDS became a global issue, the rights and practices of homosexuals have been openly examined, as much or more in Canada as elsewhere. Why a college in Ontario has had a teacher who advocated man-boy sex. An MP put on Parliament’s order paper a bill that if passed would have lowered the legal age for man-boy or boy-boy sex to 15 years. Our TV stations have long run government-funded ads aimed at teens that demonstrate the use of condoms, not just for vaginal sex but but for anal sex.
Many will say the issue in the case of coach James is harassment, joined to a coercion with both penalties and advantages which are at hand for a coach (or a teacher or a pastor).
Hockey executives have reacted to the situation with undertakings that would-be coaches will be screened by police or advisory groups. But what will the screeners be looking for? How will they rate applicants for coaching who are openly gay or who are rumored to be closet homosexuals, or even one of those who “goes both ways”?
Are we not in a society concerned with human rights? Is not individualism protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Isn’t it illegal to block a homosexual from any endeavor? Are there not homosexuals at work as pastors, priests, and teachers?
Hockey is as much or more a Canadian touchstone as our duality or our weather. Now, almost literally, hockey zealots have to consider what it means to be a people whose laws set out the right to live – either homosexually, heterosexually or bisexually.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 19, 1997
ID: 12972341
TAG: 199701190167
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


Political scientists will surely appraise the Airbus case in a context of the effect of partisan considerations on the principle of ministerial responsibility within the parliamentary system.
Almost as surely, a film writer will shape the story line of any docudrama about the Airbus case on the reciprocal, baleful antagonism of Brian Mulroney and Stevie Cameron, and not on a feud between the former PM and Justice Minister Allan Rock.
Cameron is the author of On the Take, the best-seller about what she calls “the most corrupt government in Canadian history.” She has been stalking malfeasance in the Mulroney gang for years — as an investigative reporter for the Globe and Mail, CBC’s fifth estate, and Maclean’s, and as an enthusiastic collaborator with the Mounties in their pursuit of criminally bent politicians and their cronies.
Unlike John Sawatsky who wrote a big book substantially about Brian Mulroney, Cameron has not developed considerable respect for their subject’s talents and his leadership of the country.
Although the Cameron-Mulroney enmity and her determination to unveil his chicanery have been chatted about in Ottawa for almost a decade, we are now a fortnight past the breaking open of the Airbus case through the out-of-court settlement of the Mulroney libel action and it is clear that few, if any, actors in the drama want to focus on the animus at its core — the Cameron-Mulroney relationship.
The emphasis in Airbus discussion the past week was on accountability and responsibility. The near-unanimous verdict of press opinion is that by blaming low-level apparatchiks and faulty processes for the mess, ministers Rock and Herb Gray, and RCMP chief Philip Murray, showed they didn’t know the meaning of accountability and responsibility.
There has been little inclination to review the role played by the media and the private ties certain journalists enjoyed with investigators and their political masters, even though these influenced both the investigation and the government’s defence for the Mulroney suit. It’s likely there’d have been no Airbus affair without these media ties. So it’s timely to wonder if the media lived up to the standards it set for the politicians?
The remarks about the case last week by two of the journalists in the drama — Cameron and the Globe’s Susan Delacourt — were illuminating, not for what they tell us about their roles in the affair (which each minimized) but for their notions of journalistic accountability and responsibility.
Both women worry over their sources. Via CBC-TV and comments given to various papers, Cameron insisted that she never revealed who her source on the RCMP investigation was, and that this person never actually told her Mulroney was under investigation. Her clarification seemed intended to help Staff Sgt. Figenweld, under investigation because he was source for the leak (to Cameron) which brought down the government’s defence.
Over years Cameron worked up a close and mutually beneficial liaison with those in the RCMP unit that is charged with investigating political corruption. What a redundancy it was when Herb Gray sent a copy of On the Take to these officers. Given the importance of leaks (often of varied provenance in her) to her career, Cameron’s desire to aid an exposed leak like Fiegenwald is understandable as well as kind.
In the Globe last weekend Delacourt described with candor and admirable finesse her embarrassment at being drafted as a witness at the trial. She defended her burned source : Justice Minister Rock. The trouble in their relationship as politician vis-a-vis reporter began shortly after he became the justice minister and attorney general when, over dinner, he asked her about rumors of Mulroney government crimes. They discussed the propriety of him passing such information along to the Mounties. The Globe’s most experienced parliamentary reporter deemed these musing on ethics and crime unnewsworthy and off the record. A Globe colleague who heard of the exchanges had a different view. He confronted Rock, who claimed a number of reporters had come to him with rumors of Mulroney era corruption, and that duty compelled their views on to the RCMP. (It seems Mary Janigan, a writer for Maclean’s was one of them.)
Delacourt, a seasoned journalist, surely showed a naivete last week in writing: “I think Rock saw in me someone who could help him figure out the workings of Parliament Hill and the national media.”
There remains the basic question: What duty, if any, did she have as a journalist?
Rock’s version of events differed from Delacourt’s — as it did from Janigan’s. And his version was self-serving. It portrayed him as responding to media pressure rather than getting involved in things he ought to have left alone. That his conversation with Delacourt focused on the propriety of going to the police shows the attorney general knew he was on thin ice.
Why have the reporters kept their silence about the discrepancy between their memory of events and the minister’s? To avoid a further falling out with the minister? To spare themselves from becoming part of the story? (Delacourt: “No journalist looks forward to becoming part of the news …”) Is this responsible journalism?
What of others in the press gallery who knew about these goings on, say between Rock and some of their colleagues, or say between Cameron and the Mounties?
If a non-colleague had information which contradicted the word of a minister on a sensitive issue, would they show the same reluctance to expose that person? To what extent do the media treat each other differently from everyone else? And what of their editors? Do they countenance reporters keeping silent on important issues because friendships or “contacts” with politicians or other newsmakers might be compromised?
Delacourt, writing of her traumatic experience, notes that “the journalistic issues raised by the (aborted libel) trial were never aired … I find myself regretting that an opportunity has been missed to take a close look at the relationship between politicians and journalists.”
Wholeheartedly, though with other reasons, I agree. We also have missed an opportunity of the relationship between rumor-hungry journalists and leaky, over-eager police being examined in court.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 15, 1997
ID: 12971794
TAG: 199701140137
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


Could Mr. Justice Gilles Letourneau, chair of the Somalia inquiry, be right? Did Defence Minister Doug Young cut short its work to clear the government’s re-election path of possible embarrassments? What Letourneau has said makes sense – partisan political sense.
An obsession with electoral readiness begins early in most majority governments, and this one’s inner circle is crowded with old hands. As they are figuring it, they should get to the voters while the Reform Party is stalled and before Jean Charest gets the Tories reorganized. Even more, they want to get to the people while the BQ caucus is recovering from a confusing leadership contest and while Lucien Bouchard’s PQ government dithers with debt, cuts, unemployment and union unrest in Quebec.
So it is simple enough. The spinners would assay it this way. We must cut down prospects of media hullabaloos over any past or present shambles in the armed forces. After all, we Grits have been in charge for three years. It looks more and more like our mess, not Kim Campbell’s or Brian Mulroney’s. We lost David Collenette through dawdling on this file. Now we must play it more ruggedly all round, and Young’s made for that task.
But I would go further than the judge in explaining the abrupt decision Young announced on the inquiry. Surely this blunt decison and the blurts by Young just before the new year about an extravagant general and an abused infantrywomen were both Machiavellian. These were openers for Young’s suprising undertaking of a fresh plan of military reform by March 31.
The partisan primer says a politician besieged by negative criticism should switch focus. Divert! Create the diversion by giving reporters and editors different meat to chew on.
What was dominating political criticism well through the holiday season? Easy. Jean Chretien’s fiasco on the CBC Town Hall. Would he never be let alone for his arrogance and callousness or his highhandedness with the truth about the GST? Some editorialists were even writing of a PM who is “over the hill” or “has lost it.” More and more notice Chretien is going largely on Mulroney’s old program.
To switch focus, who more forceful than no-nonsense Young. So boom! Castigate a general. Freeze pay; put off promotions; undertake an action plan even while the Somalia inquiry muddles on.
To a minor degree, Young’s ploy worked. It held a brief priority over New Year’s but as the weekend neared so did a deadline of immense interest – and to political journalists above all other interests: Mulroney’s libel suit! It had been an obsession with the PMO for over a year. Recently the spinners there had successfully flogged opinion poll surveys to the media on the abiding hate of Mulroney among citizens. They re-emphasized the huge costs to the taxpayers in the government’s defence of Mulroney’s libel action and the “beggar the country” scale of his claim for damages.
And the word was out how Justice Minister Allan Rock had primed a galaxy of lawyers for a strong defence based on arguing that Mulroney himself had played a part in making public the words offensive about him in the Justice department’s letter to the Swiss.
Suddenly, late on the Jan. 5, we learn of the out-of-court settlement, with apologies to Mulroney and his legal costs covered. Quickly and maladroitly Rock and Herb Gray and the chief Mountie botch their appraisals of the settlement with meanness and blatant ducking of responsibility. There followed day after day, here, there, and everywhere, a rage over Airbus and bad behavior by the government – arguably dishonest, certainly irresponsible, and palpably stupid in its handling of Mulroney. The critiques dwarfed the PM’s takeoff for the Orient with an Airbus load of premiers and businessmen.
So again the spinners of the PMO needed fresh insulation for their government – this time from the Airbus fiasco, not the Town Hall brouhaha. Their man of action was still at hand. At transport, Doug Young had earned the tag “Don’t mess with me!” He stepped forward again. The blow to the inquiry’s course and range is causing louder responses than the earlier undertaking of a quickie report on military reform, But I’m sure the spinners relish this.
The Chretienites do not believe that being abrupt with a bumbling inquiry or with the military will hurt them all the way to the polling booths. For them, it’s let the critics roll along with cries about unfairness and coverups. We are shaping the Canadian agenda so our prime minister romps into the 21st century. It must not be marred in 1997 by shocking stuff or awkward recommendations from the Letourneau panel.
It’s all textbook Grit, and they’ve won more than they’ve lost.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 12, 1997
ID: 12971449
TAG: 199701100138
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


By a date now 11 weeks away, Douglas Young, the brusque, self-certain, and fairly new minister of defence, has promised a sweeping report on the armed forces and what shall be done to correct their problems.
A lot of us wish him well, not a little because he has been the most aggressive and blunt minister in the cabinet.
But with good wishes must go doubts. The time is so short, the problems manifold, and the media so primed by “scandals” in the military. There is such tension in the military system, attenuated by the dragging Somalia inquiry. A less known strain is from the unease among our NATO partners, first over the massacre in Rwanda of Belgian troops two years ago when under Canadian command, second, from the recent fiasco of the Rwanda expedition which blooped – the one the PM himself inspired and hyped. And another probe has yet to indict or absolve alleged abuses by Canadian troops at a hospital locale in Bosnia.
The core dilemma in national defence is supremely political. I know it bemused David Collenette, Young’s predecessor.
The federal Liberal party has members with attitudes ranging from: (1) enthusiasm for dismantling our armed services; (2) a highly-romantic conceit that Canada could become the top global peacekeeper, its personnel police and aid specialists, not infantry; (3) to those who believe the forces we have are about right; (4) the military hawks who insist our forces should be tough, action-ready, and have top weapons and transport.
These attitudes are mirrored by a range of influential interest groups with firm opinions on the military’s purposes. Some examples: on whether to stay or leave NATO; on the kinds of competence needed for peacekeeping; on the utility to our aeronautics and telecommunications endeavours in keeping or abandoning state-of-the-art technology such as high performance fighters; even on doing without personnel ready for combat.
Already some critics are doubting Young. He is clearly not well-clued on military affairs, so what will keep him from being taken in by the top brass?
Who is counselling him?
Is he examining the connections between so many and such diverse assignments, and available manpower and equipment? If so, is a new statement of defence policy in sight? Or is the present policy with its bulging spectrum of programs and needs just right for the time and the overall federal budget?
The interlaced civilian and military bureaucracies of defence have been much examined and “re-orged” in the past decade. Bases have been closed, commands and depots relocated, and provisions for the “reserve” much shifted. An imperative of bilingualism in the forces, pursued for three decades, often had negative affects for morale (over promotions and assignments). Add more recent, dislocating imperatives such as attaining gender balance, protecting homosexuals, and being fairer to visible minorities. Such imperatives insert individual and group “rights” and push a democratic levelling of sorts into an authoritarian hierarchy with top-down discipline.
In so little time how may Young decide how to straighten this complex department and its bifurcated civil-military bureaucracy? Scott Taylor’s book Tarnished Brass charts the bloat of levels and executive posts in DND’s civil side. Are savings there for the military’s operational side?
Or is Young only out to rid the military, particularly the land forces, of “bad apples,” and squelch the wise-guy critics? Will he just name fresh commanders and lay on them the responsibility for restoring an esprit d’corps, the enforcement of fair, quick discipline, and openness about wrongful acts and the punishment of those who abuse or screw up?
Once one appreciates the width and depths of the military dilemmas you are drawn to what zealots for peace advocate.
Why have a military at all? We have costs of over $11 billion a year yet in quantity and quality our levels match such smaller nations as Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
Are we staying in NATO and continuing with what we have, largely to sustain a status which got us into the G-7 and a larger stature at the UN? And is NATO for us one way to keep involved in advanced research teams and a share of the armament trade?
My Simple Simon view is this: We are trying to wrest more than is possible, given the annual spending on defence. We should reduce peacekeeping sashays and bolster equipment. We should lessen, not extend, civilian controls, but insist on leaner leadership.
Young has the colloquial guts to speak out. Would he tell his colleagues before March 31st that the defence policy (in the last White Paper) is hypocritical, over-loaded with political correctness and light on common sense?
If we want a military personnel with the means to fulfill present policy we must spend more to up-date and re-equip. Either this or drop some of the roles and assignments. Although I prefer more support, this is hardly a majority view of those with opinions on the appropriate military. It would be indelicate this electoral year for Young to espouse more spending.
Some ex-military officers are floating suspicions of a coherent campaign by anti-military interest groups, notably of church persons and feminists, who are consistently publicized by the media. The aim is to destroy the repute and integrity of the armed forces among Canadians.
The suspicious cite recent books, films, and news commentary that has debunked former heroes like Billy Bishop and RCAF bomber crews.
Disasters of our forces in two great global wars have been magnified, all opening the way to closing out the military forces in Canada.
There are certainly advocates of sharply reducing forces down to a capacity to aid the civil power in keeping our historical “peace, order, and good government.” This group could serve for ceremonial occasions – remember tourism! Roles in monitoring skies and boundaries or covering “search and rescue” needs could go to civilian agencies, even to private corporations.
What a shining example for the world – and particularly in contrast to the American military colossus.
Ah, the greater resources we could then give to humanity and the uplift of the world’s downtrodden. We shall soon see come April if Young will keep a military trained and equipped to fight and kill.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 08, 1997
ID: 12970950
TAG: 199701070077
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 11


In listening to a parade of glib lawyers and partisan “spinners” in the 24 hours after we learned the Chretien government was settling Brian Mulroney’s libel action out of court, I was fascinated by one parallel in this sparkling tale of ineptness.
It is the absolute righteousness in themselves and their roles in the affair by Allan Rock, the justice minister, and Stevie Cameron.
Of course, Cameron is the famous investigative journalist and author of the smash bestseller, through several editions, of On The Take, all about “the most corrupt government in Canadian history” as Cameron reiterated Monday night on CBC.
What a clever, weaseling politician we have in Mr. Rock. Clearly our cabinet has a masterful self-absolver reminiscent of a famous American president – the late Richard Nixon.
We knew Rock was tricky. He elevated himself above the big balls-up in the sponsorship and implementation of the gun control law and regulations which finds Ottawa opposed by provinces with over half the population. His dancing alibis in defence of the Chretien government’s balls-up of the Pearson airport were just as adroit.
On Monday, Rock’s assurance was absolute. He explained the out-of-court settlement so deftly he seemed to merit a medal. He had saved taxpayers’ money, and he has repaired a flawed procedure for communicating confidential letters to foreign governments which the Chretien government inherited from its predecessor.
Rock made clear how determined he was to go to trial until two happenings late last week. First, a ruling by the judge on the case indicated that details of the RCMP investigation of the reputed Airbus kickbacks were almost sure to be exposed in court. This was a blow to the particular RCMP investigation and to the imperative of the sacrosanct principle of secrecy for such investigations.
But the final crusher was a discovery by federal lawyers, figuratively just short of zero hour. In preparing a key defendant in the trial, they discovered to their horror that he, RCMP Sgt. Fraser Fiegenwald, had spoken to a third party about the letter Rock’s department had sent to the Swiss authorities, which triggered Mulroney’s suit.
It could surprise no one who has followed this case closely for the past two years that the third party whom Fiegenwald confided in was Cameron, the indefatigable pursuer of the corrupt in high Tory places. Cameron is, as she reiterated Monday, never wrong on her facts.
Months ago some who comment on politics – for example, George Bain in articles in Maclean’s and George Woolf, a CTV reporter, touched on the part being played in the pursuit of Mulroney for alleged malfeasance by Cameron and CBC’s fifth estate.
Both Bain and Woolf were far more inquisitive than I was in appraising the work of Cameron and the CBC operatives. I was more intrigued, or side-tracked, by Hill accounts of an intra-Globe & Mail quarrel of two reporters, Susan Delacourt and Paul Koring.
She had talked privately about a social exchange she had had with Rock, the mint-new justice minister about the sleaze of the Mulroney years. Apparently, Koring used this information to draw an admission from Rock that as a new minister he had asked the RCMP to investigate possible criminality by the Mulroney crew.
Note that Herb Gray, then new solicitor-general and responsible for the RCMP, also told the Mounties to read On The Take.
We know now the RCMP responded to Rock and Gray, but in February 1994 informed Rock it found no grounds to pursue the case.
We also know now that the RCMP were back on the case within a year, certainly with prompting from Cameron and the CBC.
A year ago Cameron made public her close ties with the RCMP investigators like Fiegenwald. She did it in a speech given (and taped) to journalism students in Saskatchewan. A copy came to me.
It is unbelievable to me that a lawyer as acute as Rock or a cop with the responsibilities of the RCMP chief did not read a text of this Cameron speech and act on it. Further, they ignored questions put on the Senate order paper last May by the Tory leader there, four of which focussed on Cameron and the Mounties. Apparently Rock, Gray, and Murray faced the Mulroney suit for months without checking Cameron’s swaggering depiction of her juxtaposition to the Mounties and the case. Imagine! They discover this at zero hour. Cameron reiterated Monday some of what she said in her speech. And then she affirmed: yes, indeed Sgt. Fiegenwald had told her the letter had gone to the Swiss and that it had named names.
As I remind myself, the Liberal years are always rich in `no fault’ governance! Now, why not match the tag of “Lyin Brian” with “Alibi Al?”

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 05, 1997
ID: 12970601
TAG: 199701030071
SECTION: Comment/Editorial


It may be juvenile, even infantile, to look forward to this new year simply because a federal election is almost a certainty, but I do.
Do we need a federal election in 1997? The Constitution does not require it, and there’s nothing extremely critical in politics now, even about Quebec and the PQ, which cries for quick resolution following such a vote.
Will the country be much better off because of an election in 1997? Probably not better, but equally as probable, not worse. The chances are strong the result will be another mandate for the present prime minister and his Liberal party. Personally, I view this as a middling prospect: neither a disaster nor an imperative need for the nation. This has not been a splendid government and an inspirational prime minister. On the other hand, it has not been a very bad government. And if personal popularity is significant Jean Chretien has held his remarkably well.
Now into his fourth year of governance, the prime minister has shown himself cautious, pragmatic, unexperimental and more comfortable with familiar colleagues than one might expect given the raft of talent the ’93 election provided him.
He will also have an advantage this year that no previous prime minister seeking to keep office has had — a shortened campaign. The formal election campaign period has lost 11 days–from a minimum of 47 days to one of 36 days.
It would seem another electoral reform — the initial step in working up a permanent voters list for each riding — gives an edge to incumbent MPs, and the Liberals will have far more of them than the other parties. We are to have a last door-to- door enumeration of voters early in the spring. The lists from this massive chore should be in the hands of the parties well before the election writ is issued, again giving an edge in organizing and propaganda to incumbents with their Hill and riding staffs, plus printing and phone privileges.
This Parliament has also passed a redistribution bill. In the current break, well done booklets have been put out for each province. These use maps of a province, its regions, and its big cities, plus individual riding maps for the 301 ridings in Canada — up six since last time. Although the rise in ridings is small, the consequences brought hundreds of changes in riding boundaries and re-apportioning electors.
Most voters today will not remember that redistributions were much delayed before the 1960s. Each move to have one brought intense resistance from incumbent MPs and provinces and regions which lost seats. The redistributions following the censuses of 1971 and 1981 have weakened resistance. Certainly, the latest redistribution has raised few long protests.
Redistribution shakes up the political process, particularly of parties and their leading aspirants. Organizations have to respond; energize or diminish. The new dimensions tend to rouse fresh candidates and supporters, most notably to supplant undistinguished incumbents.
A goodly share of the news of parties’ hopes and fears as 1997 unfolds will come from riding rivalries, both within parties and between them that redistribution has triggered. Of course, when a party like the Liberals gets a harried incumbent it brings in the regional bosses or even the refusal by Chretien to approve a candidate who may win or has won a nomination. For dissimilar reasons Reform Leader Preston Manning also has to be careful in his approval of candidates.
(One might recall here that the right a party leader has to refuse approval is one reason John Munro, a Liberal who was found not guilty of over 30 criminal charges that arose out of his work as minister of Indian affairs, has not been able to get the federal government to cover his huge legal costs from the proceedings — as was done for Sinclair Stevens, a Tory minister, in a somewhat similar situation. Munro was close to attaining a Liberal nomination for the ’93 election. When he learned Chretien would veto his nomination, he said some unkindly things about his former colleague’s understanding of democracy. Chretien did not forget the slights.)
Of course, election calendars and new boundaries are mechanical matters compared to a campaign as a horse race. As such it will have a three-fold emphasis: on party leaders; on party programs; and on who will finish with what and, even more fascinating, what such portends for a party’s significance going into the next century.
There has to be — or ought to be — an element of desperation in this campaign for the Reformers, the Tories and the NDP.
For federalism outside Quebec we know the leaders already: Chretien, Manning, Jean Charest and Alexa McDonough. The spice in Quebec for election fans will come from what Charest, more popular there than Jean Chretien, may wrest from threecorner fights with the BQ and the Liberals.
Some spice in Ontario with the biggest bundle of seats will come from the resurgence in party memberships and riding organizations, particularly in suburban, rural, and hinterland regions by the provincial Tories under Mike Harris. If they get behind Charest, rather than Manning … whoosh! We shall have a horse race, not a walkover.
Already we have the chief items of both Reform and Progressive Conservative party platforms (very similar!), the NDP is close to presenting its program and the Liberals promise a Red Book II, although the program will surely be implicit in Finance Minister Paul Martin’s next budget.
So, juvenile though it may be, the electoral way ahead has my interest zooming. But this has happened to me each election year since 1935 except for 1945. Then I was out of the country. This year, no spring break for me in Sarasota!
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1997, SunMedia Corp.