Doug’s Columns 1998January 4th, 1998
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Wednesday, December 30, 1998
COLUMN: The Hill
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER
THE MESSAGE WAS THE MEDIA
Although the would-be takeover by the Toronto Star made the last few months of 1998 uncomfortably exciting for those of us in Sun papers, the year was rather positive for the Canadian media. Much of this was generated by the launch of the daily National Post to compete with the long-standing claim by the Globe and Mail that it is the “national newspaper.”
The significance of the Post’s advent was heightened by the combativeness, corporate power and international reach of its master builder, Conrad Black. In large part he created more debate about the media and its roles than I can remember since 1970 and the Davey committee’s inquiry and report.
Over time no one in political journalism escapes from using the spectrum from left to centre to right as a classification code for people and issues. This year the left and the right characterizations have been much bandied about, not just regarding partisan developments between the federal parties and within each of them. They have been extended more than usual to the media because of Black.
For example, the Suns on the right were seen (or at least so most of their employees believed) as escaping the clutches of the Star, long known as the prime advocate in the media for left-wing values. Better a takeover by a corporation based in Quebec and owned and managed by Quebecois. In short, most reaction to the takeover bid by the Star which Quebecor topped was about ideology, not expansion.
For example, Conrad Black has become a right-wing titan who most liberally minded Canadians seem to detest or fear, sparked because his scorn for both the left and the tilt of most journalists to the left has been specific and put in taunting prose.
Despite Black’s high-profile deeds like launching the Post, consolidating Southam and being openly opinionated through the year, when the editors chose the Canadian newsmaker of 1998 they placed him second, behind the prime minister. This is droll, given Jean Chretien’s attributes and record. Since he came to the House in 1963 he has been positioned just to the right of the Liberal centre. Granted, he is adroit, apparently running with the people though he nests with the corporate elite. More to the point, this has been a slow, dreary year for this Liberal Parliament. But Chretien is still not widely seen as a man on the right, and even to those who divine this, he’s not as fearsome a reactionary as Black.
ANIMOSITY TO BLACK
One gets an impression, perhaps because of the obvious animosity to Black among many who work in news, that despite new jobs opened by the Post there is neither anticipation nor high hopes that it will master its prime competition. Rather, there is a lean toward the Globe, because it is seen as a national forum with space for all views. And yet, except in championing gays and lesbians, the Globe is as editorially on the political right as the Post seems to be.
Of course, the way ahead in this one-on-one competition is complemented and will be much complicated by that struggle between the chains of Southam, Quebecor and the Toronto Star. All of which augurs more changes ahead for those in print journalism. And those now engaged in it share with their colleagues and competitors in TV journalism a growing dread of the fallout in jobs and takeovers from the next business recession.
Although the Post made the big splash in news about the news this year, it seemed to me that television extended its reach into more homes, not just with new cable channels offering headline news or sports of all sort, but with more interviews, panels and live feeds from events, particularly of a political nature. One wonders when continuing fragmentation of viewership will begin to knock off some channel franchises. I find Newsworld, including its Internet site, has become more topically useful for me than any other media operation. Add to its coverage what C-PAC, now the telecaster of the most politics, provides on another channel and I believe a serious citizen who spends a few hours a day viewing these two channels may handily keep up with public affairs.
This year I’ve been forming a hunch about politics in our media. It first came when I realized how less didactic the CBC’s news operation has become than in the Mulroney years. I’ve also sensed a decline of emphasis on partisan rivalry in political news and a rising distaste for rancorous partisanship. I read this from the determination in most current reporting and analysis to fit and fix the parties and their leaders to a definite, accountable place on the spectrum from left to right; certainly, a struggle to do this is under way in each caucus on Parliament Hill.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Sunday, December 27, 1998
COLUMN: The Hill
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN
NO MAJESTIC VISION FOR CANADA
FIRST THE LIBERALS DIVESTED US OF THE UNION JACK, FOLLOWED BY THE ROYAL MAIL AND THEN DOMINION DAY. WILL THE MONARCHY ITSELF BE NEXT TO GO?
It’s hard to find the apt word or phrase for the twist which the Prime Minister’s Office gave two weeks ago to the future of the monarchy in Canada. Certainly the word isn’t “brave” or the phrase “a new republic.”
The twist I refer to is not the one in the new citizenship bill unveiled by minister Lucienne Robillard which retains the oath to Elizabeth II but leaves out the usual reference to her heirs. Perhaps this is a rather indirect way of letting us know Elizabeth shall be Canada’s last constitutional monarch.
Such finessing away of traditions is a familiar Liberal tactic to those of us who recall how they spirited through an almost empty House both Dominion Day (replacing it with Canada Day) and changes to Canada’s coat of arms.
No, the twist is the float from the PMO suggesting the government is seriously considering doing away with the Canadian monarchy. It was floated by a spokesman on Jean Chretien’s staff – almost certainly Peter Donolo, the PM’s PR chief. His conduit to the rest of us was a print piece by Lawrence Martin, writing as the Ottawa Citizen’s new national columnist. Martin, a big, friendly man in his early middle years and a former American citizen, has been a very successful author in Canada, notably of popular biographies of both the prime minister and the premier of Quebec. He’s also a literate hockey fan.
The column indicated “senior Liberals” had suggested the abolition of the monarchy to the PM as “a grand project to kick off the new millennium.” Chretien’s response is said to have been cautious, concerned about “awakening a sleeping dog.”
Martin suggested that those pushing the change see it as a shattering of the image of the Chretien regime running “a caretaker government.”
Early in the fall, before this “leak,” two senior ministers, Lloyd Axworthy (foreign affairs) and John Manley (industry) had both suggested abolition of the monarchy, or at least a public debate about it. Months before this, Madame Robillard, as minister for citizenship, said she would be legislating a new oath of citizenship and it would be without a reference to the Crown.
As I interpreted reaction to these three forays, Robillard drew the sharpest criticism, which explains why the oath she has now floated keeps the monarch in it, but neither Axworthy nor Manley sparked much enthusiasm or antagonism. Even so, their boss distanced himself from them, folksily noting it would be stupid to compound his problems with separatists by junking the royal family.
These lead-ups to the leak given to Martin did not in my opinion cause either serious interest or real excitement anywhere, although some editorial comment and reactions by opposition politicians usually underlined that abolishing the monarchy required major constitutional moves and the concurrence of the provinces.
My reaction to the leak to columnist Martin by Peter Donolo was mostly irritation at his view of how Canadians attained independence. He attributed it to deeds done largely by Liberals and, in the train of such progressiveness, this heralded abolition of the monarchy would fit so well.
KING DODGED THE ISSUE
He might read up on William Lyon Mackenize King, our longest incumbent prime minister (and I believe a great one). Until his retirement in 1948 King prevaricated and dodged doing anything blunt about the monarchy’s constitutional and ceremonial roles in Canada. Jean Chretien’s approach of letting sleeping dogs lie is in the King fashion.
The long route from “colony to nation,” which began with the Conquest (1760) was not marked in its stages by either Canadian revolutionaries or vigorous republicans with capital “L” Liberal tags. The Quebec Act (1774) passed by the British parliament established colonial government for the territories won from the French and opened participation in it for those who had been conquered. Almost seven decades later the union of the Canadas and a “responsible government” for it followed from the Durham report (1839).
Confederation in 1867 was fashioned by both English and French Canadians, some Liberals and “Grits” and some Conservatives and “Tories.”
Some 64 years passed before Canadians gained complete control of both domestic and foreign responsibilities through the Statute of Westminister (1931). R.B. Bennett, a Conservative, was our prime minister in 1931. The prelude which made this statute imperative was surely the huge contributions and sacrifices Canadians (and those in other former colonies like Australia and New Zealand) made to the Allied victory over Germany in the Great War. Through that war our increasingly nationalistic prime minister was Sir Robert Borden, a Conservative, not Sir Wilfrid Laurier or his successor as Liberal leader, Mackenzie King.
A NEW FLAG
The one Liberal prime minister who did take a sudden plunge for a national symbol which left out British connotations was Lester Pearson. He moved quickly and without prior leaks or intimations to legislate a distinctive Canadian flag. He announced it to a largely hostile convention gathering in Winnipeg of the Royal Canadian Legion, and there followed months of furious protest, led by John Diefenbaker, leader of the Conservative Opposition.
But once the flag was chosen, legislated, and flown it immediately became the national symbol, particularly in Canada beyond Quebec, although the subsequent preference in Quebec for its own fleur-de-lis flag is ironical to those of us who remember the wild scenes on the Hill when the flag bill went through. The most exuberant enthusiasts were Liberal MPs from Quebec.
I note this because so many of the other dodges from tradition and precedent – like making the Royal Mail “Canada Post” or turning Dominion Day into Canada Day were flogged as making French Canadians more comfortable. In short, snuffing the monarchy to please Quebec is a mug’s game. Do it because a Canadian monarchy is less and less appreciated or valued.
It’s about a 100-1 shot against it happening with Jean Chretien as prime minister, but I’d lay a bet at even money that if he announced a Pearson-on-the-flag sort of move to formally relinquish the monarchy (i.e., constitutionally) by the close of the year 2000 he would meet much less vocal opposition than did Pearson’s flag, easily carry a majority in Parliament and be accepted without snarkiness (but also without celebration) by most Canadians.
However, this is Canada and as Paul Martin, Sr. once counselled me when I was a novice politician: “In our politics we always worry far more over the votes we might lose than the votes we might gain.”
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Wednesday, December 23, 1998
COLUMN: The Hill
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER
NOT THE SEASON FOR SKEPTICISM
Those of us who interpret partisan politics tend to develop a negative mind-set. Contentious criticism is constant in what we hear or read and comment on. However, this of all weeks in the year is one in which to celebrate the positive. So, against my usual grain and with as little skepticism as possible, here is a celebration of our national situation.
First of all, reflect on our unity scenario. Think on how it has shifted since last Christmas. The Quebec election showed Lucien Bouchard is stoppable. At the least, another referendum on Quebec sovereignty is several years away.
To stage it the premier must govern well and be a clear master of both his opposition in the National Assembly and the federal government. Jean Charest will have an excellent shot at a second chance. For the first time since the surprising advent of Rene Levesque’s separatist government in 1976 I have stopped thinking that Quebec’s secession is a “sooner or later” proposition.
Second, aside from Bouchard, the present cast of premiers is hardly a galaxy of superb political skill, but it has been more co-operative than negative or dilatory on unity issues. It’s true the cast may change a lot next year. Elections are certain in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, likely in Nova Scotia, and possible in B.C. and Newfoundland. But in none of these provinces is there an egotist like Clyde Wells or an isolationist like Wacky Bennett in the offing.
Third, on several, significant counts the economy is doing better than was generally expected, not just a year ago but even in the early fall when foreboding over the Asian flu led both Jean Chretien and Paul Martin to cut back their forecasts of revenue surpluses and growth. Despite differing, partisan views on both the components and the margin of the federal budget surplus for 1997-98, we seem assured of a second surplus for 1998-99. In dollar terms our exports have surpassed $300 billion a year, a rise of over $110 billion since 1993. In 1997, 300,000 Canadians found remunerative work and it is near certainty 1998 will be just as good a year for new jobs.
Fourth, inflation continues at a low level and the interest rates for mortgages and loans have been stable and are unlikely to shoot upwards unless our powerful neighbour’s economy goes into a tailspin.
HAUNTED BY INFLATION
And on this point one tends to think this is unlikely in the next two or three years simply because there have been few detrimental consequences for the American economy during the melodramatic soap opera of the Clinton presidency. A terror of rampant inflation has haunted so many of us since it began to run wild in the latter days of Pierre Trudeau’s government, with interest rates nudging 20% and federal deficits surpassing $40 billion. Just recalling such figures makes one thankful of where our economy and the federal government’s finances are this Christmas. Our problems seem less scary than when employment is falling and deficits are rising.
Fifth, the crescendo of concern over crime, violence, and drugs which was so noticeable two or three years ago has been sliding away, mirroring statistics that show a genuine decline in serious crime. Not that law and order as a slogan popular with politicians in need of a war cry has disappeared, but it is obvious a large majority no longer frets about a lawless Canada.
Finally in this positive recital, the results in next year’s provincial election in Ontario should be a clear pointer to whether the country’s politics are moving or static in terms of left and right, and whether social democratic or conservative in emphasis.
For seven or eight years the conservatively minded have had a long inning in our politics. They have pushed aside or deeply shaken the faith in government intervention and spending in the economy and in culture. They have reduced the righteousness in the insistent, political correctness demanded by the left and by feminism and multiculturalism. They have brought back a broad respect for the market, made Crown corporations unfashionable and debt reduction a serious issue that cannot be ignored.
Thus far this conservative movement has not been strongly rebuffed in federal or provincial politics, with the possible exception of B.C. and Glen Clark’s NDP government. Why, even Bouchard preaches balanced budgets. But if the political right is not in retreat (except perhaps on health care) the political left has shifted toward the centre and looks ready for at least a modest recovery, both electorally and within the caucus of the ruling Liberals in Ottawa.
Such a return toward relative balance between the holy rollers of both the left and right is quintessentially Canadian, and another reason for feeling good in Christmas week – moderately, of course.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Sunday, December 20, 1998
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN
THREE HERETICS ON PARLIAMENT HILL
Might a movement be taking shape based on hard, scornful criticism of Parliament as ineffective and wasteful? This is unlikely, but it’s unusual that several critics have recently suggested drastic changes in the numbers and roles of MPs, implying there is not much real worth in the reigning myths about MPs as vital representatives of voters and locales.
For many decades most advocacy of big changes in Parliament has been about our unelected Senate rather than about the House and its MPs. On the Hill itself most talk of parliamentary reform has not been on drastic changes but on steps to make participation by ordinary MPs more effective in the development of legislation and of closer scrutiny of the administration.
It would be wrong to suggest anyone is taking seriously the ideas of three irreverent critics that the long-held general respect for those voted into the House of Commons is almost over, even that the utility of most MPs is over on election night when their respective numbers by party has determined who is to be prime minister and leader of the official Opposition.
Let’s sketch the suggestions from three of the scornful critics. Each one seems to accept that most MPs have minor utility in either policy-making or vigilant criticism.
1) Norman Spector, now a Globe and Mail columnist after years as a high-level mandarin in Ottawa and in Victoria, advocates (not wholly tongue in cheek) a big downsizing of the House from 301 MPs to some 60.
He contrasts the populations of Canada and the U.S. and the numbers of American congressmen and their constituents with Canadian MPs and their constituents. Although the congressional system gives initiative and power to its members that MPs do not have, proportionately we have far more elected representatives. So Spector suggests a reduction of 80% in the number of MPs. This would bring MPs’ numbers in line with Canada’s record of productivity.
He may be exaggerating but he hammers the point that so many MPs have little to do that is meaningful in either law-making or checking government.
2) Hugh Segal, an eager Tory since boyhood, was the most program-conscious of the recent aspirants for his party’s leadership, and was once a closet counsellor of longtime Ontario premier Bill Davis and former prime minister Brian Mulroney. He has been arguing for a return to the days when most MPs were “amateurs” or part-time, rather than full-time professional politicians who become more detached from their electors’ opinions the longer they spend in the House.
BLOATED AND EXPENSIVE
He notes how pervasive cynicism has become “about the whole political process.” Rather like Reform Leader Preston Manning a few years ago, Segal emphasizes how bloated and expensive MPs and their staffs and services have become and how much of what happens on the Hill is for the benefit of the media or as a stage chorus for ministers and opposition leaders. He advocates curtailing House sittings, never going on past a fortnight and never in two consecutive months.
As Segal put it: “The man or woman who was elected from here, who is one of us, quickly becomes from there and no longer understands us.”
He insists too much of what’s seen and heard on the Hill is tailored for the media and “its huge, fixed-cost concentration in Ottawa … and the hothouse of question period.”
Segal envisions a future in which most plain MPs are “local in the true and noble meaning of that term.”
He insists – and I concede the point – that “the need for full-time actors in Ottawa on the parliamentary broadcast stage is overdone.” Further, “bureaucracy and cabinet would be on notice that if budgets or other bills can’t be explained or dealt with in these limited parliamentary periods, they would not be dealt with. This would mean simpler legislation and a lot less of it and … less government.”
3) Denzil Doyle is head of an Ottawa company engaged in computer ventures who writes occasional, sharp-edged columns for the Ottawa Sun on politics and economics, and in particular on productivity and the slide in our capabilities. Obviously he has watched the House of Commons closely and, in particular, its daily oral question period.
How can so many adult men and women gather regularly, clapping and shouting over nonsense questions and smart-ass responses?
Doyle has a brutal remedy for QP as a farcical, childish exercise of petty partisanship and fake ire. Stop it. Abolish it. Realize it has debased the parliamentary system. Ignore the cheap, handy items it creates for TV news operations. Let the latter, AND the members of the House, turn from this exercise in faked histrionics to what is actually argued and rebutted in the examination of bills or specific opposition motions.
No one within parliamentary politics is likely to take seriously what these three critics have said about MPs and the House; nevertheless more and more MPs either know or sense that their institution has been in decline. Certainly, most of them know question period is now the prime display and most important function of the House and that by and large it is an over-organized partisan farce. Epithets! Charges! Insults! Stone-walling! And repetitiousness ad nauseam!
There is a pointer in Ontario to what may be out there in the body politic on electoral representation. In the name of lower costs and more efficiency, the Mike Harris government has lopped off 27 of the Legislature’s 130 members.
Was there mass outrage and vociferous, organized resistance across Ontario by a host of interest groups at such a major diminution of representation? No, nor is it even a minor issue of federal politics that the membership of the House has tacitly been capped at 301 MPs, the parties agreeing not to put off enlargement fixed by census data on population growth.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Wednesday, December 16, 1998
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN
PARLIAMENTARY POINTS TO PONDER
It was sensible for the Chretien government to rebuff the merger plans of the big banks after the House rose. Now it has a long lull with the Hill cleared of partisan rivals. In February, when the MPs return, their focus will not be on banks but Paul Martin’s pending budget and the issue of more money to the provinces for health care.
For months the mood on bank mergers was thoroughly telegraphed, and despite reams on the issue in business news and so many reports by individual MPs of their constituents’ antipathy to fewer and bigger banks, it was obvious this was not a gut-wrenching, nation-splitting matter. In part, I make this generalization out of my own slack concern, despite 60 years as a B of M customer and some holdings in Royal stock.
If there is little national anxiety about mergers, there must be partisan exaggeration in the line of opposition politicians that the decision flowed from Martin’s vaulting ambition to succeed Jean Chretien. At present he is so far ahead of any other likely aspirant, no other minister merits mention.
The worry for Martin is not competing personalities within the Liberal party but time and timing.
There is a fair likelihood, given no epic surge toward secession by Lucien Bouchard next year or in 2000, that Chretien will seek a third electoral mandate. This could chew up another three years or more of Martin’s 60s. By then some fresh Liberal hope may have emerged or the parties of the so-called right may have coalesced under a new saviour of the federation. If so, Martin would seem like very old folks, hardly a Canadian herald for the new century.
Also, another prospect may daunt him. Suppose he’s switched by next summer’s recess to another ministry after almost six years at finance. Aside from finance, none of the other portfolios, not even industry, foreign affairs or justice, can give him anything like the primacy and scope he’s had since 1993.
Another question before the Chretien government during the long recess is what to do about its prime aggravation this fall – the rather wretched comedy of the APEC inquiry.
One asks oneself not how the Liberals misplayed this matter, but why?
One simple, straight, well-meant apology by the prime minister could have capped this issue last spring. He could not do this, probably more out of pride than arrogance. Chretien seems stubborn beyond belief. Now a lot more people know “mediocre” is a flattering adjective for his cabinet.
There is no block in law, regulations or custom which requires the continuance of the current, fumbling inquiry. The fumble-bumble is set to resume next year, re-echoing in the House question period through the winter and spring, if it is not diverted by resort to the Inquiries Act, excused because this is past being primarily an RCMP matter.
The week before the House rose, opposition MPs provoked a hassle over abuse of their privileges through a rash of unauthorized, premature releases to journalists of both reports of parliamentary committees and of the government’s intentions on various policies and programs. Usually these leaks come a day or two before official release of reports or of ministerial statements in the House.
As the debate waxed, the evidence piling up of breach after breach of secrecy oaths, Speaker Gil Parent became graver. Perhaps because the cases were so obvious, he felt he had to say something constructive. He might have solemnized on the obvious: that all or most of such premature revelations had to stem from either the direct approval or a tacit acquiescence by either an elected politician or a senior official of the PMO or a minister.
Instead, the Speaker chose to go past the crafty calculators to their targets or one might say, their ever-ready prey: the reporters and their network of newspaper employers. He indicated the leaks could be stopped by charging those who published them. This intention brought so much editorial umbrage over threats to freedom of the press from those in it that one may be sure Parent has already retreated, even if he hasn’t said so to the House.
Let’s distinguish between the leaks of committee stuff and the leaks engineered by the PMO and/or ministers.
In the first case too many MPs, too many staff, are engaged in a committee’s work to keep it leak-proof. Besides, all of a House committee’s work could or should be in the open.
Ministerial spinners are more an issue for the press gallery as an institution. Why? Because the spinners have their chosen instruments, either a TV network (often but not always the CBC) or like-minded print journalists.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Sunday, December 13, 1998
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN
WHO’S EVER PENALIZED WHEN A-G BLOWS THE WHISTLE?
Why does mismanagement within government seem so intractable, given the stout efforts of the federal auditor general (A-G) in a seemingly core role in the political firmament?
For good government, surely scrutinizing is as imperative as legislating. A few weeks ago I wrote that the A-G had become the single most effective critic of the government, surpassing the opposition parties, the media and lobby groups. In part this is a tribute to the steadfastness of Denis Desautels, who does not hesitate in taking on our sainted finance minister. But it is also the result of a steady expansion in the office’s mandate. Since the late 1970s various A-Gs have extended their writs, arguing that effective reporting of the government’s financial performance requires they move beyond traditional accounting to consider more esoteric notions, such as whether programs deliver “value for money.”
The opposition parties accept this intrusion on their prerogatives, seeing advantages to it. The A-G’s statutory investigative powers mean he can force answers from government, whereas their own efforts in question period and committees often fail. Moreover, the A-G’s status as an officer of Parliament allows them to characterize the ammunition his reports provide as either “hard facts” or the “non-partisan opinions” of an expert on governmental incompetence.
The A-G’s latest report, released two weeks ago, highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of the office. It also illustrates why an A-G – however thorough or wide-ranging his efforts – is no substitute for an effective political opposition or an inquisitive, critical media.
The Dec. 1 report (No. 3 for 1998) covers a typically wide range of subjects: the government’s electronic commerce plans; its preparations for dealing with computer problems stemming from the so-called millennium bug; its management of foreign aid programs, veterans’ disability pensions, professional services contracting and Parliament Hill renovations; its involvement in highway construction.
Most items generated some media coverage and opposition breast beating, but soon other issues (APEC, Employment Insurance premium cuts) returned to centre stage. This illustrates a problem the A-G’s office has faced since it switched from producing one large annual report to multiple volumes spread out over the year – its findings have lost much of their earlier impact. Other factors also undercut the A-G’s message. One is the failure of the opposition caucuses to sustain a bulldog bite on most of the wretched evidence. Another factor is simply repetition.
LITANIES OF FAILURE
The A-G praises where he can, but of necessity his reports are litanies of failure. There is a dreary sameness to them: “The rules are sound … The problem is … that departments disregard the rules.” “Our audits … over the past 21 years have … continued to find the same problems. There are many reasons why … They range from decision-makers not following the rules … to weak management practices.”
One chapter dealing with untendered professional services contracts (1995 total: $1.4 billion) noted that of those sampled, most “would not, in our view, stand the test of public scrutiny.” They also showed “little evidence of contract management: it often appears that contractors determine what is required, how much effort it will take and at what point the job will be considered completed.”
In what for the A-G was an unusually harsh conclusion, he noted that disregarding government regulations “appears to involve no significant consequences for either the managers responsible or their departments.”
Here’s the problem underlying so much of what the A-G describes, year after year – good intentions and sound management principles lose out to slow or incompetent implementation and a lack of accountability. The latter seems to me to be the most common theme in the A-G reports over the years. But it isn’t exactly rocket science: “Accountability is achieved through the establishment of appropriate performance objectives and reporting requirements … Roles and responsibilities need to be well understood and agreed upon.”
So why is accountability such a stranger to government operations? In discussing the barriers to innovative thinking in the bureaucracy, the current report offers one possibility: “more openness and a greater level of accountability for results can unleash undeserved criticism (!) when results fall short of expectations. In these circumstances, many public servants feel the most prudent course is to play it safe.”
In other words, real accountability – of the sort most Canadians face every day – is simply too threatening, so it is avoided.
Unfortunately, throughout the A-G’s report one gets the feeling of punches being pulled, of candour giving way to politeness, and of a desire to give the benefit of the doubt. The A-G can show us where accountability is lacking – but he can’t point a finger at the person(s) responsible.
And there’s the rub. Under our British style professional bureaucracy, identifying the individual(s) responsible for specific failures is said to be wrong. Why? Because this would politicize the public service. Hence, despite all the bleating at the Somalia and Krever inquiries about how the system had failed (and killed), officers and managers weren’t to blame.
But who builds systems? Moreover, doesn’t any system of accountability have to begin with personal accountability? Shouldn’t this entail identifying and punishing (demoting, firing) incompetent individuals, while those of superior performance are rewarded?
The management of the public service has shown no appetite for accountability – if it means taking the blame. They have, however, warmly embraced the idea of rewards for jobs well done – witness the reinstatement of performance bonuses for managers.
Now there’s a program the A-G ought to look into!
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Wednesday, December 09, 1998
COLUMN: The Hill
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER
POLITICAL BOOKS WITH BALANCE
Years of overdosing on parliamentary partisanship make one appreciate balance and cherish neutrality. So it is pleasant to note three new books on politics which give a reader a lot of “on the one hand; on the other hand.”
The first book I recommend – Paul Martin: A Political Biography (published by James Lorimer) – surprised me in its fairness to the minister of finance and its grasp of his career before he turned to electoral politics a decade ago. He comes through as both the best bet on hand as the next prime minister and probably a good one, notably at championing federalism in Quebec.
Why my surprise at the fairness in this succinct biography? Because the trio of authors – Robert Chodos, Rae Murphy and Eric Hamovitch – worked together on a left-wing magazine of the 1970s, the Last Post. Long defunct, this Montreal publication had much good writing, in particular by Chodos (now editor of Canadian Forum). But the viewpoints were both relentlessly radical and hard on mighty corporations like the CPR and Paul Desmarais’ Power Corp. And the latter was the key operation through which Martin, Jr. made his way to wealth from middle-class status, helped early on by the contacts of his dad, Paul Martin, Sr.
The authors hesitate to define Martin, Jr. as “liberally minded.” Obviously he is not a social democrat, but whatever his position on the political spectrum he has shown brains, drive, and toughness in becoming CEO and dominant owner of Canada Steamship Lines and in reducing the federal deficit. Further, he has not been a worshipful acolyte of corporate America like Brian Mulroney or Jean Chretien.
The authors think Martin would take the management of the economy more seriously than any prime minister in modern times but he surely does not intend to do away with the key elements of the public health and welfare system. He has an unobtrusive team and lots of money ready for a run at the Liberal leadership when it comes, but in setting out an enlightened program for stabilizing global financial markets he has made himself a good prospect to head a major international agency in this field. He has been astute in business and in politics not to pose as an authority on Quebec politics. Despite such carefulness, the authors believe he has more understanding of Quebecers than Chretien. Their book is not an absolute approval of Martin’s ambitions but it does suggest there is more to him than some of us have been ready to grant.
My second recommendation is a far more interesting compendium than one would expect from 130 assorted and brief opinions, from Lord Durham to Northrop Frye. The items, from The Cremation of Sam McGee to Sudbury Saturday Night, have been taken from over three centuries of Canadian life.
The book is Who Speaks for Canada: Words that Shape a Country (M&S), the selectors are historian Desmond Morton and sociologist Morton Weinfeld. The introduction is lucid and concise; the layout generous, the reading easy. Less than a quarter of those quoted were or are politicians. Our history in all its diversity comes through, the variety relieving either boredom or submission. In short, a fine book for browsing – a bathroom book!
Take the nudges in one’s ribs from the first and the last selections.
Pierre Boucher, a seigneur in New France in the 1660s, describes the colony’s possibilities for growth and the good life (despite marauding Iroquois). Then he sketches what might well be if only the people of New France followed the examples “of our neighbours, the English. What has been done there could be done here.”
Denise Chong, Canadian-born of Chinese parents, author of The Concubine’s Children, ends her savouring of citizenship by recalling that as an adult, after living some months in China, she wrote her mother in Canada that she “was finding it difficult to feel any ‘Chineseness.'” Mother replied: “‘You’re Canadian, not Chinese. Stop trying to feel anything.’ She was right. I stopped such contrivances. I was Canadian; it was that which embodied the values of my life.”
The third of these balanced books is Canada’s King: An Essay in Political Psychology (Mosaic Press), written by Toronto psychoanalyst and intellectual historian, Paul Roazen. This paperback entwines two stories: the life of our longest-running prime minister and analysis of his psyche in the light of his shrewd politics and the complexities in his mind-sets to be found in his mammoth diaries.
Author Roazen is brusque, even cheeky, in arguing we do both William Lyon Mackenzie King and ourselves a disfavour by not re-examining the instant and ridiculing myth created after his death by revelations of his spiritualism and apparent womanizing. If you are seriously caught up on what we have, and have had, in political leadership, take a run at Canada’s King.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Sunday, December 06, 1998
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN
OUR HOUSE, DIVIDED
LAST TUESDAY’S RAUCOUS QUESTION PERIOD WAS SYMPTOMATIC OF THE ACRIMONY THAT EXISTS AMONG ALL PARTIES IN THE COMMONS
It was sad, but in keeping with our politics, that there was such acrimony in the House of Commons the day after the voters of Quebec put out a slow-down order on secession. The four federalist parties celebrated by being nasty with each other.
Bill Blaikie, a temperate NDP MP with 19 years in the House, declared after the day’s oral question period that it had been “one of the worst question periods” he had ever experienced. And he chastened Speaker Gilbert Parent for not checking the uproar, saying: “Do as Speakers in the past have done and use the Chair to punish people who are not contributing to decorum.”
And, unusual for him, Speaker Parent seemed to accept the rebuke, admitting: “It was a bad question period. It was probably the worst that I have been through as Speaker of the House. Perhaps the blame should rest on my shoulders.”
Certainly, some of it should, but there are others of more prominence who are even more culpable than Parent, beginning with PM Jean Chretien and his top minister, Paul Martin, Jr. Week to week in the House they lead the Liberal chorus of consistent, demeaning nastiness toward the opposition, particularly against that “power of extremism” (as Martin tags the Reform party) and “the whiners” of the Bloc Quebecois.
Of course, below this crust of scornful Liberal righteousness there has been the deep unease of the prime minister and his ministry over the threat to his repute and their continuity from Lucien Bouchard’s magnetism and Quebec nationalism. Tuesday they still reeked with relief at the limitations put on the Quebec premier by the voters the day before. And so a cockier-than-ever PM came into the House for question period.
The session was opened by Reform Leader Preston Manning, grave, and seeking instant action on the suddenly significant federal-provincial process toward “a social union.”
The PM was scathing. Why, Manning was nothing more than “an opportunist when it is time to really work for the benefit of Canada.”
Then Chretien turned on the BQ, tagging Jean Charest and the Quebec Liberal party as “the real winners by more than 25,000 votes.”
In short order, two Bloc MPs mocked this conclusion with jibes about Chretien’s low percentage of votes and scanty margin of seats in his last victory.
The PM jeered back: “The poor martyrs are weeping again … they continue with their hypocrisy, whining all the time.”
Michel Gauthier, a Bloc MP, threw the tag of hypocrite right back at Chretien. Eventually, after much barracking all round this was to lead to the Speaker expelling Gauthier for the day for refusing to withdraw the word.
Well before the Speaker made that order after QP ended, Deborah Grey had slashed at Paul Martin’s meagre reduction of EI payments in the guise of a question, and he responded in kind, igniting surges of noise and interruptions for almost 30 minutes.
Through this the Speaker kept getting up and waiting, ineffectually, for order.
For what it’s worth – I think very little – the following day (Wednesday) the House leaders of the five parties, embarrassed by the rumpus, declared a peace pact had been reached with the Speaker. There would be no more excesses of raucous claques.
Parent could do much to lower the noise and stop the vicious barbs simpy by cutting short and sitting down the most obvious offenders – Messrs. Chretien, Martin, Manning and (Herb) Gray and Ms Grey and Alexa Mcdonough.
On Tuesday, the Blaikie lecture on fairness and good behaviour directed at the Speaker was echoed by the Tories. Smaller parties get much less of the floor when so much time is consumed with racket and insults but the farce that question period has become undercuts respect for politicians as a whole. Unfortunately, QP is also star time and the leading worthies relish it.
The Reform caucus needs to do some self-examination about Parliament. Its leader should come down from the mountain where he divines content and strategy for the next federal election. What has happened to the positive, less partisan intentions about Parliament which Reform had five years ago?
It seems clear from a year as the official opposition that a future Reform cabinet would operate like the present PMO and cabinet. It would stonewall the opposition, keep its backbenchers in line, and use the same tactics as the Liberals have, say in the Somalia inquiry and Spraypec cases.
REFORM NO DIFFERENT
Already Reform seems grooved in the worn rut of parliamentary politics – i.e., in thorough, closely managed partisanship. More and more, Reform as an operation on the Hill mimics predecessor parties of the House. If they attain office it would mean just a different cast doing the bragging and dodging in question period. And, aside from the much televised antics of QP and scrums which follow it, the other stuff of Parliament goes almost unnoticed.
It is hard not to be cynical about the lack of genuine participation in the parliamentary system as it functions on the Hill. Last spring I noted that the House after question period was often without enough Liberal MPs to sustain a quorum. The government whip has been caught short again and again. Where is his majority? Certainly, not long in their seats, attentive or participating. Surely it’s because they know the so-called debates are not important.
The weekly Hill Times has had a swatch of stories this year loaded with gripes of Liberal backbenchers about their lack of meaningful work and the iron caucus discipline which Jean Chretien enforces. Except in a minority House one cannot foresee an end of such control, even if Chretien is succeeded by Paul Martin or even replaced by Preston Manning or some leader-to-come from the so-called united alternative.
The federal Parliament needs something more radical than an alert, fair, and tough Speaker.
Real reform of Parliament seems impossible so long as the system’s core deliberations and decisions are shaped in secrecy, notably of the cabinet and its official mandarinate. And each party’s caucus is also gripped by secrecy which is sustained by the dictum of each party for loyalty to the leader.
Let me phrase the House scenario another way.
Two new partisan forces have entered the House since 1990. Lucien Bouchard resigned from the Mulroney cabinet in 1990 and launched the Bloc Quebecois. Three years later Reform hit the House. Today, whatever their differences in policies, neither Reform nor the Bloc differs much in parliamentary attitudes or operations from the Liberals, Tories, or New Democrats.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Wednesday, December 02, 1998
COLUMN: The Hill
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER
BREATHE EASIER, BUT DON’T RELAX!
Millions of us are savouring Lucien Bouchard’s failure to marshal a mighty sweep of the seats in Quebec. Once again, there’s a pause in federalism’s doomsday scenario.
But being banal about it, the respite merely means the PQ and its BQ claque in Ottawa will continue a slower, niggling campaign that points out the unfairness of federalism to Quebecers. So federalists in Ottawa and in the provincial capitals must stay alert, and pursue the obvious lever Premier Bouchard will pull – the initiative opened earlier this year by the premiers for the so-called “social union.”
In Monday’s vote, the split by party was far more significant than is usual in federal and provincial elections. Why? Because it indicates strongly the likely split on a referendum vote on sovereignty. The pollsters misread a PQ sweep but they kept reporting 75% of Quebecers didn’t want another referendum. And so, this month and for many more we may assume the federalist core is larger than the separatist core.
The separatist following was even lower than the 43% the PQ got at the polls. The third party, led by Mario Dumont, got over 10% of the vote and he advocated no referendum on sovereignty for eight years.
So Lucien, the charismatic, the renewed premier, a political sorcerer to so many of us in the rest of Canada, is not – at least not yet – the ultimate Pied Piper of Quebec nationalism.
On the other hand, Liberal Leader Jean Charest only survived, but neither he nor the Chretien crew in Ottawa were engineers of the PQ’s disappointment. That credit goes to the majority distaste in Quebec for referendums, now or soon.
Charest did seem on election night as lively and fit for further battles, despite his near burial as a leader by a massive put-down by pundits and pollsters. He has the skills for the National Assembly and an experienced caucus behind him. In the match-up provided by election night TV, Charest compared well with Bouchard in terms of clever argument and apt references to the results. (Their respective adroitness reminded me of a chat 10 years ago with Brian Mulroney. He said that unlike Pierre Trudeau he had several worthy successors at hand, and his list was headed by Bouchard and Charest.)
How will Prime Minister Jean Chretien respond to this welcome and unexpected setback to the PQ’s basic aim?
CHRETIEN TO CARRY ON?
Has he decided to carry on, to and through the next federal election? I think he’s been leaning that way, and the bump Bouchard has had is likely to confirm it. A Liberal leadership convention seems several years or more away.
Is Chretien capable, along with his high profile ministers in Quebec – Stephane Dion, Paul Martin, and Pierre Pettigrew – of finding and following a line in policy and explanation of federalism there that doesn’t undercut or alienate Charest?
Will Chretien take advantage of the situation vis-a-vis “social union” to negotiate firmly but without deviousness or artifice with the premiers in the next year? He should, while making the case for national standards in any social field Ottawa may vacate to those provinces.
We shall be back now to talk about Plan A and Plan B, and being more flexible or tougher or more realistic during this respite about some of the touchiest matters ahead when, or if, Canada faces another referendum bid by the PQ.
Some of these dicey issues need analysis and appraisal by people of recognized sagacity who are neither active politicians nor high court judges. We have little informed guidance on them from either our history or experience elsewhere. It is past the time of abjuring open discussion of these matters because of damage it might do to the federalist cause or separatist sensitivities. Here are four of them.
1) The form of a fair referendum question on secession.
2) How much sharing should there be, post-secession, of the same monetary unit and the same citizenship or a joint-citizenship?
3) The fair scope of an independent Quebec’s land mass, in light of the 1898 and 1912 assignments to the province of northern federal territory and the rights of the aborigines who live there with an affirmed determination to remain Canadian.
4) If secession comes, what are the problems, including costs, in re-settling in the rest of Canada those who will want to remain in Canada or in re-settling those francophones outside Quebec who want to join their linguistic compatriots?
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Sunday, November 29, 1998
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN
FEDS MISFIRE WITH GUN CONTROLS
OTTAWA’S REGISTRY SYSTEM IS A COSTLY CROCK, JUST ONE MORE BUREAUCRATIC BOONDOGGLE
On Dec. 1 – Tuesday – the federal gun registration system and its regulatory demands begin to work, almost three years after the bill (C-68) creating it passed Parliament.
The new registration system, organized by and large by provinces and sustained by police forces or particular registration agents, will not be blanketing all owners until 2003, giving those with guns over four years to register (though at a price, since delay brings a higher fee).
The system, indeed the law which launched it, is stupid and wasteful as I see it, in large part because the huge, computer-based apparatus with the attendant clerical and investigative bureaucracy needed to complete it and to keep it up to date is a massive over-effort for what is sure to be minuscule results – if any – in reducing the number of murders.
The most serious, political problem with C-68 is that provincial governments representing over half the Canadian population are against it. And their objections are being taken to the Supreme Court of Canada, following the 3-2 decision of the Alberta Court of Appeal last September which ruled the enactment was within the powers of the federal government. So a reversal of the Alberta decision by the top court of the country could stop the registration system at an early stage.
Why are so many of the provinces against the gun registration system? In part this is because they consider it a constitutional intrusion by Ottawa; in part because they think it penalizes unfairly a sizeable element of their people, notably those in their respective prairie and bush hinterland regions. In those areas gun ownership and gun usage in hunting, trapping, and marksmanship have been traditional over many decades, and the provinces have developed regulations and licence requirements which enforce safety training and conservation practices.
LOW HOMICIDE RATES
Even closer to the bone, it is the provinces which administer criminal law. It is their fief. Their policing, custodial and prosecuting personnel argue from their experience that a national, costly, people-heavy registration system will do nothing to lower the number of gunshot murders and suicides and the money would be better spent on more police and more border inspectors to catch criminal elements smuggling guns into Canada from the United States. As it is, homicide rates in Canada are at a 30-year low; so is the use of rifles and shotguns in major crimes.
(In 1977 handguns were classified as restricted weapons and have been registered since then, or at least those have which have not been in the hands of criminals. The same 1977 enactment required a citizen to obtain a firearm acquisition certificate – FAC – if he or she acquired a rifle or a shotgun.)
There have been serious problems in getting the big registration program under way, including far higher costs than indicated in what was presented in the House in 1995 by Allan Rock, then justice minister and sponsor of Bill C-68. There is no longer a firm figure, and those who oppose the system believe that over the next five years (to 2003) it will take $1 billion to register and keep updated the 7-10 million long guns now in the possession of from 2-3 million owners.
Reform MPs contend – and have drawn to the auditor general’s notice – that the government has not met the requirements of its own treasury board. It has failed to include the mandatory cost-benefit analysis with the regulations on the firearms act that have been published in the Canada Gazette.
In last year’s federal election campaign, the gun control bill was an issue, notably in the West and through Canadian Shield country, and the Liberals did lose seats in western Canada (and almost their majority) because of it. But Jean Chretien decided after the election not to let the act lie dormant and Rock’s successor at justice, Anne McLellan, has been rock-solid in her support and faith in C-68. Early in October, after the Alberta court decision she insisted: “Canadians have decided they believe in gun control. The debate is settled. The debate is over.”
And one of her senior bureaucrats, Richard Mosley, backed her up with this snide remark: “There is a tone of desperation among people who oppose the new law, especially aging, white male sport shooters who see their sport dying as Canadians choose other forms of recreation.”
The debate may be over for a few months or even a year or so, particularly if the Supreme Court should reject the latest appeal, but it will be a major contention in rural Canada in the next federal election because the Reform party and most of the NDP caucus will make it so.
One consequence of C-68 for the ambitious Rock is apparent in my monitoring of the Liberal backbench: Rock, now minister of health, ranks badly with Grit backbenchers because of what they describe as his ruthlessness and duplicity with those from rural and hinterland ridings who had criticisms of C-68.
As for McLellan, she won election in Edmonton West and now, known for shepherding into place the gun registration system, her re-election chances are far from rosy.
The published regulations for the system provide special adaptations for aboriginal peoples of Canada – in short, making it easier for them in order to “… respect traditional practices involving the communal possession of firearms.”
A critical look at this issue turns up contradictions and hypocrisies, not just in terms of political correctness but also in interpretation and use of opinion polling to support or oppose legislative intentions.
As Rock and McLellan keep saying, backed by most of the feminist associations of Canada, poll after poll shows a strong majority of Canadians approves stricter gun controls (including registration of all guns). And this is their mighty sanction for Bill C-68.
But even more polls over many years have shown, and still show, that a strong majority of Canadians approves capital punishment – indeed, of a return to its use in Canada. Yet the same zealots so sure in the imperative of a colossal gun registration system, and who point to the polls for support, are by and large the ones who are against capital punishment and criticize as vengeful and uncivilized those who advocate it be brought back.
Across Canada the number of murders and suicides has been dropping, and so has the use of guns in committing either. But this is not true for aboriginal peoples. They have a far higher rate of murder and suicide than other Canadians. So much so that if their rates, running 7-10 times that of other Canadians, were taken out of rural rates for murder and suicide (including those effected by guns), both would fall below those of urban Canada, even though rural Canadians have a proportionally higher percentage of gun ownership than their city compatriots.
For the sake of lives and safety, the data indicates that if there is any group which should be denied use of guns or only use under the tightest restrictions it is our aboriginal population but that would be wildly, awfully incorrect politically. Instead, nothing is said openly about the slaughter on the reserves except to blame the whites, and special regulations are created to make the burden of gun registration easier for native Canadians.
Only a minute fraction of the long guns going into the huge registry are used regularly or day to day. Most hunting is in brief seasons, as with trapping, and both activities are much licensed and scrutinized by provincial personnel.
As I see it, unless the unexpressed aim of the new registration system is to attain eventually the identification and location of all guns in order to end the legal ownership and use of them and take them over, then the system is a costly crock, just one more bureaucratic boondoggle done to satisfy high-minded people whose cultural values decry guns and hunting.
Like most against gun control, I want guns only to be used by people trained in their safe, proper handling. But C-68 adds nothing in this regard.
Another reason I think the expensive and punitive aspects of C-68 are wrong goes back to my experience in World War II. It was a substantial advantage to our forces that so many volunteers were familiar with guns and knew something of their care and of marksmanship. War is kill or be killed; and it helps if you know about guns and how to care for and use them.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Wednesday, November 25, 1998
COLUMN: The Hill
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER
PM’S PAYING FOR HIS STUBBORNNESS
Pathetic is the word for the public behaviour of Andy Scott, now the former solicitor general. But it takes several words, like tawdry, calculated and ruthless, to describe the role of Jean Chretien and his handlers who’ve been managing the consequences from the rough treatment by the RCMP of student protesters in Vancouver at the APEC summit a year ago.
And few ministers have been more closely managed than Scott after his reckless talk aboard a homeward-bound plane.
The situation on APEC today is not, as Chretien would have it, the regrettable result of incessant, unfair opposition attacks. And it is not a case whose basic point is a cabinet minister who couldn’t hack it. Believe me, the PM still has about 10 ministers who are as intrinsically inadequate as poor Scott, including the puffed muffin from P.E.I., Lawrence MacAulay, who has been made solicitor general.
The APEC case, now a year old and with more to come as a partisan pivot that unites the opposition parties in the House, is the most vivid and telling example among many of a prime minister (plus his close staff) who cannot acknowledge mistakes and apologize or abandon promises and undertakings which were unwise and costly.
A repetitious ploy of the press gallery after Brian Mulroney’s regime had been in place a few years was to recapitulate in every critical story the number of ministers who had resigned and each major example of Tory backtracking from promises or commitments. The ploy has hardly been used against Chretien. In part this reflects his higher popularity with reporters, but even more it is because no minister before Scott has had to submit his resignation (although it’s true the Somalia circus led to David Collenette’s switch to transport, Sheila Copps’ antics on the GST brought her temporary resignation and a chronic problem of demonstrated incompetence as minister of Canadian Heritage forced Marcel Dupuy’s quiet exit).
Putting the matter of ministers to one side, there is a lengthening litany of matters which show Chretien’s rugged determination to bull along whatever hypocrisies or contradictions or excessive costs there may be in doing so.
For example, contrast the determined way Chretien stuck with his first election promises to cancel both the contract for helicopters and the new terminal at Pearson airport in Toronto with his decision to ignore his commitments to get rid of the GST and abrogate the FTA deal with the U.S. if significant changes in it weren’t made.
Both contract decisions were stupid – bad both legally and in delayed services and facilities. Together they sucked away over $1 billion, spent with no obvious return. Worse, the lack of new helicopters endangers the lives of crews flying the old, worn craft still in use.
Also, there have been less costly but similarly wrong-headed and frivolous decisions by Chretien which have not drawn the satire they deserve. I refer to the years he spent refusing to use a new Airbus configured to serve a prime minister, and to the manufacture of a safe, secure Chevrolet for his use at a high price, rather than continuing to use the safe, secure limousine which served Mulroney.
It seems impossible for the prime minister to admit a mistake or a poor and costly decision. Despite his “little guy” bluntness he is unable to be openly candid about matters that have not gone well. The most obvious example is his role in the nearly lost Quebec referendum of 1995. It still haunts us as English Canadians gloomily await Lucien Bouchard’s electoral triumph on Monday.
Further, despite his now worn theme (taken from the wisdom of Mitchell Sharp) that his is a government in which ministers run their departments, guided by their deputies and not by the PMO or the privy council office, the open witness we have from events or what we hear from so many Liberal backbenchers runs the other way.
Never, not even in Pierre Trudeau’s first mandate, has modern Ottawa had a ministry, a government caucus and a governing party under more constant, tighter control and “minding” than this one. And as both the Somalia inquiry and the APEC inquiry demonstrate, there is never a concession of mistakes or bad judgment.
Here Chretien is in his sixth year in the top office with a ministry duller than the one with which he began. He let the APEC incident go from mouse to elephant through want of an apology and a frank admission of some responsibility immediately after the ruckus. He would even turn a hard-driving CBC reporter into a martyr for life within his craft, and he would stick with a fool through a six-week uproar rather than fire him and spoil some perfection in ministerial behaviour which exists only in his mind and his brag.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Sunday, November 22, 1998
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN
PAUL MARTIN: FUN WITH FIGURES
What’s up with Paul Martin?
Just last August he was forecasting the dawn of a new golden age. In the 21st century (only 14 months away) We will lead our trading partners in the creation of jobs and growth and become a nation of abiding prosperity whose wealth will touch all parts of the country.
Two months later, he saw dark days ahead: the world is in the grips of serious economic instability.
Martin indicated budget surpluses would be smaller than expected and Canada had to batten down the hatches. Why?
Safeguarding our financial health at home is the sine qua non of riding out the global storm we are now in, said Martin.
Then last week he announced a record budget surplus of $10.4 billion – collected in just the first six months of this fiscal year.
How credible is the finance minister after all this? Where do our nation’s finances really stand? And where do we go from here?
Forget looking to the financial “experts” for answers.
Last month most of them were praising Martin. Bank of Montreal’s deputy chief economist, Rick Egelton, found the finance minister’s credibility is almost unassailable, while the chief economist for the Bank of Nova Scotia felt his record of making and keeping promises would make him a good – even great – prime minister.
Then the new surplus figures arrived and – whoops! – opinion changed.
Reflecting a common view, one financial newsletter chastised Martin’s stubbornness in sticking to revenue and surplus projections from his last budget long after it became obvious they were too low. This, frankly, undermines the interest in his economic and financial update.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, formerly a Martin booster, joined the chorus.
The $5.7 billion discrepancy between his projections and reality cannot be solely attributed to prudent assumptions, as the finance minister would have it. Rather, it stemmed from an unreasonably low projection for revenues, which only serves to add confusion to the government’s fiscal position. It is extremely important the government provides financial statements which give a clear account of revenues and projected surpluses.
My regular readers know that one authoritative source, Auditor General Denis Desautels, has long challenged the veracity of Martin’s pronouncements and the finance department’s accounts. While Martin’s fans in the media and business either ignored his fiddling with the figures, or embraced it as a necessary evil to keep spendthrifts in cabinet and caucus at bay, the A-G has consistently insisted that the government come clean.
For example: “The determination of the annual surplus or deficit of a government … is a most important accountability exercise … There should be no doubt that those figures are properly tabulated and represent what took place.”
Now that the gulf between the finance minister’s projections and reality can no longer be ignored, perhaps others will accord the rest of Martin’s record the scrutiny it deserves.
Consider, for example, the widely held notion that Martin deserves credit for killing the deficit because he had the courage to rein in federal spending, unlike previous finance ministers. A recent Reform party paper dissected the public accounts to assess exactly how we arrived at this new era of surpluses. Its findings put Martin’s achievements into perspective.
Martin’s biggest cuts were to federal transfers to the provinces (health and social transfers down 25%, equalization 5%). In other words, he chose to cut teachers, doctors and nurses employed by the provinces ahead of federal employees.
On the federal scene he did cut the defence department – by a whopping 21%. But given the lack of a strong defence lobby and public indifference to servicemen and women living in substandard housing, or operating obsolete, unreliable, and sometimes unsafe equipment – how much courage did this take?
The Reform study concluded that Martin cut federal departmental discretionary spending (excluding transfers to provinces and individuals) by less than 2%.
A fair question is: given such a smidgen of cuts for the federal bureaucracy, how did Martin manage a $10 billion surplus? Taxes, taxes, and more taxes.
Since 1993 federal income tax revenues have increased 38%, corporate tax revenues 139% and GST revenues 24%. Revenues from Employment Insurance premiums rose only 3.3%, but payouts dropped 33%, providing an estimated $19 billion surplus. (Without this cash, the government would still be in the red.)
All told, revenue increases account for 76.7% of the progress from deficit to surplus. And today Ottawa takes 17.2% of the GDP for itself, up from 16.2% in 1993.
Is it mere coincidence that the personal disposable income of Canadians has dropped almost 1% a year since 1993? Canada’s income per person today is 30% less than that of the U.S.
Martin offers us no immediate hope of relief from the heavy burden government now imposes on us. Unfortunately, the timing just isn’t quite right – the Asian meltdown and all that. Big tax cuts will come – later.
As it happens, that’s when they could give a wondrous payoff to a finance minister intent on winning his party’s leadership and a subsequent election.
But that never entered into his thinking. You have his word on it.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Wednesday, November 18, 1998
COLUMN: The Hill
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER
A DECENT MAN, BUT A POLITICAL DUD
No more excuses for myself over Joe Clark. No more dodging Clark as a topic, now that he is again officially the leader of the federal Progressive Conservative party.
Clark first became an MP in 1972 at age 33. Four years later, he won the PC leadership in a tightly contested convention only to lose it to Brian Mulroney in a convention in 1983. Sandwiched in those seven years as leader were nine months as prime minister (May, 1979-February, 1980).
Clark lost the top political job in Canada when he lost a confidence vote in the House on his government’s first budget.
When Clark became prime minister he said he would act “as though I have a majority” although he was seven votes short of one. And so he failed to deal with the six Creditiste MPs who didn’t really want another election and he figured the Grits wouldn’t muster all their MPs because of an unsettled leadership following Pierre Trudeau’s decision to step down.
The Liberals mustered all but one of their MPs (and he was “paired” with a Tory), and with the NDP and Creditistes onside the deed was done. Our youngest PM was gone.
Three hours before the fatal vote I encountered two of Clark’s closest counsellors on the Hill and asked if they knew the Liberals were bringing in their whole caucus to win the vote and oust the government. Well, they’d heard this from others but were skeptical.
Even after the lost vote there was an escape-hatch in the precedent set by Lester Pearson’s minority government in the winter of 1968 when it ignored the defeat of its budget on third reading and held another vote which saved it when some fourth-party MPs decided they didn’t want a winter election.
Clark ignored the precedent, probably because he thought he would win a majority government in the election to come, particularly because the Liberals were in disarray over their leadership.
Any such disarray lasted barely a day: the Liberals resurrected Trudeau and shortly he swept to his third and last majority government. As for Clark, back as leader of the Opposition, he was doomed by a divided caucus and clever undermining over two years by Mulroney outside the House, but with friends within the caucus ready to bounce “the man who couldn’t count.”
FORGIVE AND FORGET
It is obvious today that a good majority of those who now hold memberships in the federal Tory party either forgive or forget the former stupidities of Joe Clark as leader. I find it hard to do either, and despite recognizing that I’ve never dealt with a more decent man and few more able at House of Commons gamesmanship.
As a columnist who has followed Clark’s career since his first speech in the House 26 years ago (it was on youth unemployment) I have wanted to forget those stupidities which needlessly blew a government out of office. I have tried to ignore my sympathy for those Tory MPs in the 1979 House who had worked hard in Parliament to cut away the mythical Trudeau superiority and had almost succeeded – indeed, were within a few weeks of seeing the Liberals call a convention to choose his successor.
Clark’s best friend in politics, Harvie Andre, once compared him to Brian Mulroney. The latter, he said, has much vanity but not much ego, whereas Joe Clark has an enormous ego but no vanity. And it is this ego, exemplified in daring to return after such harsh setbacks, that has brought Clark back. He thinks he has something important to offer Canadians. He believes he is far more astute at 59 than he was at 40.
For Joe Clark, my synonym for the “ego” which Andre noted would be “will” or “willpower.” Oh, has he willpower! He is back from a comfortable, and modestly respected, retirement of five years to save (he believes) his party from oblivion, to knock the Reform party back into a small Alberta base, to rout the Liberals from office and of course, to preserve the unity of, as the title of his only book calls it, A Nation too Good to Lose.
His ideas, his prose, his style and mannerisms haven’t changed. After all that’s happened to him and his party since 1980 he remains a Red Tory on social issues and in international relations. He is still determined to be respectful and kind to Quebecois aspirations, even to go for a better Charlottetown accord. He would be competent in an opposition role day-to-day in the House. He is certainly not a chameleon politician. He is a straight guy, not a double-dealer. Nonetheless, and I hate to say it or predict it, as a prime minister he was, and would be again, a dud.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Sunday, November 15, 1998
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN
SO MUCH TO READ, SO LITTLE TIME
After several weeks of it, how does this reader size up the battle between the would-be national papers, the Globe and Mail and the National Post? Well … much the same as after the first day.
In what I call “total reading,” the Post is gaining with me, principally because of better, earthier feature writing, most notable in the financial sections. The sports pages are a saw-off. The Globe has an edge in variety and in more informed analysis regarding politics, particularly federal politics, but higher than that in my favour is its crisper layout and a clean look, as against the Post’s dirty look (much like Southam’s Montreal Gazette but unlike its Ottawa Citizen).
On the so-called “national” front, it’s early days but the new paper’s competing well across the provinces, except for B.C. where a couple of columnists (Gordon Gibson and Norman Spector) pump up the Globe.
I have to read both papers!
– – –
If you want a chatty but responsible appraisal of the media and its moral and competitive dilemmas, both globally and in North America, consider the book Trivia Pursuit: How Showbiz Values are Corrupting the News, published by M&S, and written by Knowlton Nash, an old CBC stalwart as reporter and anchor. It has a light but useful history lesson on the reporting of news, particularly the continual efforts by the authorities to censor or to dictate interpretations.
The veteran reporter is gloomy about the future of general-purpose newspapers and network television. See the proliferation of “niche” channels and publications; see how the combination of mass computer usage, digital technology and the Internet is outmoding the general-purpose news operations.
Nash makes those outside the news business aware of how unsettled it has become for those in it. No one has job security.
– – –
The most famous or infamous “investigative” reporter of our time is Stevie Cameron. She came onto what she believes “a great yarn” during her examination of Brian Mulroney’s career. Perhaps the huge reputation Cameron has for delivering dirt on politicians will mean heavy sales for a new book, Blue Trust: The Author, the Lawyer, His Wife and Her Money, published by MacFarlane, Walter & Ross.
The story seemed tedious to me because none of the main characters is either fascinating or sympathetic. It’s true that Mulroney is hauled into the story on a score or more pages, with the author breathing heavily, figuratively speaking, but he is really little more than a walk-by in this tragedy of an illicit love which ended in a lawyer’s suicide (1993) and left a very bitter widow.
The “author” is the very successful novelist Arthur Hailey, whose daughter had twin children out of wedlock from a love affair with Bruce Verchere, the “lawyer.” This “Kamloops kid” was elevated to a big Montreal law firm in the ’70s and became a tax adviser to Hailey and to Mulroney. His wife, Lynne Verchere, more than matched his rise by creating such a successful software firm he was able to use several million of her profits for his own speculations and extravagant lifestyle.
It’s 36 years since Arthur Hailey entertained us with In High Places, a novel about political Ottawa. It had the capital of the day buzzing as readers sought to match fictional characters with real politicians and bureaucrats. It was both a “good yarn” and a fair facsimile of political intrigue. Hailey merits more than he gets in Blue Trust.
– – –
Paul Palango, another “investigative” reporter, has a new book which probably deserves serious attention and considered reactions from a lot of people in authority, federally and provincially. The title is apocalyptic: The Last Guardians: The Crisis in the RCMP … and in Canada (M&S).
I say “probably deserves” simply because I have never been sure the RCMP is an exceptionally fine police force or thought of the Mounties as our “last guardians.” Thus I may be less concerned than I should be at the dark, grim case the author makes of a shaken force with riven purposes and poor morale.
If you choose to read this book, note well the chapter titled: “The Trudeau Effect: Federalism as a Business.” It’s an insight which came belatedly to Palango, a Trudeau fan, on how Trudeau as PM sold out English Canada and the Mounties to meet his conception of constitutionally proper federal-provincial roles.
– – –
An odd couple, Michael Valpy, a Globe and Mail writer, and Deborah Coyne, a lawyer once an intimate of Pierre Trudeau, have produced a paperback titled To Match a Dream: A Practical Guide to Canada’s Constitution, published by M&S. It may be a prideful item for Trudeau’s idolators but it is not a very practical guide to the Constitution. The tone throughout is smart-ass, and so very condescending about the failed accords – Meech and Charlottetown. The text has neither a competent table of contents, a thorough, cross-referenced index, a handy chronological profile, nor any substance on the consequences so far of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In short, as a guide it’s a dodge and a dog.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Wednesday, November 11, 1998
COLUMN: The Hill
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER
OUR TOP SOLDIER IS OUT OF TOUCH
Let us reflect, this Remembrance Day, on the civil and military leadership of our country, past and present.
In particular, reflect on the wrong-headed ignorance displayed just last week about our military history by Gen. Maurice Baril, Canada’s top soldier, in response to a report on quality of life in the services issued by the Commons committee on national defence and veterans affairs. Somehow Gen. Baril got it into his head that comparisons made in this report cast his leadership and that of the defence department (led by Art Eggleton) in a favourable light.
The report included a host of accusations aimed at both national defence and veterans affairs. These could collectively be described as wholesale neglect of the needs of those in uniform. Most damning was the charge that both departments shirk their duty to care for those emotionally scarred by peacekeeping operations.
In places like Bosnia and Rwanda Canadian troops face most of the stresses of combat operations, plus others unique to peacekeeping. Mines, for instance, are a constant menace, and when things turn hot they may have to stand aside and watch as defenceless civilians are raped, tortured, murdered.
Such pressures (especially continuing exposure to them from repeated tours overseas), can lead to post-traumatic stress (PTS), a debilitating condition characterized by nervousness, a sapping of the will, sleeplessness and withdrawal. PTS is often accompanied by physical ailments.
Gen. Baril acknowledged that some under his command had developed PTS and were not properly diagnosed or cared for. He followed this admission with something he’s become very good at: an apology. To his previous “mea culpas” for the military’s lack of effective leadership, its insensitivity on gender issues, and its inability to keep senior officers from pocketing monies they weren’t entitled to, he added another: insensitivity about the effects of prolonged stress on the minds of our troops.
There were, however, mitigating circumstances: We had faced situations our predecessors were not exposed to; we were exposed to killing and could not fight back. We had soldiers coming back with broken minds. That was something of a discovery. Would-be critics of the general and his department were assured that, speaking historically, he and his department are enlightened.
Those who were shell-shocked in World War I, we treated as cowards and shot. In World War II, we treated them as cowards and painted yellow crosses on their backs. Between 1945 and 1992 we ignored it. Now we realize there is such a thing as a broken mind, that people may have difficulty putting away what they have seen.
What drivel! Psychological injury is not a new phenomenon for the Canadian military. To attempt to claim a higher moral ground for this generation of military leaders on that basis is outrageous. That troops posted to Bosnia and Rwanda would develop PTS was to be expected, given the horrors encountered there. If PTS came as a surprise to our senior military leadership then their training and education has been woefully inadequate.
SEVERE MANPOWER SHORTAGE
Consider this. Following the bloody Normandy campaign (summer, 1944) the Canadian Army faced a severe shortage of infantry. In their search for replacements our generals cast covetous eyes on the steadily growing number of men being treated in military hospitals for psychological wounds.
As military historians Terry Copp and Bill McAndrew have shown, army medical officers strenuously resisted attempts to return these men wholesale to active duty. They insisted that these injuries were real, and were not the result of any inherent weakness in the men. To cut the rate of psychological injury, exposure to such stresses had to be reduced, either by slowing the pace of operations or by cycling troops from the front to rear areas more often, for longer periods.
So much for painting yellow crosses on their backs. (In 11 months near or at the front in 1944-45 I neither saw nor heard about any yellow crosses.) In WW II no Canadian in our three services was executed for a military crime. As for WW I, some 26 Canadians overseas were executed for cowardice or desertion in the face of the enemy. There was much argument with the British who insisted that Canadian troops sharing lines with theirs should also face this ultimate penalty, considered so imperative to maintain discipline.
Canada’s military history is one of great achievement, often secured at too high a price because bloody lessons had to be relearned. Not enough men; poor equipment; and operational responsibilities beyond our forces ability to sustain them– it’s all happened before.
Gen. Baril’s foolish comments about stress-related injury give more disquieting evidence that the armed forces’ leadership has lost touch with its roots, and forgotten the lessons of yesterday.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Sunday, November 08, 1998
WAR ART … Alex Colville’s Infantry, near Nijmegen, Holland is one of 400 paintings by the famous Canadian artist belonging to the Canadian War Museum. The Colville collection, and over 12,000 more works by wartime artists, will at last be given a permanent home if the new museum is built in Ottawa.
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN
PASSING THE TORCH
FINALLY, OUR WAR VETERANS MAY BE GETTING THE RESPECT THEY DESERVE
In this week of Remembrance it is arguable this has been an unusually satisfying year for those who served in Canada’s wars.
Such an opinion stems from the broad and diverse interest roused early in the year through a major controversy about a planned inclusion of a gallery devoted to the Holocaust in a new wing of the rather shabby and short-funded Canadian War Museum (CWM) in Ottawa.
The controversy triggered a flood of recall and strong views.
Oh, what Canadians had done together, purposefully and largely as volunteers in long, cruel wars. Successes were recounted; so were heroic deeds. There was much on the sacrifice in lives, and some mention of the much replayed failures like the Hong Kong expedition and the Dieppe raid in World War II. In print and through television and radio our younger generations read or saw or heard what our war efforts had been, and of their economic and social significance.
Somehow, almost suddenly, it was all right to talk or write warmly and proudly about this great period in our collective past. And fortunately all the letters, petitions, and hearings about a Holocaust gallery within the war museum brought a stop to it without corrosive criticism of its sponsors or of Israel. It was so heartening that two Jewish Canadians, Barney Danson and Jack Granatstein, emerged as leaders of a rejuvenated war museum. Danson, the former infantryman and cabinet minister, is chairman of the advisory committee to the CWM; Granatstein, the noted historian, is its director and CEO.
Both men have been hard at work for seven months, bolstered by evidence of public enthusiasm across the land and a more genuine interest in the story of Canada at war than there has been since the end of the 1950s.
Federal announcements last week allotted land for a new museum building and undertakings for its joint funding. The site is spacious, in juxtaposition to the popular Canadian Aviation Museum. When the new CWM is completed it will be able to display so many wondrous paintings, campaign panoramas, records, small arms and dress inside, and so much in vehicles and guns outside.
The rebound of recall and memorialization of Canadians at war – so noticeable this year and already getting a finer locale and more content through a stronger CWM – began some five years ago with the CBC-TV series The Valour and the Horror, created by the anti-military, anti-British McKenna brothers of Montreal.
Remember the slow to rise but eventually explosive response of World War II veterans to the insulting, often demeaning, depiction of them in this series?
The Valour and the Horror rather suddenly made a lot of us who were in the war realize we had acquiesced to, or ignored the bowdlerizing and trivializing by many among those coming after us about what veterans, their families, the governments and the services had done in a necessary cause. We had not stood up firmly and tried hard to tell it as it was, or even to see that the importance of the war and its course was taught in our schools.
The oddity and irony of this failure is most clear in the long witness of a penchant of those who served together to get together, again and again. One sees this in the community presence and good works of hundreds of Legion branches across the country. It’s evident in the regularity of scores of annual or biennial reunions – of regiments, batteries, squadrons, wings, air bases, ships, depots, even PoW camps and entertainment groups.
Another element I see in the belated but powerful reactions to The Valour and the Holocaust gallery is the late surge we have had of personal memoirs, unit histories, campaign accounts and simple, picaresque tales of action as the mean age of those who served in World War II rose past 65. Now, for some 450,000 veterans still alive, the mean has passed 75.
TIME TO REFLECT
Retirement from work gave many veterans a chance to reflect, recall and then to write about those shaping wartime years.
The rise of many small presses and easy access to computer-based capacity to print encouraged the appearance in books or pamphlets of much wartime experience. Some of the best – such as artilleryman George Blackburn’s great trilogy on The Guns have sold well. A splendid, voluminous, new history of the South Alberta Tanks has almost sold out a second printing.
In the extraordinary range and diversity of experience by Canadians which I’ve read there’s rarely much glorification of war or celebration of heroism or even much excess in patriotic feeling. Most of it, unpolished or plain though it often is, complements the parallel surge of publishing in books and papers by academics and professional writers in the past decade. The latter has brought us serious biographies, critical appraisals of programs, performance, the origins of the war, our lack of readiness, and even unto the preparations for demobilization and our postwar economy.
To put it briefly, now there are more than enough records and diverse and clear writings to sustain much teaching and vivid recreations about Canadians at war and the bearing this has had on what we are or should be. For example, our history in the World War II period shows why we need allies, both to win wars and to be prepared. Comradeship and “esprit” are vital; so is the appreciation there will be hurtful casualties. Relatives, friends, and acquaintances are lost. There is much mourning and remembrance is poignant and sad.
The boom of interested remembrance may only be a matter of a few years, maybe a decade. Whatever the time, what had been happening and has its symbol in a revitalized Canadian War Museum should cast a more pleasant glow on the remaining years of those who served half a century ago in the last big war.
KEYWORDS: CANADA; MILITARY
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Wednesday, November 04, 1998
COLUMN: The Hill
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER
RUMBLES OF DISCONTENT CROSS PARTY LINES
Over the past three months the most unsettling topic in the day-to-day gossip of federal politics has become party leaders, pivoting mostly around Messrs. Chretien, Manning and Clark.
The uneasiness about their leaders which is running through the caucuses and staffs on the Hill has its match across most of Canada. My sampling of such opinion beyond Ottawa suggests it swings back and forth from pungent assessments of the Chretien-Manning-Clark trio to frustration over the scarcity of fresh alternatives.
The political media didn’t cause the development but they won’t leave it alone. It seems clear the topic will not be left alone nor fade away until one or more of the trio steps down. The signal Jean Chretien gave Monday night that he has many seasons left to play won’t quash the unrest. It is likely to bubble to the close of this Parliament and find its end when the results of the ensuing election force changes.
The prime caveat on this forecast swings on an electoral sweep by Premier Lucien Bouchard in the Quebec election. It could hasten Chretien’s resignation. The second caveat hinges on what progress or postponement ensues from the “united alternative” initiative. The process seems sure to undermine both Preston Manning and Joe Clark.
It isn’t hard to recall a similar period of restiveness across Canada over those who led the federal parties. Consider 1965-68. The elections of 1962, 1963 and 1965 each brought minority governments and led to widespread unhappiness with the main rivals, Liberal Mike Pearson and Tory John Diefenbaker. There was less antagonism toward Tommy Douglas, who led the NDP, and Real Caouette, who led the Creditistes.
The discontent got to Pearson after factions within the Conservatives forced a leadership contest which led to Bob Stanfield replacing Diefenbaker. Pearson resigned, calling a leadership convention for the spring of 1968.
Just as Stanfield had to win over a clutch of strong candidates, so it was for Pierre Trudeau in the Liberal contest. This is a marked difference from today. Alternative leaders of excellence now do not seem to be at hand. Take the Liberals. Hardly anyone in or outside the Liberal party sees a really strong alternative to Chretien beyond Paul Martin, Jr., and even he’s been slipping, probably from overexposure.
As for Reform and the Conservatives, Manning’s initiative to bring those of the right together to end Liberal domination has opened a prospect in which someone other than him or Clark would be a better choice for the united alternative. But obvious successors from within Reform do not spring to mind. The party has some able young MPs but as yet no nonpareil or surefire leader.
The party which Clark will shortly lead is unlikely to get advantages from his long experience and exposure. They don’t seem to be taken as proof of sagacity or judgment. At this time none of the other aspirants for the Tory leadership has a prayer for attaining, then galvanizing, a coalescence of the right against the alleged Liberal left. Perhaps Alberta’s Ralph Klein could become a master for the conservatively minded, but he does not seem either commanding or mysterious but more a politician like Chretien – a guy for plain folks.
So what’s my forecast for this swirl of dissatisfaction with both the present leaders and their prospects as successors?
First, as mentioned, a Bouchard sweep, say 80 or more of the 120 seats in the National Assembly and a margin of three to six points or more in the popular vote, would set up the third referendum on sovereignty for Quebec. It would wipe away patience with Chretien in the caucus and among the big hitters who back and fund the Liberal party. A change could come in a hurry without splitting the party through a quick coronation of Martin.
But Chretien is likely to lead the federal Liberals up to, and probably into, the next federal election if the big Bouchard-PQ win doesn’t come or is a narrow thing in both seats and votes, and with Charest in the assembly leading a numerous opposition.
If it’s the latter result then the best bet for those antagonistic to Chretien or the Liberals – or both – would be a minority House of Commons out of the next federal election. This might also draw those of the right together.
A working association of the Reform and Conservative parties is far more likely to come from a chance to keep the Liberals out of office after an election which denies them a majority than from negotiations which involve such experienced and disparate characters as Preston Manning and Joe Clark.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Sunday, November 01, 1998
ILLUSTRATION: 1. photo by CP
2. photo by Reuters
TOP BRASS … General Maurice Baril, Canada’s top soldier, recently submitted to Parliament the first annual report on the state of our military. Defence Minister Art Eggleton has made it clear he will not allow the forces’ new ombudsman free rein in investigating complaints against the military – he himself will decide what the boundaries are.
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN
RAINING ON THE MILITARY’S PARADE
DESPITE AN UPBEAT ANNUAL REPORT, CANADA’S ARMED FORCES ARE STILL A MESS
The more things change …
Sometimes you can’t win. Ask General Maurice Baril, Canada’s top soldier. Three weeks ago he tabled in Parliament the first annual report on the state of Canada’s military. The report was upbeat, insisting that significant progress is being made in re-fashioning our military into a smaller, better disciplined, more capable and flexible force. Unfortunately for the general – and his political masters – this bit of good news was lost in the media uproar over the crash a few days earlier of a Labrador rescue helicopter, and the subsequent grounding of not only the entire Labrador fleet, but also all our Sea King helicopters.
If there hadn’t been helicopter problems, some other embarrassment would have rained on the general’s parade. A quick survey of recent news stories shows that while the problems plaguing the military no longer garner front-page headlines as often as they once did, they remain as diverse – and embarrassing – as ever.
Consider some recent news items. A special investigations unit is accused of illegally spying on soldiers and civilians. Soldiers tell a Commons committee of being denied treatment for post-traumatic stress; one later claims he was harassed for testifying. Millions in military canteen subsidies are unaccounted for. Accusations of sexual misbehaviour by troops (some involving minors) reach record-high numbers. Drug use and a botched investigation are alleged at a top-secret intelligence gathering facility. Officers are charged with fraud, cocaine use and theft. A sergeant joins Canada’s most wanted list for his alleged involvement in a bank robbery. One helicopter crew is accused of dangerous flying for going UNDER a bridge, while another is held responsible for crashing its multimillion-dollar machine. Soldiers returning from Bosnia are accused of behaving like drunken louts on a Lufthansa flight.
FUNDING SEX CHANGE
Then there are the funny stories. Military-funded sex change operations; streakers and strippers entertaining a regimental mess dinner; and the promise of Viagra for older, if no longer bolder, soldiers.
This is progress?
At the height of the Somalia scandal I wrote that it was “unlikely that the Canadian military can regain the measure of public trust needed to sustain its own capabilities and morale without two personnel changes – a new minister and a new chief of staff … The new minister should be a first-class interlocutor with the public and one who believes we must have an able military, numerous and well equipped enough to meet the government’s explicit purposes. The new chief of staff should be one who can talk well and reasonably to both the public and the ranks.”
David Collenette and John Boyle are long gone. How are Art Eggleton and Maurice Baril doing?
Mr. Eggleton is far from a great speaker but he can bluster, obfuscate and stonewall quite well. His commitment to prime minister, party and his career is splendid, his devotion to the troops and to a strong, well-armed military with accountable and able leadership is debatable. A thoroughly professional politician in the worst sense.
The minister has been unwilling to hold the generals and senior public servants at National Defence Headquarters accountable, preferring to spend time tracking Access to Information releases from his department so those running it don’t blindside him as they did his predecessors. He has also made it clear that the forces’ new ombudsman will only have as much latitude to investigate complaints within the military as he chooses to grant him.
Then there are his repetitious platitudes that our airmen would never be asked to fly in unsafe machines. What callousness about safety and morale of our aircrews!
In 1993 it took Jean Chretien 30 seconds to decide that Mulroney’s EH-101s, ordered to replace the ’60s-vintage Labradors and Sea Kings, were Cadillacs, and cancel them. It took him three years (and two defence ministers) to select the Cormorant (a stripped-down version of the EH-101) to replace the Labradors. Cancelling the original EH-101 contract cost $500 million, and the Labrador replacements won’t be ready until 1999-2002.
Five years on, Messrs. Chretien and Eggleton haven’t made up their minds about a Sea King replacement. Perhaps they believe the machines can run forever. (They themselves don’t drive ’63 Chevys.)
General Baril’s heart, on the other hand, seems to be in the right place. On taking over the army in 1996 he spoke of leaders accepting responsibility for their actions and taking care of their men. He threatened to remove any, regardless of rank, who displayed unacceptable behaviour.
Unfortunately, his subsequent actions have come up short.
The endemic nature of the military’s problems called for a wholesale housecleaning of the senior ranks. This hasn’t happened; the old boys’ network remains in place. Witness the hiring as a teacher of a course on military ethics of a retired general who threw himself a $250,000 retirement parade (while other ranks were living in substandard housing).
The dearth of progress is not surprising. Remember, Baril’s announcement two years ago that he was going to get tough included this: “After almost 10 months as commander of the Canadian army, I now feel that I have a solid understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of our land force.” Who wouldn’t wonder how Gen. Baril could not have noticed “the systematic failure in military leadership” he identified last week during his previous 30 years of service?
Of course, “wondering” is far from synonymous with “wonderful.”
KEYWORDS: CANADA; MILITARY; FEATURE
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Wednesday, October 28, 1998
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN
A GOOD DAY FOR NEWSPAPER NUTS
The ruddy new National Post is good. At least its first issue was.
Of course, we won’t know if the “national” imprimatur it has awarded itself will prove up over the years, notably alongside the circulation and readership of the Globe and Mail, the original claimant of the “national” tag and the main rival facing the new Southam flagship.
Here is my comparison of yesterday’s Post with yesterday’s Globe. It’s more reflexes of a paper-reading “nut” than of a critical journalist. Some 50 years of scanning six or more dailies has firmed up preferences and prejudices. I much appreciate a “clean look” and diversity in opinions. I want lots on politics and economics, wide sports coverage, serious book reviews, intelligent editorials, and at least several writers per paper whom I hate missing.
To begin with the look and the layout. Initial advantage is slight but to the Globe: for crisper black on more white, a shade clearer colour, and fewer jammed-up pages. But the Post is no affront to the eye and the narrower page makes it a mite handier while reading or clipping. I do like the Post’s caricatures of its columnists and top reporters.
To sports, the sector which I’ve been taking more seriously since the early 1930s than I should. It is here, rather than in business, as I had expected, that the Globe seemed over-ready, rich with sports stories of interest and substance. Such a far cry from the Globe of a year or so ago. On this day’s showing, I must take both papers. Again the Post is good, but so is the Globe, and it provided almost a third more content.
The Post’s Cam Cole piece on Gretzky is canny analysis of ingrained but well-managed talent. Dave Feschuk has an unusual topic about the websites which display more hate than love for athletes. In the Globe a big feature on power-enhancing drug use in junior hockey is almost too informative, and there’s a shrewd piece on the fading interest of NHL players in world cup series, plus more than I needed to know about “the Russian Rocket.” On the Post’s “Reporter” page, Christie Blatchford, one of my top 10 journalists in Canadian papers, is searching and judgmental in a story of the long, wretched sex abuse of boys at Maple Leaf Gardens.
In national politics there is another saw-off, more noticeable in news stories than in commentary. I’ll have to read both for politics. I felt the Post had the super-column of the day – by David Olive, satirizing the renewed surge from idolators of Pierre Trudeau; and its “Parliament” page was current and competent. Another of my top 10, Roy McGregor, uses homey reminiscence to shape and appraisal on the return of Joe Clark. He’s less complex with less point-point-point than the Globe’s Jeffrey Simpson in his column on Joe. More entertainment from Roy; more factors and layers from Jeff.
In his pre-Post work I knew Phillip Mathias as a fine book reviewer. Still is – see his fair skepticism about Stevie Cameron’s latest epic.
The Post’s first issue has a light, slight editorial and letters section, and obits are for the future. Its editorials and comment with the most biting analysis were in the “Financial Post” segment, the tone set by a sharp piece on “shareholder sham” from Terence Corcoran, another of my top 10. Under “Media and Markets” there’s trenchant assessment of limp leadership by Perrin Beatty at the CBC and his pending exit, by Matthew Fraser, a Ryerson professor.
If the Post vs. Globe war swings on their business coverage, for me on its first day the Post is a match, an impressive match. If sustained for a few months it will carve away at the Globe’s market in business.
What I’ve taken to be a key element in the Globe’s circulation success of the past decade is the significant cadres of business and government people in cities beyond Metro who now feel they must read it, mainly for the report on business, secondarily for its politics. It seems to me the Post will get a good split of these readers. If it does both papers will survive, probably profitably. Whatever margin eventually develops, given what I see is a fair match on sports, politics, and business will be gained by the calibre and quantity of news that is “national” but not largely Toronto-based or centered. Here, the Globe could be vulnerable, not just because the Southam papers should give the Post such widespread back-up. The Globe has been overweening in its radiation of Toronto as a global cultural capital. And it’s my own hunch that its relentless advocacy of homosexuality, editorially and in features, is not a positive magnet.
On the left or right thing, will it really matter? From the word “go” the Post stable seems to have few lefties in it, whereas the Globe, despite a conservative editorial line on political economy, has quite a few, like Michael Valpy, Geoff York and Rick Salutin.
Will the antagonism for Conrad Black, strong through the media ranks, hurt sales of the Post? To me he didn’t loom out of the first issue.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
DATE: Sunday, October 25, 1998
SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN
RATING PMS FROM THE BOTTOM UP
Oh, are you pleased there is suddenly so much in print and bytes from and about the longest-serving prime ministers of the past three decades?
Brian Mulroney gets the Order of Canada and gives long “exclusive” interviews in which his major initiatives in power are emphasized. And for a fortnight, fresh commentary from Pierre Trudeau and several new books, plus a grand conference marshalled by his idolators, have been attesting to the high relevance of his deeds and ideas for today’s Canada.
Want an antidote, a blunt counter to the imperatives due a great leader?
Well, another new book has a short measure of Trudeau and Mulroney, made by Angus MacLean of P.E.I. At 84, he has just had his memoirs published (Making It Home, a paperback from Ragweed Publishers).
Angus retired in 1982 after 32 years in electoral politics. For six of his 25 years as an MP he was a minister (1957-63); in 1976 he left the House to lead P.E.I.’s Tories and for three years was its premier (1979-81) – a period of much constitutional activity pivoting on Trudeau.
I cannot recollect any MP in modern times who was more respected than Angus by his peers, right across party lines. Everyone appreciated his modesty and salty common sense. A hero of the RCAF, Angus was pilot of a bomber knocked down over Holland in 1942. He made it through Nazi perils to Spain and home, helped by the Underground.
Angus writes: “It always struck me that Mulroney kept trying to out-Trudeau Trudeau. Like Trudeau, he was elected on the basis of image, not experience. Most delegates to the leadership convention probably didn’t realize what they were getting when they voted for Mulroney. Like Trudeau, he appeared obsessed with the Constitution. And, like Trudeau, he succeeded in plunging the country deeper and deeper in debt, and missed a great opportunity to cut the deficit. If I had to rate the prime ministers who have been in power in my lifetime, Mulroney would probably lie near the bottom of the list, just above Trudeau.”
Angus says of the Mulroneys: “When Mulroney was elected, he and his wife unfortunately created the image in the public mind of a pair that exhibited all the modesty, wisdom, maturity, good judgment and restraint of two three-year-olds who suddenly found themselves in charge of a candy store…”
And of Trudeau: “To me, he represented a disagreeable trend, promoted by some members of the media, in which it was considered fashionable to scorn traditional values such as patriotism, the obligations of good citizenship and the concept of individual restraint for the common good.”
< The death at 82 of Brian Dickson, late of the Supreme Court of Canada, has many Canadians beyond the legal profession recalling his great worth as a citizen, in particular, war veterans who know about his bravery in action and his long post-war interest in the comrades of WWII and in the needs of our armed services. He was a well-organized man and an excellent administrator, and he did a splendid job in straightening out and speeding up the work of the highest court. This had been increasingly confused during the years of the energetic, idealistic Bora Laskin, his predecessor as chief justice. The prime memorializing of Brian Dickson, however, is not as a genius at organizing efficiency and despatch in the Court. It has been for the leadership he gave it through the first flood of "Charter" cases (1984-90). His dignified and succinct confidence in applying the Charter helped sustain its popularity as a long-needed bulwark of human rights. And he was clear that the justices had to turn more thoroughly to American jurisprudence from British jurisprudence for interpretations and decisions on rights and freedoms. As one who has seen an enfeebling of our parliamentary system in the Charter and who is saddened, not enthused, about the consequences of the Charter thus far, I believe posterity will be more critical of the Dickson years of the Court, and of its work under his successor, Antonio Lamer, in interpreting the Charter. Think of the billion-dollar costs of decisions stemming from the Charter. Take that absurd one on refugee rights, or the morale-destroying ukase that combat troops must include women. Note what a recent decision has forced forward in the case of the Nisga'a land claims in B.C. Consider how the gross extravagance of retrospective pay equity has threatened Paul Martin's trumpeted surplus. Ponder the American-like bent to litigiousness we have seen developing from the Charter. Look at the excuses which judicial override keeps providing temporizing politicians. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, October 21, 1998 ID: 12057705 TAG: 199810211080 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 15 COLUMN: The Hill SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER LIBERALS UNSURE OF APEC DAMAGE Not for the first time as prime minister, Jean Chretien seems frazzled and unsure as he wobbles before the surge of media and opposition criticism over the manhandling of student protesters at the last APEC summit. Readers may recall several previous occasions like this. For example, the snuffing out of the Somalia inquiry, or the libel-emphasized furor which arose after the RCMP and Justice officials pursued Brian Mulroney for (they falsely claimed) taking profit from an Air Canada purchase of Airbus planes. There appear to be some differences in the mood regarding Chretien this time, notably in the media, which seem far less ready to let this matter slip by without a figurative crucifixion of the man at the top. Changes in mood are usually intangibles. However, a consensus seems to have been reached by the media pack that Canada has a tired, unimaginative and cautious government, mirroring its boss. And strong evidence of this has been taken from Chretien's stonewalling on who ordered what and why regarding security at the APEC summit, from the fatuousness of his solicitor general and from the refusal to pay lawyers for the student complainants. Even more recent is the attack on the CBC journalist who led and orchestrated the revelations of the PMO's responsibility for the outbursts on the UBC campus. As I've read public opinion, what Mr. Chretien has had going for him in the three controversies - Somalia, Airbus, APEC - is the dearth of anger and shock among Canadians. In passing, I would have you note that each situation has had its "media" theme. See (a) the scorn of William Kaplan, author of Presumed Guilty, for the media's inadequacy in examining the injustices to Mulroney; or (b) the rather similar judgment of the media and the public made by Peter Desbarats, a journalism school dean who served on the inquiry panel which was folded up by the Chretien government; or (c) the PMO's accusations of bias and conflict of interest against CBC reporter Terry Milewski and the rough response already rippling back, which suggests Chretien's spinners should have left Milewski alone. Not only CBC bosses are defending him; so are many in the news business who appreciate this reporter's tough on-air appraisals of RCMP and PMO antics, plus his astute control over both his student collaborators and the development of his scoop. PUBLIC INDIFFERENCE Canadians never really got worked up "en masse" over the killing of a Somali teenager who had been prowling around a compound of our airborne soldiers. Nor were they at all aghast at the brutal breach of Brian Mulroney's rights and his good name by the RCMP. And I believe such a relative public indifference has been obvious since the Suharto-APEC imbroglio developed. Only a minority of citizens seems troubled by the manhandling of a swarm of noisy, placard-bearing, hairy, ring-pierced students by the RCMP and the arrest of half a hundred of them without any subsequent charges. One factor which was in play in the early stages of the APEC affair was probably an earned reflection of the conceit, even arrogance, around the prime minister. The students targeted Jean Chretien. From the beginning of their demands for an inquiry, the student protesters insisted he had masterminded their mistreatment at the command of a brutal Asian dictator. This not only seemed unfair to such a popular, ordinary guy (and certainly no Mulroney), but as an attention-getter it dwarfed questions of prime concern. Why had there been such ready, immediate, and casual infringement of basic rights by the police? Clearly the RCMP had had "intelligence" appraisals of students as security risks. Was this not a task taken from the force and given to CSIS after the report of the MacDonald inquiry into RCMP wrongdoing two decades ago? Given the loyalty, the astounding loyalty, of Chretien's caucus, it is almost certain the APEC controversy will subside and shortly will only be getting passing mention in partisan warfare in the rest of Chretien's rule, or sooner if the inquiry's report is a police-buster. The obvious, simple question is: how much damage has APEC been doing to the Liberals? A lot, particularly to the image of the PM as a caring, sharing little guy. And this will weaken the support he will have throughout the Liberal party for his run at a third mandate. At last Chretien seems to have become over-exposed - too familiar, too facetious, and irritating more and more people. He's not done but he needs a re-tread. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, October 18, 1998 ID: 12057165 TAG: 199810191602 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C5 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN GOLDEN AGE WAS A LIBERAL DECEPTION Did you enjoy Canada's new golden age, the one Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Finance Minister Paul Martin boasted of this past spring? Despite its briefness? Last Wednesday, the limitless horizons Mr. Martin had foreseen for Canada in August had vanished. The minister had bleak news as he delivered his annual economic update. It seems the international financial crisis which has put the economies of Asia, Russia and now Latin America into tailspins is the major reason why the glory is over - for a time. As with much of what Messrs. Martin and Chretien have said on our economic record, take this with a pinch of salt. Yes, the immediate cause of our current difficulties is the world situation, but an economic downturn was inevitable - recessions are. Good governments, like good businesses, account for these in their plans. In a sense the finance minister did, but not in a manner that does him credit, or Canadians much good. I refer you to this government's curious accounting practices, as described by Auditor General Denis Desautels. In April the A-G included a chapter in his report to Parliament on "The Importance of Complying with Objective Accounting Standards." This contrasted the progress made in cleaning up the nation's financial reports during the '80s and early '90s (when Canada was a world leader in this respect under Brian Mulroney), with this government's fast and loose accounting practices. The A-G noted how the Chretien government, in defiance of normal accounting practices, charged the costs for harmonizing the GST and PST in the Maritimes ($961 million), for the Canada Foundation for Innovation ($800 million) and for the Millennium Scholarship Foundation ($2.5 billion) to current years, when the actual spending would not take place until later. (In doing so, the government showed contempt for Parliament, which had not yet voted for all the initiatives for which monies were being set aside.) Cooking the books had two goals. One - widely leaked though not openly acknowledged - was to draw down the treasury so as to postpone any declaration of a budget surplus. Liberal spinners insisted this strengthened Mr. Martin's hand in fighting off the cabinet's spendthrifts. The idea that the Finance minister should be allowed to distort the nation's finances because the PM cannot control his cabinet bothered very few in the media. Rather, many praised the cunning of Messrs. Martin and Chretien. And the opposition never mounted much of an attack despite the assault on their prerogatives. OBVIOUS MOTIVE Today, the other motive behind these accounting tricks is surely obvious. The Innovation and Millennium Scholarship foundations are not just close to the PM's heart, they are essential to the Liberals' electoral prospects. Charging the costs of these programs to earlier, cash-rich years means that the money marked for them will be available when they kick in - at election time - regardless of any downturn in the economy. In effect, taxpayers have pre-paid for the next Liberal election stage. Mr. Martin's claim to the first budgetary surplus in 30 years deserves another grain of salt. The only real surplus is in the Employment Insurance Fund. Mr. Martin has already raided it - and insists he will keep doing so - in his need for revenue. As he has at times admitted, his deficit reduction success has primarily come from increased revenues and reduced interest charges on the debt (about 65%) and not from expenditure cuts (about 35%). Mr. Martin defends taking so much more EI money in his mandate than has been needed by blaming the previous government. In the '80s recession the UI fund, as it was then known, ran out of cash, largely because its qualification terms had been rigged to let those in chronically high unemployment regions receive benefits far beyond their own contributions. The Auditor General then underlined that the fund was broke. UI cheques were being drawn on general government revenues. Therefore, the government ought to include the UI liabilities as part of its own financial reports. And this the Tories did. They also began to increase the UI premiums paid by employers and employees, and to restrict access to benefits. They wanted the fund to be self-sustaining. The Liberals continued these policies, and the re-named EI fund will have an estimated $20 billion surplus this year. Unfortunately for Mr. Martin, during its first term the Chretien government set up a commission to recommend appropriate EI premium levels and, given the big surplus, it will soon advise the government to cut premiums drastically. Mr. Martin continues to refuse to consider this, preferring to continue milking the fund. Without its cash he's still in deficit ($3 billion - $8 billion?), and would face an even bigger deficit next year. Small businesses and labour groups have objected to the EI grab. So have the provinces, with Alberta's treasurer noting that if Mr. Martin has his way, Ottawa will be taxing the provinces to pay for its own deficit. As an employer, the Alberta government contributes nearly $1 billion to the EI fund. Canadians today face a scary global financial crisis with a national government that remains very deep in debt, has been unable to actually eliminate its deficit, and which seems to feel that the only way out is to jiggle the national accounts and take from those who may become unemployed. Perhaps we deserve this. After all, we - the media, the public, even the Opposition - wanted a golden age, and so we let ourselves be taken in by reiterations of a "sound economy." We'll soon know how much we've been deceived. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, October 14, 1998 ID: 11951857 TAG: 199810141452 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 16 ILLUSTRATION: photo by Reuters STILL GOING ... The subject of a conference this week at York University and a raft of new books, former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau (shown in 1995 photo) continues to captivate Canadians. COLUMN: The Hill SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER TRUDEAUMANIA'S SECOND COMING TRUE BELIEVERS ARE ON THE MARCH TO PROTECT THEIR HERO'S LEGACY DATELINE: OTTAWA Another rash of Trudeaumania has erupted. Such idolatrous and nostalgic stuff is more topical and less arcane than it may seem. Why so? Firstly, there's the contrast. Although it is 14 years since he resigned as prime minister after 16 years in power, to so many liberally minded English Canadians Pierre Trudeau represents a wonderful contrast to the incumbent prime minister, both as an intellectual visionary and as a proven master of the separatist thrust in Quebec. Secondly, as Quebec and Canada now await the date of a crucial election by Premier Lucien Bouchard, Sun columnist William Johnson has been leading a fresh charge by Alliance Quebec against the laws and the threats from the majority which constrain English usage in the province. Johnson is one of the most vigorous and rigorous of Trudeau's disciples. Thirdly, a conference at York University this week will focus on the Trudeau era and its consequences. It promises to be a bigger, livelier retrospective than the colloquiums of mandarins and professors which honoured Lester Pearson early last year in Ottawa. It's doubtful Conservative prime ministers like John Diefenbaker or Brian Mulroney could scare up more than a handful of academics and deputy-ministers for similar examinations. And then there are the new books by or about Trudeau (now 79). His bibliographic canon is already considerably longer than that of any other prime minister, even of revered ones like Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier. FERVENT ADMIRER One of the new items is a book along the lines of the famous Red Book of Chairman Mao. It's titled The Essential Trudeau, and was compiled and edited by a fervent admirer, Ron Graham, the Montreal journalist who worked with Jean Chretien in creating his big best-seller, Straight from the Heart (1985). This new entry is not just a collection of snippets arranged under very general chapter headings like "On Democracy" and "On Human Rights." Most chapters have in italics some fresh updates by the leader, usually in a justifying-with-hindsight mode. A second new book is a large collection of essays, mostly by academics and former colleagues: The Life and Legacy of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. These were collected and edited by Jack Granastein, an historian whose publishing record is beginning to eclipse Pierre Berton's, and Andrew Cohen, another Montrealer who now writes for the Globe and Mail. A third book may garner more readers and its author more talk-show appearances than the editors of these more scholarly compilations. It is a kiss-and-tell tale by a Trudeau mistress (she says) for some eight years. Liona Boyd is both a beautiful musician - figuratively a blonde Margaret - and one who's concerned her readers appreciate she is both honest and morally aware. When PET was in office neither reporters nor partisan rivals made much of two of his penchants: his unvarying, consistent frugality (just with his own money, not the taxpayers') and his appetite for trysts with sexually attractive women. It is neither stupid nor malicious to think that for many Canadians, particularly younger ones, much of the magnetism and mystery of Trudeau which captivates them comes from both his Casanovan repute and this paradox of a man of wealth who pinches pennies. ILL-ADVISED ACTS As one who believes Canada continues along the brink of breakup and has a grim economic future far more because of ill-advised acts under Trudeau's leadership than by his successors, I find sardonic humour in Ron Graham's determination to elevate Trudeau far above any concern, or even interest, in either his legacy or today's banal politics. Note why he ultimately contradicts this elevation. As Graham puts it: "Unlike many retired leaders, he isn't eager to profert his opinions about current events ... nor is he interested in spending the remainder of his years sniping at his successors and harking back to better days. Even more unusual, he is neither obsessed with his place in history nor convinced people care about what he thinks." Unfortunately, there are those who would misinterpret, even blackguard Trudeau. As Graham phrases it: "A whole series of myths, errors and outright lies has taken a stubborn hold ... The pervasiveness of such deliberate or ignorant distortions ultimately persuaded him of the usefulness of yet another effort at restating and explaining his basic principles." Thus the need for what we now have; i.e., what Trudeau and Graham think is "a clear, authoritative summation of what Pierre Trudeau has stood for, what he wanted to accomplish in office, and why." As an "essential pocket guide to the miles of Trudeau papers" it will be very handy for succeeding generations of scholars. Ah, it's too late now for any "second coming," but the vision and the principles may inspire and energize a new Liberal messiah. Amen! Read the book - with a critical mind, please - and assay what greatness some people believe led us ... once upon a time! The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, October 11, 1998 ID: 11951242 TAG: 199810121257 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C7 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN CHRETIEN'S CABINET: MEDIOCRITY AT ITS BEST DATELINE: OTTAWA The foolishness of Andy Scott, the solicitor general, prompts broad questions about our federal government. But rather than sharply summarizing where we seem to be with a government now 16 months into its second majority mandate, let me lead to a conclusion which the loose talk of minister Scott underlines: the obvious and calculated mediocrity of the Chretien cabinet. The calculation is Chretien's. He has revelled, and continues to revel in the role of prime minister. He feels no need for a galaxy of talented and ambitious ministers around him. He is sure he can cover for all or any of them when partisan politics gets rough, even for Finance Minister Paul Martin, who is far and away the only cabinet necessity, aside from himself. The prime minister exerts direct discipline on his cabinet, caucus, and party on his own and through his closest, non- elected counsellors, not through his ministers. He has shown no patience with any Liberal MPs who ignore the whip or contradict the government line. Other than Martin, Chretien has no need for any cabinet lieutenants, regional or otherwise; however, his autocracy is enhanced by the venerable "dean" of the House and superb stonewaller, Deputy PM Herb Gray. It was unfortunate for Scott that Dick Proctor, the NDP MP who overheard his long conversation with a man in the next seat was an ex-reporter and a note-taker. There is such folly in a cabinet member gossiping in an open setting about persons involved in the two most controversial recent affairs of the RCMP, the group he answers for in Parliament. Scott showed both naivete and stupidity in recounting puffy stuff on his big project coming soon for Fredericton and his own sweet future as an ambassador. How did such an innocent get into cabinet - and one of its most sensitive posts? His route was a common one: back-room boy for a Liberal premier; work in the party; some good press as a humane friend of underdogs; a nomination as candidate and a seat won in the House. The defeat in the '97 election of Doug Young left New Brunswick without cabinet representation. There were only three Grit MPs left. One was very green, Scott the better known of the other two. FEW CHOICES All right. The province merited a cabinet spot and the choices were few. But why place Scott in such a dicey spot? And why, once Scott exposed himself as loose-lipped and with a dubious memory, would the PM not derrick him, at least until the APEC inquiry is over? The answer surely is that such immediate action was too much for Chretien's pride and his belief in his own abilities to cover for this foolish fellow. Since taking power in 1993, Chretien has added and subtracted from his ministry because of electoral loss (David Dingwall and Doug Young) or retirement to high patronage posts (Andre Ouellet, Roy McLaren, and Ron Irwin) or for other ambitions (Brian Tobin). But cabinet changes or shifts within it have been surprisingly few. For example, 22 of the present 27 cabinet members were there before the last election, and after it Chretien created just five new members: the aforesaid Andy Scott; Herb Dhaliwal (national revenue); Lyle Vanclief (agriculture); Alasdair Graham (Senate leader); and Christine Stewart (environment). The most striking evidence of both Chretien's caution and his cabinet's mediocrity is in the 12 members from Ontario, the province which gave Chretien 98 MPs out of 99 to choose from in 1993 and 97 MPs in 1997. He added only two last year: Vanclief, who so far seems to have agriculture in hand, and Stewart who is ineffectual (or so it seems to me) in environment. Ironically, the most repetitious dud performer from Ontario, Allan Rock, whatever his mistakes and lack of political smarts, has some real talents as a debater and in presenting a detailed, cogent argument. Failed though he has - repeatedly - he remains impressive when he's measured beside such devout Chretien backers as Sergio Marchi (trade), David Collenette (transport), Sheila Copps (heritage), Diane Marleau (international co-operation), Art Eggleton (defence) and Jane Stewart (Indian affairs). These are not obviously able or vital ministers, nor even interesting personalities on their own. Although John Manley (industry) is far from a beacon of inspiration or ideas, he's not incompetent. Don Boudria (House leader) is, like farmer Vanclief, well-matched with his task. Until this fall, entering the second year of this mandate, Chretien has kept his cabinet and caucus in a tight grip. It's been a grand run, but I think it's coming to a close. And not because of the suppression of student protest in Vancouver. OTHER FACTORS One can credit this to other factors. Consider the long, scary decline of the Canadian dollar. Consider the ripples of apprehension now running strongly through the world from the difficulties of Asian economies that seem more and more to presage a recession here. Consider the growing controversy over the burgeoning surplus in the employment insurance account that is now raising doubts that Martin really did have a surplus last February. Consider the cumulative effect on the public and even more notably on political reporters, of their growing familiarity with Chretien and his ways, typified by iron-handed rule and an arrogant confidence as he has brushed away criticism. Consider the worry that the gambit of Jean Charest challenging Lucien Bouchard in Quebec may go for naught in the next few months and bring federal Canada face to face again with another referendum on separation. Canada is rarely for very long an easy country to govern. The coming winter augurs much difficulty for the government and a long testing of Jean Chretien and his unimpressive cabinet. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, October 07, 1998 ID: 11950122 TAG: 199810071341 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 16 COLUMN: The Hill SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER PRESUMED GUILTY: THE SCANDAL THAT WASN'T DATELINE: OTTAWA Fair, thorough, and well-told political stories are uncommon in Canada, particularly about an allegedly scandalous affair. So let us treasure author William Kaplan and his latest book, Presumed Guilty, published by McClelland & Stewart. The sub-title gives its gist: Brian Mulroney, the Airbus Affair, and the Government of Canada. The book is a complicated but entertaining account, which illuminates how our federal government operates and blunders, plus - and this is a fascinating plus - the interplay of political journalists, police and politicians. The very large cast in Presumed Guilty is topped by the prime minister, a former prime minister, a deputy prime minister and a minister of justice. There are Mounties, a raft of federal bureaucrats, a swarm of reporters and television producers, clutches of spin-doctors and lobbyists and literally squadrons of lawyers as the story moves to its sudden denouement on the eve of the big court trial. Author Kaplan is a lawyer, scholar, and teacher. His books have order and pace despite much information and due care in being judgmental. He makes understandable a complicated legal case that ended well for plaintiff Mulroney but without giving him the sweeping victory and the thorough apology he deserved. Some of my colleagues won't agree, but I think the author proves himself both aware and fair in presenting and judging the substantial and often dubious contribution of the media. More than most political uproars, this one was sparked by the media from its beginning in 1985 when Air Canada began an evaluation of aircraft before a major purchase. Presumed Guilty ends in early 1997. That's when the libel action Mulroney filed in late 1995 against the government of Canada (for describing him in a request sent to Swiss authorities as a criminal) was settled out of court with an apology and payment of costs. Of course, a big international tussle between two titans of the aircraft industry was a factor in creating the suspicions which underlie the story Kaplan tells. This competition emerged during Air Canada's lengthy assessment of choices between planes made by Boeing, the mighty U.S. firm, and by Airbus, the newish, West European conglomerate. Boeing, backed by the U.S. government, believed undue political interventions favoured Airbus, and so rumours began to shape in gossipy Ottawa that Air Canada's choice of Airbus planes, made in 1988, was influenced by bribes from the European firm to Canadian politicians or their friends. By the time Mulroney retired from office in 1993 he and his government were very unpopular, especially in English Canada. The reasons were many, and far beyond this decision by Air Canada to buy Airbus (the constitutional failures, the free trade deal and the GST). But an obvious explanation for the animosity accorded Mulroney in Canada was always apparent in the journalistic pack covering federal politics in his years in office. Almost from his first attainment of the top job, Mulroney had been disliked and scorned by many of those who wrote or commented on politics. Kaplan outlines the reasons why journalists disliked Mulroney - for hyperbole in speech, an extravagant lifestyle, for toadying to the White House and for many alleged unethical antics and a few real ones of some Tory ministers and backbenchers. None of the reporters detested Mulroney more or followed his course more closely than Stevie Cameron while she worked variously for the Ottawa Citizen, the CBC, the Globe and Mail and Maclean's. Kaplan presents Cameron - I think fairly - as symbolic of both media and public animus and mistrust of Mulroney. She carried forward the theme that there had to be much as yet unknown wrongdoing in his record as PM. In 1994, a year after Mulroney's retirement and Jean Chretien's ascension to power, Cameron unveiled the book On the Take. This long, racy compendium of innuendoes and assertions about Mulroney and his years in office became a huge best-seller. The tawdry image of the former prime minister Cameron's book projected dovetailed well with the broad, pervasive public distrust of him. But Cameron was not through with Mulroney. She suspected him for criminal acts in office. How else could one explain the wealth and conspicuous consumption which he and his wife continued to display post-politics? She had become the authority on Mulroney as an evil leader and she and those media operations she worked for- notably the fifth estate, the CBC's big, investigative TV show - kept probing at the Airbus contract links with Frank Moores and his lobbying colleague, Karlheinz Schreiber. It was Cameron's certainty which contributed to the RCMP investigation that led to the dispatch by the federal justice department of the central document in the Airbus libel case, i.e., the letter to the Swiss which described Mulroney as being on the take (as Cameron would have put it). After much agony for Brian Mulroney he got an apology. He wasn't guilty, and should never have been presumed guilty by federal officials, whatever some journalists believed. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, October 04, 1998 ID: 11949491 TAG: 199810051188 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C7 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN NEW AUDITOR-GENERAL, SAME OLD HORROR STORIES DATELINE: OTTAWA Whatever glory Jean Chretien and Paul Martin may claim for their work as deficit-busters, the auditor general of Canada, Denis Desautels, is making sure their senior officials have little to preen about. Witness last week's second report for the year by the AG. It has nine "chapters," or stories which range over doubtful integrity, slipshod work and costly bungling within the federal government. Because Desautels is a quieter or less obtrusive public personality than his three tougher, rougher predecessors, he and his officers haven't seemed as relentless in criticism or as comprehensive in range. That impression is fading. The courteous Desautels is as stern a critic as the trio of auditor generals in the three decades before him who extended and refined the principles, range and tools he and his staff now use, in particular the very interventionist criterion of "value for money." Of course, the trio referred to was made up of the acidulous and arrogant Max Henderson (1960-73), the sunny but bulldozing empire-builder J.J. Macdonell (1973-81) and the perennially unsatisfied Ken Dye (1981-90). Cumulatively, these three AGs did more than all the parliamentary committees and opposition attackers in blowing away the mystique that emerged in the mid-1950s of a "Golden Age" anchored by the splendid, able mandarins of Ottawa. When I first hit Parliament Hill in 1957 even most opposition MPs believed the federal cabinet was guided and served by the ablest and most unselfish officialdom in the western world. Although Parliament has a public accounts committee chaired by an opposition MP to hear and abet the AG, neither as a whole nor in any of its parts or procedures has it been a persistent, effective scrutinizer of federal spending or the goals such attained, including good service. If anything, Parliament is weaker than it used to be in terms of having lots of MPs who know well and criticize a department or an agency from a basis of up-to-date research. So taxpayers should be grateful Desautels has sustained the skeptical perspective as auditor general. And now that he is empowered to report twice a year, not just once, he is even more the authentic voice of both criticism and sensible reforms for federal operations. For example, in this latest report we get two serious cases of monstrous delays, waste, bungling, incompetence and undue mystery which are literally running up the cost to taxpayers by the billions. These happen to be about particular bureaucracies I've long questioned and I believe the AG's critiques are fair and just. One critique details slipshod methods of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the ingrained bias to the grievers by the commission's staff, hearings and decisions. ENORMOUS GENEROSITY The other chapter describes the dilly-dallying pace and enormous generosity with money and land in the small number of settlements of native land claims that have been achieved so far by the Indian and northern affairs department. Another chapter exposes the shocking boastfulness of a federal drug prices review board in claiming (with tilted evidence) that it has been saving us millions. Another reveals huge holes of inaccuracy and criminal misuse in the basic identity locator for each citizen in our social system, i.e. his or her SIN or social insurance number. Yet another chapter exposes and questions both the generosity and the losses in an interest-free, short-term loan program designed to help farmers bridge the gap between harvesting and marketing their crops. Two chapters raise questions and make suggestions for improvement in the effectiveness of two federal groups with licensing and safety responsibilities - the National Energy Board (NEB) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The veteran NEB, centred in Calgary, doesn't seem geared to handle a recent increase in pipeline incidents. And the newish CFIA is trying to use so-called "alternative service delivery" to do most of the inspection and monitoring that was the responsibility of three different federal departments. A rather discursive chapter goes over the challenges to integrity and ethical conduct which federal officials in Revenue Canada face. While it's not a tale of horrors, it makes clear the risks, the threats to individual privacy and the imperative of managerial vigilance within this tax-gathering department. Usually the hullabaloo in the House and in the media over the revelations in the auditor general's reports fades away in a week or two and the best a bystander can hope for is an eventual, honest response and corrective steps from those found wanting. It's possible, however, that three of the cases from the latest nine will continue to get exposure and cause debate: the Human Rights Commission; the native land claim settlements; and the fiasco of both misuse and too many social insurance numbers. All three should get continuing attention. Why? The first because the Chretien government has both the dilemma of the recent and huge pay equity award to federal employees by the rights commission and its previous promises to review the legislation and the organization. The second because with 60 or more native land claims pending and the rising outrage, notably in B.C. over titanic costs and astonishing rights accorded to bands in one settlement there, land claims have become a chronic issue and a rabble-rouser. The third because all the publicity the AG has now given to the criminal misuse of SINs has made the reform of the system an immediate need. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, September 30, 1998 ID: 11948470 TAG: 199809301317 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 15 COLUMN: The Hill SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER THE LEFT IS RISING AGAIN DATELINE: OTTAWA Is the political pendulum swinging back? Germany has become the latest Western European country to swing from a somewhat conservative government to one of the centre-left. In our own politics, particularly federal politics, this shift may be under way or, at the least, is pending. Some in the Canadian left are hopeful. I read such growing confidence from recent analysis by some of our left's stalwarts of how and why our once caring, responsive state has been taken apart. As examples of their counter-attack, read these three current books. The first I recommend strongest because it is less ideological and is stuffed with more cogent particulars than the others. It is veteran journalist Walter Stewart's trenchant Dismantling the State: Downsizing to Disaster (Stoddart). The other two books also have explanatory titles. They are James Laxer's The Undeclared War; Class Conflict in the Age of Cyber Capitalism (Viking) and Linda McQuaig's The Cult of Impotence: Selling the Myth of Powerlessness in the Global Economy (Viking). Stewart's concluding sentences sum up the theme of all three authors: "Almost all our problems, when you think about them, are matters of perception. We are tearing ourselves apart over a poverty that does not exist, except in our own minds. To begin to reverse the process, we need to look at our history and accomplishments, not American propaganda. We need to begin the trek back to the responsive state we built, not so very long ago, when we believed in ourselves as a people of care, common sense and compassion." Whether "the trek back" is under way or just marshalling for it, let me note two features during the swing to the right in Canada that began when a majority of citizens became full of fear about ever-higher governmental deficits and debt load. First, through the swing which became quite apparent in the late '80s with the Mulroney government, there continued to be vociferous objections to it and all its particulars. Second, in Quebec with a BQ government, and also in B.C. and Saskatchewan, we have had governments which, whatever their retrenchments, have continued to see themselves as social democratic, not conservative or right wing. And despite the leadership which Jean Chretien and Paul Martin have given in Ottawa through staying with major Mulroney policies like the GST and the FTA and in cutting program spending to erase federal deficits, the governing Liberals have continued to sprawl across a very broad centre. One can see in Martin's latest antic of readying to earmark the Employment Insurance surplus for improvements in the health care system how dubious is the grip of conservative economics on our governing party. THREE TARGETS Outside of full-time politicians, the three targets of our left-wing's antagonism in the past decade have been Conrad Black, the press lord who scorns "snivelling lefties," Tom d'Aquino, president of the Business Council on National Issues, and Michael Walker of the Fraser Institute. For example, Stewart writes that "The BCNI is perhaps the most powerful lobby in the nation, and when it talks, even if it's nonsense, the politicians listen." Despite their nasty reputations in the circle of those who care for a caring Canada, neither Black, d'Aquino, nor Walker has become anything near as familiar to TV viewers, especially of CBC Newsworld, or to readers of the popular press, as those who expound left-wing issues and laments. Nationally, not one right-wing woman has been close to getting the "bites" or ink of such as McQuaig, Maude Barlow, Judy Rebick, Elizabeth May and Catherine Ford. And during the long swing to the right, none of its heralds have had the media time and space given to union leaders like Buzz Hargrove and Bob White, or an environmentalist like David Suzuki, an economist like Mel Watkins, an historian like Desmond Morton, columnists like Rick Salutin, Dalton Camp and Susan Riley or to those familiar tribunes of past left-wing glory such as Stephen Lewis and Gerry Kaplan. Just mentioning Stephen Lewis reminded me of a new CBC program, CounterSpin. This nightly half-hour of "public debate" on Newsworld is hosted by an ever-smiling Avi Lewis, son of Stephen, grandson of David. Clearly he's acting as a counter to the prevailing right-wing spin on economic and social issues. One takes from the scoffing directed at both the Chretien Liberals and the Manning Reformers that some executive high in the CBC knows Canadians are rebounding leftward, at least toward the centre. He may be right. One may be sure he is if the Liberals decide to convert the EI surplus to the social net and/or tell the big banks to suspend their plans for mergers. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, September 27, 1998 ID: 11947779 TAG: 199809281358 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C6 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN THE MEDIA'S MESSAGE IS CHANGE THE FOURTH ESTATE IS GOING THROUGH WHAT MAY PROVE TO BE A RENAISSANCE - ONE WHICH MIGHT EVEN REVITALIZE CANADIAN POLITICS DATELINE: OTTAWA Despite the ennui now afflicting federal politics, our national political landscape may soon undergo its greatest change since the Reform party burst onto the Hill in 1993 and led to the creation of the so-called Pizza Parliament. What catalyst might there be for such a change? Well it won't be found among those who'd unite the right to create a counter to the Liberals. They're no closer to that goal than when they began. Nor is it developing within the PC leadership process, whose candidates have generated little enthusiasm in the party and even less in the broader electorate. As for our used-to-be socialists, the NDP's tensions are more with each other over how to accommodate Canada's capitalist reality. Even the Quebec separatists are (temporarily) quiescent these days (though not unhopeful). What could be the potential agent of change is within the broad, diverse institution which provides Canadians with their information, commentary and analysis on political matters -the media! Face it, the fourth estate is going through what may prove to be a renaissance; one which might even revitalize our politics. Change in the print media is being driven by Conrad Black, lover of both newspapers and a good fight. In recent years Black's attention fixed on Britain, where his flagship Daily Telegraph has had a bitter struggle with the Times for supremacy in London's quality newspaper market. In a battle little remarked in his homeland, Black went toe to toe with the world's largest media baron, Australian-American Rupert Murdoch, a man whose wealth makes Black look like a piker. But Black has won, and not just in circulation terms but in the pocket book. Despite circulation wars and price cuts, the Telegraph is believed to have stayed in the black, unlike the rival Times). Now Black's attention is on Canada since he has taken control of the Southam newspaper chain and, very recently, the Financial Post. The latter is to form the nucleus of a new national daily set to challenge the Globe and Mail's claim to this title, and battle it, the Toronto Star, and the Toronto Sun for dominance in the lucrative - and essential - Toronto market. Despite a reputation as a cutter of budgets and staffs, Black has put new resources into his purchases and, by and large, readers seem appreciative. Certainly, in the nation's capital I often hear that the Ottawa Citizen (a Southam paper) is better in the breadth and quality of its coverage since Black took over. Interestingly, often as not those who say this to me caution that they don't like Black's politics (vigorously right of centre but neither Tory nor Reform), and they're waiting to see where the paper's editorial line, already shifted to the right, ends up. The Black challenge is clear, and other newspapers have been responding: witness the Globe's new format, colour photos, and expanded coverage of arts and business. A bidding war is also under way for newsroom talent. There's the lure of higher pay and increased exposure. All this should lead to more political reporting, analysis and commentary. Of course, and alas, at least in the short run, there isn't any guarantee the analyses will be any deeper, or the views expressed any more diversified, than has been the case to date. The national media have a deserved reputation for pack journalism which will be hard to break. The electronic media, especially television, are going through a more complex upheaval. The largest national outlet, the CBC, has undergone a slow but steady decline in its viewership. Fans blame budget cuts, but closer to reality are the technologies that have put such a multiplicity of choices before those seeking news and information and undercutting those who would serve all. CTV-Baton or Baton-CTV, the CBC's main private sector rival, has also been hurt by the fragmenting and narrowcasting and the attainment by Global of a genuine national reach. Recently the Winnipeg-based Canwest-Global system, owned by Izzy Asper, bought the lucrative BCTV operation in Vancouver, formerly part of CTV. With BCTV, Asper is really a national rival of both CBC and CTV, and we shall see what he makes of it. Asper intrigues me for two reasons: he brings a missing western perspective to the national media scene, and he also is a rather rare bird as a western Liberal, long active in the party. Although in partisan terms Messrs. Black and Asper may seem to have different political convictions, but they share a belief that certain viewpoints have either not been expressed, or have not been effectively expressed, by the national media. Each seems determined to end these deficiencies, one with his press chain and "national" daily, the other through his continental network. COMMON DENOMINATOR In the case of the print medium, one hopes that as the papers compete for readers, they will differentiate themselves by pursuing different stories and enthusiasms, and even challenge each other politically, as the Times and Telegraph do in Britain, rather than pursuing the common denominator - one that is often very low. How better to keep the government of the day on its toes? It could even pay off in increased readership for "the quality press" as competition and differentiation in the U.K. has led to increased readership for the quality papers. Imagine it. Maybe we'll see more exciting papers that gain more readers and enhance debate on national matters. Similarly, a broader distribution of western concerns and viewpoints via the nation's TV sets may bring political leaders to the grand challenge of reconciling this country's competing regional interests. It's possible, of course, that this touted prospect of media change may founder. The market for more political information and commentary may not be big enough to sustain all of the players. It's worth a wish it will be. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, September 23, 1998 ID: 11946662 TAG: 199809231459 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 16 COLUMN: The Hill SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER NEW HOUSE SESSION, SAME OLD SHENANIGANS DATELINE: OTTAWA After a three-month break the opposition MPs came back to the House with a swatch of criticisms of the Chretien government's deeds - or lack of them. That's what opposition parties do: criticize! Usually it's more nasty than constructive. And Jean Chretien and his ministers rebuff the same way, evading or stonewalling. The opposition insisted the PM had had a personal role in causing RCMP violence against protesters at the Pacific Rim summit last year in Vancouver. The PM fudged and joshed, abetted by Andy Scott, his exceptionally ordinary solicitor general. To an outsider, particularly one who cherishes law and order, the opposition may seem overwrought, in particular the New Democrats who insist Chretien "must resign" if he initiated the instructions which led to both the violence and the carrying of guns by the bodyguards of former Indonesian dictator Suharto. The BQ has been after Chretien for his instant rebuff a few weeks ago of the premiers' proposal for "the social union" that would clarify governmental roles in the social and health systems of our country. The provinces do have the constitutional responsibility for such services, and in this case the plan has the rather unusual cachet of backing from Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard. In his blunt scorn for BQ criticism of his abruptness, Chretien has figured that the usual flow of argument and dissent in federal-provincial affairs will cover this particular stand of his. It may also remind voters that he stands fast as the watchdog for medicare and our social net. Questioners of several stripes pressed at the failure of the government and Allan Rock, its health minister, to join with the proposal of both Ontario and Quebec to compensate all those who have been victims of hepatitis C. The federal government remains consistent, as it has for months, despite polling that favours generosity for hep C victims. On economic critiques, both the PM and Finance Minister Paul Martin gave the figurative back of the hand rather than persuasive explanations to those challenging them about the long, grim decline of the dollar in world money marts. They danced away from demands for specific targets for tax relief and debt reduction consequent to the recent undertakings by the PM to the Canadian chambers of commerce. Big bank mergers have been before the public for half a year. The opposition argues there is evidence of popular antagonism to the merger proposals which would twin our four largest banks. Would the government allow a free vote in the Commons on the mergers? And why has Bernard Dussault, chief actuary for the Canada Pension Plan, been fired, allegedly for personal factors? Martin, even more than his leader, revels in satirizing questioners, especially Reformers. Why? The applause from the loyal caucus is both loud and lengthy when its two heroes are scathing and, as the Grits see it, witty. The essence of Parliament today, indeed, one might say its prime reason for meeting, has become the oral question period. And despite its staginess and the predictability of postures, it does provide a roster or brief catalogue of criticisms or grievances against the government which get high-profile coverage by the media. Of course, most of the matters are first raised and pushed by interest groups or journalists before the opposition parties seize on them and put them as questions. As the opposition persists and the ministers evade or stonewall it is possible that sooner rather than later there may be results more satisfying to the opposition. As noted here a few weeks ago, the obvious shift in the federal political equation is a rising impatience among reporters and commentators with the prime minister and his designs (or lack of them). This may begin to affect Chretien's high standing in opinion polling this year. In percentage terms he and his crew have been considerably higher than where they were in last year's general election. Such durable popularity is puzzling, given the Chretien caution on new initiatives and numerous screw-ups by his administration. His plummet from public favour may be at hand, even under way. But one who bets on it needs good odds. Chretien has affinities with Mackenzie King, our most durable politician. The latter became an MP in 1908 and left the top office in 1948. Forty years! Chretien's now at the 35-year mark. Like Mackenzie King, he's been down-played, and often ridiculed. And, like King, he's been a master at keeping his caucus in line and staying resilient despite the jabbing of opposition and press. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, September 20, 1998 ID: 11945945 TAG: 199809211403 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C4 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN TODAY, MOST MPS TOIL IN ANONYMITY DATELINE: OTTAWA The Library of Parliament has created a handy pocket directory of MPs. But skimming it raises the question: why are so many of the people in it so little known across Canada? Are they short on talent and personality, or does the system dumb down performances and choke off chances to shine? The directory has photos of the 300-odd MPs, plus their phone and fax numbers and Hill addresses. The MPs are indexed by province, constituency and party. For many years I've followed the House and antics in it through watching and reading Hansard. In a run through the new directory I realized I hadn't recognized by face and constituency almost half the MPs. Sure, I twigged to the old hands like Svend Robinson and Dennis Mills and to the 17 members of the Chretien cabinet who were MPs before 1993. Before that year, of course, neither Reform nor the BQ was really a factor in the House. And in the present House their strong contingents (at least in numbers) suggest one cause of a general eclipse of MPs - that opposition access to the Speaker's recognition has to be split four ways. WEAK DRAFTS Nonetheless, either the newer MPs from the general elections of 1993 and 1997 have been short of chances for notable performance in the House or its committees, or, to use a hockey phrasing, their electoral drafts were weak. The proposition of two bad drafts in a row seems unfair, in particular to the 80 or more Liberal backbenchers who've not had shots as parliamentary secretaries or committee chairmen and who work within a tight partisan regime. On the opposition side, each of the four caucuses has pushed some of its new personnel to put questions and to debate bills. For example: Reform gave lots of openings to Jason Kenney, a young Calgary tax expert and to Rahim Jaffer, an exuberant visible minority from Edmonton; the BQ to Daniel Turp, a young constitutional scholar; the NDP to Judy Wasylicia-Leis, a former Manitoba legislator; the Tories to Peter MacKay, an aggressive young lawyer. The showing by these neophytes and by a few others confirms that it is chances, rather than talent, that's lacking. Day to week to month, the House is far from being an effusive, democratic swirl. Party solidarity forbids free-wheeling. Each caucus is highly disciplined and organized. And there is dread in the Chretien caucus of earning a black mark with the key figures in the PMO and the whip's office. A sad witness of this was noted by recent stories in The Hill Times in which Liberal MPs explained their formation of caucus committees for particular purposes. It was because their latitude in participation and opinion in committees of the House is so circumscribed by the whip. Caucus work on the Hill is planned and monitored by apparatchiks of the party leader or the party's House leader, or both. Questions which MPs raise are not only vetted and, if approved and given priority, they are often rehearsed. Question period in the House usually sets the agenda and the persons featured in the media's politics for the evening, so its orchestration is so stylized it is a farce. But few in the House would admit its farcical nature because QP is such an obsession of the party leader and his or her handlers. It is also the staple of the political media. It is the biggest, cheapest, handiest resource, along with its consequent scrums, for the buzzing clutch of TV, radio and print journalists. Currency, pace, change and people - preferably leaders or their surrogates - have become essentials for the political media. And it's ironic that intra-media and inter-media competition is now so intense that diversity and depth of analysis is only occasional while content and interpretations are usually parallel or similar. Unless a backbench MP has a status as critic for a contentious topic or is a caucus problem child like Jim Hart or Ted White or John Nunziata, he or she gets few bytes on the tube and little ink. QP and the scrums give reporters and producers what they want without much need to take time to follow and appraise argumentative MPs speaking in debates on bills or reports. Of course there is more to the waning in importance of most MPs than QP or the domination of all caucuses by leaders and staffs, in particular the government caucus. Recall that so much grist of House work just a decade ago was of federal endeavours now privatized (the CNR, Air Canada) and once huge, widespread departments like transport. There are simply fewer particulars to put MPs on the prod. Think also of the considerable devolution of programs to the provinces by Ottawa. SWING RIGHT One might also give some credit to the swing by Canadians toward the right of the political spectrum. This became explicit in Parliament after 1993 and has been confirmed, belatedly but most definitely this month when the NDP caucus adopted the watchwords of frugality and competence in governance. Oh, how effective the campaign against government deficits and debt burden has been in curbing our political left. Many MPs now shy away from demanding new or bigger programs. As present correctness in politics promotes less reliance on government and no big jumps in spending for social and cultural purposes, it may be reducing newsworthy chances for MPs, complementing the strait-jacket of caucus discipline and the media's focus on the obviously prominent. My reflections after an evening with the House directory even lead me to wonder why Canada needs so many MPs. And except as a media resource, does the House need to sit for so many days of a year? The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, September 16, 1998 ID: 11944831 TAG: 199809161433 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 15 COLUMN: The Hill SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER HIGH-FLYIN' PM LANDS WITH A THUD DATELINE: OTTAWA The win by the BQ in Monday's Sherbrooke by- election has contradicted the crafty shrewdness of Jean Chretien which he displayed in a major economic address on Sunday to the annual meeting of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. The byelection result reveals a governing federal party that was unready for a difficult test in which it had the advantages in picking the time and shaping a candidacy. Most times one should not make too much of byelection defeats for a governing party's candidates. They rarely augur the future. But the continuing, central issue of our politics is Quebec's secession. And now Parti Quebecois Premier Lucien Bouchard has an omen for a fall election. And within less than a day and a half we got witness that a prime minister who seemed most canny on Sunday was shown as rather feckless on Monday. What was so shrewd about Chretien's economics speech? The timing, the audience, the explicit guarantees and the concluding promise of "steady as we go." He also addressed and deflated the widespread speculation about the want-lists within the Liberal party and caucus for those programs in line for a new round of spending that federal surpluses are making possible. Chretien's assurances to the largest national organization of business people not only signalled there would be no new major spending programs in this mandate, there would be priority given to continuing the reduction in the debt burden now underway and to cutting personal income tax rates. Chretien began his address to the Chamber with some brag. For example: "What we have accomplished since I spoke to you four years ago is very profound ... we have made permanent major structural changes to the public finances of the country." There was also some modesty and a long-range view within the following remarks: "It takes time to resolve problems which have developed over more than a quarter century ... It took a whole mandate to get the public finances on the right track after 30 years of accumulated deficits." Why do I say "modesty"? Because for 20 of those 30 years the Liberal party was in power. FAMILIAR LITANY The prime minister sketched his (and Finance Minister Paul Martin's) familiar litany of a now fundamentally sound fiscal situation, then bluntly but briefly he referred to the significant, external, target audience for this particular economic statement, saying: "The famous international money traders can judge for themselves the underlying strength of the Canadian economy." And later he hammered this message home: "We must, and we will resist pressures ... to increase spending on a whole range of unrelated areas ... we will continue to reduce our debt burden." Certainly Chretien is looking for a significant recovery of our dollar's value vis-a-vis that of our neighbour. In recent hours there have been strong intimations of such a comeback. It will not be helped if the Sherbrooke result sparks a quick calling of a Quebec general election. Another of his themes appealed to those in our commerce while also cautioning the liberally minded in his own ranks. "Despite the progress we have made," he said, "we still must confront some deeply rooted structural economic issues in order to increase productivity. We must address taxes and the debt burden and the need to invest in those types of social and economic infrastructure which will add to the national wealth over time. They are not the stuff of quick fixes. There are no simple, overnight solutions." The PM insisted: "Nothing would be more irresponsible, or more damaging psychologically than to make grand gestures which could have the result that we move from finally achieving a surplus to going back into deficit. That we will not do." Beyond appreciating why Chretien jumped the gun on the parliamentary opposition, one also notices how small notice he gave his minister of finance in what was a long, calculated emphasis on what his government has achieved and would do. On Sunday Jean Chretien was in full charge. He ruled on much of what would or would not be in the budgets for the rest of this mandate. And it really is his mandate, at least to 2001 or 2002. But what if the secessionist threat becomes awesome? What will Sherbrooke spark? Lucien Bouchard wins; then another referendum? Bouchard and Chretien head-on is scary. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, September 13, 1998 ID: 12881644 TAG: 199809141413 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C7 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN CLINTON'S IMPOTENT, POLITICALLY SPEAKING DATELINE: OTTAWA Reluctantly, we must hand it to the Americans: no one does political theatre better. Their current drama, opening its final act in the U.S. Congress, has a plot that is pure Hollywood and with as colourful a cast of characters as one could ask for. As a continuing voyeur of presidential politics since the days of FDR and the New Deal, I have had to notice the pomp and gravitas (or weightiness) that have grown around the office of president. But what has been consistent, since George Washington, is how the personality of the incumbent gives each presidency its unique character, defining it for posterity: FDR was the elegant aristocrat, Harry Truman the plain-spoken Missourian and Dwight Eisenhower the grandfatherly ex-general who preferred golf to politics. JFK was too beautiful and charming by half, while Nixon was Tricky Dicky, whose crooked ways forever changed the way Americans would view their leaders. Ronald Reagan - Mr. Teflon himself - coasted through office on affability and memory lapses, while his successor, poor George Bush, was too distantly patrician to win the hearts of his countrymen a second time. And the Bill Clinton presidency? Like Nixon's, his appears to be effectively over two years early, and is likely to be remembered by an all too appropriate sobriquet - Slick Willie. Whether this is a tragedy or farce depends on how you perceive the presidency. For seven months White House spin doctors pinned their hopes on polls which indicated that Americans: a) thought Clinton was doing a good job; b) disliked Ken Starr (the independent counsel who has hounded him over the Lewinsky affair); and c) wished the whole mess would just go away. This showed the voters accepted what Clinton's critics refused to: that the president is really just a supreme bureaucrat, whose private life and morals are irrelevant to the job. Surely the quaint notion of president as moral exemplar, even hero - young George Washington confessing to chopping down the cherry tree, Abraham Lincoln returning America to the path of righteousness by ending slavery - was dead. Others, mostly Republicans, objected. A president requires moral authority to govern, and only possesses it by setting a good example. No one is perfect, and the American people are a forgiving people. Those who try to live by the rules, admit their mistakes, show contrition for them and try to atone have nothing to fear. OFFICIAL BUSINESS INTERRUPTED While the rather moral debate over behaviour by Clinton continued, the business of official Washington did not. Legal prevarication and obfuscation and, worst of all, dog and pony shows featuring cabinet members and prominent Democrats spouting lines from the White House replaced the usual slashes and ripostes on Capitol Hill. And then, when he could evade no more, Clinton 'fessed up. Sort of. This adroit politician, this superb talker, so good at feeling the pain of others, has proved he was oblivious to what he had inflicted upon his own friends, staff, cabinet and party. Clumsy White House spinning compounded the problem. William Bennett, prominent Republican moralist and brother of Clinton lawyer Bob Bennett, noted at the start of the long, hot Washington summer that it is one thing to believe someone is lying and quite another to face it as fact. Democrats have now had four weeks to mull over the president's various statements admitting to an inappropriate relationship. Many have reached the same conclusion former Clinton aides have: Bill isn't contrite, just angry and embarrassed at being caught. (Hence his inability to find the right words - though now he's giving it another go.) Nor does he grasp the damage done to the presidency and his party. Clinton will never run for office again. But most of those he now asks to defend him in Congress must go to the polls in early November. They have to explain his adultery with a junior employee in the most famous government office in the land, his never-ending parsing of the truth, and their own gullibility. For many it's too much. The Clintons were never close to Washington's Democratic elite, and the disdain has often been mutual. But he was their president, and his tremendous political talents were welcome in battles with the Republicans. But his abuse of them, and his undermining of the moral authority of all politicians through his selfishness, arrogance and astonishing stupidity has left many genuinely angry and bitter. The media, previously well disposed toward the Clinton agenda, have also turned on him, and now ignore the polls. Media critic Howard Kurtz attributes this to simple disgust at being lied to, day in and day out. Where does this leave us? Will anything in Washington change? Perhaps parties will be more wary of candidates who have trouble with the truth but a great talent for avoiding it. The pending investigations of financing irregularities in the Clinton-Gore campaign of 1996 which saw Chinese government money end up in Democratic party coffers could give election financing reform a boost. Meanwhile, Russia - 150 million people and 40,000 nuclear weapons - is bankrupt and effectively without a government. Stalinist North Korea, bankrupt and starving, is intent on provoking its neighbours with spy subs and missile launches. Iraq is once more spurning UN weapons inspections; world stock markets are shuddering; fears of worldwide recession grow. And the most powerful man on Earth, so-called leader of the Free World? He's impotent - thanks to his own philandering and lying. And all of us, not just Americans, have more drama in the Hollywood sense than is bearable. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, September 09, 1998 ID: 12881112 TAG: 199809091052 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 16 ILLUSTRATION: photo by CP WHICH WAY? ... NDP Leader Alexa McDonough may face revolt if she's taking her party in a direction it doesn't want to go. SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN SUDDENLY, THE NDP TURNS RIGHT SHIFT IN STRATEGY WILL BE MADE OVER THE DEAD BODIES OF HARDCORE SOCIALISTS DATELINE: OTTAWA The shift of political correctness continues - to the right! This is most obvious in recent antics by the fourth party in the House, the New Democrats, and it is under debate in the fifth party, the Progressive Conservatives. After five days of caucus colloquy on a transcontinental train, NDP Leader Alexa McDonough has announced a bold, new strategy. She and her 20 MPs go into the coming House session promising to emphasize frugality in government, reduction of the debt burden, even some cutting of taxes. They are forsaking animosity to business (at least to "small business") and will advocate an end both to union and corporate financing of parties and our first-past-the-post system of determining who wins a seat. Meanwhile, one's appraisal of "whither the Progressive Conservatives?" is influenced and confused by what the candidates for the party's leadership seem to be pushing. At first scan the Tory shift seems to point left, but this may be largely because media wisdom has the race as being between Joe Clark and Hugh Segal, and each has long been tagged as a Red Tory. Certainly, each has also been approved by the Tories' most eminent counsellor, writer Dalton Camp, and no Red Tory holds stronger to the political correctness of the 1970s and '80s than he does. PC CANDIDATES WATCH REFORM Both Clark and Segal, particularly the latter, have been making statements across the range of national issues. They are most aware that Reform is the prime competition for their party on its path to the next election and each has reaffirmed his partisan pride in the larger economic designs which Brian Mulroney's Conservative government developed (and which Liberal PM Jean Chretien continues). But neither favourite has a thoroughly Red Tory program for the economy however much emotional backing each gives to a kindly, caring federal government. Like the NDP's McDonough, each is for fiscal prudence, balanced budgets, bureaucratic competence and the private sector as the essential generator of jobs, productivity gains and wealth. And one of the lesser-known candidates, Manitoban Brian Pallister, is a Prairie archetype in insisting the party is doomed if it fails to articulate and keep to a truly conservative program. What's most surprising, given the apparent scale in the shift of the NDP, is its suddenness. It seems to have come after intense reflection by the MPs on the bleak state of the party revealed by opinion polling. Certainly it was not something pushed into or approved by a national convention. Long before Reform came into being, advocating membership determination and control of party policy, the NDP's processes postulated that policies be struck by conventions for elected representatives to advance in Parliament or provincial assemblies. There was immediate negative reaction to the McDonough shift by leading unionists Bob White and Buzz Hargrove and by the most controversial MP in the NDP caucus, Svend Robinson. Their reaction was based on the new strategy's themes and content rather than any failure to follow party practices on matters so large. To the protesters (from whom much more is sure to come) McDonough is leading the party away from its base. It is turning from fighting for working people, the disadvantaged, aborigines and those with pacifist, feminist or environmental purposes in order to gain favour with those who want less government and lower taxes. Over almost four decades there has usually been some contention going on within the NDP between the more avowedly socialistic members and the less doctrinaire social democrats. Several times the leadership of the party and the federal caucus have made shifts in strategy and emphasis before they were presented at conventions, debated and approved. WAFFLE MOVEMENT One example of such initiatives came in the '70s when the leadership decided to bring under control the Waffle movement, "a party within the party," or root it out. Eventually this purpose was taken to a convention and approved. Another example came with the brief but very open embrace which Ed Broadbent, leader from 1975-89, gave to a fresh economic strategy drafted by an aide, historian Jim Laxer. There was a very negative response within the party, notably from union leaders, and the analysis and its proposals were dropped without ever going before a convention. Another example came when Audrey McLaughlin led the NDP into an election disaster in 1993 (losing 34 seats) using a sharply left emphasis advanced by another aide, young Manitoba pollster David Gotthilf. The focus was on the real enemy being the Liberals, not the Tories, and the utter necessity of socialistic solutions to national problems - economic, social and cultural. Between the 1993 and 1997 elections McDonough replaced McLaughlin, but she used the Gotthilf strategy and viewpoints through the election and got a very modest gain of 11 seats. She continued such familiar themes in first session of Chretien's second mandate. Is the turnabout a last gasp of a dying party? That's a fair bet but not a sure one. Could the new strategy just fade away? Possibly. If it doesn't, or if it isn't withdrawn, the NDP will have a crisis reminiscent of the Waffle period. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, September 06, 1998 ID: 12880784 TAG: 199809071307 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C4 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN AN AUTUMN OF DISCONTENT AS SUMMER TURNS TO FALL THE REFORM AND LIBERAL LEADERS HAVE THE MOST TO WIN, AND LOSE DATELINE: OTTAWA Most years the summer is hibernation time in politics. Then comes Labour Day - and then partisan politics gets serious. Despite the Conservatives' long leadership campaign, despite the clumsy defection and later apologia of MP Jim Hart from the Reform party, despite the kafuffle in Alberta over electing senators, despite a fortnight's crescendo of conflicting interpretations around the Supreme Court's report on secession and, most of all, despite the alarming fall of the Canadian dollar in relation to the U.S. dollar, this has been a typical hibernation summer. Nevertheless, there is some anticipation in Ottawa. The next nine months have to be more eventful and difficult for the five parties; mostly, of course, for the governing Liberals, even though they are at least a year away from the mid-point of their mandate. Most reviews of where we are in politics focus on the leaders and those thought to be alternatives (e.g., Jean Chretien and Paul Martin), then they shift to the morale and optimism in each caucus, and then they appraise legislative intentions and the administrative shmozzles to be exploited or buried (e.g., hepatitis C or the gun control extravaganza). DECENT FELLOWS The Tories await a leader. The stock wisdom is it will be either Joe Clark or Hugh Segal. Each is well known, particularly to the press. Each is rated less than a blockbuster but as a decent fellow. Either man, if he gets to the House this coming season, will have many wishing him well. Clark was once an effective parliamentarian, and this House is not overloaded with them. Gilles Duceppe has led the Bloc Quebecois for 18 months, including an election which dropped the caucus from 50 to 44 seats and loss of official Opposition status. No ready alternative is at hand. Alexa McDonough has led the NDP for three years (yes, that long!) and with her the number of NDP MPs did rise from nine to 21. She has no would-be successor champing at the bit. The most one can say for both Duceppe and McDonough is they're persistent. How they try! They're distinguished mostly by angry social democratic homilies, not by humour, analysis, or convincing alternatives. Duceppe still suffers from following a superb House actor, Lucien Bouchard. McDonough has hardly been superb but she is more coherent and knowledgeable than Audrey McLaughlin, her predecessor. Recently, several women long active in the NDP at the Lakehead quizzed me on these two female leaders. Were they as ineffective and repetitive in the House as it has seemed to them from TV snips and news items? After I shrugged and ducked with the vernacular "Boring!" they said they had concluded the NDP membership in general, not just a few of its leaders, had overestimated the feminist factor (and also the trade unionist vote in real polls). And so they left the topic with a tight-lipped sigh that there would be another of those just-to-survive elections, whenever it comes. That's how it looks, particularly from indicators the NDP is to emphasize thrift, frugality and balanced budgets. It's improbable either Duceppe or McDonough and their respective caucuses will set the House heather afire and cook Prime Minister Chretien and his very modest cabinet. What each does keep going is simple and welcomed by a sizeable clutch of Liberal MPs - i.e., demands to bolster social programs. And this brings me to those more certain to contend for blame and shame and any huzzahs: Jean Chretien and Preston Manning. It's amusing to the cynical as this partisan season opens that the Liberal leader clearly has a tighter command of his followers than his Reform rival. Finance Minister Paul Martin's magisterial menace as the PM-in-waiting has vanished with the dollar's decline and his inability to explain it, let alone prescribe remedies. And who can think of another plausible alternative to Chretien? Allan Rock? Brian Tobin? Sheila Copps? Take a break! Who can imagine an insurrection bursting from the dutiful backbench? The PM seems in hunky-dory shape, and this may get better if Lucien Bouchard fails to gain a sweeping mandate in the Quebec election. GROWING IMPATIENCE The big rub Chretien faces this fall and winter is the growing impatience for deeds by Ottawa. This is now fully seizing the media's attention. It comes from long inactivity despite much bumph at the power centre; that, and rising, spreading fears of recession again. There is a duality in activists: on the one hand those for "liberal" legislation; on the other hand, those for "conservative" tax and spending policies. In crude parliamentary terms, Manning and Reform insist on the latter; both Duceppe and his BQ and McDonough and her NDP want the former. The Liberals may keep on marking time, rear files covering. And the Tories? As yet one can't be sure. Thus far their main line has been that Chretien's been riding on the luck of Brian Mulroney's initiatives like the GST, the free trade deal and privatizations. REFORM JARRED The Reform leader and his party have had their credibility jarred this summer, not just by the silliness of MP Jim Hart's antics or the sudden pop-up of charges against Jack Ramsay for alleged sexual misdeeds three decades ago, or the negative editorial responses at home to Manning's observations abroad on his global tour. Aside from Alberta there seems so much acceptance in and outside Reform that Manning may have been a useful Moses, organizing and bringing Reform to the rim of the Promised Land of power. But he's not the Joshua to seize it. Ontario folk don't take to him. There is a big joke in this analysis but no one laughs. Manning's touted inadequacies are of voice, manner and style. Now reflect on those attributes, say in Jean Chretien or Joe Clark or Alexa McDonough. Does any one of them ace Manning? Although a cluster of able MPs is behind the Reform leader, the situation is much like Chretien's. Where's the obvious ambitious and good - let alone great - successor? We're just a few weeks away from again having our daily bites on TV from the House question period, and reporters await the stock Liberal leaks. Will these portend continuing executive quietism? Or surprising new moves? If it's to be mostly more assertions of "fundamental soundness" the fresh season will quickly go stale, with Manning and Reform hyping the battered buck and harder times, and Chretien stonewalling (as he does so well) and Martin reiterating his glorious triumph over deficits. My hunch is that any crisis in the capital will come from developments in the global economy triggered by a sharp downturn in the United States. And what partisan scavenger would hope for that? The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, September 02, 1998 ID: 12880309 TAG: 199809021224 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 16 COLUMN: The Hill SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER IS THE PM A MAN WITH A PLAN? COULD IT BE THAT DOING NOTHING IS NO LONGER THE RIGHT THING TO DO? DATELINE: OTTAWA Is it so bad that Canada has a government given to inertia and a leader without vision? So far there have been advantages. We have had such governments in Ottawa before. Most memorable were those of Mackenzie King before World War II. He was cautious, and not one for grandeur. Today, a chorus is rising of many voices. The cry is for action by the Chretien government. The chorus is roughly split into two sides - one with left-wing notions, the other with right-wing ideas. Most of the major interest groups in social and cultural fields want enriched or new programs. So do many of Jean Chretien's Liberal backbenchers. Those on the right want no new social programs or jacked- up spending. They want tax cuts, lower interest rates and a long-range plan to lower the federal debt load. In political journalism most who sound off have been getting snarkier about the Grits, particularly as the dollar has slid and no fresh social programs are in sight. The Sun's Michael Harris wrote this week of Jean Chretien: " ... a man whose do-nothing, say-less approach to government seems to have lobotomized the masses ... With the abyss in front of them, the Grits remain fixated on the summer imperative of the golf course and the barbecue." And the Harris conclusion on the PM is: "Unlike Brian Mulroney, he doesn't seem to have the sense to quit while he's ahead." Jeffrey Simpson, the Globe and Mail's veteran Ottawa columnist, used two pieces recently to shred the PM. The first began grimly with three top Ottawa bureaucrats who have "quit the public service in their early 50s suffering various forms of burnout." So Simpson asks, then answers the question: "How come people in the senior reaches of public service work such punishing hours although the government of Jean Chretien does so little?" Simpson itemizes the ditherings of the cabinet since the election last year in which the Liberals said they "had a jam-packed legislative agenda for the fall session of Parliament." Since last fall, however, Parliament has had "... an order paper devoid of inspiration or grand projects" and the cabinet maunders on with "a boatload of ministers no one has ever heard of, or from." HIGH IN OPINION POLLS Simpson keeps noting the PM and his ministry remain high in the opinion polls. But the declining dollar has turned punditry toward sharper appraisals. One Simpson paragraph synopsizes the jelling wisdom in the political media on Jean Chretien as our national leader: "'What, me worry?' and 'Cheer up' are Mr. Chretien's variations on his 'Canada is No. 1' theme that has been his stock in trade throughout a political career constructed on the avoidance, where possible, of controversy. The government thus reflects the man at the top - not given to vision or a strong sense of direction, a 'one problem at a time' guy, full of good cheer, political to his cuticle, a survivor." Simpson is sure the Liberal government is "more devoid of interesting ideas or a sense of where it wants to take the country than any since the 1950s." And its leader "... wants everyone to be happy, to get on with life. He's no wagon-train leader, and never will be. With a 65% approval rating, why do anything different?" These self-serious opinions of Harris and Simpson are becoming the archetypal media take on Chretien and company. The PM has been losing touch with Canada's problems and needs. We need action! THE LONGER VIEW Granted the Chretien dithering over decisions and the scantiness of his legislation, I suggest a longer view. Consider his predecessors, Mulroney and Pierre Trudeau. Notably from 1980-92, these two threw billions of borrowed money into new and usually big programs. The results: high deficits and a remorseless, still daunting burden of debt. Last week in B.C., Chretien on radio said, "A dozen good causes are being pushed by strong interest groups." He and his colleagues who must "arbitrate" such demands find it "hard and we have to be careful." This was a plausible line for plain people from a plain guy. Certainly one can take it as dodgy partisan politics - and it was. But it also rings true. Yes. Only relative to its predecessors has the Chretien government been frugal and competent, but the deficits have plummeted. And thus far the Liberals have talked but not developed and installed a left-wing social strategy. And they are obviously hesitating over even more of a right-wing economic strategy, using monetary and fiscal powers. What seems more regrettable than failing to use one or even some of both such strategies, the PM and his ministers have not been openly analyzing the concert of domestic reasons for Canada's slipping competitiveness. We've had enough assurances of being "fundamentally sound." A go-slow federal government and an unworried prime minister have had much worth. Now, however, it's time they pushed public opinion into analysis of the dangers implicit in our dollar's long fall, and to choices for recovery. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, August 30, 1998 ID: 12880006 TAG: 199808311602 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C5 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN LET'S BE FRANK ABOUT PATRONAGE DATELINE: OTTAWA Serving up dirt on the pompous and the powerful in politics, the media, business and academia has made Frank magazine an Ottawa institution. Irreverent, offensive, often inaccurate, Frank nevertheless has managed to break stories missed or ignored by the mainstream media. The scandal sheet's most significant service to Canadians, however, is its running coverage of the oldest story in Canadian politics - patronage! In the Brian Mulroney era Frank delighted in reporting on every crony, former business colleague or university buddy of "Lyin' Brian" who managed to secure a government post. The rough treatment it accorded patronage appointees reflected perfectly the burning anger Canadians felt as Mulroney and company wallowed in the trough after having chastised his antecedent Liberals in government for doing the same thing. In the 1980s the mainstream media and opposition Liberals took up Frank's battle cry against patronage, and public anger seemed to reach a fever pitch. Today, Frank continues to cast a nasty eye on patronage appointments, but now such matters seem off in a wilderness. And the echoes once heard in the legitimate media are rare. Jean Chretien rides high in the polls despite his Mulroneyesque addiction to patronage. Oh, major appointments still attract critical media attention, but the fire is missing. More importantly, the focus on a few big fish has obscured the fact that patronage, as perfected by the Liberals, is a lot more than just perqs for the faithful. In reality it a complex system for securing and maintaining power, one to which the Grits owe much of their electoral success of the past 40 years. Consider that most infamous component of the patronage system - the Senate - which serves a variety of patronage purposes. Among other things it has long been the traditional home of the party bagman. While much is made of a senator's salary, the paycheque-for-life is the least important perq to the party fundraiser. The offices, travel budget and staff that come with the appointment are the real prizes, allowing him to better serve his leader and party, without cost to the latter. The Senate also provides a means of securing the support and loyalty of special interest groups. Where Senate seats were once used to compensate for shortfalls in regional representation, today they permit the PM to appoint women and visible minorities so as to firm support within these constituencies. Such appointees also provide the party with links to the groups they are drawn from, and thus constitute an important part of the vast communications network a modern political machine needs. APPOINTING TRUSTED ALLIES Of course, aside from the Senate there are many slots to be filled by the prime minister. The appointment of trusted allies to head the host of federal cultural, social, judicial and regulatory agencies allows him to gather intelligence on these groups as well, massaging them indirectly when necessary. If nothing else, his appointees can help familiarize these groups with the hazards inherent in biting the hand that feeds them. Just the other day he even boasted about the cash bonuses his government has been giving such appointees in recent years as protection against "the brain drain." No kidding! The Liberals' real patronage triumph, however, lies in their use of the system to foster the next generation of Grit operatives. For decades now they have recruited and appointed young people to patronage positions, following these initial appointments up with others. In so doing they have created a loyal cadre of prospective appointees who possess a range of governmental experience. Consider the career of Joan Pennyfeather, the arts and culture doyen now with the CRTC. Even Pierre Trudeau got his start in federal politics through a patronage appointment (to the PMO). And Romeo LeBlanc, Lloyd Axworthy, Ralph Goodale, Francis Fox, Pierre Pettigrew, Andre Ouellet, etc., all had grooming for later careers in early patronage appointments. This practice has given the Liberal bench depth and helped to foster its image as a winner - the naturally governing party in fact as well as fiction. THE TRADITION CONTINUES Chretien continues this tradition, having recently reached down into the next generation of Grits to appoint two twenty-somethings barely out of law school to what are effectively judicial appointments with the immigration and refugee board. These lucky young people (the offspring of a minister and a senator) received their cosy posts in advance of any great service to the party, but the logic remained the same. The point of such largesse is more than to please parents, it's to give the youngsters a first taste of the spoils of power which follow from loyalty to the party, and to acquaint them with the workings of the bureaucracy. The Liberal party will have need of such men and women soon enough. Here is perhaps the most obvious difference between the Liberal and Tory records on patronage. The former have astutely used the system to supply a steady flow of people who are not only experienced in government, but who can be sold to the public as fit appointees, rather than simply political operatives. Long ago the Grits learned that after a number of such appointments the media comes to view such people as legitimate; moreover with some experience under their belts they are less likely to transgress in a manner that attracts attention. This blurring of where the patronage system begins and ends has been a key in diffusing possible anger at Liberal appointments, and perhaps helps to explain why Tory appointments in the 1980s - which involved people of limited governmental experience - attracted so much hostile comment. Ironically, it seems that long-term, calculated political use of the patronage system makes it more palatable to Canadians. And nobody does it better than the Liberals. Just follow Frank for a few issues, then note how little of its droll cynicism over such patronage is converted elsewhere into rage at the Liberals about the "sleaze" which still stains the Mulroney Tories. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, August 26, 1998 ID: 12879490 TAG: 199808261228 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 16 COLUMN: The Hill SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER WHY WAS PM COURTING DISASTER? THE DIVISIBILITY OF CANADA NOW HAS BEEN MADE RESPECTABLE AND LEGITIMATE DATELINE: OTTAWA What does it mean? Both Lucien Bouchard and Jean Chretien take kindly to the report by the Supreme Court of Canada on the "reference" to it of Quebec secession. Why has this saw-off on the reference between the chief antagonists set so many applauding? Surely because it is so archetypically Canadian: On the one hand/on the other hand! Those citizens who scan the document (some 21,000 words of fairly readable prose) will find it judicious in tone and determinedly non-political. It presents positions which buoy the arguments of both federalists and secessionists. Sadly, however, there is nothing in the report to hearten any of us who believe Canada cannot and should not be split. For me, Abraham Lincoln ranks with Winston Churchill as one of the two finest leaders a democratic nation ever had in a critical period. No phrase of Lincoln symbolized his leadership better than his words as president that the United States is "one nation, indivisible." Canadians have never had anyone in high places who said anything so definitive about our federation. And last week's unanimous opinion of our nine justices of the Supreme Court accepts that Canada is divisible. It seems to have became so some time after it passed out of colonial status within the British Empire and become an independent "dominion" seven decades ago. NOVA SCOTIA WANTED OUT Certainly Canada was not divisible shortly after the federation was formed - as the judgment makes clear in noting the overwhelming provincial and federal votes of Nova Scotians to get out of Confederation shortly after it took effect, and how summarily this was rejected by the British government. There is no hesitation among our justices on the right of a province to secede from Canada. Obviously this became acceptable in our politics some time before Rene Levesque in the 1960s formed the Parti Quebecois with its goal of an independent Quebec. We must live forever with this prospect of secession, although none of our political leaders has ever proclaimed this in any kind of a Gettysburg Address-in-reverse. It just became a reality Canadian politicians and parties accepted that we could never use force to keep the federation whole. Also, by then the United Nations had been formed. Canadians had even drafted its charter. Imperialism was crumbling. And "self-determination" became a norm for those "peoples" aspiring to govern themselves. Last week the divisibility of Canada was made thoroughly respectable and legitimate - though not actually legal - by the Supreme Court. How did it do this? Simply by stating that any province whose voters by a clear majority approve secession from Canada may expect the other provinces and the federal government to negotiate such secession. The justices say this negotiation is earned through the use of the democratic principle (and a clear majority vote). They said this after they made the rather obvious case that there are no constitutional provisions for any unilateral secession by any province from the federation of Canada. Further, no international law sustains such a secession, given the Canadian system of government is not oppressive nor does it deny freedom of expression. Nevertheless, the nine justices, without much cavilling about it, accept that if and when a majority of voters in any province votes for secession, then the rest of the federation must respond to it. How to respond? Once there's proof of a democratic sanction for secession, the federal government and the other provincial governments have an obligation to negotiate it with those who represent the secessionists. PROVINCES OBLIGATED Although nothing in Canadian or international law spells out such a response, the justices believe "a clear expression of self-determination by the people of Quebec" obligates the other provinces and the federal government. They do grant that in such "negotiation" it would be hard to distinguish "the substantive goal of secession from the practical details of secession. The devil would be in the details." Ah! Would it ever. The details would be very devilish. But as the justices see it: "No negotiations could be effective if their ultimate outcome, secession, is cast as an absolute legal entitlement based upon an obligation to give effect to that act of secession in the Constitution. Such a foregone conclusion would actually undermine the obligation to negotiation and rend it hollow." So the justices do not state the "negotiation" has to end in secession. Perhaps they foresee a deadlock; a refusal of the 10 to grant to the one what it considers fair terms for a separation. But they do not suggest either procedures or the particulars for the negotiation because that would be "political." Elected politicians must resolve the secession, not appointed judges. My reading is the justices count on the Canadian penchant for compromise. Some see wisdom in such abjuring of advice or responsibility by the justices on the "details" or the politics of a secession. Surely, in the vernacular, their tacit message to federalists is this: If you lose the vote, make the least noxious separation deal possible, and let them go. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, August 09, 1998 ID: 12648793 TAG: 199808091307 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C4 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN A HISTORY OF STUBBORN RESISTANCE FOR YEARS THE UPPER CHAMBER HAS SAT ON DEATH ROW. IT'S NOW TIME TO LOWER THE AXE DATELINE: OTTAWA It's astounding how impervious the Canadian Senate has been to demands for its reform through its 131 years. This should daunt the two veteran MPs - Roger Gallaway and Lorne Nystrom - who've begun a long campaign to abolish the Senate. So much dissatisfaction with the Senate, so little resolution. Yes, the Senate did begin to get women appointees in 1930. Yes, the Pearson government took a Diefenbaker idea and put in legislation that made retirement at 75 mandatory for all subsequent appointees. Yes, recent prime ministers have stepped outside their party for some senators who symbolize politically correct values such as ethnic and "visible" attributes - a first Indian, a first Italian, a first black, a first Inuit, etc. Yes, in recent years Yukon and the two northern territories each got a Senate seat. But in consequences all these were minor changes. What continues is a prime minister's personal prerogative to appoint senators and an apportionment of seats which continues to shortchange the west and over-represent the Atlantic region. It is true that in the past decade the Senate, through a hefty opposition caucus managed by the veteran Liberal Allan MacEachen, rose up against Brian Mulroney's NAFTA, and later his GST initiatives, in one case forcing an election - which Mulroney won. A telling victory it was for the Senate's subservience, but by and large, we've had 13 decades of a Senate with mighty constitutional powers that give way in a crunch before a cabinet with the confidence of the elected House of Commons. ROUNDLY DEFEATED We must also remember Canada seemed set for a much reformed Senate in Mulroney's last mandate. Such reforms were a chunk of a bundle of constitutional changes embodied in the Charlottetown Accord. Fortunately (or so I thought), this accord was roundly defeated in a nationwide referendum, although it was backed by the provincial governments, the Mulroney government and most of the federal parties. A favorite explanation why the Senate is unreformed is the great leverage the appointments process gives a prime minister. What a reward for party fundraisers and organizers! And occasional appointments of top people in business, industry and major interest groups are taken as adorning and sustaining the leaders who elevate them. Messrs. Gallaway and Nystrom believe that such compensations to a prime minister and his or her party for a Senate-by-appointment have been fading as the public realizes what a costly ramp the Senate is, and how indifferent the performance of so many appointees. See recent examples like the absentee senator, Andy Thompson, or toll-gater Michel Cogger, or recall what the late Florence Bird told senators in 1983 without contradictions after she retired because of age after five years' experience as a senator. She said about one-third of the senators did most of the Senate's work. Many seats are empty for months and years. Attendance is lamentable, sitting just three days a week is inadequate and penalties for nil-performance are a joke. Representation by regions is very uneven. Bird thought elected senators would certainly be very partisan. How else could they get elected, and re-elected? Yet having the justification of voter support would make challenges to the Commons' precedence more certain. She insisted that appointments by the prime minister are unsatisfactory to the public and always ridiculed by the media. She thought the choice and appointment of distinguished Canadians by other methods would be preferable but not an easy procedure to institutionalize. The most simple but reasonable explanation I've found for the Senate's unreformed state was made by our ablest and longest-serving prime minister, Mackenzie King. As the new party leader in 1919 he called for Senate reform, but shortly before he retired in 1948, after a total of 21 years as prime minister, he made Sen. Wishart Robertson his government's leader in the Senate. Robertson asked King for advice, given all the criticism there was of the Senate. This was King's candid response: "I have always had it in my mind to do something about the Senate before I cease to be prime minister, but there are so many things to be done from one day to another that it is difficult for me to concentrate on this question. My own view is that the Senate itself should give consideration to this problem." And so Robertson arranged and led a long debate about reforming the Senate, which focused inordinately on finding ways to supply the Senate with more legislation and administration for examination or review. And that discussion did it for Senate reform within the Senate for a long time. In 1968, Pierre Trudeau made Paul Martin Sr., a distinguished minister under three previous prime ministers, his Senate leader. There's a long account in Martin's autobiography of his seven years at the post. His early assumption of the need for reforms or change fades into repetitious homilies on the good work done by Senate committees, plus intimations that the key dilemma of the Senate is that if it does fully exercise its constitutional powers, it gets in the way of the prime minister and the cabinet, whose forum and power base is the House. It's at this particular point one should think of the near certainty that a mighty Triple-E Senate would be more disastrous than the current Senate. COULD THREATEN PM If senators had "effective" powers and the public cachet that comes from election, any sizeable grouping together of them would always constitute a threat to a prime minister. A PM who had to ensure his survival in office by keeping the confidence of two elected chambers would have a devil of a time. Either the party in power dominated both chambers or stable governments would be impossible. Of course, many of the provincial or regional advocates of the Triple-E think such contention between the House and an elected Senate would be good, but of course they also think (or dream) that those elected to the Senate would put the interests of their province or region ahead of the unity of the party they belong to, if any. Abolish the Senate and the deck would be cleared for a parliamentary system more citizens would understand and for the more important candidate for reform - the House of Commons. Imagine if it provided legislative and scrutinizing responsibilities for MPs, including the scores of under-used backbenchers behind each prime minister and cabinet. Go to it, Roger Gallaway and Lorne Nystrom. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, August 05, 1998 ID: 12647772 TAG: 199808053277 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 17 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER WHY THE SENATE MUST BE ABOLISHED DATELINE: OTTAWA Two experienced but non-ministerial MPs of different parties have teamed up this summer on a campaign to rally backing for the abolition of the Canadian Senate. Their pact and its aim have earned them descriptive tags such as presumptuous, idealistic, stupid, and publicity-seekers. My bent is to be kinder to Liberal Roger Gallaway, 60, and New Democrat Lorne Nystrom, 62. These are solid MPs. Undoubtedly my applause for them is influenced by years of believing abolition is the best way to free federalism of an undemocratic institution which has never worked well, and been more confusing and a nuisance than worthwhile. A few months ago while chatting in the House, the pair found they agreed that little good would come from a reformed Senate, in particular the Triple-E sort so much advocated in the west (and by Reformers). Early in their very active House careers each decided the Senate is a costly irrelevance to either good legislating or consistent, close scrutiny of government operations. My guess is that a majority of MPs come to such a conclusion, although a fair number of them eye a Senate appointment as the best security blanket a loyal follower can get from his or her prime minister. The arguments for the Gallaway-Nystrom campaign as they come to me are: a) The Senate as it is and has been since 1867 is more humbug and nuisance than useful and cannot be made more effective by changing from appointed to elected senators; b) A Senate whose membership is chosen by the federal electorate under a fairer "rep by pop" than the current apportionment of senators would further elaborate complex federal elections and the parliamentary system, and the reformed Senate would fail to put provincial and regional concerns uppermost simply because the federal parties will field most of the candidates and the control of senators by party leaders will be as strong as it is for MPs; SENSIBLE COURSE c) Therefore, the only sensible course is to abolish the Senate - pension off its incumbents, wipe it out, and get on with improving the performances of MPs and the House, the one national "talk shop" we need to keep going. The Liberals, Mr. Gallaway's party, have never formally advocated abolition but they put "reform of the Senate" into their first, detailed program in 1919, the year Mackenzie King began his leadership run of 29 years. The Nystrom precedents differ. The NDP's predecessor, the CCF, advocated Senate abolition from its launch in 1933 and the NDP continued this aim when it took over the CCF in 1960. The argument was straightforward: why would a true democracy keep an elitist, patronage-based institution which since 1867 had served as a defensive bastion of the dominant business and industrial interests in Canada? But neither the CCF nor its successor was ever able to turn abolition of the Senate into a prime issue in any of 18 federal elections they've contested. The truth is the socialist (social democratic?) party never really focused an all-out campaign on ridding Canada of the Senate because it always paled as an issue alongside unemployment or medicare. The two abolitionists say they're in this for the long haul. They agree a survey of Senate history is discouraging for both would-be reformers and abolitionists. Getting broad agreement is difficult, not just in the populace generally, but within the parties. But a harder nut to crack is the existence of the Senate as a constituted part of the federal parliament. Thus there would have to be major constitutional changes. Ugh! Who doesn't recall Mulroney's grandiose failures, first with the Meech accord, and then with the referendum on the Charlottetown accord (which would have much altered the Senate)? VOTERS WILL DECIDE Gallaway and Nystrom know provincial premiers, particularly of Quebec, B.C. and Alberta, are proprietorial on issues regarding the Senate. Nonetheless, they expect a break- through towards abolition will come through one province's voters choosing abolition in a referendum on Senate reform or abolition. Then abolition would roll through other provinces until all premiers and Ottawa realize that the simplicity and common sense of abolition has won Canadians' support. The pair's first canvasses around the House found more backing than they expected. Before the year's out they think the cause will be joined by a dozen or so Liberals, several Reformers, most New Democrats and a handful of BQ MPs. They are scouting ways to forward motions and queries on abolition in the House and have some researchers studying constitutional paths to abolition. Already several senators have reacted scornfully, defending their work and institution and promising a continuing contention on Parliament Hill as Gallaway and Nystrom hammer their abolitionist theme. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, August 02, 1998 ID: 12647119 TAG: 199808033075 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C7 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN CANADA'S FALL FROM GRACE Political Ottawa loves to navel gaze, and the annual summer doldrums afford much time for pondering matters most Canadians deem uninteresting. For example, it's likely most citizens would consider it ridiculous to measure the performance of our foreign affairs minister, Lloyd Axworthy, and the state of Canada's foreign policy and foreign services. Yet Ottawa papers have had a spate of comment on the minister and the Chretien foreign policy. The Hill Times, a broadsheet for those working in and around Parliament, ran a piece comparing Mr. Axworthy to his famous predecessor, Nobel peace prize winner Lester Pearson (who went on to become prime minister). According to the Times, some of those preoccupied with Canada's international reputation actually believe Winnipeg's favorite son compares favorably with the sainted Pearson. Axworthy's promotion of the international treaty banning anti-personnel landmines and advocacy of a permanent UN peacekeeping force has captured the favor of the lobbyists for these causes and they are vocal in their praise. All this reveals more to me about Axworthy's talent for self-promotion than about his effectiveness. In the case of the landmines treaty, modest Lloyd mounted a concerted - and less than subtle - campaign to secure for himself the Nobel Peace Prize which ultimately went to the leaders of the international grassroots anti-mine campaign. Lloyd's hardball tactics in pursuit of the prize (which alienated some of Canada's oldest allies, who doubted the treaty's value and were offended by what they saw as a Johnny-come-lately trying to steal credit from those who'd invested years in the cause) ultimately failed, but it did secure him much favorable domestic press. And the Ottawa Citizen has been focussing on Canada in the world but not so much on Axworthy's personal performance as on the direction, or as some put it, lack of direction, of our foreign policy. In a piece ominously titled "Canada's fall from grace on the world scene," Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta was quoted as describing Canada's international efforts as wishy-washy, dismissing our foreign minister's soft power approach as little more than a cover for trading with corrupt, repressive regimes. Domestic experts were no kinder. Maureen Molot, director of Carleton University's school of international affairs, called for yet another review of Canada's foreign policy, while University of Toronto professor John Carson concurred with Horta that current policy is ad hoc and dilettantish in appearance because it focuses on issues such as landmines and a permanent UN peacekeeping force that look a lot better than the weight of their substance. OLD LAURELS A recurring theme of both professors is that Canada continues to rest on laurels earned long, long ago. While Canadians still like to think of themselves as leaders in foreign aid, their spending on it has declined from .46% of gross national product under the Mulroney government to just .28% today. (Recall Pierre Trudeau's boast that Canada would eventually increase its aid budget to a full 1% of GNP.) There was also agreement that Canada's limited military capability is affecting our ability to play an effective - much less a leading role - in peacekeeping. Carson argued that Canada's obvious dependence on the U.S. for protection undercuts its credibility on security issues such as mines. However, neither he nor Molot could muster much enthusiasm for increased military spending, given the lack of a direct threat to Canada. Peyton Lyon, former Canadian diplomat and bugbear to his old employer, responded to the broadside. While agreeing that Canada's failure to honor its foreign aid commitment was inexcusable, he chastised the academics for refusing to acknowledge the landmines treaty as a real success. And although he too felt that our international position would benefit from strengthened armed forces, the case for this was not as strong as that for increased foreign aid. Lyon's sharpest criticisms, however, were aimed at Canada's failure to champion the disenfranchised Palestinians. As a leading advocate for the creation of an Israeli state back in 1948, Canada helped create the Palestinians' problems, and owed it to them to push Israel for a fair and just settlement. The most intriguing of these pieces on Canada's international status is from former U.S. diplomat David Jones, once based in Ottawa. He's the man whose published appreciation of Lucien Bouchard's strong prospects, written after he left diplomacy three years ago, set the Chretien cabinet fuming. UNINTERESTED Now Mr. Jones writes about the recent decision of the U.S. State Department to move its Canada office from its European Bureau to the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs. As he sees it, through this decision the United States has recognized that Canada is both unwilling and uninterested in sustaining its former commitments in Europe. Moreover, not only was the Latin American Bureau distinctly second tier, but Canada could easily become a fifth wheel there, given the bureau's fix on Spanish culture, development concerns, illegal drugs and security issues, and Canada's fixation with Cuba. Jones concludes that the transfer will mean even less high-level state department attention to Canadian issues in future. So much for those assertions that Axworthy has raised Canada's international profile and influence! So what, if anything, does such critical commentary mean beyond our capital's environs? Not much, and here's where Mr. Axworthy has his self-satisfied hurrah. The real goal of Canadian diplomacy has long been to convince voters that others really perceived Canada to be different from (i.e. morally superior to) the United States. The steady retreat from world affairs (which these critics trace) and the lack of public reaction to it illustrates just how disinterested and uncritical Canadians have become about international affairs. Open, repeated, and grave espousal of good deeds, or at least good intentions abroad by Mr. Axworthy seem enough to convince a lot of us that we still stand tall and are very different from Americans. In this he has been as successful a master conjurer as we've had in the foreign affairs portfolio role since the Pearson period. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, July 29, 1998 ID: 12646071 TAG: 199807293232 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 17 COLUMN: The Hill SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER HIPPOCRATIC OATH FOR THE INFORMATION AGE Few political journalists ever radiated more seriousness and wrote more clearly than Bruce Phillips. He's now 68 and on a two-year extension by the Chretien government of a seven-year term as the federal privacy commissioner. Before this ombudsman-like task Mr. Phillips had been an advisor of Brian Mulroney, after a stint as director of communications in the PMO. Before this he'd been the government's press chief in Washington, and he'd gone to that plum after years as CTV's top commentator in Ottawa. He came to TV from reporting for Southam Press. I assume his fine work in his current office explains the unusual extension Mr. Chretien gave him. Certainly, the messages to Parliament and the public in Mr. Phillips' latest annual report as privacy commissioner merit wide attention. In para. 1, page 1, Mr. Phillips heads into "two pressing issues." "The first," he writes, "is seeing an effective and enforceable privacy law in place in the private sector. The second: ensuring that the planned health information infrastructure does not lead to open season on patients' medical information." Concerns about losses in personal privacy have soared since computer technology revolutionized the storing and retrieval of personal information. As an example, I've taken to E-mail with blundering relish, and in notes exchanged with friends I've written blistering things about some people and some agencies, and never thought about dangers from suits of libel. Reading the privacy commission report made me aware there are various ways my E-mail candor could be tapped by outsiders. We have some federal and provincial laws which direct and limit the taking and use of personal data by governments and their agencies. There is nothing yet really equivalent for the private sector. As Mr. Phillips emphasizes, with users of the Internet proliferating around the globe there are increasing "threats to privacy, decency and truth (and possibly to individual safety)." SCARY STORIES Already a rash of scary stories about pornography and con artists have brought demands that governments control the Internet, but if their ukases and policing go too far it will destroy "much of the Internet's value as an open and wonderfully flexible method for the world to communicate." Mr. Phillips pounds away at the dangers to privacy of so much surveillance by cameras and recorders in our society. This paragraph by Mr. Phillips on the dangers to privacy of so much surveillance is ironic: "The pervasive surveillance signals a rapid approach to rock-bottom in our respect for individual rights. Easier to resort to a quick surveillance fix and diminish everyone's right to some private enjoyment rather than accept responsibility for maintaining a civilized atmosphere by refusing admission to, or turfing out, the rowdy. But even more depressing is our uncritical acceptance of this spreading surveillance. We can achieve perfect safety and security to be sure. And, of course, we have nothing to hide. All we have to do is give up any notion of personal freedom." Canada is at a crucial point in the evolution of health information management. Mr. Phillips sketches the divergence between the concerns of the medical profession and the health bureaucracy and its researchers at all levels of government. The latter insist that future progress in health care depends so much on an ever-more-complete profile of the state of health in Canada. This marvellous resource must be built by increasing documentation and use of the medical records of individuals. Doctors, says the report, "are extremely concerned." Far more than the bureaucrats "they fear the possible erosion, if not destruction, of the basic ethic of their profession: the absolute confidentiality of the patient-doctor relationship." And so they've framed a code whose basic principle is "the need for patient consent for almost every form of informational exchange." The commissioner thinks this "will be nothing less than a Hippocratic Oath for the information age." He insists ways must be found to protect the rights of individuals to privacy on their health matters. "It bears repeating," he says, "the corollary of a publicly funded health care system is NOT abdication of that bedrock principle of our right to a confidential relationship with our doctors." The report follows such repeated insistence on basic freedoms with many suggestions on how we can have a workable, useful health information pattern in Canada with as few jeopardies and as many protections to the individual as possible. The scope of privacy as a principle to be protected is revealed by the case reports on the commission's inquiries into citizens' complaints. It's scary what the privatization of what were governmental services has been doing to threaten individuals' privacy. Let me leave the privacy commission's report with the difference Mr. Phillips draws between the right of privacy and the right of access to information. "Access to general government records is an administrative right. ... Privacy, however, is a core value, a basic human right which touches almost every aspect of life." The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, July 26, 1998 ID: 12645386 TAG: 199807273116 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C7 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN THESE BOOKS AREN'T EXACTLY LIGHT HOLIDAY READING Must your summer reading be light? Lately I've browsed two new books that many would tag as "heavy." But each is most informative and most readable whatever its freight of facts. They might not merit keeping on your shelves but if there, they'd prod your awareness of our history and politics. The first is an important history text: The Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Volume XIV, 1911 to 1920; general editor Ramsay Cook; 1247 pages; 622 biographies; and published by University of Toronto Press, 1998. Second is what I think "the last and the best" of some half a hundred histories of Canadian military units: South Albertas: A Canadian Regiment at War by Donald E. Graves; 408 pages, maps, photos, and drawings; published by Robin Brass Studio, Toronto, 1998. The 14th volume has a very diverse slate of characters, each of whom died between 1911 and 1920. Although there is a profusion there is not the over-surfeit of politicians, judges, clergymen and government officials which I expected, and there are more than enough rogues, con men, promoters, entertainers, writers, athletes, engineers, surveyors, inventors, aboriginals, and athletes to remind one how strenuous and contentious the development of Canada has been. A unique aspect in this DCB volume is a monopoly of sorts in the scores of notable volunteers who were killed on the Western front in the Great War. A few of the entries are near book-value in length and craft, for example, those about the great Sir Wilfrid Laurier or Sir James Whitney, Ontario's boom-period premier, 1905-1914. Over years I got to know much about a few of the persons in this volume, and in each case I learned much more and could find no fault with such entries. For example, as an MP in the 1960s I got to know of a predecessor in my riding from 1904 to 1911, one James Conmee (b. 1848-d.1913). He is rarely remembered in his later-life locale of Thunder Bay as its most raffish pioneer or as a glib, successful risk-taker in railway, mining and hydro enterprises. UNINHIBITED IN ORATORY Now I know why Mr. Conmee was a pre-war favorite of the Toronto press. He was a John Nunziata or Bill Vander Zalm sort, always apt at generating racy news and uninhibited in oratory that was witty and bumptious. Also he was simply shocking in his size, standing only 5-foot-5 and weighing over 300 pounds. He wrestled publicly into his 40s, and at the close of the civil war briefly served in famous General Custer's 8th N.Y. Cavalry. Each time I drive the Trans-Canada west of the Lakehead I note while whisking by rapids of the Kaministiqua River that a "whistle-stop" on the CNR nearby is still known as Conmee Junction. Details on two athletes who died in France caught my notice. Frank McGee's dad was a clerk of the Privy Council and his uncle, Thomas D'Arcy McGee, was a father of Confederation. Early in this century "One-eyed" Frank, just 5-foot-6, was the Gretzky of his era and the top goal-scorer on four Ottawa teams which won the Stanley Cup. Despite his handicapped vision he slipped into an infantry battalion as a lieutenant, went overseas, and was killed in the Somme offensive of 1916. Jimmy Duffy was 21 when he emigrated to Toronto in 1911 from Edinburgh where he was already known as a talented, long-distance runner. He soon became the toast of Canada and a leading runner in the world after he won major Boston and New York marathons in 1914. Later that year he enlisted in the infantry and, as the DCB chillingly puts it: "He was one of the 278 members (out of 305) of the Canadian Scottish who were killed in April, 1915, in the midnight assault on German positions at Kitchener's Wood, northeast of Ypres. Duffy was buried in the military cemetery of Vlamertinge." Such military recall is a fair transition to my admiring notice of a regimental history that has arrived so late most of the members who are alive are into their late 70s or early 80s. The South Albertas, a "tanked" reconnaissance regiment, was one of the most capable units in the 4th Canadian Armored Division, and just as high in the quality of its men as the two noted infantry outfits, the Loyal Edmontons and the Calgary Highlanders. There are many dreary, ill-produced histories of Canadian units. The pity is this one wasn't published 30 years ago to become a model other regimental associations would try to match. It has "class" in its paper, binding, layout, fonts, maps, illustrations, indices, and in several hundred good photographs. There's much on the pros and cons of the Sherman and Stuart tanks which the outfit used. The long training grind and the mastering of weaponry and communications which shaped the South Albertas as a 'recce' unit of quality is well told, and from it a reader comes to appreciate soldiers' ingenuity and enterprise in Canadian, English, and European locales. Best of all there are graphic accounts of all the unit's major fights, from the beachhead in Normandy to the armistice in northeast Germany. As one in a sister regiment often nearby the South Albertas I am captivated by the vividness and integrity of the narrative. What develops in a way unmatched by other such books are the short accounts wherever possible of each man who was killed or badly wounded, often with quotes from comrades of gritty to witty features in personality and deeds. REGIMENT IN TRAINING Naturally, pride in prominence and detail in South Albertas goes to the feats in closing the Falaise Gap where squadron commander Maj. Dave Currie won the Victoria Cross, but a long vein runs throughout the story of the regiment in training and action of opinionated commentary from the regiment's shrewd, much respected commander, a Torontonian, Gordon "Swatty" Wotherspoon. If you'd appreciate a detailed, well-organized account of how 1,000 to 1,500 or so Canadians, mostly but far from all from the West, got into and through the 1939-1945 war, including their collective and individual triumphs, frustrations, and failures, South Albertas is very good. The survivors of the regiment have hung together for a half century, holding regular reunions and working up the data and the money for this splendid memorial in print and pictures. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, July 22, 1998 ID: 12644373 TAG: 199807227216 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 17 ILLUSTRATION: 2 photos FLAIR AND WIT ... Senator Florence Bird and former Speaker Lucien Lamoureaux died last week. COLUMN: The Hill SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER OTTAWA HAS LOST SOME OF ITS SPARKLE Two of the most able, admirable, and stylish persons it has been my pleasure to watch or hear at work died last week - Florence Bird (born 1908) and Lucien Lamoureux (born 1920). Recently, and probably in posterity, Mrs. Bird will be noted for heading the now famous Royal Commission on the Status of Women - which reported late in 1970 with a hefty swatch of 167 recommendations, including the right of a woman to abortion and, as a mother, to access to a daycare program - rather than for 25 years as a sparkling commentator on politics and international affairs for CBC radio (1941-1967) or a dozen years as an attentive senator (1971-1983). She was an American bonus for Canada, coming as a young bride to a journalist husband, John Bird. He was a fine newspaperman but too fair, modest and kindly to garner the national notice that went to the Blair Frasers, Grant Dexters and Bruce Hutchison of those times. His wife was tougher in the sense she never backed away from frankness in either criticism or praise. As a broadcaster Florence used the name "Ann Francis." She brought the role a rich, plummy voice and superb pacing and diction. She always seemed fit, carrying her wonderful complexion and body grace into her '80s. She reminded me in her voice, poise, and posture of Katharine Hepburn. Charles Ritchie, the late diplomat and diarist, once told me it was a toss-up whether Florence Bird or Elizabeth Smart (the late poet and novelist) was "the loveliest young woman" he met as a young man in Ottawa. In some future columns on whether to kill or reform the Senate I'll come back to Mrs. Bird because she made a memorable critique of it as an institution on her retirement from it. Let me turn now to Lucien Lamoureux, the most adroit and neutral arbiter of competing politicians I have known. By common consent of Parliament Hill people from the days of Mackenzie King to Jean Chretien, Lucien Lamoureux has been "the best Speaker of the House of Commons in modern times." Fortunately, his very testing years in this office, 1966-1974, were prefaced by two apprenticeship years as the deputy speaker under a Speaker (Allan McNaughton) who dithered in the chair and gave murky decisions. Lucien Lamoureux hated dither and he did it only when it was imperative a high-temper scene should play itself out. ENGAGING AND HANDSOME In 1962, when Lucien Lamoureux became an MP by winning Stormont in 1962, regaining it for the Liberals from the Tories, I became a familiar of his because our House desks were close and we spent much chatting time together. He was so engaging - handsome, good-natured, and crackling at repartee. The sharpest character then in the House was a Creditiste, Gilles Gregoire, and as a green backbencher Lucien showed his wit and aplomb in chafing exchanges with this needler. It was Gregoire who told me Lucien spoke far better French than either of the Liberals' leading lights, Lionel Chevrier and Paul Martin. Of course, Lucien was not a partisan innocent, having worked as an aide to the debonair Chevrier when the latter was in the cabinet of Louis St. Laurent. Since then he'd set up law practice in Cornwall. In 1962 Chevrier was one of "the Four Horsemen" (with Mike Pearson, Paul Martin and Jack Pickersgill) who were leading the opposition destruction of the Diefenbaker government. They were triumphant but their persistent nastiness left a legacy of partisan hatred in the Tory benches which carried well into the terms of the House of Commons in which Lamoureux presided. Well before he took this hard job we had teased him about taking Chevrier as his model in style and deportment but he was his own man and so exceptionally right as the Speaker that I cringe at contrasting him with some of his dozy successors in the chair. For most of his years as Speaker, Lamoureux had serious problems with unruly behavior, arising out of so-called scandals, such as the Munsinger Affair, and from the often arrogant and nasty House behavior of those prominent in it, like John Diefenbaker and Pierre Trudeau. Paradoxically, he was both challenged and aided by the active presence in his first two Houses of excellent parliamentarians, like the NDP's Stanley Knowles and Tories' Ged Baldwin and Davie Fulton. He earned their respect for both procedural competence and fairness. Once he had the chair he soon determined not to bear the partisan tag of Liberal, and chose to run for re-election as an independent, and winning. It's 25 years since he left the speakership to serve as ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg. He was splendid at this but - given his remarkable abilities - so under-used. I believe he ranks with Paul Martin, Sr. as one of the most gifted Franco-Ontarian MPs ever in the House. The dearth of due regard and recognition for Lucien Lamoureux continued to his last days. He was at death's door from cancer's ravages before the honor of the Order of Canada came to him, and this only to its second level, not the highest. Perhaps it was because this month the latter award (Companion) went to two other notable francophones: Jean Beliveau and Rocket Richard. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, July 19, 1998 ID: 12643783 TAG: 199807207350 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C7 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN WHITHER CANADA'S PUBLIC SERVANTS? DATELINE: OTTAWA The state, fate and performance of the federal bureaucracy have been far larger topics in Ottawa than beyond it. Today's capital headlines fuss about flagging morale, an aging membership and an inability to attract the young, intelligent and ambitious to the public service. Let me appraise the topic from an overview of four decades and consider the public service's short-term future. When I got to Ottawa in 1957, Canada's British-style professional civil service was held by many to be among the best in the world. Hadn't it shaped Canada's mighty war effort? Wasn't it fashioning what would become our beloved social safety net? True, John Diefenbaker's victory in 1957 raised fears in the ranks of the senior civil service. Dief growled openly about a too cosy relationship between senior mandarins and the Liberal party, suggesting a purge was pending. The populist manner and flamboyance of the outsider from the Prairies didn't help the relationship between the Tory ministry and the civil service, but the purge never came. Only the strain of distrust remained through the Tory interregnum, with the mandarinate repeatedly leaking to the newspapers examples of Tory perfidy and incompetence. Naturally, the Grits' return to office under Lester Pearson, followed by Pierre Trudeau, eased tensions at the top. A host of senior mandarins saw fit to jump from their "neutrality" into partisan politics, many as Liberal ministers. During these years the public service ranks swelled to back up the boundless ambitions of deputy-ministers and ministers as the federal writ expanded to many more fields. Further, as the bureaucracy burgeoned it became unionized, and a government used to throwing money around found it hard to resist demands for better pay and perqs. The postal workers in particular showed how government could be cowed and would ante up from its bottomless treasury. There were other strains within the public service from the mid-'60s through the mid-'80s. Official bilingualism got many Anglos worrying about their career opportunities. Sanctions in hiring and promotion came to further the cause of women and identifiable minorities within the public service. These heightened tensions even though they lacked public expression. Why? Because they were too politically incorrect and un-Canadian to be championed by either the unions or the media. Yet these were the salad days of the civil service, as seen from the present perspective. HIGH-LEVEL FRETTING With advent in 1984 of Brian Mulroney's Tories the pages of the Globe and Mail and the Star were again dotted with anonymous, high-level fretting about political interference and the likelihood of bureaucratic purges which this time would come under the guise of cuts to reduce the deficit. On the matter of cuts, it seemed likely that the rank and file and the top mandarins would share common ground. But there was no purge at the top, and the institution of secret bonuses for senior officials, which coincided with the imposition of wage freezes for everyone else, put paid to any notion of a management-worker alliance. Throughout the Mulroney years the unions were impotent: their strikes went nowhere and the public was indifferent to their complaints. Voters had their own problems and, as it turned out, despite all the talk of Tory cuts, few federal workers lost their jobs involuntarily. Most departees received golden or silver handshakes. The Liberals' return to power in 1993 ended the characterization of job cuts as inspired by anti-public service sentiments, but the cutting has continued. (Again, most of those departing got generous voluntary separation packages.) After years of wages being frozen, the pay of most federal employees is once more being raised - slowly, and far from enough to recover ground lost in the 1980s and early '90s. Secret bonuses for the bosses have also been increased - dramatically! Senior mandarins can now receive up to $40,000 a year in addition to their base salaries, which are also being increased at a rate far higher than that for the rank and file. Various factors drive this disparate treatment of federal employees. The Liberals have always understood what the Mulroney Tories only came to grasp slowly: disgruntled workers are much less dangerous than angry managers. The latter control the information flow in Ottawa, and information is vital if one is to survive in politics. Secondly, the mandarins have run a remarkably successful PR campaign, garnering front page stories and op-ed page essays in the Globe about their tough lot in recent years, and detailing how the gap has grown between their compensation and that of managers in the private sector. SHORTFALL OF MANAGERS They have also successfully related the management compensation issue to that of revitalizing the mandarinate, for Canada's top managers have recently discovered demography and divined their caste is aging rapidly, and a shortfall of managers is likely within the decade. Where is all this leading us? Significant growth in the federal civil service is unlikely. Surely any spending increases will take the form of cheques and tax credits for voters, not new public service jobs. Grumbling in the ranks will continue, but the financial pressures faced by middle-level civil servants and the lack of job alternatives outside government mean they are unlikely to strike. Senior managers, on the other hand, will continue to lever up substantial increases in both official and secret compensation. These are being justified as incentives needed to attract the next generation of mandarins. And will Canadians see better service, or more of the same? I think about Somalia, and TAGS, and hepatitis C, and the Airbus fiasco, and the gun control registry extravaganza ... and say more of the same. More fiascos and continuing whining from top and bottom. But the best in remuneration and retirement for those on high. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, July 15, 1998 ID: 12642580 TAG: 199807157114 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 16 COLUMN: The Hill SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER THE MAN CANADIANS LOVE TO HATE WE'VE GOT BRIAN MULRONEY TO KICK AROUND ... UNTIL THE NEXT VILLAIN COMES ALONG DATELINE: OTTAWA How thankful those in our business or craft ought to be for Brian Mulroney as national villain. Politics as a staple of news is usually flaccid in most summer seasons. Nonetheless, the personnel of the news media have time and space to fill and the Order of Canada at the Companion (or top level) awarded to Mulroney last week was a break for news desks and reporters. Who couldn't find citizens like the always simmering Maude Barlow to lambaste this further affront to Canadians who cannot forget the awful years (1984-93) of the Mulroney government? What an affront to millions bestowing Canada's highest honor on the most detested prime minister in our history would seem to be. In my recall Brian Mulroney is the most detested PM since Pierre Trudeau of 1984, or John Diefenbaker in the early 1960s, or Mackenzie King through World War II to his retirement in 1948, or R.B. Bennett from 1931 through his electoral defeat in 1935 and until the war's hubbub buried the nation's hatred of him. To recall these PMs who became typecast as enemies of the good and the honest is to appreciate how rarely Canadians venerate a prime minister for long - in office or afterwards. However, a populace - even in Quebec - which seems to be getting less and less historical by the decade either doesn't know about or has largely forgotten the widespread animosity toward Trudeau, Diefenbaker, King and Bennett in office and which was sustained until their successors earned their own public scorn. For example, Diefenbaker was never white-washed into anything wondrous but he did seem much less inept as PM after "Mike" Pearson's cabinet became the most scandal-prone in modern times. So now you ask: Why no seeming wane in the Mulroney curse? He's been gone almost five years. Why hasn't the national penchant for animus against prime ministers switched to Jean Chretien? It's likely those two questions are in Mulroney's mind day to day and gall him. It may explain why he sanctioned the going- forward of his nomination to Companion of the Order of Canada. I say "sanctioned" because in most cases those nominated know of it beforehand; indeed, often they've triggered it by talking of such an honor to relatives, admirers and former colleagues. ELITIST AWARD Over the years I've ghost-written the argument in support of nominations of four acquaintances. Two were successful; two were not. In each case I talked about the Order to those wanting it, explaining that both before and after Pearson launched the awards for Centennial year, I spoke and wrote against the conception as undemocratic and too elitist in a country so widespread, regionalized and diverse for a fair choice in appraising real achievement. I predicted (I think accurately) the choices for the Order would largely become a system for mutual back-patting, loaded with establishment figures in the mandarinates of government, law and business. I always relish a droll aspect in how the Order of Canada came to be. Three very strong ministers - Mitchell Sharp, Jack Pickersgill and Walter Gordon - spoke forcefully against the proposal at a full cabinet meeting with arguments about its caste and undemocratic aspects. But as Pickersgill put it: "Mike wanted it, and when a Canadian prime minister is set on something he gets it, whatever his ministers think." My lack of enthusiasm for Canada having the Order of Canada had no effect on those to whom I spoke. They let their nominators go ahead. I speculate that Brian Mulroney had no doubts as his nominators went ahead, although he knows the continuing antagonism to him in the populace. He thinks it unfair. It's my hunch he knew the advisory council for the Order of Canada, in its commendation of his award, would set out his once notorious initiatives that have since become successes, in particular in setting up the goods and services tax system and in getting the free trade deal with the U.S., and then with the U.S. and Mexico. Just to state these grand achievements of the Mulroney government and their consequences in higher federal revenue and more commerce and employment in the so far positive years of Chretien-Paul Martin is to jolt citizens' awareness. These were programs Chretien opposed. He scoffed at the Tories over them. He promised the electorate he'd abolish the GST and drastically alter NAFTA for better protection of our industries and culture. Despite the critical response from the host of unforgiving elicited by the Order's award to Mulroney, in much recall of "sleaze" and phony hyperbole, there has also been the notice, particularly in editorials and letters to the editor, that most of what the Liberals list as their successes in power have their roots in Mulroney policies - from GST, to free trade, to downsizing federal departments, to hiving off Crown corporations, to the private sector, etc. In time, will the message get through to most people that the apparent Chretien successes flow from Mulroney initiatives? Very slowly, I think it will. But happen or not, clearly the villain of the decade is not hiding out but working on a return of respect, if not favor. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, July 12, 1998 ID: 12641958 TAG: 199807137097 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C4 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN A 'MUST READ' ON PARLIAMENT HILL DATELINE: OTTAWA The weekly paper, the Hill Times, is much read on and below Parliament Hill. It's a tabloid, usually 20 pages, of which about a dozen have stories and columns. Often the items make lead topics for political gossip and the emphasis is more on MPs and caucus doings than the PM, other party leaders, or either wondrous or scabrous mandarins. The Times tries to give readers "the gen" of ups and downs, arrivals and departures, regarding the swarm of 300 MPs and 100 senators, and their staffs. The weekly is pro-Parliament and aggressively aware of backbenchers and their aspirations. It keeps what amounts to a succinct, running commentary on parliamentary committees, in particular on those which deal with lobbying, electoral issues, party funding and the pay, perqs, offices, spending, employees, equipment and entertainments of MPs and senators. A less antagonistic vein runs through the copy about elected politicians than one finds in that of those who write or comment for the mainline papers and networks. On occasion, the Times tries to set the agenda of politics, as CBC-TV News did a few years ago when guided by producer Elly Alboim. Doubting of the federal bureaucracy's perfection by the Times comes out most often in stories about delays and inadequacies in many replies to access-to-information requests or about foul-ups in computer and communications systems bought by the federal government. PRIME MINISTER TOBIN At this recess time, with backbenchers few and far between on the Hill, the paper is focusing on: an emergent bid to be prime minister by Premier Brian Tobin of Newfoundland; steps to reform or even to abolish the Senate; the relationship between the Tory leadership race (featuring Joe Clark and Hugh Segal) and Preston Manning's plan for a "united alternative." Taking note of that last item, the weekly seems to some readers to have a pro-Tory bias, but this probably stems from the long, literate column it runs each week from Dalton Camp (courtesy of TorStar), the former president of the federal Progressive Conservatives. Camp finds Premier Mike Harris of Ontario as objectionable to sane citizens like himself as John Diefenbaker was 32 years ago. He also portrays Manning as the major national menace to this, and future, generations. The Hill Times has also given lots of column inches to Jean Charest, both before and since he moved into Quebec provincial politics as a Liberal, and it gives regular play to the newish MPs in the small Tory caucus, in particular to Peter MacKay, the most promising prospect for high places in all the intake from the last election. As for the paper's bias vis-a-vis the Liberals, it has not been as obsessed with the question of Jean Chretien's successor as have the mainstream media. In short, it has had almost steady coverage of the two most foreseen aspirants within the cabinet - Paul Martin, Jr. and Allan Rock - but has not really gone overboard on either man. Tobin has always been a favorite, from even before he strong-armed the Spaniards. More by emphasis than by any direct analysis, it seems some editors at the Times think Tobin will be on the final ballot at the Liberal leadership convention. Certainly it is forcefully reminding Martin he hasn't anything wrapped up. Since its founding, the Times has been partial to giving space and comment to the more openly contentious and vigorous backbenchers, from John Nunziata (an independent since he was outlawed from the Liberal caucus) to former journalist John Bryden (Lib., Wentworth-Burlington) who has rocked many interest groups with his war against "charitable" donations, to the witty veteran from Newfoundland, George Baker (Lib., Gander-Grand Falls), whose frankness sends shivers through his colleagues, to barb-tongued and Canadian-taunting Suzanne Tremblay (BQ, Rimouski-Mitis), to young Rahim Jaffer, an eager rookie from Edmonton who showily pursues a place in Quebec for the Reform party ideas on provincial rights. VARIOUS AND VIVID All in all, the parliamentary panorama and cast which the Times presents are more various, vivid and less coherent than the time-worn partisan banalities or the emphasis on cabinet domination than comes to a citizen who gets his politics from the dailies and TV news. Before leaving this point I note an ironic paradox. What the Times presents, relatively few citizens will read. But add it to the vast amount of time on TV channels which both CPAC (the so-called parliamentary channel) and Newsworld's Politics with Don Newman and Nancy Wilson have been giving to Parliament. The situation is such that it is now possible for a Canadian so inclined to follow closely the performances of more federal politicians, including backbenchers, than ever before. Despite such a wide array in the coverage of politicians, the ironic paradox is the lack of any apparent effect this seems to have on either the massive disinterest in parliamentary affairs or the even more obvious, low popular esteem of MPs. They continue as one of the most jeered categories of public persons. What I like best about the weekly is an intangible: it reflects a genuine sense of a community on Parliament Hill based on the whole lot of MPs, not just as a chorus behind party leaders and a few cabinet ministers. If you want to know more about the Hill Times, its website is http://www/thehilltimes.ca; its address is Ottawa, K1P 5A5. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, July 08, 1998 ID: 12905684 TAG: 199807087160 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 17 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER CHRETIEN & CANADA: THE HONEYMOON CAN'T LAST FOREVER THE FEDERAL GRITS MAY BE SOWING THE SEEDS OF THEIR OWN DESTRUCTION DATELINE: OTTAWA Arguably, Jean Chretien's continuing popularity owes much to his willingness to do as little as possible. Canadians are weary after several decades of incessant constitutional exercises and the many legislated changes wrought by Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney. We embrace Chretien's far slower hand and folksy manner. And our preferences match his - for golf and cottage and trips and as little political tension as possible. Call it drift or marking time or just waiting. Can it last much longer? My argument is that peacefulness will end before this Liberal mandate does, and those dour Reformers and Tories who are talking of Liberals forever if the right doesn't come together will see a government self-destruct, despite a fractured parliamentary opposition. Political veterans see the Chretien pace and demeanor as avuncular, like "Uncle Louis" St. Laurent's. A better comparison would be with the close of the Trudeau era in power. Making it raises the question of whether Chretien grasps his old leader's dubious legacy. Consider some hazards in the expensive, activist agenda outlined in the last Liberal budget. Liberal promises include a national pharmacare program, a Millennium Fund (to subsidize university students), and a home care program. Though justified as help for the unfortunate, the main target for all three plans is the middle class. So were Pierre Trudeau's schemes. All three have the potential to outrun their respective spending projections, to run up even more debt and to create more intense quarrelling between Ottawa and the big provinces. What could be more Trudeauesque? As projected by Finance Minister Paul Martin, these programs are small potatoes compared to Trudeau's more grandiose schemes. Perhaps. Consider this, however: Chretien's programs are being launched as the number of people eligible for them is increasing dramatically. BOOMERS HITTING 50 Pharmacare, for example, is largely of benefit to the elderly, who have the highest drug bills. Baby boomers, the largest layer in the population, are heading for their 50s, and will be racking up bigger bills. The Millennium Fund will kick in as more and more of the boomers' children, nicknamed the "echo" generation, pour into universities. Home care? The older members of the echo generation are already having children of their own. Trudeau's social spending initiatives weren't costed well, and their consequence came in ballooning deficits. Yes, Chretien is proud to declaim his government has ended deficits, but is there any reason to believe the Chretienites' ability to project numbers is any better? Think of the TAGS fiasco in the Atlantic provinces or the collapse of the salmon stocks or the zoom in gun registration costs. If the costs of pharmacare, the federal scholarships and home care skyrocket will citizens benefiting from them be any readier to surrender such entitlements than their parents were? Remember how much the nation's financial situation has changed since Trudeau began to roll in the mid-'70s. Ottawa wasn't burdened then with a $600 billion debt. Today, just a 1% rise in the interest rate rise jumps federal borrowing costs by $6 billion. Such increases also slow the economy, bringing lower tax revenues and higher government expenditures, driving total government costs even higher. So if an economic downturn comes, as seems likely before this Liberal mandate ends, the obligations these programs represent will force a return to significant deficits. The three programs have another parallel with the Trudeau initiatives. They intrude on provincial jurisdiction, and the Liberals decided on them without consulting the provinces. Such loftiness warms social activists who recall Trudeau's wars with premiers but others, notably Grits far from their party's bastions in urban Toronto and Quebec, recall their suffering at the polls from such high-handedness. The recent hepatitis C furor has shown some premiers are primed to take on Ottawa, and there'll be more of it over pharmacare, the Millennium Fund and home care. Why these invasions while refusing to restore any of the cuts to the provinces for education and health care which were made to beat Ottawa's deficits? Where Trudeau revelled in fights with premiers, Chretien and his cabinet sleepwalk into them. Here are two federal-provincial battles they have triggered: a) mishandling of fisheries issues by Ottawa has raised temperatures on both coasts; b) four provinces and one territory are taking Ottawa to court over its gun control legislation, which they find overbearing, hard to administer and expensive. These two matters are sure to embitter relations for several more years. If all this comes to pass, does it mean the end of the Chretien honeymoon? Maybe voters will side with him, not the premiers. Trudeau retained favor for a long time, did he not? Yes, but for all his genial charm Chretien has been somewhat of a bumbler under pressure, and he has neither Trudeau's swagger nor his verbal deftness. Recall our shock in the last referendum campaign. Quebec was revealed to be the ultimate Achilles heel of our prime minister and his cabinet. A down-turned economy and any return to deficits will tarnish the government's reputation, but failure in Quebec would be ruinous. And it cannot be ruled out. Add a Parti Quebecois-Bloc Quebecois victory in the Supreme Court on the legality of a vote for sovereignty to a defeat of federalist Jean Charest in the Quebec election and again we're at the mercy of Lucien Bouchard and his oratory. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, July 05, 1998 ID: 12905384 TAG: 199807067080 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C5 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER SUPREME COURT IS NOW SUPREMELY POLITICAL DATELINE: OTTAWA In a letter to the press, the president of the Criminal Lawyers' Association, Alan G. Gold, "deplores recent attacks on the Supreme Court of Canada as ill-conceived and misguided applications of parliamentary supremacy doctrine and unfair attacks on an institution that cannot as a matter of law defend itself." Gold went on: "We see too many bullies because it is easy to be seduced by the power that comes from attacking someone who cannot defend themselves. It is shameful when such conduct comes from political leaders." In this last reference lies the target for this particular pressure group: Preston Manning and his Reformers. Just weeks ago they made a systematic parliamentary examination of court decisions based on the Charter of Rights - an imperative of their party's program to stop the growing usurption of the role of elected politicians by judges. I accept that what I have been recently writing also puts me into the "unfair" and "misguided" grouping. Certainly, I've mocked the fuzzy stupidities in Chief Justice Antonio Lamer's ruling last December on the now famous Delgamuukw case. In consequence of this decision, which after two days of hearings threw away one of the most laborious, thorough examinations by a B.C. judge through almost 300 days of sitting, there has been a surge by Indians and their lawyers for control of huge blocks of land, and not just in B.C. The consternation is nation-wide. I have also drawn attention to recent public remarks of the chief justice which I thought congratulatory to himself and his colleagues in suggesting their decisions on cases involving rights and freedoms had an earlier parallel in the U.S. Supreme Court under the late chief justice Earl Warren. Well, for very liberally minded Americans Warren led a great court; not so though for the conservatively minded. On the matter Gold raises of justices being unable to defend themselves, it would seem that to him "defending themselves" would mean direct responses to politicians who cite specific cases or patterns in decisions. But surely we have had a full-court press by the justices themselves, notably relating to the Charter. Over the last six years or so some of the justices of our Supreme Court have been making speeches, giving TV interviews and writing articles about their roles. I recall such talks or writing by the late John Sopinka or now retired Bertha Wilson or present justices Frank Iacobucci and Beverley McLachlin. In the last two years Chief Justice Lamer has often been on TV programs, some of unusual length, explaining the court and his work and, in particular, the dramatic shift in the court's responsibility which began with the coming to force of the Charter of Rights in the early 1980s. Any intent observer of these performances might describe them as defending the court and its course on "rights." Of course, usually such expositions referred to the Charter as created by Parliament with overwhelming support of the elected representatives of the people. Gold and his lawyers should also note that in the decision which a Supreme Court justice writes for the court, he or she can be and often is very explicit in defending against both prior criticism and criticism to come. A recent example of such can be found in the decision on the Vriend case, relating to Alberta human rights legislation and written by Frank Iacobucci. In it he rebuked a justice of the Alberta Court of Appeal for decrying "judicial carpentry" and "judges who choose to privateer in parliamentary sea-lanes." But Justice Iacobucci also went beyond asserting that Canadians had chosen to give judges the job of declaring legislation valid or invalid to posit that the highest court also had the power to "read in" what Alberta's human rights legislation should contain, given the content and subsequent court interpretations of Canada's Charter of Rights. So even though the Alberta Legislature had clearly considered the inclusion in its legislation of "sexual orientation" and had not done so, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered Alberta to include it in its human rights legislation. As one who argued decades ago that the parliamentary system had no need and was not suited for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which Pierre Trudeau was determined to have, I have never had any illusion that present and succeeding generations would ever be able to get rid of it. Trudeau's frustrations as a young Quebecer with the quite authoritarian regime of Maurice Duplessis explains much of his determination for a Charter of Rights so that courts could rein in a dictatorial government rather than pushing an electorate to throw it out. CURB JUDICIAL ACTIVISM The near impossibility of getting rid of the Charter means that those of us who believe in parliamentary supremacy and not in the political supremacy of the Supreme Court should develop many ways to publicize and curb judicial activism whether it is progressive or regressive in interpreting laws passed by Parliament or provincial legislatures through the Charter. One way is to popularize the idea that governments make more use of the "notwithstanding" clause in the Constitution to set aside Charter decisions. Another way is to ridicule and satirize the timidity of politicians when they dodge putting through unpopular legislation, notably on matters of social mores, and then let the Supreme Court force it on them or "read it in." Another way is to work up a fair reckoning of what Charter decisions have already cost the taxpayers in billions of dollars (eg. the Bertha Wilson decision that give complete protection of the Charter to any would-be immigrant or refugee who made it to an airport or border town in Canada). Through the summer this diverse subject and the need to curb pre-emptors of Parliament like Antonio Lamer and Frank Iacobucci will be further analyzed. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, July 01, 1998 ID: 12904871 TAG: 199807017029 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 15 COLUMN: The Hill SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER JUST WHO WILL STAND ON GUARD? Years ago, before Rene Levesque's rise, there was a straight-ahead pleasure for me in Canada Day. It celebrated the goodness and the wonders of our country. Not any more. The simplicity in Canada Day began to crack when it was accepted by all federal parties in the mid-1960s that Canada could be divided by a vote, that the Quebecois have a right to self-determination. This arose out of the United Nations Charter of Rights which Canada had proudly signed (and a Canadian diplomat seems to have drafted). Then, in 1976 when the PQ first gained power, any simplicity in the patriotism witnessed on Canada Day disappeared. And for 22 years the prime theme across our country has been its sundering: Yes or No; plus When, and If? What a miserable and maddening possibility: to lose the country as we and our predecessors, and most of the many who came to join us, conceived or imagined it. Put aside protests at the likelihood of breaking up a country that works, that opened to many of us, including the Quebecois, so much in opportunities and personal freedom. Forget achievements together in peace and in wars, and of social and economic co-operation, or of mastering so much diversity in demography and geography. All in all, the Canada situation remains uncertain this day; the "Dominion" that was remains breakable, despite flitting indicators from opinion polls and changes in leadership in Quebec that unity could be safe, at least for another decade. It would be more satisfying for an elderly citizen who has never wanted any other nationality or political system if he could look around and find that his fellow citizens were showing or affirming their trust and respect for their elected politicians and political system. This is not the case. And one must doubt whether such negativism about politicians comes mostly from the continuing threat to national unity. At the same time, it's not hard to find lots of people in every province who think we have had a lot going in Canada that is good and not to be junked, from a health system and a social net under us to aid the unfortunate, to the use of a huge, varied and uncrowded landscape with diverse resources. Most Canadians would agree we have developed systems of communication and transport that work and educational systems that offer diverse choices and opportunity to young people. And however much clamor there has been for tougher laws and policing, few suggest law in Canada is collapsing or the justice system has failed. DISLIKE FOR POLITICIANS Nonetheless, the general run of Canadians scorns or dislikes its politicians and seems unwilling to credit politicians for what we have attained and enjoy. Oh, believe me this has not been a roundabout essay into a wish we should praise politicians on Canada Day for what we have. But more and more on this day I think about how devilishly difficult Canada is to govern and to direct. Consider the basics which change very little. Begin with the dichotomy that was there before and at Confederation, or as Durham put it 150 years ago: "Two nations warring in the bosom of a single state." Then consider the huge, vast land and lakes and the long coasts of our country and the variety of the resources it offers. And all of it with a northern, temperate zone climate, from Pelee to the Pole, from the Charlottes to Belle Isle, and with much of it seized by snow and ice for five months of the year. Character-building? Maybe, but costly. Often, particularly in summer, we forget the costs our climate and vastness lay on us. Yet our country has reached a high living standard largely through high trade performance, in competition with warmer countries with more concentrated populations. For myself, prickles of pride run through me on this day so long as I keep to what we all have as Canadians or when I appraise how this came about. I think of how our country was opened, connected and set functioning - from Champlain and LaSalle to the Hudson Bay Company and the CPR, even to Trans-Canada Airlines. I recall Canadian efforts in two world wars, or something vital but taken for granted like the funding accords that sustain our "have-not" provinces. What a shame that what was and is should now continue in jeopardy, and that so many of us mistrust the people and the processes which are our hope for Canada Day in perpetuity. Since we cannot fight - that is, literally fight with force - to keep Canada whole, I have to come back to the federalist politicians we scorn. They must not give up or give in. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, June 28, 1998 ID: 12904543 TAG: 199806297064 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C5 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER JOE'S STILL LOOKING FOR A LITTLE RESPECT DATELINE: OTTAWA Politics is rich in ironies and several have bobbed up as Joe Clark returns to the electoral chase. A decade ago columnist Allan Fotheringham zinged through what various federal party leaders had sought: John Diefenbaker wanted to be adored; John Turner and Brian Mulroney wanted very much to be liked; of course Pierre Trudeau didn't give a damn; and Joe Clark, well "... like Rodney Dangerfield he just wanted some respect (still does)." It seems to me the prime irony in Clark's return is the widespread respect he now has, something between affectionate familiarity on the one hand and an apprehension he will be hurt by another electoral rejection. But there've been few open jeers and indications of public outrage that the Tories seem sure to bring back this leader from bygone days, a man who fumbled himself out of power in well less than a year. A second irony is less noticeable. It is in the parallels, not the contrasts, at this point in time between Jean Chretien and Joe Clark as politicians. Yes, the prime minister at 64 is five years older but by and large each has put in matching time around Parliament Hill, busy in their respective parties' affairs since the early '60s. And each came to Ottawa aiming for the top job. Each has been in the political history since the Diefenbaker regime ended. Each has a similar aptitude in remembering and recalling all this in terms of issues, campaigns, personalities, appointments, procedures, etc. Each spent a large chunk of his ministerial time as the point-man for the leader in constitutional negotiations. Neither has ever purported to be a visionary nor ranged very far from the centre of the partisan spectrum. JOHNNIE-COME-LATELIES The likelihood of Chretien's historicity being joined by Clark's in the Commons later this year or next also reminds us that two of the other three party leaders in the House, Preston Manning and Alexa McDonough, though relative johnny-come-latelies to Parliament, are both veterans of political history, both through their fathers' activities and their own. To stretch an irony for those expecting a retirement soon by Jean Chretien, the huge favorite as successor is Paul Martin, Jr., a year older than Joe Clark and most mindful of political history through his illustrious father who came to Ottawa and prominence in 1935 and spent 23 years in Liberal ministries. So ... we are likely to have rather a surfeit of House leaders who know the scores of the past and the recriminations of the present. I have a hunch - one I could do without - that such bounty in experiences and memories have an irony in themselves. How so? Because they are, or will be, so little appreciated by so many citizens who seem more fed up than usual with politicians and parties and the same old guff. Guff about Quebec and separatism. Guff about stormy relations between premiers and Ottawa. Guff about spending more or paying down the debt. Guff about electing or abolishing the Senate. Guff about an ignored west and a depressed Maritimes. Guff about a military with almost every conceivable snafu or skulduggery. Believe me, Joe Clark will do as well, probably better, than anyone else in the current House in the guff league. Even as leader of merely the 5th party in the House and the second party in the Senate, he should stand out in question period, its subsequent media scrums, and in House debates. Further, he matches the PM in constitutional experience and over-matches him in international affairs. Joe Clark was always able in the House but, to put it nicely, not scintillating outside it, most notably not on television. Of course, in this span of active politics Clark may have a less critical and more approving press corps than during his previous run as Progressive Conservative leader. He was not a target of disrespect in Quebec. In the rest of Canada he was never hated but despite near unanimity on his essential decency he was much jeered - as Fotheringham put it, "no respect." Now the press, both English and French, already have a stock, critical target in Manning, and McDonough has not yet drawn their favor. Through this piece runs an assumption that Clark is a cinch to return as party leader and that his rivals, even the well-known, well-equipped, well-funded Hugh Segal, have slim chances. The latter, now 48, is a decade short of Clark's experience in politics, and much of it was not in the "open." Like both Clark and Mulroney his zest for political action was first roused by John Diefenbaker. Few in politics beyond Chretien or Clark can match Segal on what has gone on since the mid-'60s or at the guff on it all. So if Clark falters in the leadership run and Segal comes on, the Tories will still have a very knowledgable, glib leader. I've yet to hear or read of anyone who dislikes Segal but there's no certainty he will be gangbusters as the party leader on television. OPPOSITION STRATEGY There has been a back-room axiom in the strategies of all opposition parties: go after the government, not your rivals in opposition. Or as the Chief would have put it "Ignore rabbits!" Clark and Segal must both ponder ignoring this axiom in favor of targeting Manning and Reform rather than Chretien and the Liberals. One good reason is that Reform has been pushing most of the fresher, substantive alternatives to Liberal policies; it now has an array of quite cohesive, conservatively minded criticisms. It also has a huge priority in chances for performances in this Parliament. If there is to be a Tory resurrection, one which presages renaissance, Reform must be knocked back. There is an irony in this, too: no leader or party would appreciate such happening more than Jean Chretien and the Liberals. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, June 24, 1998 ID: 12903964 TAG: 199806247030 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 16 ILLUSTRATION: photo SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER A GOOD OLD CANADIAN COMPROMISE MAGAZINE'S TOP 100 LIST GUARANTEED NOT TO HURT THE FEELINGS OF ANY GROUP OR REGION DATELINE: OTTAWA Wowie! Salute the courage, not the wisdom of Maclean's. For Canada Day the magazine tells us about "The 100 Most Important Canadians in History." For those long cued to history this list may raise their tears, but more likely it will raise their rage. The top 10 from all our past is drawn from the top names in 10 categories: heroes; thinkers and writers; nation-builders; scientists; artists; discoverers and innovators; entrepreneurs; athletes; characters; and activists. Each category features its No. 1, followed by snippets on Nos. 2-10, followed by names of others considered by a panel of journalists and academics. The panel had a hard task, but clearly it met and faced it with the most prime of Canadian attributes - compromise in the name of fairness. Hurt the feelings of as few as possible. This national penchant for compromising bowled me over in an exercise I shared in back in 1969. Ottawa, spurred by a "task force report on sport," decided to launch a raft of athletic scholarships. Several dozen leaders of sports associations gathered in the capital that spring to award 100 such scholarships. The first announcement had brought over 300 applications. John Munro, then minister of health, asked me as one active in producing the task force report to represent him at the gathering, to follow the selections and see that all were made by the end of the day. 'LET'S NOT PLAY POLITICS' When we began we heard first from two senior coaches, deans of physical education at McMaster and the University of Alberta. Each high-mindedly insisted the choices must be made only on the basis of standards so far achieved and potential for improvement. There was broad agreement. As one association president said: "Let's not play politics with this." We proceeded, vetting the applications into priorities, using advice from the coaches and executives. To my surprise, by lunch break all the award winners had been picked. As the assemblage went away to eat I withdrew with two of Munro's aides to appraise what we had. One aide, an able, long-time official, was blunt. "We have a mess," he said. "The ministry will never approve this selection." I agreed, but asked him to give his reasoning. He had been shuffling names around. This was the gist of his critique: "These are national awards made by a ministry with members from across Canada. But only two awards go to athletes from the Atlantic provinces, and none to natives in the Yukon or the territories. Only 10 winners are from Quebec; of these just five are francophones. The three Prairie provinces get around a score of the scholarships but all the rest - almost 70 - have been ticketed for athletes from Ontario and B.C." He went on: "Further, only a quarter of the awards are to female athletes. There's nothing for native applicants. To top everything, almost half the awards are for track and field athletes but they represent a far smaller portion of good athletes than those in other, more popular sports." So there it was: a selection that wouldn't wash, that simply wasn't "political" or Canadian enough. I called the minister and sketched the situation. He was shocked. There'd be outrage in the Maritimes, editorials in La Presse, anti-Ontario rants on the Prairies. Go back, he said, to the group and level with them about balance - provincial, linguistic, ethnic, gender, and participatory. Ah, what a long, almost desperate afternoon and evening before we had a fair and nationally responsible list of scholarships. Almost half of those on the first list were not on the final one. The Maclean's selectors wiggled around the dilemma of how to reflect achievement or significance in a fair Canadian way by the device of 10 categories, in particular the very loose ones of "activists" (headed by Nellie McClung) and "characters" (headed by Joey Smallwood). But one consequence is that the top 10 of the historically important has five very dubious selections. AHEAD OF GRETZKY To satisfy ethnicity or "roots" Maclean's included its top athlete of all, Tom Longboat, an aboriginal runner of pre-World War I fame. He was good, but had nothing like the impact of either the first world-famous Canadian athlete, rower Ned Hanlan, or the present one, hockey player Wayne Gretzky. Nellie McClung, bless her memory, comes out above such sterling "activists" as J.S. Woodworth, Tommy Douglas and Rene Levesque but she gives the top 10 list a female (the only one) and someone from the Prairies. Gen. Georges Vanier was picked as top hero and the tops of all in importance. This is simply nonsense, however much he was a model Christian, a gallant soldier and a fortunate husband. But a French-Canadian was needed in the top 10 to go with the other francophone, Champlain, the great explorer and colonizer. Now, K.C Irving as top entrepreneur does provide a Maritimer for the top 10, but what a reflection that is on doers like Timothy Eaton, the CPR's William Van Horne, or even C.D. Howe. Anyway, read the choices and fume or agree. At least the selectors did well with five of the 10 most important: literary critic Northrop Frye; pianist Glenn Gould; prime minister W.L. Mackenzie King; geologist Sir William Logan; and the redoubtable Samuel de Champlain. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, June 21, 1998 ID: 12903626 TAG: 199806227201 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C4 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER MPS' PAY ALWAYS A POLITICAL HOT POTATO DATELINE: OTTAWA There's been a rare, critical unanimity in written and broadcast opinion over the raise in pay and allowances which MPs of all parties approved recently with much subterfuge. The refrain is about hypocrisy and sleaziness - a deed gone wrong in preparation, content and execution. Most aggravating of all to critics, the deal ripped away the frugal sanctimony of both the right and left caucuses, Reform and New Democrat. My interest in pay for MPs began 41 years ago when I became one. I soon found out that MPs have to vote through any increase in their pay and emoluments and that when they talk about or actually do so, they are damned by many. I know this because, as an MP, I spoke up for a raise in the early '60s. Oh, was I damned for it, at home and abroad. At the time, the cash flow was $10,000 a year - $2,000 of it given as a tax-free incidental expense allowance. The latter was a ruse Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King came up with late in World War II. MPs' pay had been stuck at $4,000 a year since 1920. Many MPs were desperate for more, but the government by and large controlled workers' wages. So King pointed to the rise in MPs' costs and met it with a bill to provide an annual, tax-free expense allowance of $2,000. Not more pay, just expense money. MPs still have such a tax-free expense allowance but before last week's bump up it stood at $21,300, complementing pay or "indemnity" of $64,400 a year. This cash package of $85,700 a year seems astronomical compared to the package of $10,000 in my time as an MP. Further, the perquisites of 1958 now seem so scanty: a railway pass for all Canada (daycoach!); a one-room office on the Hill (shared with another MP). I had a government typewriter, a filing cabinet, a phone and a secretary for half a day. I paid all long distance bills. There was a meagre allowance of 1,000 envelopes and 2,000 sheets of paper a session. There was free mailing but no Hill printing press for MPs nor any translation or copying services. Aside from a cash flow over eight times higher, MPs have had a far more generous pension plan than we did in the 1950s. Also, for at least 25 years they have had a liberal air travel plan (with family provisions), funds for constituency offices and for at least three employees, a recapture of money spent on constituency travel, a printing service ready to produce four major mailings a year to constituents and an updated array of aids like computers, faxes, cell-phones, translators, and copiers provided by Parliament. These advances in services and backing came piecemeal over the years. For example, the library serving MPs had two reference specialists in 1958 and now has some 70 (most with graduate degrees). CAPACITY IMPROVED I do not make the contrast between then and now to emphasize the soaring of costs. Parliament as a whole - House, Senate and library - cost less than $10 million in 1958; this year it will take over $280 million. It's to point up the consequence of the huge improvements in the capacity of an MP, singly to serve his constituency and do better work as a legislator, or collectively to do more in House committees and caucuses. This has narrowed the focus on MPs' needs to pay, pensions, and personal expenses. MPs and caucuses should face up to the durable fact that getting more, even talking about more - whether in pay or pension or housing bonuses - will continue to outrage lots of citizens and interest groups, just as I found out after I asked for more. Each time since then when plans of "more" for MPs have surfaced there has been outrage, fanned by the media. When MPs' intentions are presented, it is usually with a tone of somewhat scandalized relish by a media corps which has always seemed to resent MPs "fattening" their own pay and perqs. Not even patronage practices agitate more public conjecture on the dubious worth and grabby greed of partisan politicians. The antagonistic chorus has become a recurring damper, cowing not just unknown backbenchers but leaders and ministers as well. In response, leaders and MPs have tried every possible means to get their raises and perqs presented plausibly. Believe it or not, there have been seven distinct "outside" inquiries commissioned on their needs since 1970. Then a troika chaired by a business tycoon from Bell Canada analyzed MPs' remuneration and services and made recommendations. The seventh such report prepared by dignitaries not in Parliament came in early this year. Judging by the "improvements" just passed by the House, what has happened mimics what followed the six previous inquiries. Most recommendations were not followed. The chief reason for this repetitious reluctance has been obvious. The pay recommendations of all the commissions have been very generous. Each inquiry wrestled with what an MP deserves in relation to his responsibilities and costs. Each has canvassed ways to adjust pay and expense allowances in a regularized way - say, in line with the increases in national pay scales, or with cost-of-living changes, or with percentage changes in the GNP. Should MPs' pay match the average earnings of doctors? Lawyers? Senior mandarins? School principals? Middle managers? CAN'T CREATE APPROVAL After turning to outsiders seven times in 28 years for counsel on pay and allowances, then largely ignoring the recommendations, all MPs and their respective party leaders should accept they cannot dodge or finesse the persistent bent of many citizens to oppose their self-raises. Giving the chore to others doesn't work. They haven't created general approval of increases. They haven't found an autonomous process that monitors and adjusts parliamentary pay and allowances. As a long witness of umbrage on the one hand and cowardice on the other, what do I suggest? That the House convene every second session in each majority Parliament its own pay and perqs committee, chaired by the government House leader. This all-party group would review publicly what MPs have been getting across the board in pay, allowances, services and pensions, and recommend what should be changed for the next Parliament. Do this in the form of a bill which has to be debated and voted on in the third session in a vote free from party whips. In short, MPs should do the task themselves, do it openly, proclaim their conclusions, debate them - and vote on them. KEYWORDS: SALARY; FEDERAL GOVERNMENT The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, June 17, 1998 ID: 12903036 TAG: 199806177029 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 15 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER PM'S POPULARITY POSES REAL PUZZLE DATELINE: OTTAWA Another good news poll for Jean Chretien means more bafflement for some of his detractors and that, plus frustration, for many more. There have been many such polls in the years since Chretien's best-selling autobiography, Straight from the Heart (1985), demonstrated what so many observing or studying politics have found - and still find hard to believe: that one so unpolished, rough-spoken and bumptious in argument is so widely appreciated. The latest poll (Sun-Roper) shows 70% of Ontarians approve Chretien's leadership of the federal government. This is very high. And it comes after five years in office, surely time enough for most who follow politics to make a fair measure of the man and his governance. Of course, there lies the rub for both the baffled and the frustrated. Again and again since Chretien set out to beat John Turner - before he lost the convention, and afterwards as he worked to oust him - I have heard from many who think it a bleak commentary on Canadians' standards that so many cherish such an uncouth and simplistic partisan. Their complaints remind me of a parallel in those who cannot swallow that Don Cherry is admired by legions. Those frustrated by Chretien's success seem to be more numerous than the more analytical ones who are mystified at the popularity of such a roughneck. Recently we've heard much of the frustration among both Reformers and Progressive Conservatives. Both think the right must be united. If this fails to happen, Canada will never be rid of a Liberal government in Ottawa. Such a rather desperate postulation has several comic aspects. First of all, the Liberals - not just under Chretien but under his predecessors - have been as much or more mindful of centrist and right-wing opinion than of opinion on the left. It amuses me that so many think the Liberals are dedicated lefties. Their dedication is to keeping power. With conservative values still ascendant with the public, sustained by the huge public debt, there will be no great Liberal recreation of Crown companies or any massive welfare extensions. These "liberals" are supreme pragmatists. One might also grin, rather tight-lipped of course, at the developing certainty the Conservatives will choose either Joe Clark or Hugh Segal as their leader. As if worn cliches and replaying several decades of platitudes will be the means to top Chretien or to douse the threat of Preston Manning to the national moderation which the Tories have sustained for so long as the alternative to the Liberals. MANNING IMPATIENT And Manning, after just five years as an opposition presence in Ottawa, is so impatient for a conservatively minded government that he has set Reform the task this year of rallying into a unified force or a co-operating association of those who distrust the Liberals and choke at more mandates for them. The latest sunshine poll for Chretien is maddening to all who distrust Liberals, most notably because partisan rivals and some journalists have been talking Liberal slippage, even a breakdown in Chretien's understanding of issues. And most critics have been citing the dreary cabinet, the hepatitis C fiasco, the succession of scandals in the military, the costly fisheries' snafus - east and west - his obsession with tripping the globe; and the growing antagonism of the major provincial governments, not just Quebec's, to his government over university scholarships, the federal gun registry and the accretion of billions in the Employment Insurance pot. And, as columnist Michel Auger recently put it: "Arrogance reigns again." Already the high poll standing of Chretien is being explained by our fair-to-good economy, the balanced budget and an easing in the threat of Quebec's separation. These factors are significant, but the personal factor should not be forgotten. In my watch of Jean Chretien over 35 years, he has, to coin a word, kept re-astonishing me. Firstly, it has been his continuing energy, stamina, quickness, confidence and feel for people; secondly, it has been an ongoing, instinctive identification with him by so many. Lord save us, I pray, from a Liberal government forever or even again. But a brief chat with the PM just after I read the flattering poll reminded me how fit, confident, and aggressive he is ... still! In truth, he is much as I first found him in 1963 except that he is happier, revelling now in what he told me then he meant to reach. "What extravagant ambitions," I thought then. But such thrusting is not remarkable. Clark and Segal had the same goal as schoolboys. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, June 14, 1998 ID: 12902682 TAG: 199806157067 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C4 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER REFORM IS LEARNING THE ROPES THE CAUCUS AND ITS LEADER NO LONGER UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF PARLIAMENT DATELINE: OTTAWA Today let us address the subject of "caucus." It's topical at the moment because of an unusual breakdown in Liberal caucus discipline, seen in embarrassing "no-shows" in the House, and because of a new study of one caucus - Reform's. Even on the Hill, where the word is so familiar, a caucus has an aura of mystery. Why so? Because a caucus gathering is private, its proceedings supposedly secret, as is much of its work. No warning to a new MP is put more absolutely: what goes on in caucus is not for open divulgence. This is so vital. Otherwise MPs would not be frank with their leader or each other on difficult matters; otherwise a sense of loyalty and the need to stand firm against partisan enemies could not be established or maintained. Neither journalists nor academics focus much on the parliamentary caucus as an essential institution or on particular roles of the federal caucuses (of which we now have five). At last weeks' huge colloquium of scholars in Ottawa a young one, Jeffrey Heynen of Ottawa's Institute on Governance, read a paper to the political scientists titled The Evolution of the Reform Party Caucus. Of course, Reform has only had a federal caucus for five years. That's not much time for evolution, but there has been a lot. In fact, there had to be because Reform - in this case, read Preston Manning - came to caucusing with assumptions which soon went haywire. In 1993 Reform began its MPs' caucus with woolly idealism and stock stuff from the newest broom in politics. Reformers would not behave like the old gangs. OPEN AND DEMOCRATIC Reformers disliked secrecy in politics and "behind doors" activity. Theirs would be a more open and thoroughly democratic caucus - as befits a grassroots political movement. Theirs would not be a parliamentary party in which the leader and his gurus called all the shots, either for the caucus of MPs or for the party as a whole as represented by its elected executive council (centred in Reform's national office in Calgary). When the party got under way a decade ago under Manning's aegis, two basic premises were clear. First, the executive council of the party is very important, not primarily an electoral and organizational tool behind a dominating leader (as with the old parties, even the NDP). Reform's council is cast as the vigilant, ongoing custodian for the membership, the interpreter of the party's constitution, and the director of party organization. Second, each Reform candidate accepts that once elected he or she must keep paying attention to what his or her constituents believe in or want done. The party gives constituents the right to "recall" an MP who acts in contradiction to their views. Both these premises are too idealistic for the politics in a parliamentary system. At this stage, five years into caucusing, Reform's executive council has been too far from the action for effectiveness. As for "recall," with each MP perpetually examining the guts of his constituency, this is no longer much talked about among Reformers (perhaps because it is so wildly impractical, given that each election is a recall for an incumbent). The Heynen paper charts a very bumpy evolution in the Reform caucus. Changes in structure and operations were many, almost all forced because the first structure and initial attitudes were a bust. The leader and the Reform MPs as a group were quickly objects of ridicule for slow responses, unfocused performances, soppy bromides about civility and frugality and gauche unreadiness before a relentless media. The leader badly misjudged the significance of parliamentary performance to the public - for example, the crucial importance, day to day, of the oral question period in providing what citizens saw and heard of party leaders and their style and ideas. REFORMERS COLLEGIAL Manning chose to sit behind the Reform front row. He ignored the practice of other parties in having MPs primed as particular critics across the breadth of governmental departments and responsibilities. Reform MPs were too collegial for such specialization. Manning and the executive council, moored in Calgary, underestimated both the immediacy, suddenness and diversity of parliamentary politics. As populists they believed the battleground for attaining power should be across the land where plain people are, not in the noisy artificiality of the House of Commons. It took them months to realize the House was where a government most revealed its capabilities and its lacks. And, shockingly for a "private enterprise" crew, Reformers didn't foresee the intense rivalry there would be for prime duties and forward roles between the MPs of the caucus. Manning also counted too much on his advice or counsel on caucus assignments and practices being accepted without rancor festering or strong exceptions being taken and becoming public. And he was shocked to find how suddenly public remarks by an MP could become a feeding furor for the media, requiring instant attention - for example, when brief opinions of MPs were taken to be homophobic, or anti-aboriginal or anti-Quebecois. Almost every caucus, whatever the party, is a hive of striving ambitions and dissent over issues and strategies. A shrewd party leader adapts. None of his priorities is more vital than a co-ordinated, loyal, and at least moderately content caucus. But unlike a prime minister, an opposition leader has nothing much in promotions or perqs to use in keeping discipline and reinforcing loyalties. CRITICAL PRESS Manning and his caucus in the last Parliament had to drop what proved to be hokey intentions and gear for hard, incessant partisan warfare and an ever-critical press. By and large, critic Heynen's paper sketches the transition from a bumpkin state or quality to a modestly effective caucus, geared to the immediate. Also, though he doesn't stress this, the Reform caucus has become much like other caucuses in structure and priorities. When the House of Commons is in session, Wednesday is "caucus" day for each party. It is the pivotal day of the political week. In caucus MPs talk frankly to their leader (and in the government caucus, to ministers). Leaders and caucus chairs set out the coming agendas - legislative, strategic and tactical. Chores are assigned; beefs expressed. This is how Hill caucuses have been for decades; that's how the Reform caucus now functions. Manning came to the House in 1993 with 52 MPs, only one an incumbent. As a generality the Reformers arrived full of disrespect for the usual parliamentary behavior and methods. But neither the leader nor the party council nor the MPs was ready for the immediacy of the House for the public through television. The kaleidoscope of issues and incidents which flare and fade demand a short-term perspective. So the leader and Reform MPs have adapted, notably to an imperative of constant scrutiny and instant response. This is politics of a kind which the party's executive council or national office or annual conferences of rank and file adherents cannot provide. As the House breaks for the summer, even Reform's partisan enemies would grant its performance as a caucus (the leader included) has become fair to good in the first year of its second Parliament. But much of the improvement has come from doing what other able opposition caucuses have done. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, June 10, 1998 ID: 12902051 TAG: 199806107032 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 15 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER HOUSE ALREADY IN VACATION MODE DATELINE: OTTAWA Readers may remember my wonderment a few weeks ago at the dearth of Liberals attending the House once the daily question period ends. A fortnight ago, for several minutes there was not one of our governing cast in the chamber. They capped this on Monday. A total absence of Grits through several minutes allowed the four opposition remnants to rally around a quick motion to close out the ministry's sanction to set limits on any legislative debate - at least until it goes through a procedural rigamarole which could take over a week to regain the sanction. It was neat to embarrass the government in this way, but it is not as though the opposition parties are panting for more debating time. As summer break looms, the mood running through all caucuses is one of "Let's get out of here." For the Bloc Quebecois MPs, their home turf will be busy this summer/fall as Premier Lucien Bouchard, their comrade-in-purpose, gears to go to the people. Although the BQ MPs have shown little of the dash and argumentative zeal the previous Bloc caucus displayed in the first year of the last Parliament, Gilles Duceppe has at least kept their presence up in the House. For the Progressive Conservatives there is a rambling process ahead which will bring the election of a new party leader from a slate which seems sure to be headed, when the votes are counted, by one or the other of those familiars: Joe Clark or Hugh Segal. It's my opinion the PC caucus is not overwhelmingly caught up in this contest at this time, and is unlikely to become so unless one or more of its MPs enters the race. What's noticeable since Jean Charest left is more work-sharing in the House by the small pack he left behind. The New Democrats' electoral influx, mostly from the Maritimes, is shaking down. But as yet Alexa McDonough does not head a tight, tough team. On the other hand it is neither so lost nor so lamely led as the band in the previous Parliament. While the new NDP MPs still show eagerness to speak and participate, one can hardly say the same for the half-dozen members with experience and capabilities: i.e., Nelson Riis, Svend Robinson, Bill Blaikie, Chris Axworthy, Lorne Nystrom and John Solomon. CONFIDENT REFORMERS Reform continues in this House, as in the latter years of the last Parliament, to be the most openly confident and aggressive opposition caucus. The group needs such elan within the context of Parliament Hill because its policies and performances, particularly those of Preston Manning, continue to be the prime target of partisan bombs from the other parties. Reform is also far and away the most closely pursued caucus by a critical media pack, intent on searching out real or suspected hypocrisy, contradictions, prejudice, racism and phony leadership. The anti-Reform fixation of the ministry is most evident in the oral question period. Even such a mild, courteous minister as Christine Stewart (environment) has taken to rapping back Reform questioners, and the Grits' financial genius, Paul Martin, Jr. is almost rabid in his anti-Reform fierceness. Naturally, the combative Jean Chretien almost never misses a chance for a mocking or dismissive slam at Reform. One might imagine the Liberals, given such an aggressive, assiduous and critical opposition as Reform, would be wholly seized on never giving them an inch, in particular by an almost unprecedented indifference to attendance in the House. Why, even a Liberal senator, Anne Cools, belittled MPs last week. Senatorial attendance has been under the gun, and she wanted it known it is exemplary compared with "the other place." The Chretien Liberals are tightly disciplined. They have a very serious House leader, an array of earnest whips and some 90 more MPs than Reform. There is no party leadership contest under way or even brewing. A cabinet shuffle is thought to be possible this summer, but even such a prospect hasn't been luring apple-polishers to the House. It's hard to find open whiners or even any explanations for the Grits' indifference beyond a frequently expressed desire to get back to the riding, free from the tedium of the Commons. Whatever ... this is an odd and unusual situation. A Parliament still in its first year, with opinion polls showing nothing much that's startling. Jean Chretien is still popular; Preston Manning is not. The economy is relatively fair, though not disturbingly so. And that ceaseless perennial, national unity, is out there but it is far from a fever pitch, either on the Hill or across the land. Maybe the best imagery for the Chretien government is that it's on auto-pilot. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, June 07, 1998 ID: 12711456 TAG: 199806087217 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C4 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER BILL JOHNSON'S WILL NOT BE A 'QUIET' REVOLUTION HE'S A BATTLER FOR BILINGUALISM IN THE MODE OF HIS HERO, PIERRE ELLIOTT TRUDEAU DATELINE: OTTAWA It is persnickety and unfair the media tagged columnist William Johnson as "Pit Bill" the instant he won a narrow election for president of Alliance Quebec last weekend. Surely he deserves a kinder representation than as a savage animal. The Alliance, largely funded by Ottawa, is an organization of volunteers, almost wholly anglophone, dedicated to the cause of federalism and English language rights in Quebec. The problem, as cautious federalists see it, is that a more vigorous and stentorian Alliance under Johnson will exasperate the Quebecois who seek separatism or are sympathetic to sovereignty association. He would pick up its tempo and toughen its arguments. Until now apt adjectives for the Alliance would be plaintive or querulous; certainly more courteous than contentious. Johnson, 66, has been a political journalist for some 30 years, much of the time as a columnist for the Globe and Mail and then the Montreal Gazette, who focused on Quebec politics and federal constitutional issues. He is from a bilingual household and his parents saw he got a Jesuit education, almost all of it in French, in Quebec. And so he studied the subjects within the same traditions, values, and social attitudes as did Rene Levesque, Gerard Pelletier and Johnson's hero of heroes, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. For me, Johnson has been the most informative, interpretative and bravest of all journalists writing within or for the Quebec file. My awareness of him sharpened in the early 1980s when he dismissed my adequacy as a "national observer." Why? Because I neither understood French nor had tried to rectify such ignorance through years as an Ottawa columnist. Who would take seriously a "national" critic who could not deal first-hand with a quarter of Canada's people? So Johnson is direct and blunt. As he saw it in 1983: "The Quiet Revolution will not be complete until all who aspire to a national role in any sector of Canadian life take for granted - noblesse oblige - that they must know English and French." DAMNS PREJUDICE In a long, wry acquaintance he has been as he is as a writer - not personally nasty, however much he may damn prejudice and ignorance. It is probably the case, however, that his candor about factors like my lack of French, have been aggravating those in Quebec politics and journalism since the late 1970s. A severe critic of a society and its institutions, particularly someone who seems a very lone wolf, comes to be shrugged off as somewhat of a nut case, much as many readily brushed away former Sun columnist Lubor Zink for his allegedly over-zealous anti-communism. After 1976, the first Levesque PQ government was developing the notion of sovereignty association as the guise through which Quebecois would achieve what Johnson has called an "ethnic state, based on a single language." In that period he wrote with irony of the work produced in the Quebec press gallery: "I can suggest some ways to improve political reporting ... They might consider writing their stories before rather than after they get together and reach a consensus about what it all means. The time saved could well be spent reading the British North America Act." In 1995, just three years ago, William Johnson brought together his history studies and reporter's experience in a big book on Quebec from the start of the Quiet Revolution in 1960 to 1994 and the eve of the second referendum. His title was A Canadian Myth: Quebec, Between Canada and the Illusion of Utopia. Two historians of English Canada, Jack Granatstein and David Bercuson, tagged the book as a masterpiece. Granatstein summarized it thus: "In Johnson's view, Quebec leaders, Union-Nationale, Liberal, and Parti Quebecois alike, have all been motivated by anglophobia and a marked unanimity in trying to disengage Quebec as much and as quickly as possible from the entanglement of federalism. Worse, with the sole exception of Pierre Trudeau, prime ministers from Pearson to Mulroney, aided and abetted by the provincial premiers and the elites of English Canada, assisted this process. Johnson, as this suggests, is a federalist, some who was, is, and remains appalled by the race-based nationalism that has dominated Quebec for a generation and a half." EVIL ANGLO MYTH In an earlier book, Anglophobie Made In Quebec, Johnson scanned 150 years of Quebec history and literature and limned the development of a tribal myth that evil Anglos had oppressed francophones and left them powerless and poor. This myth was propagated by the clerical education system, and when Roman Catholicism's collapse in the 1960s became clear the myth emphasized the defence of language and culture more. All over the world empires were collapsing. New nations were being self-determined by peoples long suppressed. And Quebecois were joining this surge to escape colonial status within Canada, not just to become "masters in their own house" but a new, free nation. And so the tribal myth of oppression and subordination became an open demand for a people's freedom and an open, dangerous issue for all Canadians. Most themes of the myth were taken up by all political parties of Quebec - for example, the idea that federalism as a strait-jacket had kept the Quebecois from controlling their destiny and advancing their language, culture and economic status. Johnson emphasized that all the federal parties (before Reform) made accommodations to the tribal myth of Quebecois and their grievances. Historian Bercuson says Johnson's book demonstrated that: 1) It is pure cow flap to declare - as Levesque, Robert Bourassa, Joe Clark, and Brian Mulroney did - that Quebec was stabbed in the back in 1982; 2) That the federal Tories, beginning with Stanfield in the 1960s and continuing through the 1970s and 1980s with Clark and Mulroney shamelessly and knowingly allying themselves with declared separatists such as Lucien Bouchard in order to win office and paid the supreme price for that in October, 1993; 3) Bourassa was always more of a Levesque-type sovereignist than he was a federalist; 4) The provincial premiers often cynically rode the tiger of Quebec separatism in order to gain advantage on the federal government, and just as often were eaten by that tiger. William Johnson has been harsh (and I believe fair) about those federalists who believe one must compromise and accommodate with Quebecois nationalists even though anglophone rights have been diminished in Quebec. He wants them back. Johnson has done more than portray the tribalism in Quebec and its distortions of history and grievances which became the staples of separatism. Now Johnson, late in his days, sure in what he knows and what is fair, has chosen to become an activist, not just a commentator, in Quebec. He wants to ginger a small and so far rather gentle movement for federalism and the right to genuine bilingualism. And suddenly he is characterized as a pit bull. Suddenly he is too contentious, immoderate and dangerous. He threatens the Quebecois. Oh, they will be angry! So suddenly this learned advocate of federalism in a Trudeau mode is a menace to precious unity and not what I think he is - a teller of home truths to a society he knows extremely well and to national politics where untruths and half-truths flourish. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, June 03, 1998 ID: 12710878 TAG: 199806037034 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 17 COLUMN: The Hill SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER GRITS' GUN REGISTRY JUGGERNAUT ROLLS ON NOT EVEN BUREAUCRATIC FIBBING AND EVASION HAVE GRABBED THE MEDIA'S ATTENTION DATELINE: OTTAWA Like Mother Nature, the powers-that-be are not to be messed with. Our political and media elites hung together on the case last week of "freedom of expression" for separatist David Levine, new head of the recently merged Ottawa Hospital. And while you may not have noticed, last month the same alliance had a similar triumph over the redneck bigots. They achieved this one, however, with stealth considering that a national institution was humiliated in the process. I refer to the latest episode in the Chretien government's poorly conceived and ill-fated gun control efforts, in which accounts were settled between the justice department and the RCMP over the former's PR offensive on gun control. The Mounties lost. Last July, RCMP Commissioner Philip Murray wrote Deputy Minister of Justice George Thomson to complain about the manipulation of RCMP statistics on the use of firearms in violent crimes by the Canadian Firearms Centre (our gun control bureaucrats). The resulting figures went beyond the pale, and CFC bureaucrats refused to meet with the Mounties to sort things out. Murray was especially concerned "that the minister of justice and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police relied on these statistics" to support the gun control bill. He suggested that Thomson inform Justice Minister Anne McLellan "to ensure that she does not refer to the RCMP statistics quoted in the department of justice report." The letter was leaked to the media early last month, and should have been front page stuff. After all, here were Ottawa's faceless bureaucrats being held to account by our Mounties who, as every Canadian knows, always get their man. Moreover, the defence of the government's gun control legislation made by the PM and his justice minister had been based on the CFC figures. A spokesman for the Canadian Police Association, sensing his own organization's exposure, called the letter "deeply disturbing;" a failure to properly account for the disparity in the figures would "result in a lack of confidence amongst Canadians that our government knows what it's doing when it purports to regulate firearms." ANOTHER LEAK Murray's wasn't the only leaked letter. Another from the government's own advisory panel to the justice minister predicted the registry would fail, and complained its concerns were being ignored by the department. Surely, if bureaucratic fibbing and evasion weren't enough to justify the attention of the media, then bureaucratic incompetence - a dietary staple of the media maw - should have been. In February, the department of justice acknowledged the gun registry looked set to cost more than $485 million, but refused to give a final figure. By May it was acknowledging that cost overruns could be as high as 40%, and the registry wouldn't be ready until October - almost three years late. Yet, outside Peter Worthington's columns in the Sun, all this caused barely a ripple in the media, with the exception of the editorial pages, where the proponents and opponents of the government's gun control legislation have hammered away at each other with letters since the Liberals announced their intentions during the 1993 election. Television audiences were treated to a spokesman for the police association, worrying the cost overruns might cut into the additional federal funding for policing which the previous justice minister, Allan Rock, had promised in return for the association's support for the gun registry. The government response to the Murray letter about wrong statistics was as low key as the media's interest. A week after the leak it released a terse follow-up letter which Murray had written Thomson last December. The head of our national police force ate crow: " ... the method used by the department of justice to examine RCMP records was much broader that we had anticipated. This would account for the different conclusions reached by our organizations." A "protocol" was being established between the force and the CFC - no doubt to prevent any further "misunderstandings." Whose figures add up? In assessing the threat that guns offer to Canadians, the Mounties counted the number of violent crimes in which firearms were used - surely a fair approach. In 1993 of 333 attempted or successful homicides they investigated, guns were used in six - less than 2%. Of the 88,162 violent crimes investigated, only 73, or less than 1%, involved firearms. JUMP IN STATISTICS Justice chose to include all violent crimes where a firearm was discovered. Thus, a domestic dispute where a gun was found in a closet is deemed to be a violent firearm crime. Presto! RCMP violent gun crime incidents jump from 73 to 623. Critics of the justice department have alleged for years that it has no compunctions about lying to push gun control. The threat posed by guns has been declining for decades - in Toronto alone the number of crimes involving guns has dropped 40% in the past five years. The critics' assertion that the registry would cost far more and take far longer to set up than estimated has also proven right. We wait to see whether the third prediction by the critics of gun control is also right - that the gun control registry won't work. But don't expect the media to acknowledge this, even though it is happening, according to my source in the RCMP. Like Justice Minister McLellan, on gun control so many journalists prefer fudged statistics and justice department polls of big city Canadians to justify a needless and costly intrusion into the lives of millions of law-abiding people who live in rural regions and in the vast hinterlands. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, May 31, 1998 ID: 12710556 TAG: 199806017076 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C7 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER TOWARD A U.S.-STYLE SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE LAMER HAS 10 MORE YEARS TO PLAY EARL WARREN DATELINE: OTTAWA The honorable Antonio Lamer, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, will be 65 in July, 10 years short of the retirement age for judges. He has been a judge since he was 36, and reached to the top court in 1980 while Bora Laskin was chief justice. He was named chief justice in 1990 when Brian Dickson retired at 74. Dickson had succeeded Laskin when the latter died in office in 1984. Why all this minutiae on age and dates? Lamer has 10 years left as chief justice, unless he chooses to retire early or should die in office. He has already been on this bench for a run of 18 years and has served as chief justice longer than four of his five immediate predecessors. Such lengths of service make more interesting some quite defensive analysis, ripe with dubious political history, that was in an address Lamer made on May 19. It was in a tribute to the memory of Wishart Spence who died in April (at 94) and who retired as a justice of the court in 1978, just two years before Lamer was appointed to it by Pierre Trudeau. HURT AND DEFENSIVE The oddity comes in several cogent paragraphs in the address about recent criticism of the court's interpretations of the Charter of Rights. Read the paragraphs and you may agree Lamer is hurt and defensive. Why? Surely at the explosion of disbelief and concern at the decision he himself wrote last December on the appeal of the Delgamuukw case. His ruling has hugely extended native expectations of land entitlement. Now, across Canada, the First Nations are running with the decision. It promises to cost governments and taxpayers even more than the hundreds of millions from previous Charter rulings such as the infamous decision on refugees' rights, written by the first female justice on the court, Bertha Wilson. It has made Canada such an easy mark for would-be, might-be refugees. In his remarks, Lamer made no mention of an extrajudicial role played by Justice Spence in the mid-'60s which caused much public disrespect. Pressed by PM Lester Pearson, Spence undertook a quite partisan inquiry into the Gerda Munsinger spy case. Pearson was under opposition fire over mysterious allegations of Tory misconduct on security matters by his justice minister. Justice Spence held a donnybrook sort of inquiry and reported harshly on the behavior in power of John Diefenbaker and his ministers. J.G. Snell and Fred Vaughan, authors of a history of the Supreme Court, wrote of the Spence inquiry: "This incident was as disturbing in its way as the 1946 espionage inquiry had been. Among the losers in the affair was the reputation of the Supreme Court of Canada." But in his work within the court, Justice Spence built a reputation for diligence and astute legal interpretation. He was never intent, however, on issues of rights and freedoms or the court attaining leverage from a charter to reject federal and provincial legislation and direct remedies. He was not for an activist court, unlike colleagues Bora Laskin and Brian Dickson. But it was "rights" and the Court which popped up in the chief justice's tribute to him. This reminiscence shows a readiness to ignore the very different roles of the judiciary in the congressional system and the parliamentary system. Lamer began by emphasizing Spence had had "a particularly long stint on this bench." (His own "stint" is already longer.) So he thought it apt to "give some thought to the times in which Mr. Spence had served." "When he arrived here, the Canadian Bill of Rights was a fairly new piece of legislation and when he retired the prospect of a constitutional Charter of Rights and Freedoms was in the air. During those years, particularly during the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were maelstroms of social unrest swirling throughout Canadian society and around the Court. Our neighbors to the south experienced this even more acutely than we did and the U.S. Supreme Court was brought into the fray, or entered of its own volition, in a much greater degree than our Court. "I recall at the time the Supreme Court of Canada was actually subjected to a great deal of criticism for the fact it was not more like the U.S. Supreme Court, which, under the stew-ardship of Chief Justice Earl Warren, was an activist court, a powerful agent of social change and unabashedly creative. This Court by comparison, was considered to be conservative, cautious, and comparatively uninteresting. Some felt it was failing to discharge its responsibility to help shape the law, to advance the plight of the disadvantaged and to lead our society toward greater social justice. "It is an irony, of course, one that I know was not lost on Wishart Spence, that since he left the Court it has been criticized on just the opposite grounds. "The initial reaction to the court's judgments under the Charter were generally positive, but that seems to have shifted in recent years to criticism. "One of the rationales that has been offered for entrenching the Charter in the Constitution was that the courts had failed to interpret and apply the Canadian Bill of Rights in the fashion in which it was intended to be used. So, the Charter of Rights was set out in the Constitution, in part, so the courts would have no choice but to give meaning to such broad principles and open-textured concepts as liberty, equality, aboriginal rights and freedom of expression, and strike down legislation that failed to conform with them. 'NO CHOICE' "In other words, we have no choice but to do so, yet we are criticized for doing what many were urging Justice Spence and other members of the court to do 20 or 30 years ago when we had no constitutionally entrenched Charter of Rights." "It is remarkable," says Lamer, "to think that Justice Spence witnessed the full turning of this cycle from criticism to praise to criticism again. Perhaps I will have the chance to see that cycle turn half way round again." It may come to pass. If Lamer skips early retirement he has 10 more years of playing the Canadian Earl Warren. Of course, I argue the Charter of Rights has been a harmful impingement on the duties and responsibilities of elected politicians by appointed judges. It has made dodgers or cowards of cabinets. It has complicated an already complex federalism. The "criticism" which so bothers the chief justice has come from wretched decisions under the Charter, like his on the Indian lands case. Such a decision blocks a sensible evolution in dealing with grievances. It puts land rights and land-usage in turmoil for perpetuity. One prays that soon some brave premier or prime minister balks and begins routinely to bypass the nutty decisions by invoking the little-used "notwithstanding" clause. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, May 27, 1998 ID: 12709994 TAG: 199805277037 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 16 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER L'AFFAIRE LEVINE IS NOT OVER YET DATELINE: OTTAWA Yes, more on the David Levine case, and still against the righteousness of those so high-minded in the name of national unity. Such unitarians would have the furor fade away over Levine's confirmation as chief of the BIG Ottawa hospital. Even Premier Mike Harris now says: "Get on with it." Some positive people are sure a year from now it will all be forgotten, just a pimple of populist noise from those unable to distinguish the issue of principle in every job applicant's entitlement to a personal, political view. Perhaps. Perhaps this is all it has been, a forgettable flash of ignorant racism. Maybe it is over ... gone! But in my opinion the spontaneous eruption of protest should be taken as a warning to political leaders and major interest groups. There is a widening frustration among millions outside of Quebec, and unless its generating factors are openly faced and discussed with candor an explosion of wrath could come and blow away the myth so carefully built and insisted upon by unitarians. This is the myth that there is a massive caring and understanding, and a continuing history of co-operation which has bridged and will bridge whatever fault lines there have been between Quebecois nationalism and Canadian nationalism. Within this myth is the interpretation that the idea of separation is one-sided; that is it far stronger in Quebec than elsewhere in Canada. This seems wilful optimism to me, a misreading of the mind-set firming up among literally millions who want an end to separatist threats and any more constitutional blather. Lawrence Martin, the biographer of Jean Chretien, called to ask why two men had not been mentioned in my last column (about the Levine case): i.e., Lucien Bouchard and Dr. Marcel Chaput. A fair question, since I had used the example from a friendly acquaintance with Rene Levesque, the man who turned the cause of Quebecois autonomy into a political party that came to power and held the first referendum. He knew the agonizing and frustration his PQ's aims were creating in the rest of Canada. He openly begged: "Get us out of your hair." What Martin had in mind vis-a-vis Chaput and Bouchard was not the eventual uproar that followed their severance from their roles within the federal government, but the furors that arose at the realization each was an avowed separatist. In 1960, it became known that Dr. Chaput, a scientist with the National Research Council, believed in an independent Quebec and was helping start an organization to pursue it. And then there began this grand distinction of principle so emphasized in the Levine matter. NOT A POLITICIAN Oh, a person's politics should have no bearing on their entitlement to a post in public administration. Chaput was a scientist, not a politician. So long as he was not vigorously a public advocate of splitting Canada it would be wrong to fire him. Of course, in the next few years that is what the scientist did, and eventually he defied a request from NRC's leaders not to appear at a gathering in a leadership role to strength the separatist movement. He was fired, and there were cries of "shame" and political persecution. And who doesn't remember the grievous testing of Lucien Bouchard as our ambassador in Paris and then as Brian Mulroney's cabinet lieutenant? Now one may wonder if he was a conscious or an unconscious Trojan horse. His nationalist heart could not bear the hurts which federalism imposed on his feelings for Quebecois aspirations. So he bolted, making a fool of the prime minister, who had told us to forget about Lucien's past enthusiasms. Now, the high-minded advise us to ignore David Levine's belief in Quebec's independence that he has been touting so ably in New York this month. This is irrelevant, they say, to his role in melding three Ottawa hospitals. REGULAR ARGUEMENTS Irrelevant? This is a community where arguments have raged over jobs gained by francophones and lost by unilingual anglophones, and where there has been a running disagreement between Ottawa hospitals, the Ontario government, and Quebec over access and payment rates for Quebec patients. And a running, public argument has gone on for years over the scale and standards of service there should be in French and/or English for patients. How in common sense is such a situation not a political one? Surely there will be "political" problems which will affect Levine's decisions in his new post. He is obviously a man of high intelligence and astute public diction. But he also believes with his mind and heart in Quebec's independence. Will this true believer be able to put aside his beliefs in this role? The high-minded, the devoutly unitarian, say yes, absolutely! Ah, one hopes so. But once I was sure Bouchard and Dr. Chaput in their federal roles would do us well. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, May 24, 1998 ID: 12709657 TAG: 199805267071 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C6 COLUMN: Backgrounder SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER NOT WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED THE UNWISE APPOINTMENT OF A SEPARATIST TO HEAD NEW OTTAWA HOSPITAL HAS ONLY STIRRED UP ENGLISH CANADA'S RESENTMENT OF THE QUEBEC ISSUE DATELINE: OTTAWA Rage may strike the judicious and the diplomatic as ugly and dangerous. But it can be real and deep. Thousands in the Ottawa Valley are seething over the choice of a separatist from Quebec as head of the capital's reorganized major hospital. The insensitivity of a new hospital board in Ottawa in choosing David Levine as top administrator is unforgivable. He's a Montrealer, a one-time Parti Quebecois candidate and lately the PQ government's delegate-general in New York. The board has several excuses, among them his excellent credentials as a hospital administrator. The appointed board is heavy with current or retired federal bureaucrats. One may assume these worthies are indoctrinated with the ideals of bilingualism and the right of a people to self-determination. The head of the board was a federal mandarin of the highest rank and an obvious dough-head, given he never even thought of putting a "short list" of possible appointees before his group. Such stupidities with such a hugely prominent appointment to the most controversial institution in the capital (even more than the Senate!) might be forgiven if there had not been clear signals, locally and nationally, of the widening, deepening anger among English-speaking Canadians at the PQ, the BQ, and the long-fermenting issue of Quebecois intentions to separate and split Canada physically and constitutionally. Literally from sea to sea - and opinion polls would show it - a large proportion of people are fed up with the Quebec issue. Not only do they want rid of it, they want no more concessions, no more pussyfooting and "bonne ententism." SUPPORT FOR 'PLAN B' The national signal of the heat and the frustrations has been evident in the favorable response throughout English Canada to more muscular intentions of the Chretien government since the '95 referendum in Quebec. One example is the persistent argument by Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Stephane Dion along the lines of a so-called "Plan B," with tougher terms for separatists and narrower definitions of "sovereignty" - even that Quebec itself is divisible. There was a strong local signal of the rising heat in the populace of the capital during and since the major kafuffle last year over the provincial decision to close Ottawa's Montfort hospital, primarily a French-language institution. The Franco-Ontarians fought back, joined by many across the river in Quebec and by the MPs and MPPs from the region. After months of debate and scores of public events the Montfort was saved. In the campaign, some of us in the media found how slight the backing for the Montfort was among those who do not speak French. My experience was salutary. In a column I backed retention of the Montfort, basing it on the superb treatment over many days I had been given as a unilingual patient in the hospital. Since then, in Ottawa I've had more nasty or derisive needling over backing the Montfort than from any other column published here in the last decade. In the chats opened by such needling I've heard a litany of exasperations over "catering to the French" and Brian Mulroney's gall in pushing Meech and Charlottetown. Tales are myriad on the billions blown on official bilingualism and its ruination of the federal bureaucracy and the armed services. Equity and fairness in federal pay and promotions are gone. TIRELESS INTERPRETER Chantal Hebert of La Presse, perhaps the ablest, certainly the most sinewy in argument of political commentators today, is a Franco-Ontarian who never tires of interpreting and explaining the ideas, whether topical or ingrained, of French Canadians and those in Quebec in particular. It's not surprising Hebert sees the Levine affair as a glaring danger to the federalist cause in Quebec and another indication that most anglophones in the rest of Canada do not realize how the anger and taunts so vividly expressed at the televised public meeting over the Levine appointment have been seen and heard in Quebec. In particular, such dinosauric stuff will estrange many Quebecois who have either voted for sovereignty at some time or seriously thought of it. Many did so, not primarily to get their own nation but to send a message of dissatisfaction with federalism and its unfairness to Quebec. It is a way to get a better deal. Of course, anyone historically minded knows such figuring has a long tradition in Quebec. In other words, Hebert is indicating that such sovereignist votes are as much pragmatic as nationalistic. Many Quebecois really do not want Quebec to separate but are not ready to condemn separation root and branch. In truth, they see its advocacy does gain attention, response and bigger shares of the federal pot for Quebec. VOTER BACKLASH The revelations of animosity on the Anglo side spewing up from the Levine volcano will turn these pragmatic or calculating Quebecois voters back to the separatist side. It might well become a federalist disaster. This paraphrase of Hebert's argument may underline the threat to Canada inherent in bellicose anti-separatism. What she does not appreciate is the duality of the dilemma. If many Quebecois are ready to consider or dally over plumping for separatism or its sovereignty euphemism, perhaps an even larger proportion of those in the rest of Canada are fed up. Not only do they want the Ottawa and the provincial governments to blow the whistle on any more concessions or appeasement for Quebec, they are ready for the ultimate. And not with a phrase like "letting them go," but with the phrase, "getting rid of them." My mind keeps recalling a long-gone former acquaintance, Rene Levesque. When considering the Canadian duality he would note that our federal parties and politicians had for years downplayed the anger and restiveness on the Anglo side. Twice in public debate with him, many times in private chats, he would underline that Quebec's separation "will get us out of your hair and let you be yourselves." The Levine case is an indicator of a widespread readiness on the Anglo side of the duality, and at least a forecast there can be no sweetheart deal or an eventual spirit of co-operation and camaraderie if the one country becomes two. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, May 20, 1998 ID: 12709115 TAG: 199805207029 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 15 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER IS PARLIAMENT A WASTE OF TIME? DATELINE: OTTAWA What follows is not a direct plea for that often-sought fugitive: a reform of Parliament. Rather, it is a notice of two trends in the parliamentary system in Canada: 1) fewer and fewer MPs are attending debates; 2) sessions of Parliament, and of most legislatures, are shortening. Are the trends significant? Should they be seen as a natural response to irrelevancy, even an acceptance that most hours in the chambers are a waste of time? Could we accept that the chief reason for keeping the chamber going outside question period is as a fail-safe during a national crisis? The two trends are beginning to get more notice from political scientists and even from a few reporters. First, except for the oral question period, being in their chamber seats is in decline among MPs (and MPPs or MLAs or MNAs). Two weeks ago, for a few minutes the government whip had not a single Liberal MP in the chamber during a debate - not even himself. Recently a dearth of MPs in the House has had Reform MPs calling for a quorum count. Except for question period, attendance by MPs of all parties, but particularly by government ones, has been sliding and sliding. Second, in the last few years there has been a reversal of a long trend to ever longer sessions. The trend to more days of sitting in Ottawa became noticeable in the Diefenbaker years. It continued through the heavy legislating by the Pearson government, the Trudeau governments and then the Mulroney governments. Gradually, some practices which let the opposition stall or extend debates on bills gave way before "closure" and "time allocation" of debates. Today time limits set for most pieces of legislation are short, but there are few opposition howls and clearly the public is unconcerned. Anyone looking back at the legislative loads from the mid-'60s to the early '90s sees that governments everywhere were fertile in creating new programs and agencies. The eventual stopper of such fertility came from ever-higher annual deficits and their costly debt burden. The crunch came as the Mulroney regime gave way to the Chretien regime and Paul Martin, Jr., as its deficit-fighter. Some Southam researchers have been quantifying the "sitting days" of the Commons and the provincial legislatures. Their figures are of a return to shorter sessions and to more breaks. Part of this, at least in Ottawa, is argued as a better deal for MPs. A regular schedule with known breaks means more time in the constituency. FOCUS IS ON THE PM Much of the de-emphasis of the House, however, is from a less ambitious slate of big-money programs and an even closer media focus on the prime minister (over his ministers or House affairs) and on the opposition party leaders. Shifts down in tempo and urgency owe much to the counsel of the PM's mentor, Mitchell Sharp, to get back to the ways of Ottawa in its "Golden Age." Then cabinets close to their mandarins were all-powerful; Liberal backbenchers toed the loyalty line; opposition parties were not indulged. Also, and probably the major factor, the daily question period has become the accepted arena or time zone for the grand particulars of our political continuity in its partisan guises. QP is more than a substitute for the discussions and arguments that once took place in the debating hours of the House. To use a hoary cliche, it's what politics is all about. Before the domination of the media by TV - i.e., before the House itself was televised and taped, the debating hours got some press - there was presence and participation by ministers and opposition leaders. Such debating situation scenarios slipped away. They were rare by the last Mulroney mandate. Today, ministers are rarely in the House after question period, except when a particular bill or motion requires it. Neither the PM nor the opposition leaders are much about the House after QP and its consequential media scrum, televised at the chamber's front door. And so the House has few MPs - perhaps a dozen - out of its 300 who sit long hours in their seats, most noticeably not the 150-plus Liberal MPs. Except for QP! Why not slash debate time to the bone, given the fewer proposals of a magnitude ahead for Parliament? If neither MPs nor scribes nor the public are intent on the debates why not take them as a masquerade? Try just two speeches per party per bill and hugely reduce the days of sitting. By their empty seats MPs, from the PM down, are telling us that debating in the House is a waste of time and a bore. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, May 17, 1998 ID: 12708791 TAG: 199805187071 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C4 ILLUSTRATION: drawing by Curatolo, Edmonton Sun ANNE'S APPROACH TO YOUNG OFFENDERS SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER NO FEMALE STARS IN CHRETIEN CABINET DATELINE: OTTAWA Here are two topical observations on situations in federal politics. The first is an opinion drawn from the performances of the six female cabinet ministers (out of 25) as seen in the House or as chatted about by MPs and journalists. Of course, to say none of the six women has clearly become a shining star in the cabinet does not mean they are constantly outshone by male colleagues. In Jean Chretien's ministry no one scintillates now, not even Paul Martin, unless it's the prime minister. The six women ministers simply do not stand out either as a commanding or colorful group or as exceptional politicians. I refer to Sheila Copps, Diane Marleau, Anne McLellan, Christine Stewart, Lucienne Robillard and Jane Stewart. Robillard in immigration seems the journeywoman of the lot. She cottons to her briefings and has an easy gift of effortlessly muffling controversy, but her knack is defensive, not expository. Copps? Once a leadership candidate, over five ministerial years she has not mellowed a fierce, relentless partisanship. Yes, she is busy, aggressive, but not very persuasive as the chief federal proponent of culture. Although Marleau (international co-operation) has a relative sinecure, the other five have difficult portfolios, particularly Jane Stewart (Indian affairs) and McLellan (justice). And these two were being talked about on the Hill last year as on the rise through good skills in public and much zeal for their departments' mandates. The plain adjective for Jane Stewart is listless. Both she and McLellan have flattened out. Their enthusiasm seems to have waned as their growing penchant for seeking safety in partisan blather has become more noticeable. The justice minister seems to have chosen to cast herself as rackety raucous and shrewish with non-Liberals. Aping the cabinet's vaunted luminary, Paul Martin, she shows little courtesy or reasonableness to the opposition. Her stonewalling on new legislation to deal with young offenders has been repetitious and silly but always rattled off with a legalistic superiority. Here is no future leader of her party. As for Christine Stewart (environment), she is as pleasant and polite a minister as the opposition faces but much weakened by her department's reduced aims and a society, not just a government, which has lost a keenness for environmental activism. Next, an observation made not just as a Hill columnist but as a war veteran. It would be strange if Perrin Beatty, president of the CBC, has been responsible for clearing the series No Price too High (on Canadians in World War II) for a belated showing on his Crown company's network. The first program is tonight. One wonders about this because Beatty was Brian Mulroney's minister of communications in 1992-93 when a spontaneous, nation-wide ruction was raised by legions of war veterans who had been angered by the untruths and distortions in the film series, The Valour and the Horror, in particular its presentation of those who flew in Bomber Command and fought in Normandy as misused fodder for slaughter. The Valor and the Horror, produced by the McKenna brothers, Brian and Terence, was a trumpeted feature on the CBC, which had shared its funding with the National Film Board. When Tory MPs raised the twists of The Valor in the government caucus, charging it denigrated airmen and soldiers, Beatty warned them off the topic. Cool it! The government could not get into this issue. There was a bristling solidarity of those producing programs and commentary for the CBC and the NFB in defence of the principle of creative freedom and artistic integrity for those who had written the script and made the film. And, to opposition questioners in the House who alleged distortions of deeds and motives in The Valor, Beatty gave curt, neutral, down-playing replies. He showed neither interest nor gave any encouragement when an angry group of senators launched a committee inquiry into The Valor and the Horror. No Price too High was largely sparked as a rebuttal based on truth and fairness to the McKennas' miniseries. The project was headed by Barney Danson, himself an infantry casualty in Normandy and an ex-minister of defence, and by veteran film-producer Robert Nielsen. Terry Copp, a premier historian, produced a companion book for the videotapes of No Price too High. The Danson-Nielsen project got little of its funding from sources in governments. Almost from its initiation the CBC refused to take an interest or show the film. The sponsors got the finished product to air wherever they could, notably on PBS stations where it has won admiring reviews as an honest portrayal of a people enmeshed in a huge war effort. The CBC has never really issued any "mea culpa" for The Valor and the Horror, despite the now widespread verdict that it was a most unfair and calculated distortion which stemmed from the personal biases of its creators. Maybe it has taken five years for the CBC leaders to shake away their fright at the support marshalled five years ago by the McKennas and the CBC producers, directors, and reporters who had rallied in the name of "creative" freedom. No Price too High is an honest portrayal of Canadians in the war, with none of the pacifist deception and anti-British venom of The Valor and the Horror. If it has been Perrin Beatty who has given viewers this honest series at this late date it is some redress for his hurried dive into a political slit trench six years ago when thousands rose in protest over the CBC's showing and financing of The Valor and the Horror. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, May 10, 1998 ID: 12707878 TAG: 199805117071 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C6 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER EVEN THE TORIES AREN'T EXCITED - YET DATELINE: OTTAWA There has not been joy in the press or among the public over the contest for the federal Tory leadership and much doubt about the party's survival in strength. But Tory adherents should not be morbid about this. Both their party and the Liberal party have had amazing resurrections from what seemed electoral burials. At this point, two months before entries close and five months from a vote that is open to all paid-up members of the party, few choices are obvious. There seems a fair chance the winner will not be an instant laughing-stock even though the first declared candidate, John Long, an Ottawa businessman, seems dour, almost taciturn. He's far more opaque than another likely candidate, Hugh Segal, the swift-talking counsellor to Tory premiers and prime ministers. Will excitement build and grip the nation? It seems about a 50-50 shot. There needs to be at least three credible candidates, with at least one to the left and another to the right. And there ought to be a pushy, youthful candidate. The Chretien/Martin Liberals seem sliding from a crest and who knows what the summer will turn up in issues, especially in or relating to Quebec and the Bouchard vs. Charest drama? It seems impossible there won't be one worthwhile candidate who is decidedly progressive and another who is decidedly conservative. This tussle has had a continuity within the federal party since it recruited John Bracken, the "Progressive" premier of Manitoba, in 1942. The late Ged Baldwin, long an MP, once insisted he saw no paradox in being a Progressive Conservative. Simply put, on economic issues he was conservative, on social ones, progressive. LIKELY CANDIDATES At this early stage two likely candidates are being more discussed than others. Decent, fair, and much experienced Joe Clark and the aforesaid Hugh Segal, so long a surrogate TV voice for the Tories. Each fits Baldwin's pattern, meriting the adjective "progressive." Will one or the other, or both, face an experienced opponent who is both economically and socially conservative? That's still unclear. A score or so names have been mentioned as possible or worthwhile prospects, including some thrown in for speculation, as I did not long ago in arguing that David Frum, 39, young, literate, well-educated, wealthy, argumentatively-gifted, and conservative in economic and social contexts would much spice the Tory succession. He is not interested; nor it seems is Conrad Black, another right-wing pippin with money, oratory, and pugnaciousnes. Another hero to right-wingers, Ralph Klein, is a more plebeian man and a proven marvel on the hustings but he too has refused the federal contest. A few days ago there was a press mention that Peter White, a former counsellor to both Brian Mulroney and Conrad Black, might be considering a bid. He would hardly be seen as a Red Tory. It would be harder to categorize Hal Jackman, 65, another high-profile man of money, benefactor of good causes, and a loyal Tory, whom some people have suggested is a leadership gem-in-waiting. It seems far-fetched, but just to mention Jackman and Peter White underlines how up-market the Tory party has been. The parliamentary system gives an advantage to a party whose leader already is an MP. The present caucus, down to 19 with Jean Charest's departure, has three newish MPs who have been thinking about a bid: Peter MacKay, 32, and Scott Brisson, 31, with seats in Nova Scotia, and Rick Borotsik, 47. from Manitoba. Each has had a good start in the House and seems to have potential. None seems much to either the right or the left although Borotsik, once a popular mayor in Brandon, has a very broad outlook. If there is to be a contest and not an acclamation, say of Clark or Segal, an MP or two ought to run, not just for exposure but to underline that the party has elected people to showcase. Another Manitoban, Brian Pallister, 43, an insurance broker who has had five years in the legislature, has announced his plans to run. My source in Winnipeg summed him up this way: "Nice optics for TV - pleasant, glib and positive - but not far from a household name in Manitoba." Speculation has largely died about a bid by someone from the Harris group in power in Ontario. Ministers Ernie Eves, 51, or Tony Clement, 37, even Tom Long, an advisory guru of the premier, have been mentioned. For success such candidacies, like Pallister's, would depend almost wholly on campaign showing, not on reputation. If the premier chose to be daring (and probably foolish) a backing by his Ontario party for a "common sense" disciple would certainly energize the race. Chances seem slight that Patrick Boyer, 53, an ex-MP and a contender in the PCs' 1993 leadership contest, will run and even less that Stephen Harper, 39, a former Reform MP, will come in. Each would contribute the egghead factor. Both are more cerebral, analytical and courteous than the political norm. Both are matches for Preston Manning on history and political principles and each overmatches either the PM or Paul Martin in such matters. CROSBIE'S TIRED Other than Clark, former Tory ministers who short years ago had high ambitions are not yet forthcoming. John Crosbie, 67, would have a riot of a time with Preston Manning and Jean Chretien, but he pleads aging, tiredness and the imperative for an energetic re-builder of the party, and he opts for Clark. Barbara McDougall, 61, David Crombie, 62, Perrin Beatty, 48, and Garth Turner, 49, have not come forward or been hailed by others to the contest although career-wise each has done well since the '93 debacle, Turner in particular as a financial expert. One can wonder all night who would best serve the Tories. If the outcome should turn out to be largely between Clark and Segal or is centred mostly on one of them, the Tories may get a competent but unexciting leader and a dull race. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, May 06, 1998 ID: 12174165 TAG: 199805087933 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 15 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER CHRETIEN LEARNS A BRUTAL LESSON DATELINE: OTTAWA So, Ontario has called the federal bluff of closing the file on compensation to those infected with hepatitis C by tainted blood. Ultimately, Jean Chretien`s strategy of limiting federal costs was undone by passing the blame off onto the provinces. Recall Premier Mike Harris` raging to the media last weekend, accusing the federal cabinet of not living up to its obligations. So he decided Ontario would put up the extra cash by itself. Surely this is revenge for the PM`s catechisms about the provinces, and Ontario in particular with its tax cuts. The passions over hep C have been a fascinating example of politics juiced by a public sense of what`s unfair. Despite much editorializing against the Chretien government for its refusal to extend compensation, righteous indignation has rather obscured the values and intent of the Chretien crew. Let`s start with Ottawa`s three lines of defence. The first is legalistic. Prior to 1986 no screening test for Hep C existed, so Canadians could not be protected against accidental infection through the use of blood or blood products. When a test did become available that year, the Red Cross, which had been delegated responsibility for the blood system by the federal government, decided not to use it for cost reasons. Hep C screening was finally introduced in 1990. The failure to screen blood between 1986-90 led to thousands of preventable infections, for which Ottawa accepts liability and is offering compensation. It rejects liability for those infected before 1986. Ottawa`s second defence is one of practicality. Its share of the federal-provincial compensation package is more than $1 billion. Extended compensation could cost the federal government more than $3 billion. This it finds untenable, given the nation`s debt. Health Minister Allan Rock even raised a spectre of hepatitis bills undermining medicare itself, and he earnestly warned of the awful precedent in offering compensation where no legal obligation exists. The third line of defence is ancient: blame the provinces. Both the PM and Rock kept stressing how loath the provinces were to increase their share in the package. Why, they asked, pick on us? A LAUGHABLE TRACK RECORD Whether the federalists` legal defence could survive court challenge remains to be seen. The judge who led the federal inquiry into the tainted blood scandal recommended that all victims be compensated. Also, the record of legal advice from justice department lawyers is laughable. Think of Pearson airport, or Somalia, or Airbus. But in political terms, what really mattered to the federal ministers was ensuring they wouldn`t have to pay any more. Forcing victims into court is an excellent delaying tactic. It is ludicrous to argue extending the compensation would set a dangerous precedent - see recent natural disasters or the cod fishery compensations. The practicality argument has been the government`s key defence. It deserves more attention than it has had from either the media or the opposition. Take the mantra the Liberals have been shaping. Through their sound management of Canada, billions will soon be at hand for new social initiatives like the Millennium Fund for students, a national pharmacare program, even a national child care program. The dangerous truth is this: extending compensation would help an estimated 60,000 victims and their families, whereas these new social programs will benefit millions. Unlike their backbenchers, the PM and his cabinet have done the math. Far more votes would accrue to their party if they spend billions on social programs rather than an extended compensation package. Social programs and a broader compensation package would lead to a resurgence of the deficit. Chretien was not willing to contemplate that. Something had to give, and it did. This seems to me the real issue underlying the government`s decision; one it would not care to talk about. As for the government`s critics, Reform`s stance has the merit of clarity. It opposes new social programs and supports extending compensation. But what about the other critics, in the House and in the media, those who share hopes for a return to expansive government? Would they sacrifice social spending expansion in favor of a more just settlement? Or would they prefer a return to deficits? As for trying to blame the provinces, this old ploy has boomeranged. Health care is in such straits today because of federal transfer cuts that began four years ago. This has been a brutal lesson for Chretien. He thought he got to make the rules. Now he knows some premiers are not like Liberal backbenchers. FISHER, DEAN OF THE OTTAWA PRESS GALLERY, APPEARS WEDNESDAYS, SUNDAYS The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, May 03, 1998 ID: 12173470 TAG: 199805087593 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment PAGE: C4 ILLUSTRATION: photo John W. Bassett: 1915 - 1998 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER FORD AND BASSETT: CONTRASTS IN GREATNESS DATELINE: OTTAWA What follows are largely my notes on two exceptional Canadians who just died, whom I came to know, and, one might say, work with. The first is John Bassett, newspaper and TV magnate. The second is Robert Ford, the ambassador we had in the USSR from 1964-80. What might be called "the guard" or "the public cast" keeps changing, but the pace of the change often seems fierce to those in the age range with the highest falling-out. The patience of an older columnist's readers may be tested by too much of lives lived and not enough of present lives and future chances. Still ... John Bassett? Robert Ford? So unalike, and yet each so exceptionally memorable: Bassett with his ever-excited and exciting zest for life; Ford for serious study, shrewd analysis and literary grace. My encounters with the former ambassador came in pursuing hockey exchanges with the USSR for Hockey Canada. They began in 1971 and continued through the rest of Ford's time in Moscow. He was not central in the developments of the subsequent Canada-USSR series, or the Canada Cup, but the high respect for him in the top Soviet bureaucracy was clear to us, and so was the wonderful support in advice, liaison and arrangements which his staff galvanized for us. And in what became an acquaintanceship rather than familiarity, I realized what a polymath he was - a diversely-talented man, a serious poet, a connoisseur of painting, a thorough but not hateful critic of the Soviet system, and a canny student of the character and history of the Russians. COMMON GROUND Ford wryly told me the common obsession of Canadians and Russians with the rough to violent game of hockey fitted in with the influences that come from hard living across a huge and demanding land. No wonder he became a useful, astute reader of the Kremlin and the so-called Red menace for our government and, when they would listen, our allies. He cared little, that I could see, for a public profile in either diplomacy or on the home front, but the last note I had from him in 1991 - after his retirement in France - had an edge in his first-person reminiscences, Our Man in Moscow: A Diplomat's Reflections on the Soviet Union. Almost every reviewer noted, and many were critical, that Ford was so pessimistic about the prospects and depth of Gorbachev's reforms. As Lawrence Martin said in the Globe and Mail: "a gloomy, hackneyed forecast, that, because Gorbachev is a product of the Soviet system, he will not alter the basic nature of the Soviet system." When one considers Yeltsin's Russia in 1998, I think Ford's words were prescient in his note of 1991 to me in defence of his much criticized skepticism of democratic prospects. He said: "As early as 1985, I wrote that Gorbachev and his generation recognized what was obvious to observers like myself - that the economy and social system were in a serious state - but that his aim was to save the Communist system and the party by long-needed reforms. But I did not believe that he, like many Russians, knew anything about democracy. And I did not believe the economy could be saved without dumping the Marxist ideology, above all the highly controversial control of the command economy. To do so would have meant the end of party power and control. Not to do so meant there was no hope of reforming the economy. As a fervent Communist, he has inevitably chosen the former as I was always sure he would. But for this prescience I was attacked for having lost touch, etc., etc." Well, given the body of dispatches, letters, essays and poems Robert Ford left that are still to be published, there will be further reviews of his wisdom in judgment to come, particularly as a guide to Russians and their society. In reviewing Ford's poetry, the late George Woodcock defined him as "essentially a meditative and an elegiac poet rather than a lyric poet, a man who looks gravely on life and transmits that gravity in his writing." As Woodcock put it: "Ford clearly developed a true empathy with the Russian people, even if not with their rulers." What a contrast John Bassett was in personality and gravity to Ford. Of all the persons I've met in public life, most notably in politics and communications, John Bassett was the liveliest, most exuberant, positive, outgoing, and generous with his time, even outdoing the pal of his roistering years, the late George Hees. As the latter confessed to me when a Mulroney minister, "Some time in the early '60s I had to ease off running with John. He had too much pep," The attribute of openly relishing life so well that one enlivens most occasions and those about one is precious and rare. I can't think of John Bassett without the colloquial "feeling good." No one I've known was more vital and, so contradictory to the opinion of many who knew him just through the media and tagged him as a debonair, aristocratic showboat. HANDS ON Yes, my remembrance has been well-primed. Why? Because he opened long careers to me as a newspaper columnist and a TV interviewer. And as a hands-on publisher he never killed one of my pieces at the Tely, although there were many notes of rebuke from him, such as a savage one because I had been "cruel beyond decency" to a Liberal politician, the late Robert Winters. Another time he thought I'd suckered him, yet he forgave me and he never mentioned it again, although it was not a minor matter at the time. I persuaded him as the Tely's publisher during the desperately hard strike of the printers in the '60s to have a private session with a lawyer/adviser to the unions, the redoubtable David Lewis, then an NDP MP. David told me that he wanted to go over some possible moves to break the deadlock - in camera, off-the-record, no commitments, just private talk. They met. Lewis told me it had been useful. Bassett said he'd put his final positions and explained them. A few days later the printers' leaders and Lewis had a press conference and the latter, as few could do so thoroughly, took apart John Bassett for his dictatorial arrogance and intransigency, referring to the "private" talk they had had. John Bassett rarely seemed to look back and certainly not with any rage or revenge in mind. His legacy, I think, is personal - in that grand, generous personality - rather than in political or economic influence. Except in this: he is recognized, rightly, as an early and persisting champion of Israel. But I thought he gave more vital influence in an associated matter of much significance. He gave the lead in postwar Toronto to the breaking down and discard of anti-Jewish opinions held by so many, not least in the traditional leadership of the professions and politics. A good man, and a fun man, John Bassett. He loved people. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, April 29, 1998 ID: 12172103 TAG: 199804298026 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 15 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER SOLIDARITY FOREVER DATELINE: OTTAWA Don't fret over the solidarity, or lack of it, in the Chretien caucus. They'll always stick together. In recent days expectations boomed about a vote of confidence in the House. Speculation became excitement. If a dozen or so Liberal MPs were to vote yesterday for a Reform motion to compensate all hurt by hepatitis C from blood transfusions, the government could fall. Prime Minister Jean Chretien gave this scenario credibility by telling his MPS this was a confidence vote, not a free vote. Given the billion or so in federal dollars in question, one should appreciate why the PM literally laid on his whip. People distant from parliamentary politics are often troubled when some government MPs want to oppose a government position, or back an opposition move, but seem scared off by threats of banishment or lesser punishments by their leader. In abstract, this toeing of the caucus line seems unfair. It is not. I agree that in abstract this rigid practice denies a common belief that an MP is voted into the House to do his best for his constituents and region as he sees it, not just to toe the caucus line in every vote. (Except the very rare ones which are declared to be a free vote by the government, usually on a contentious moral or religious issue like capital punishment or abortion.) A swatch of factors push almost every MP to follow the caucus line on votes, including the penalties of no advancement, no trips, no electoral help, being put in caucus "Coventry" and isolated, or winning infamy in the party as unreliable and a loose fish. I was an NDP MP for eight years. I would like to look back and say I voted always as I thought or believed, not just along the party line. But this would be untrue. I never voted against the position taken by the caucus, but not because I didn't think of it. I did. Often! I'm still ashamed I voted to put John Diefenbaker out of power in 1963, taking the caucus line. This was shaped by the most ideological of my colleagues, David Lewis. Several in the caucus refused the line and so voted. An election followed and perhaps it was fair that Lewis lost his seat, as did many who voted the line. The Tories went out. The Grits came back with the slogan "60 days of Decision" and we got several years of them with many days of disaster. UNANIMOUS SUPPORT I still remember the questions Lewis put when asking unanimous support for the motion against the Diefenbaker government. As candidates in the recent election had we been approved by the NDP as an official party and carried its name? Had we accepted the platform of the party, including its defence program? Were we to carry on as "NDP" MPs and, beyond that, would we run for the NDP if an election was triggered by the vote in the House? My answers had to be affirmative to these questions. I was proud of my constituency strength, but without the party label, and hundreds of NDP workers, I would not have reached the Hill three times. And so, although I disliked several NDP policies - like getting out of NATO or nationalizing the CPR - no other party's policies struck me as better and I could argue within party and caucus against such planks. I also worked in House committees, and with several diverse sets of MPs who wanted parliamentary reform, including far more votes free of the party whip. A little progress in slackening party discipline ensued, but not much. Take the stupidity in the last Parliament that denied electors' choices of NDP and Tory MPs status in question period or on speaking schedules. Chretien has been a hardliner on party discipline and obedient MPs. Each Grit MP in the House knows Chretien's demands for utter loyalty. He is a tough boss, and can be very mean. Each MP remembers how dissent from the party line by fellows like Warren Almand and John Nunziata was treated. The reality is that if a mere dozen of Grit backbenchers had banded together last weekend, sworn to unity in the name of uncompensated hepatitis C victims and put this challenge before their boss, the PM would have had to deal with their demand. He knows his caucus. They know that the prime rule of party politics is party loyalty. It is terribly disturbing to an MP to jump the caucus line by himelf, let alone collude with others to do so. It is disturbing to Reform, BQ, NDP and Tory MPs, and will continue to be until we have fixed terms or broad and well-defined occasions when votes shall be free. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, April 26, 1998 ID: 12171297 TAG: 199804240789 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment/Editorial PAGE: C6 COLUMN: Backgrounder SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER SHOULD POLITICS AND SPORT MIX? GOVERNMENT RE-EXAMINES ITS ROLE IN FUNDING THE GAMES CANADIANS PLAY DATELINE: OTTAWA Hundreds will come this year to Parliament Hill to give evidence to House committees. None will get more attention from the media than NHL impresarios like Gary Bettman, Glen Sather and Ken Dryden, due Tuesday at the sub-committee on the study of sport in Canada, dubbed the Mills committee after its chairman, MP Dennis Mills (Lib. Broadview-Greenwood). Hockey issues of several sorts have lately aggravated millions of Canadians. Our on-ice supremacy has disappeared. Almost as bad are recent and incipient losses of NHL franchises in Canadian cities to U.S. locales and owners. The hockey issues are so dominant that many reporters refer to the Mills commission as "the hockey committee," overlooking its broad purpose: "The study of sport in Canada." It's time the relationship of the federal government to organized sport in Canada - professional and non-professional - was examined. A fresh statute on Ottawa's reach and purposes is needed. So is a realistic assessment of what the government can afford to spend on sustaining sport and the best means for raising such money. Take it from general revenue? From a revived, national sport lottery? Or from a specific tax on spectators? What co-ordination might be developed between our three levels of government on reducing taxes of pro teams or setting up a consistent system of grants-in-aid or no-interest loans? LOCAL IDENTITY As pro sports have flourished they have provided more and more employment and become anchors of both tourism and local identities. Does this merit particular measures to counter ill-effects like the disparity between our dollar and the U.S. dollar? Regular federal spending for sport began at $1-$2 million in the early 1960s when the first sports act ("fitness and amateur sport") was put through by John Diefenbaker's government. But it did not expand with a rush until 1969 when most recommendations of Pierre Trudeau's task force report on sport were implemented. Of course, hockey problems really triggered the task force, and after it Hockey Canada was created to establish Canada's right to use its best players in international competition (against the Russians!) and to support improved coaching and services for the game - from atoms to the top. But many other suggestions were taken up: national athletic scholarships; a national sports administration centre to house and service national sports governing bodies; and the Coaching Association of Canada and an attendant sport information and research centre. One popular move filled in a four-year cycle of major games by sponsoring and funding the Canada Games to go with the Olympic, Commonwealth and Pan-Am Games. Canada is very much a federation. So a remarkable consequence of the initiatives from the task force was the strong responses to them by almost all the provinces, led by Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec and British Columbia. Soon most provinces had their sports-admin centres, scholarship programs and provincial games to keep a base of participation in the Canada Games. A repetitious profusion of "Team Canadas" had its match in "Team Ontarios," "Team Quebecs," et al. But the provinces did more than sustain provincial arms of sports' governing bodies. They joined Ottawa in making facilities for cities which hosted the Canada Games, and they used lottery profits in supporting capital plants - arenas, stadiums, pools and tracks - and for team travels and coaching support. Two other groups came out of the task force recommendations with federal and provincial backing: aboriginal people and handicapped or disabled people. Frankly, few of us realize what an extraordinary growth there has been in participation in sport and recreation since 1969. But there are hard questions on where and how the limited moneys of all levels of government should be spent. Should Ottawa apportion more backing to those sports and athletics which are winners in numbers of participants, supporting volunteers and quality of results? OTTAWA'S DILEMMA Large-scale legal lotteries were first sanctioned by Ottawa to help raise money for the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, but national sports organizations which looked forward to such a source of funding being regularized were set back when Joe Clark's government opted out of national lotteries, leaving the field to the provinces. And now Ottawa has a dilemma because of its anti-smoking policies that are forcing tobacco companies out of sponsoring major sporting events. Although the sporting surge in Canada since the early '70s has had parallels in other countries, few built up such a stock of facilities or engaged in or hosted so many competitions. Most notably there has been great growth in professional sports franchises here. Canada got two major league baseball and basketball teams and a handful of new NHL franchises. Beyond setting out the present state of sport in Canada, the Mills committee report could be useful if it tackled the following questions. - Should the federal government try to firm up shaky professional franchises in Canada by using its powers of spending and taxing? - Are the federal and provincial programs in support of sport and recreation in need of fresh goals and rearrangements in their spending priorities? - Should team and individual sports be supported in relation to their numbers of participants, volunteers and competitive results? - What should be done to widen and deepen the profession of coaching in Canada? - Is it time for a new program on the scale of federal support for Canadian cities which host Olympic, Commonwealth or Pan-Am Games? Why? Because hosting such events has taken more government money than all other government backing of sport put together. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, April 22, 1998 ID: 12170310 TAG: 199804210750 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 16 ILLUSTRATION: drawing by Susan Dewar, Ottawa Sun SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER THE SORRY SAGA OF THE SENATE MANNING'S ATTACK NOT THE FIRST - IT'S BEEN GOING ON SINCE 1867 DATELINE: OTTAWA For context to Preston Manning's pop crusade this week for a reformed Senate, one has to look a long way back. The Reform leader made a fine, complex speech in two parts: why the current Senate is worse than useless; and how to get a new one which truly represents the provinces. Mr. Manning's rationale is the same as that of my very first lecture in political science (1946). The professor titled it "The Unreformed Senate of Canada," cribbing it from a book with that title written in 1926 by R. A. MacKay. It is still on many college reading lists, along with a score of parliamentary reports on reforming the Senate even unto the plan in the Charlottetown accord which voters defeated a few years ago. Complaints and fresh proposals regarding the Senate began in its first year, 1867, even though it had been the most thoroughly discussed of all the subjects in which the Fathers of Confederation were enwrapped. Nonetheless, few changes have been made in the institution, particularly not in the person who appoints all senators - the PM of the day. It is true Lester Pearson got an age limit of 75 installed; indeed, only one senator, a Tory, Orville Phillips, is left who was on the roll before the limit. This may have been a sensible change but since then no one has argued that senatorial achievement and behavior picked up. THE NATION'S RAGE For contrary evidence, see the long years of absenteeism before the rage of a nation brought Andrew Thompson (a Pearson appointee) to quit last month. And as judge of politicians' performances, I have long believed the ablest senator I have seen work the Hill was the late Arthur Roebuck who joined the senate in 1945 at 67. In my opinion, he surpassed any MPs, even Paul Martin, Sr. or Stanley Knowles, as an influence on labor, health, and pension legislation through three decades. But a few Arthur Roebucks, Dave Crolls and Jack Marshalls in the Senate then or now doesn't gainsay Preston Manning's presentation. He argued how feeble, expensive, and divertingly ridiculous the Senate is as a genuine chamber of second thought - but so magnificently handy as a partisan ramp and a patronage haven for Grits and Tories in their widely-differing states of grace. I would recommend his entire speech in print as the handiest literature there is on both what an extravagant and bumbling anomaly the Senate continues to be and Reform's detailed plan on shifting to create an elected house of the provinces in place of the Senate. There are two expectations, reeking optimism, in the Manning vision of an effective, elected Senate which seem overblown, and one serious oversight regarding the House of Commons and its MPs (surely the core to the parliamentary system as it now works - and it does work). The first expectation is simple but very attenuated. Why? Because it assumes that the old parties who now use the Senate so comfortably, plus at least seven provincial premiers, will be ready to support or even acquiesce to such a different second chamber. That is a 1,000-to-one shot. The second expectation lies in the Reformers' belief that those elected to the reformed Senate, surely as candidates for the federal political parties we now have, will put provincial interests ahead of their party's programs and policies. EXECUTIVE APPROVAL Such senators may owe their place to voters, not to the prime minister, but most will surely owe their nomination to acceptance or approval by the federal party leader and his executive. In short, the reformed Senate would, by and large, be a mirror of the partisanship of the House of Commons rather than by and large a protector or advocate of the interests of senators' respective provinces. The serious oversight of the Reformers regarding the House and MPs vis-a-vis a reformed and busy Senate is that far too many MPs, in particular those who support the government, haven't enough significant work to do, either in preparing or reviewing legislation or in serious, continuing scrutiny of the spending on federal programs and the efficiency of the senior mandarins. We already have an elected institution whose personnel and talents are often unused and rarely wholly challenged. Better to concentrate on reforming the House to give MPs initiatives and responsibilities now denied them by a dominating PMO, by the caucus discipline of all parties, and bureaucratic mastery and secrecy in originating programs and running them. Nevertheless, Mr. Manning put the case well for not going on with the Senate as it is. But even simple abolition is a hopeless proposition. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, April 19, 1998 ID: 12169692 TAG: 199804170809 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment/Editorial PAGE: C5 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER FOR RICHER OR POORER A NEW BOOK EXPLORES THE WEALTH AND POVERTY OF NATIONS DATELINE: OTTAWA A few new books have been a welcome counterpoint to an empty Parliament Hill. One of them has excited me beyond any other book read in years. It has a mine of data and comparisons on how the world's nations and regions have come to be as they are. American economic historian David Landes is author of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, subtitled "Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor," published by Norton and a bruising 650 pages long. The title is a deliberate extension of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (1776), economists' first primer. The other new books read are Who Killed Canadian History? (Harper Collins) by Jack Granatstein; Lament for an Ocean by Michael Harris (McClelland & Stewart); and Writing from Life, a Guide for Writing True Stories, by Heather Robertson (McClelland & Stewart). The latter is a surprisingly brisk and entertaining read despite its didactic wisdoms. I'd boost it for politicians or their relatives who are thinking of writing their memoirs. Once our schools had considerable, formal study of history, including Canada's. The barrenness of history in today's curricula developed largely after World War II. Historian Granatstein is harsh with teachers and educational bureaucrats, and even harsher on university leaders, including historians, as the more or less deliberate killers of the study of history. Much of Granatstein's focus is on the confident, deliberate way so many teachers and educators, clerics and left-wing politicos, wrung out any significance from Canada's grand war efforts, their theme being that any sensible Canadian knew our nature and national calling made us peacekeepers, not warriors. Two more books on World War II by Canadians are worth noting and are now in stores. One is a new issue in paperback of Murray Peden's A Thousand Shall Fall (Stoddart). In 1980 our top military historian, the late Charles Stacey, described it as "the best book written by any Canadian about his war experiences and one of the best books that has been written anywhere about the war." Peden's book wears well, although it has gained some splendid Canadian company, most notably with George Blackburn's recent Guns series. The other war book is clear, documented, and though very sad is neither mawkish nor vengeful. It's Howard Margollan's Conduct Unbecoming: The Story of the Murder of Canadian Prisoners of War in Normandy (U of T Press). It's ironic that although the government-led hunt for war criminals who later came to Canada goes on nothing has been in train for years on finding and punishing the German soldiers who summarily executed 160 Canadians they'd taken prisoner in Normandy. PROVOCATIVE REPORTER Lament for an Ocean is subtitled "The Collapse of the Atlantic Cod Fishery! A True Crime Story." Author Harris, also a Sun columnist, does not pretend to be a scholar and an historian, but he is very much a provocative reporter. He sacrificed a steady narrative line by forsaking chronology for emphasis on incidents like "the turbot war" and the roles of strong personalities like John Crosbie and Brian Tobin. So neither the history of the Newfoundland fishery nor the global developments in fisheries' technology and science in catching or understanding the basic stocks are in a lucid frame. One's appreciation of a formidable bag of facts and opinion is not helped by the lack of either an index or chapter headings that give topical guidance. As a reader, I take it that the causes of the cod disaster are several, and the criminals were more the ministers and senior officials of the federal fisheries department than the fishermen - Canadian, Spanish or whomever. Now to return to why The Wealth and Poverty of Nations has fascinated me. Every decade or so a blockbuster of a book claims economic and political notice globally, its themes or propositions framing debate and contention that goes on and on. Mighty examples are Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (1776) and Das Kapital by Karl Marx (1867). Some later, lesser examples are works like Spengler's Decline of the West, Tawney's Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Rise of Capitalism, Galbraith's The Affluent Society and Reisman's The Lonely Crowd. In our smaller Canadian context two such books that much influenced our politics and government were Harold Innis' The Fur Trade In Canada; an Introduction to Canadian Economic History (1930) and John Porter's The Vertical Mosaic (1957). David Landes, author of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, brings along with him both the arguments of other polymaths who have explained or excused the world's disparities in wealth and progress; his style an almost racy breeziness as he postulates and refutes. He hammers home the evidence that every nation in which living standards are high for the many is a real democracy and one in which women are emancipated and fill roles outside the home and beyond dominating fathers, brothers, or husbands. He takes apart the critiques of Roman Catholic and Islamic scholars who make much of Eurocentric and American aggression and a ruthless individualistic ethic, and even the superior fortune in the basic resources of North American and European lands as the reasons why so many largely Catholic nations, and almost all Islamic ones, lag so badly in the economic well-being of their peoples. So much of Landes' argument is based on which cultures came to rate highly both a work ethic and the need to continually be critical of government. He has much on how and why some societies have been at the fore in technical and scientific innovation, especially in chemicals, medicine, telecommunications and the organization of production. Landes revels in working, arguing and skepticism. He closes with a verse (30:19) from Deuteronomy of the Old Testament: " ... I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life." The verse fits with these remarks of the author: "In this world, the optimists have it, not because they are always right, but because they are positive. Even when wrong, they are positive, and that is the way of achievement, correction, improvement and success. Educated, eyes-open optimism pays; pessimism can only offer the empty consolation of being right." Exactly! The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, April 15, 1998 ID: 12168749 TAG: 199804150148 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 15 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER CHRETIEN'S CABINET A WORK IN PROGRESS What adjectives come to mind when one's thoughts run to the Chretien ministry? That is, the 28 cabinet members and the nine secretaries of state who fill out the ministry? Trying hard to be fair, my descriptive words have been stodgy, commonplace and, by and large, deservedly not well-known or much talked about. And before I made some comparisons I had fancied that this ministry, far more than its predecessors at the same stage of less than five years in office, had been remarkably static, with relatively little coming or going or shifting of portfolios. This was a wrong-headed view, which I attribute to hearing so much restive and impatient talk from ambitious Liberal backbenchers, particularly in the big gang from Ontario. It was easy to encounter such restiveness before the election last year and it continued after Jean Chretien had the ministry for his second mandate sworn in. Also, I rather foolishly translated the obvious domination of the ministry by two men - Chretien himself and Finance Minister Paul Martin - which has been continuing since month No. 1 in 1993. That Chretien in ministry terms has not been standpat can be taken from the leadership by Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney as cabinet-makers and cabinet-keepers. Trudeau named his new ministry, 30 in number, after the '68 election. Six years and one election later he had had sworn in some 16 new ministers. Mulroney named his first ministry in September, 1984. It was a whopper, the biggest ever at 39 ministers. Five years later, by early 1989, he had added 22 new ministers. It seems less striking a total when you recall how bloated his first ministry was and the run of cabinet resignations in his first four years (Bob Coates, Sinclair Stevens, John Fraser, Suzanne Blais-Grenier, Michel Cote, etc.) Chretien began in November, 1993, with a much smaller crew and made the firm distinction between cabinet members and mere secretaries of state, a difference of not much import to most outside observers. Over the almost 54 months since then he has named 19 new ministers, 11 as cabinet ministers, eight as secretaries of state. So to this point in his time as PM, Chretien has appointed as many new ministers as Mulroney and a few more than Trudeau over a comparable period. ONLY TWO IN THE SAME JOBS But the PM has done more than that. He still has 14 holdovers from his first cabinet, but only two of these are in the positions they assumed in 1993 - Martin at finance and John Manley at industry. All the others have been shuffled, for example, Allan Rock from justice to health, Art Eggleton from treasury board to defence, or Ralph Goodale from agriculture to natural resources. As for regional representation, 12 cabinet members represent Ontario ridings and so do two secretaries of state. On the other hand, Quebec has only six cabinet members and two secretaries of state. So at least in numbers Ontario is doing as well as its high total of Liberal MPs would suggest as fair. The next province in population size, B.C., has two cabinet members and two secretaries of state, and the next, Alberta, has one of each. Nova Scotia has had to make do with only a senator in the cabinet for being so electorally cruel to Chretien last year. A question which starts a different train of analysis is simply whether the replacements have been a match for those who departed - ministers Andre Ouellet, Roy MacLaren, Brian Tobin, Doug Young, David Dingwall, Ron Irwin and Marcel Dupuy, and secretaries of state Jon Gerrard, Sheila Finestone and Fernand Robichaud. In my opinion the lost secretaries of state were mediocre or worse and their replacements are an improvement. But the first six of the cabinet ministers I mention were from strong to fair in their personalities and contributions, more so than the fresh additions. Of course, poor Dupuy as the minister for culture was a gross misfit. Any run through the Chretien ministry must pause over the three people he plucked into cabinet during his first mandate through arranged byelections in Quebec - Lucienne Robillard, Pierre Pettigrew and Stephane Dion. The latter two have done well or better as ministers, and Robillard, though less effective, has not been a disaster. If separatism is sagging in Quebec at least some credit should go to Chretien and his tough man from the academe, Prof. Dion. On the other hand, Chretien is not obviously nurturing talented replacements for himself in this ministry - but that's just another reason why it seems so stodgy and commonplace. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, April 12, 1998 ID: 12167957 TAG: 199804111119 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment/Editorial PAGE: C6 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER PC PARTY WILL PROVE TOUGH TO SINK DATELINE: OTTAWA The topic may have lost its freshness, but let me make an argument about the leadership choice of the federal Progressive Conservative party. 1) Whoever succeeds Jean Charest, it will be almost impossible for the party to disappear as an important partisan factor in federal politics in the next decade despite what may seem a dearth of inspiring choices. 2) A leader who is very conservative (such as Stephen Harper) would not be in sync with most of the backers the party has left. The durability of the party is there, it's intrinsic, despite the seeming hegemony of a Liberal administration with some ability, and despite the Reformers offering the clearest package of conservative attitudes and policies. Why so? Put simplistically - heritage! Traditions and shared experiences over generations, and not just in voting Tory but in working in riding associations and campaigns. And common sense says do not ignore the continuing presence and vitality in provincial parties of the same name in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and the Atlantic provinces. Put most simplistically, the federal Tory party has a heritage of past and continuing support of several hundred thousand families and a couple of million adults across Canada. Admittedly, it is weak in Quebec and even weaker in B.C., but neither province is a total vacuum for the federal party. This core backing, often based more on loyalty and memories than on beliefs and programs, was much shaken by the electoral disaster of 1993 and its anti-Mulroney hurricane, but there was enough of it left this year to draw two million votes and a recovery to a score of MPs from only two. And almost more positive than this modest resurgence was the total failure of Reform to win any seats in Ontario, the pivotal province for the next decade in federal politics, in part because it has so many seats. The Liberals will not lose control in Ottawa until half or more of Ontario seats go to another party. Looking ahead, the Tories seem a better chance to make those gains than either New Democrats or Reformers. The Tory core, or what might be called its lowest denominator, may eventually slip away. I reject any possibility this will be soon, certainly not before the next federal election and not fast enough to set up either a merger or any fruitful parliamentary or electoral co-operation with the Reform party under Preston Manning (or any other Reformer) against Jean Chretien's Liberals. Already partisans of other parties and editorialists and political reporters by and large have scoffed or snickered at the two names most prominent in speculation - Joe Clark and Hugh Segal - as shop-worn, their inadequacies exposed by past roles. PROVEN VOTE-GETTER It would seem the only known Tory politician who would be taken seriously by rivals or commentators is Ralph Klein, the premier of Alberta. Beyond Klein's proven worth as a vote-getter and newsmaker (in Alberta!), some of this promotion stems from the many who relish the prospect of Klein vs. Manning. The latter is still disliked beyond his due by those who work in the media or the academe. On the topic of Klein, provincial premiers have made bad transplants to Ottawa, particularly Tory premiers. Remember John Bracken, George Drew, and Bob Stanfield? Klein may not be an intellectual but he's shrewd, and I believe knows he has neither the stamina nor the patience the federal party leader will need in the next three to four years. The curse being laid on Clark and Segal as leadership aspirants is that they're Red Tories, so left-wing or liberally minded on social issues and government spending as to forfeit the honest label of "conservative." The same caution would surely apply to Patrick Boyer, the lawyer-scholar and ex-MP from Etobicoke, who has been mentioned as a possibility. Using the familiar pattern of left-centre-right, the Brian Mulroney, Clark, and John Diefenbaker governments and their parliamentary caucuses were all centre-to-left, not centre-to-right in their economic and social policies. And all - yes, even the Diefenbaker government - were ready to consider means to recognize Quebec's distinctiveness, including a strong willingness by both Clark and Mulroney to change the Constitution to allay Quebecois concern. In such broad distinctions one finds the chief contrasts of the Tories and Reform, as led by Preston Manning. The latter reached Ottawa with a sizeable caucus in opposition and has pushed attitudes and policies which are right-to-centre on economic and social programs and quite a tough line on federal relations with Quebec. REFORM ADAPTS Of course, Reform in Parliament has shifted modestly but tangibly toward the centre, one thinks because of a self-discerned appreciation that expanding into Ontario faces a populace that is not antagonistic to "the social net" (particularly to medicare) and uncomfortable with a "take it or leave us" line with Quebec. But Reform has a few years to go before it can become rather genuinely a party essentially at the centre of the spectrum from right to left, and the Tories would require a worse rebuff than they got in the last election before they'd be ready to slough away the progressive relics of their conservatism. In short, it would be sensible for the PCs to go with a known Red Tory, one with much experience in the party and with its stances over the past few decades ... unless there waits at the starting gate a gifted talker who can make the small "c" conservative cause passionately, and with wit. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, April 08, 1998 ID: 12166816 TAG: 199804070577 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 15 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER HOW ABOUT FRUM FOR TORY LEADER? Always, on returning to Canada after a trip, my question is what has happened in the realm? This time the answer is quite a lot, but nothing that shook the political firmament. As expected, Jean Charest switched to Quebec. May he do well there, although I fear for him. Why? Because to me, the campaigning skills of Lucien Bouchard seem so superb and thus far the PQ and the BQ have been so vicious and the Quebec Liberal party so vague and lukewarm in its federalism. Also, I felt Charest as Tory leader had a fair chance to bring back the federal party to the status of offical Opposition, even with a chance at office in six to eight years. Of course, the switch opens a leadership race to be climaxed this fall, and already the slate has one sure entry, Hugh Segal, 50, a party apparatchik with over a decade of recognition as a surrogate spokesman of the federal party, a tribute to his gift-of-gab and group diplomacy. Another who might like a shot, Stephen Harper, is young, a retired Reform MP and a brainy, ultra-serious conservative. If a Stephen Harper comes in the race, why not a David Frum, another brainy, ultra-serious conservative (with some wealth and a famous Canadian surname)? If he's wanted, at least moderately wanted, Joe Clark, 58, might be game for a return. Although he and Segal are already being mocked as has-beens or too "Red," each has, as they say, paid his dues. It seems to me that if there is any "sleeper" in the PC leadership race it will not be a personality, but the purchase of memberships in order to obtain a vote for the leadership by thousands of conservatively-minded Canadians, many of whom voted for Reform. Their purpose? To ensure no Red Tory like Segal or Clark wins and to improve the chances of an eventual merger on the right. Clearly, the factor the Tories will not want looming through to the day of choice is open arguing over a future consolidation of the right. Other happenings I had missed were the decision of the Chretien government to buy four pre-owned submarines for the Navy and the 30th anniversary of Pierre Trudeau becoming prime minister, highlighted by a special section in an issue of Maclean's. And two citizens who contributed much to the public's social conscience passed on: Max Cohen, a prime legal scholar, promoter of enacted anti-hate measures, and the ablest, fastest talker I've ever heard; and Father Bob Ogle, a shrewd, positive, and often droll priest who filled well a House seat for the NDP and Saskatchewan until the Pope ordered him back to his ordained vocation. The subs are surely needed if the country wants more than a "pretend" navy, in particular to sustain a nucleus for underseas operations in the Pacific if China grows more expansionist. TRUDEAUMANIA The emphasis in the recall of Trudeau's advent has been on Trudeaumania, i.e., on the enormously appealing vision of modern style in a global frame which he offered or at least seemed to symbolize, particularly to young people, and even more particularly to women. His legacy of greater substance, going by the current commentaries, centres on the benefits flowing from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, far more this than any emphasis on whether his repatriation of the Constitution has contributed to keeping Canada together. The lack of such emphasis, I think, is because he neither came close to destroying separatism as a partisan political force, nor left behind any usable, flexible means for accommodating Quebec's distinctiveness within the federation. For those who want a tough and very readable view of several aspects of Trudeau's legacy I recommend a short, new book by historian Jack Granatstein, Who Killed Canadian History? The chapter on the "multicultural mania" is a prize rant. The mania ballooned after 1971 when the Trudeau government enunciated officially that Canada had been and would be a multicultural society. The historian argues, powerfully, that the policy and its programs have been enshrined, indeed, almost ennobled, as the just and fair representation of Canada. This, insists Granatstein, has fostered separateness and ethnic divisiveness in Canada, in particular suppressing the vestigial Canadianism of those now over sixty. Its complement has been the American-like litigiousness which is still burgeoning since the Charter was attained, and which is leading more and more of our governments to leave the hardest decisions to the Supreme Court. Granatstein insists we have such a fine country to live, work, and die in because Canadians had, and have, something more singular and particular from their past than the image or legacy of global diversity of ethnicities and cultures. Yes, and I affirm this each time I return from elsewhere. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, March 22, 1998 ID: 11901094 TAG: 199803200705 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment/Editorial PAGE: C7 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER CAN QUEBEC REALLY AFFORD THE PRICE OF INDEPENDENCE? INDIANS AND INUIT GET MILLIONS ANNUALLY UNDER JAMES BAY AGREEMENT DATELINE: OTTAWA As they plot independence, some sharp thorns in the flesh of Premier Lucien Bouchard and the Parti Quebecois are the aborigines of the north, whose leaders insist they and their lands shall remain with Canada. As so-called wards of the federal government and because of Quebec's post-Confederation acquisition (1898, then 1912) of the territory over which they range, their arguments have been telling enough to gain repeated majority approval in opinion polling in Quebec. In 1978 a treaty of sorts called the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement was entered into by the Cree and Inuit of the north with the governments of Quebec and Ontario, plus Quebec Hydro. Last week the 1996 annual report on this agreement was released and two aspects of it in particular are intriguing: first, the aboriginal population; second, the spending on and by the Cree, Inuit and Naskapi under the agreement. There are 19 tiny Inuit communities spread around the northern coasts of Quebec, nine Cree communities and one Naskapi - in total, 29 settlements. The combined population last year was 20,260 - 11,803 Cree, 7,813 Inuit and 644 Naskapi. The Cree have received grants under the agreement totalling $230 million, the Inuit $71 million, the Naskapi, $1.87 million. The 20,600 native Canadians have considerable usage of over one million sq. km of land, and near or full control of some 163,000 sq. km. For the last financial year (1995-96) the total expenditures by 14 federal departments and agencies on the Cree, Inuit and Naskapi covered by the agreement was $193,353,600 ($43.7 million by Central Mortgage and Housing alone). That was $13 million higher than the year before and almost $56 million higher than spending for 1990-91. The total does not include what natives get though such programs as seniors' pensions and childrens' allowances, and it has nothing to do with the $230 million received in grants under the agreement. If Quebec goes but keeps the Cree, Inuit, and Naskapi it will have to bear rather high outlays annually for three very small and widely scattered groups. For years the Fraser Institute think-tank has had a feature called "On Balance" in its monthly newsletter, Forum, which quantifies the topics and emphasis in network newscasts, mostly of late-night CBC and CTV news. Many reporters jeered the On Balance articles as right-wing, Simple Simon propaganda. The articles did record a persistent left-wing bias in CBC news. By hanging in, and with finer and more varied quantification, this so-called media archive has attained more respect and usage. This year, the analysis is being extended to the early evening newscasts of 42 TV stations across the country. These programs have far more viewers in total than the combined late night viewers of CBC, CTV and Global news. For example, the February issue of Forum contrasts the relative share of stories by subject field in such Canadian and U.S. programs. It uses three broad categories - Civil, Chaos and Entertainment - then breaks these into 13 headings: Government; Soft News; Business; Crime; Disasters; Culture; Legal Affairs; Health; Social Issues; Environment; Morality; Religion; and Other. Canadian stations carry far more news of government and politics and of entertainment than do American stations, but the U.S. stations have far more items of crime, courts, and disasters. However, a large number of the entertainment and human interest stories used by our stations are from or about the U.S. Stations affiliated to CTV carry slightly more stories on government and politics than the CBC affiliates (53.6% to 52.4%) and slightly less of entertainment than CBC affiliates (24.2% to 27.5%) Aside from indicating we are more law-abiding and civic-minded than our neighbors, the data suggest those Canadian viewers who have a wide choice of channels also have much variety in the content of their daily TV newscasts. KEYWORDS: QUEBEC; STATISTIC The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, March 18, 1998 ID: 11900004 TAG: 199803170619 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 16 ILLUSTRATION: photo by Reuter ORDER IN THE HOUSE ... House Speaker Gilbert Parent ruled Monday that MPs may not display the small flags at their desks in Parliament. Yesterday, MPs voted down a Reform motion to allow them. SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER THE FLAG FLAP: HOW EMBARRASSING TODAY'S DEBATE IS NOTHING LIKE THE ORIGINAL FLAG CONTROVERSY IN 1964 DATELINE: OTTAWA A radio journalist had a question: "In 1964 you were an MP through the great flag debate. Is the current hassle about the flag much like it was then?" "Hardly at all," I told him. "That was a really harrowing time. This is a blip." And I tried to explain why. Today's hubbub flowered from a ploy by federalist MPs to mock their prime baiter in the Bloc. Then a slow, crude response by the Speaker led Reform to balloon it all, contrasting Bloc disloyalty to Reform patriotism. And so a japing ploy worth a good chuckle has become an embarrassment to most of us. Since 1993 no Bloc MP has sandpapered more MPs of other parties than Suzanne Tremblay. She looks like an amiable granny from the farm; however, she is tough, acute, and fearless on her feet, a redoubtable agitator. Her barb at the surfeit of Canadian flags at Nagano was typical. Don Cherry's choleric response to this set up Reform's calculated response of a flag display and anthem singing in the House when she rose to put a question. Speaker Parent was inept in dealing with the jape. No grace; no irony; no dispatch! He put off the ruling despite the sound, old and often-used dictum that an MP cannot use any kind of prop in the chamber. CREDIT REFORM? But what credit can one give Reform for expanding the send-up of Tremblay and the very familiar awkwardness of the Speaker into maudlin, patriotic fervor? It's sad what Reform has done since it dropped its early undertaking of civility in the House, free of the time-worn partisan wrangling. The party turned to kindergarten methods, to show and tell stuff. In the army we jeered such stunts as "dog and pony" shows. At first the Reform gig on the flag got a good response. A host of us outside Quebec are proud of Canada, respect the flag, and have been choking on separatist propaganda. Put another way, it is not Plan A which this majority wants. But it is also certain most citizens do not want a House in which all but Bloc desks are decked with a wee Canadian flag on a stick. In contrast to this forgettable over-hype, the way to the new flag in 1964 was teeming with conflict and venom. So many just knew we already had the flag in the much-used, long-flown Red Ensign. When the PM, Lester Pearson, said Canada would get a new, unique flag of its own in 1964 it really opened up the most contentious debate since the pipeline scandal. The flag with the red leaf on white was voted into status by a "free vote" around 2 a.m. on a chilly December night to both riotous enthusiasm and tears of rage and sorrow. So many wanted and revered the Red Ensign. Literally, the issue had roiled the country from Bonavista to Victoria from February to December. The House debated the motion for 33 sitting days. Most MPs spoke at least once. And many days there would be oral questions on the issue. (My score was four speeches, five questions and many interjections.) A committee reviewing designs, literally by the hundreds, drew more media attention and public interest than any other in my memory, before or since. MILITARY LIKED ENSIGN Ah, there was much divisive stuff. The Grits were accused of catering to French Canadians or to Roman Catholics or to Italian immigrants. All the military service associations (e.g., Royal Canadian Legion, Corps of Commissionaires, Naval Officers Association, etc.) were for the Red Ensign. For most of the year there was a widespread orgy of flag-designing. I advocated one: a Canada goose in flight over bands of blue, gold, and green and it gained some fans. So did flags with loons, beavers, grizzlies, pines, flowers and, of course, the ancestral symbols from Britain and France. The blanketing furor through 1964 was so genuine and fervent that argument often became scary. Then, magically for Pearson, the public seemed to want it over, to get away from the excesses of the most bitter antagonists. The country was more than ready for the vote when the PM forced it by invoking closure. To use a heavy word, nationally it had all been very cathartic. What was to amaze me, as one who voted for the new flag, was how rapidly it was accepted, all across the land, in particular by the kids. And, yes, even in Quebec it had a vogue. Through Centennial Year the flag was massively displayed and I never heard or read a "nay" to its rightness and worth. Reformers might reflect on this: our flag's prime sponsor, Lester Pearson, went to the people in the early fall of 1965, seeking a majority and pointing to the new flag. He came back with only three more MPs and without the majority. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, March 15, 1998 ID: 11899350 TAG: 199803130627 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment/Editorial PAGE: C4 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER SO CHAREST LEAVES ... THEN WHAT? UNFORTUNATELY FOR TORY FORTUNES, THE BEST LEADER IS THE ONE WHO MAY QUIT DATELINE: OTTAWA A niggling dilemma for the federal Tories if Jean Charest switches party and venue lies in the three or four more years in this Parliament. Charest's successor must get into the House long before the next election. By and large the Tory caucus is green, aside from two New Brunswick MPs, and neither Greg Thompson, 51, nor Elsie Wayne, 65, seems apt for leader. Thompson has had health problems and Wayne, the former mayor of Saint John, is lively and contentious but not a leader for the long haul. The party caucus has a grand talent in a new MP from central Nova Scotia, Peter MacKay, 32. He follows his father, Elmer, who was 21 years an MP and nine years a federal minister. He might do well as acting House leader. Those being tagged as could-be successors to Charest won't find a byelection easily, although the party does have one seat in Ontario - Markham - won by neophyte Jim Jones, 55, from a renegade Grit incumbent. It's true Alexa McDonough led the NDP from a House gallery seat for 18 months but it was very awkward. Maybe Joe Clark of all the prospects mentioned might do best as a party leader in getting the nation's notice while outside the House and waiting for a fair byelection chance. The hurdle for Clark is the likelihood he would jade people as a character from a 1970s movie. Those mentioned in the media so far for the task are: Hugh Segal, 41, a veteran long-time party apparatchik and a superbly glib surrogate for the party on TV (see Pamela Wallin); Clark, 58, who needs no further identification; and Ernie Eves, 51, now Ontario's quite bouncy minister of finance. Two possibilities from past Tory caucuses who have talent might be the former minister of foreign affairs, Barbara McDougall, 61, or Patrick Boyer, 53, prolific author and legal scholar who ran for the leadership in 1993. To place the six suggestions mentioned thus far in the spectrum of the party from left to right: Segal and Clark are on the left, i.e., Red Tories, and MacKay and Eves are on the right, with McDougall and Boyer somewhere in between. It is no offence to any of this sextet to state the obvious: for the party's sake Jean Charest was, and would be, the best bet. There has been so much of Charest at the top of politicking, and before that of the deficit-killer, Finance Minister Paul Martin, that no notice has been taken of a metamorphosis in the Preston Manning we see performing. It has not been a sudden shift but it is significant and advantageous to him. Watch his bits on TV news, then recall how much slower, didactic, and earnest he used to be, even as recently as last fall. Surely with deliberation, he is now much quicker into remarks and to brisk, positive repartee when faced by reporters. He zooms in and out of scrumming. He has furbished his wit and now is less serious or earnest, and much readier to be diverse in argument, to spoof, even to self-mock. He is now comparable to Ed Broadbent, who, after a few years as NDP leader did master the provision of a succinct 10-or 20-second sound bite that a videotape editor couldn't miss. In the House, Manning is best even in formal speeches. In the question period he is still measured and he over-simplifies as if pitching for Grade 7 viewers. He often breeches the House rule forbidding repetitious questions which the present Speaker rarely enforces. Over five weeks he has asked roughly the same question about the debt a dozen times (as has his even more repetitious deputy, Deborah Grey). A scholarly acquaintance whose forte is the role of Speakers in legislatures has told me he thinks Speaker Gilbert Parent is not yet in troubles as serious as those which led to the end of John Bosley's term in the office in 1985. But he's getting there. Parent's problems come from more than specific bumbling over the use of flags in the House or his fatuities on the quality of democracy in Castro's Cuba. Parent is slow and often fuzzy in his rulings. He can rarely swing deftly out of a contretemps. To manage troubles he relies too much on standing, graven, feet apart, flopping his wrists and waiting, waiting for dissidence to fade away. Above all, he seems over-apprehensive about the sensitivities of the Bloc Quebecois MPs. Put another way, he never got the message from the close margin by which he, the Speaker of the last House, held it for the present one over John Nunziata, the independent Liberal. If Parent should lose the confidence of the House, his No. 2 and No. 3, Peter Milliken and Ian McClelland, are able. Few books I've read recently have set me thinking so much about the place of place in our politics as a new one written by a press gallery colleague, John De Mont (of Maclean's) - and this in a romp which has only four pages about politics "down home" out of 274. The Last Best Place, subtitled "Lost in the Heart of Nova Scotia," and published by Doubleday Canada, is about both why most of us never forget home and do go home. Once back home, DeMont figuratively marked out its range by nosing all over the province. The anecdotes of people, the recall of local history, of eccentrics, disasters, and of musical antics on land and sea, are wonderfully done. I appreciate now how Nova Scotian emigres are invariably remembering, and going back, and why so many visitors, especially those with nest-eggs, visit and visit and then buy and settle. John DeMont gives particular care to his family's root place of Cape Breton but he ranges from its tip to the southerly town of Yarmouth and to university and fishing and yachting communities on both long shores. Praise the bounty in distinctive home places our predecessors have given almost all of us, not just the Quebecois and Nova Scotians. As one who "goes home" every year - in my case, I go "up home" to Northwestern Ontario - I think it as cherishable and distinctive, despite its far briefer history, as John DeMont's Nova Scotia or, say, Allan Fotheringham's Lower Mainland Lotus Land. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, March 11, 1998 ID: 11898202 TAG: 199803100600 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 16 ILLUSTRATION: drawing by Susan Dewar, Ottawa Sun SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER WHO WILL RALLY THE FEDERALIST FORCES? IT SHOULD BE JEAN CHRETIEN, BUT CAPTAIN CANADA'S CAPE DOESN'T FIT DATELINE: OTTAWA We had almost a week of torrential talk on whether Jean Charest should save Canada by going to Quebec before questions began to run about the core flaw of federalism this year. A flaw that jumps out when you raise questions like these. Who should be the federalist forces' general as all Canadians, including the Quebecois, face the renewed threat of separatism? Obviously: Jean Chretien. So what dilemma does he present at this time with regard to Quebec? Simple, he is not, and has not had for over many years, any reservoir of respect in his own province, nothing near the favor Ontario gives him. Why has this been so? Often those outside Quebec have positive reasons for liking Jean Chretien. For three decades he has insisted it would be economically stupid for Quebec to separate, and there would never be enough such stupid Quebecers to attain Quebec's secession. It's a cogent but ultra-pragmatic argument. Separatists have never let rest Chretien's night-long role in the federal-provincial deal 18 years ago which isolated Premier Rene Levesque and led to the repatriation of the Constitution and the insertion in it of the Charter of Rights. MEECH LAKE Even the provincial Liberals of Quebec cannot forget that Chretien suborned the Meech Lake accord. Also his lack of grace in language and his blunderbuss logic in argument has always turned opinion-makers in Quebecois against him, whereas his crudities have not hurt him elsewhere in Canada. To repeat, the kaffuffle swirling about Charest has again resurrected the frustrations in having Jean Chretien as prime minister. In part because the PM is inadequate in the war over unity, Charest is needed to cope with Bouchard, the PQ, and the BQ. And almost as telling, after eight years as the leader of the federal Liberal party, Chretien has not recruited or developed in his cabinet the lieutenant to take over from Daniel Johnson with qualities comparable to Charest's. Remember that Charest was a protege of Brian Mulroney. Where is Chretien's? This summary of the PM's inadequacies or failures has been building up in my file through nasty letters from readers, mostly from Reform backers. Oh, what a Chretien "lap dog" they think me for describing him as "a marvel of energy, confidence, and determination" and remarking on his brass in insisting he'll continue into the next century. I think it fair to have it two ways; i.e., insist Chretien has been a politician to marvel over, even as one concedes what Reform critics say of him is apt and justified. For example, despite plucking three fresh MPs from Quebec and giving them big cabinet chores (Lucienne Robillard, Stephane Dion, and Pierre Pettigrew) none has gained anything like the stature Charest has in either Ottawa or Quebec. My respect for Chretien as PM is for a warhorse who charged into Ottawa 35 years ago and has never really eased up. He's still charging, at least in economic matters and administrative confidence in this second mandate. He controls his caucus and party and he is neither overshadowed nor threatened by any magisterial colleague, not even Paul Martin. But respect Chretien or not he is rather suddenly being appraised more closely again because of his flawed standing among the Quebecois. It is of interest that a new book, The Canadian General Election of 1997, from Dundurn Press, makes the case that since Pierre Trudeau, federally, the leader has become less vital for voters than the party or even the issues in a campaign. The book's batch of essays by a dozen professors and journalists has surprisingly few glowing opinions of Chretien as a vote-getting leader except in Ontario. The plainest themes in the analyses as a whole are that the results left partisan politics static. Static! Nothing much was settled by the results. In particular, nothing much emerged that foretold a shift that should or could prevent a replay of the referendum cliffhanger of '95. Further, the lowest turnout post-war and a majority government attained with less than 39% of voters is witness of a people jaded or cynical about politics. LOST SEATS One writer, Stephen Clarkson, an academic not at all unfriendly to the Liberals, thought Chretien had campaigned indifferently. He'd chosen an early election expecting a romp and almost booted it. He lost precious seats in the Atlantic region and gained few in Quebec. And so, Clarkson, wondered: "Why the long underestimated but shrewd Jean Chretien seemed both overconfident and underachieving ... How did his well-prepared and competent campaign organization fail to achieve the party's most basic objectives?" Prof. Clarkson concluded long answers to such questions with the following sentences: "The campaign has shown that this new government would be much like the old. Its vision would be limited by the imperatives of fiscal prudence, its administration would be cautious, and its handling of Quebec problematic." That's a judgment to ponder. Think of the crescendo of demands on Jean Charest, and their corollary - the inadequacy of Jean Chretien in the face of separatism's nationalistic challenge in and from Quebec. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, March 08, 1998 ID: 11897741 TAG: 199803060939 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment/Editorial PAGE: C4 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER CHAREST'S BEST FUTURE IS IN OTTAWA HE'S GOT ALL THE NECESSARY INGREDIENTS TO BE A GREAT PM, INCLUDING A MEAN STREAK DATELINE: OTTAWA Surely this Charest affair should make a devout democrat uncomfortable. It underlines how fragile and contradictory is rule by the people: so volatile, such sudden surges of desperation and demands; and the creation, even if only briefly, of a human drama in which salvation of a nation (perhaps in this case, two nations) depends on one man. It's just too much to load on any one politician, even one as able as Jean Charest. Twice before in my watch on politics a majority of Canadians exploded with zest and high confidence at the prospect of a wonderful leader. The great leader. First, John Diefenbaker in 1957, then Pierre Trudeau in 1968, were to clear us through the burdens of the past and the angers of the present. They were to reinvigorate our society. And then, through a long wait, there promised to be a third savior, John Turner. So many of us were sure he would come out of his self-exile on Bay Street, a sure bet to be a superb prime minister. Despite propitious starts, electorally in particular, neither Diefenbaker nor Trudeau - and surely this hindsight is not belittling - could deliver as a leader in power anything near the great expectations. And Turner deflated almost everyone's balloon of hope within a few months of his return. It is not puffing Charest too high to consider him in tandem with Diefenbaker and Trudeau, those two whom so many Canadians figuratively worshipped for a time - in the Chief's case for almost two years, in Trudeau's for almost four. After all, Charest is even a shade more deft bilingually than Trudeau. That is, his facility and cogency in both French and English is so good and easy, and he is an abler performer than Trudeau was when speaking on a platform or in the House of Commons. Charest is also much better than most political leaders in making arguments for plain folks, reminding me in his skill at exposition of the late Tommy Douglas (without the anecdotes). And he reminds me of Trudeau as a "quick study" and in ease of recall; that is, he absorbs the data, the issues and the argument which experience unfolds. It was noticeable from the moment in 1986 when Brian Mulroney made Charest, then only 28, a cabinet minister, that here was one of those rarities - a tangible, public presence. Even then it was clear that TV cameras were kind to him. In this sense he catches the viewer's notice just as did those charismatic predecessors, Diefenbaker and Trudeau. EXCITING PROSPECT The prospect of Charest vs. Lucien Bouchard in face-to-face oral slugfests, or their combats at a distance through performances in scrums or studios, is truly exciting. The younger man would be unafraid of the premier, and what edge the latter might have in passion could well be offset by the other's persuasive common sense. Oh, Jean Charest is remarkably good value in most of the intrinsics for an able leader. He has gall and a definite mean streak. Although almost as quick a motormouth as Hugh Segal or Stephen Lewis, he rarely seems as wise-acre or smart-ass as they often do. His meanness has been on display, most obviously in almost five years of nastiness toward Preston Manning, and he was understandably mean and tough with Bouchard after that worthy bolted cabinet and launched the Bloc Quebecois in 1990. It sounds banal and even immoral to justify meanness as a political quintessential, but where would Jean Chretien have been without his mean streak? Answer: still on Bay Street. Too much meanness is a drawback but not having a streak of it can be a killer: witness the careers as Tory leader of Joe Clark and Bob Stanfield. And if Charest should accept a draft into the leadership of the Quebec Liberal Party he will need his mean streak to deal with the Chretien Liberals because they have hardly been consistently shrewd in managing Quebec issues. It is so easy to make a strong case that Charest could be the perfect foe for Bouchard in the coming provincial election, and perhaps in a subsequent referendum on sovereignty if the PQ retains power. But what about what he leaves behind, perhaps throws away? If Charest is wondrously attractive to so many Quebecers it has been as a federalist politician, working in Ottawa. Even we outsiders saw he was a positive factor in the last cliffhanger there. He could be again - as a federal politician. Also, in last June's federal election he fashioned a modest revival in Quebec from almost a nil base, and he was notably masterful in the televised leaders' debates. In short, isn't it useful to federalism and a bonus for the country as a whole that Quebecers know and appreciate they have a federalist worth trusting in Parliament beyond Chretien, Stephane Dion and Marcel Masse? DIFFICULT TO REPLACE The prospects are grim for the Tories in replacing Charest with anyone nearly as able. Too many urging Charest into Quebec are seeing him with a miniature caucus of 20 MPs and a 5th-place status in the present House. They forget the Liberals won their second majority in a row with only 37% of the vote, in the lowest voter turnout since World War II (67%). The best the Liberals have in sight for the next election seems to be Paul Martin, and in what is sure to become a three-way fight from the outset Charest seems as good, maybe a shade better, to match and master Martin than does Preston Manning. It will seem preposterous to many, but Jean Charest could become prime minister of Canada within the next four years by staying where he is and doing what he can there to make sticking with the federation attractive to the Quebecois. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, March 04, 1998 ID: 12901332 TAG: 199803030537 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 16 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER CHAREST: DOES NO MEAN MAYBE? QUEBEC BECKONS, BUT DON'T SELL SHORT HIS CHANCES TO RESTORE TORY FORTUNES DATELINE: OTTAWA The lull in the intense concern we outsiders have about the Quebecois had to end this year. But the sudden imperative of a new leader for the Quebec Liberal party means it's over sooner than expected and we now must reckon on three, not two, contests fraught with danger. Of course, the successor to Daniel Johnson may fulfill our present slight hopes and beat Lucien Bouchard in the election the Parti Quebecois premier is almost sure to call this fall. But that seems a long shot. The third expectation of a contest is the referendum on sovereignty which Bouchard has said will follow his re-election. Naturally, federalists (or at least this one) fear this contest the most, given the near thing in October, 1995, and the continuing witness of Bouchard's superb skills as a politician and the parallel witness of the far slighter appeal in Quebec of Jean Chretien, federalism's leader. The Chretien shortfall is emphasized by the sudden focus in "the two nations" on Jean Charest. It may be weeks before his refusals convince the Quebec Liberals he won't forsake the House of Commons and the leadership of the federal Tories to lead them into the provincial election. Might he accede to a mighty and convincing draft? And will such come? My hunch is something like a draft will come, and quickly, but I think the chances he will accept it are less than even. Too many analysts believe the future federally is with Preston Manning and Reform, with the federal Tories doomed to fade, the vital remnants turning to Reform. Not necessarily. Those qualities that make Charest such a good choice to go against Bouchard in Quebec would be just as useful in the federal politics ahead. The electoral records remind me to never underestimate the capacity for recovery in our two oldest federal parties. And once Chretien is gone, Charest as Tory leader should be very attractive to Quebec voters in a federal election and, in Ontario, likely preferable to Manning. Some Liberals on the Hill think that either of two federal ministers, Pierre Pettigrew or Lucienne Robillard, may go after the job Johnson is leaving. Pettigrew has been more impressive by far than Robillard. But for all that he's proven energetic, well-informed and spunky, he seems too brittle and preciously sophisticated for matching Bouchard on the stump. As one (I believe with much company) who has long sensed the inevitable as the Quebecois have lurched toward nationhood, it seems to me the next referendum could be the last such concerted appeal for affirmative backing for a long time. Why think this, given this will be the third try in just under two decades? First of all, there's that brutal social science called demography! The low birthrate of the Quebecois coupled with the dearth of willing, acceptable French-language immigrants in large numbers signifies a society that will not be pulsing with the expansion of new additions. Bluntly put, Quebec is almost as static in growth terms as the Atlantic provinces. Secondly, nowhere is there a populace more vulnerable than Quebec's as the anglicization of the world grows and pervades. This tide is borne by American political, economic and cultural hegemonies. ENGLISH UNIVERSAL There's a blanketing of the globe by computer usage programmed in English, the language of universality, and also the expanding viewership for TV productions in English. Third, the rising pace of materialism, particularly in Quebec, shows no sign of slackening. Certainly, there seems nothing of a declining interest of Quebecers in the state next door as the prime place for their markets and their holidaying. So going it alone will look less and less attractive to the Quebecois as the years pass. To do so will mean substantial economic costs, even should Canada be positive in negotiating the separation - which is far from likely. And there is a fair chance that steps may be taken by Parliament and the other provinces to sustain the dignity of the Quebecois by a lasting recognition in the federation that they have a uniqueness in people, law and government as set out officially in something like the Calgary declaration. On their part, the Quebecois may come to appreciate that despite Canada's diversity in ethnicities a big majority of our 30 million thinks of itself as one people - Canadian. Of course, the Canadians also need to be thinking, first of the ruddy mess we will all be in if Bouchard gets his majority, thin or not. Beyond the repulse of separatism that we will pray for in the next referendum, we should appreciate that the victory should be followed by concessions and compromise regarding uniqueness. No fudging, as Pierre Trudeau did after 1980 and Chretien has done since 1995. And no gloating. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, March 01, 1998 ID: 12901620 TAG: 199803020488 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment/Editorial PAGE: C4 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER ENOUGH DEBT FIGHTING, LET'S SPEND! SEVEN YOUNG FILM-MAKERS DETAIL HOW GOVERNMENTS MORTGAGED THEIR FUTURE DATELINE: OTTAWA Are the days of reckoning over? Most of us welcome the end of the long string of federal deficits. We compliment Paul Martin as the finance minister who made this happen and Jean Chretien as the leader who backed him. However ... in Martin's budget speech of some 80 minutes, he gave less than four of them (about 400 words) to the reckoning all those deficits created, i.e., the debt, and its load. As Martin said: "We have won a major battle. We have not yet won the war. Twenty-five years of deficits have left us with a debt burden that is far too high. The debt burden must be brought down. In fact, that has already begun to occur." But then he goes on, neither describing nor prescribing a clear plan or any common sense forecasts on when the debt of $583 billion will fall below $500 billion or when the annual interest burden is likely to drop below $35 billion, then $25 billion, etc. Instead of real details on the "war" still to be won, Martin hurried on to the theme he was bursting with - a new program, mostly aimed at post-secondary eduction, and tagged with one of those optimistic blurbs Ottawa relishes: The Canadian Opportunities Strategy. He gave it hyperbolic coverage, using over 40 minutes (and some 4,000 words). Is it petty to use totals of minutes and words to emphasize how excited the Liberals are now about spending again? Oh, how they prefer grand images of youth and skills and growth to the "war" that's far from won. DEBT AND INTEREST Has the urgency of the debt and its interest load stopped being prime because we have finally regained a capability for surpluses? Is the heavy tax load most individuals bear, whether rich, middling, or poor, to continue onerously or be increased (as it was a few months ago by changes in the Canada Pension Plan)? To win the "war" needs frugality in spending and taxes, plus growth in jobs and production. One is not being mean-minded to interpret Martin's budget speech and the frolicking reception it earned from the Liberal benches as a side-step, away from the "war" toward the cosier self-interest of the politicians and a party which believes the way to retain power is to spend and spend. How evanescent are memories on Parliament Hill? Very! It seems we're out of the deficit box and right into the spending box again. Thursday I had a chance to view a straightforward and educational film about government debt called The Day of Reckoning. It's two hours long and in four parts, and features a search across the country by seven young students for understanding on how Canada got into such a scandalous run of deficits, rising debt and interest burden. It is a Stornoway Production film, created jointly with the University of Guelph. How, they asked, was their generation's future mortgaged by those of their grandparents and parents through three decades of big deficits and the piling up of $600 billion-plus in debt? On March 10 on PBS, Buffalo, you may see the results of their search. I think it was their innocence and ignorance which made so many of the politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists, academics, farmers and fishermen to whom they spoke reply with such candor. The most senior Ottawa mandarin over the longest period, post-World War II, was so frank: "I feel ashamed when I think how well my generation has done from the government spending that has left your generation stuck with the costs of our spending." The youth began with visits to the farms and ranches of the Prairies and the rather simple discovery that compound interest, particularly at high rates, has created by far the majority of the federal debt. They heard of the subsidies, some in the billions, and their usually poor results, especially in distorting marketing. They visited saw mills, steel mills, fish plants and a number of failed and mothballed enterprises, all of which were much aided by governments. On site, they got explanations on how creating one government-owned nuclear plant in Ontario went over budget by $12 billion. NO RESPONSIBILITY The main focus was on the spending programs and projects in the years when financial responsibility fled from Ottawa, i.e., from 1975 to 1990. Why had the government, year after year, kept throwing more money at ever more interests and regions? They found out the government and Parliament had been well warned by three assertive auditors general, but nothing much came of this except that the A-Gs were demonized as mere bean-counters. The youth learned how interest groups and lobbyists pressured politicians and became their familiars - and sometimes the silent partners of those in officialdom. They saw how something classified as "middle-class entitlement" sustained universality programs which subsidized everyone. They found out what slight influence most MPs have and how short-range is the thinking of ministers and their mandarins. As one ex-minister told them: "A vision in Ottawa is the next election; eternity is the election after that." If you are over 65 or under 35 this film is almost sure to get to you. It emphasizes how hard it is to keep politicians frugal and how equally difficult it is to keep people and associations from gaining subsidies and then their continuance. In the film's last scene a mock court hears a charge against the federal government of breaking trust with young people and then a rebuttal which explains with wit that politicians and their officials merely do what they know the people want done. This rebuttal fits well with Paul Martin's verbiage on the Canadian Opportunities Strategy. His "Days of Reckoning" are giving way to days of spending. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, February 25, 1998 ID: 12900878 TAG: 199802240701 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 16 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER RATING THE FINANCE MINISTERS: WHO'S NO. 1? DATELINE: OTTAWA How high should we place Paul Martin for closing out almost three decades of annual federal deficits? Answer: At the top! He's the most successful minister of finance since James Ilsley (1940-46), with Canada engaged in total war. On the popular scale of 1 to 10, both Martin and Ilsley rate a 10 - the best of finance ministers. Of course, a good finance minister must have a prime minister who backs him - in the open, and in cabinet and caucus. Clearly W.L. Mackenzie King backed Ilsley as Jean Chretien has backed Martin. In contrast, think of Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney. To put it mildly, their support for their ministers of finance is found in the bigger and bigger deficits and gyrating interest rates. A finance minister need not be a likable personality, but he must be taken as trustworthy and continue to be so held. Ilsley was a low-key, succinct man of quiet dignity, a contrast to the vivid and voluble Martin. But each was a fit for what he faced. Four concerns never fade for long in federal Ottawa: the French-English cleavage; high unemployment; economic relations with the U.S.; and, since the early '70s, high deficits building enormous debt-load. All four are top concerns for a minister of finance, and he always has to face repetitious public fears of higher interest rates, a below par Canadian dollar, a volatile cost-of-living index and new tax initiatives. Whatever the flux in such governmental and citizens' worries, a minister of finance should not promise the public too much or talk too often (as did Donald Macdonald, 1975-77, and Chretien, 1977-79). He should be neither too technical nor too simplistic in his statements. Above all, unless he has irrefutable proof, he should never assume the voters are ready for sacrifice (as John Crosbie, 1979-80, did). He should not indulge in optimistic forecasts (as Mike Wilson, 1984-89, did too often) or get tagged as a cheapskate (as Walter Harris, 1954-57, did over a tiny raise given old age pensioners). He should not be seen as hostile to business and investment interests. Such a take damaged Walter Gordon, 1963-65, and Allan MacEachen, 1980-82. The CEOs of Canada are rather proprietorial of ministers of finance - especially the bankers. Of the 17 ministers noted here, beginning with Ilsley and closing with Martin, 12 were Liberals and five were Tories (Don Fleming, George Nowlan, Crosbie, Wilson and Don Mazankowski). Two went on to be prime ministers - John Turner and Chretien. None of the 17 had a romp, although the longest runner, Doug Abbott (1946-54) rather breezed in the postwar boom, with much credit going to the mandarins who introduced Keynesian economics. In a way, Ilsley's caution made it easier for Abbott, much as Wilson's freezing of public service pay and Mazankowski's axing of so many Crown agencies in 1992 readied us for Martinian toughness. My list works back from Martin, giving name, term, rating (out of 10) and a few categorizing phrases. PAUL MARTIN, 1993-98: 10; lucky yes, but firm and intent above all on ending deficits. DON MAZANKOWSKI, 1991-93: 5; a veteran politician with great gifts who came too late with the axe. MIKE WILSON, 1984-91: 5; not a success despite earnestness, fairness, honesty and the regard of Bay Street. MARC LALONDE, 1982-84: 4; a huge spender, but coming after MacEachen the CEOs liked him. ALLAN MACEACHEN, 1980-82: 3; neither he nor his master feared big spending and mega projects. JOHN CROSBIE, 1979-80: 4; hindsight says he had a thoughtful and tough budget but one doomed by scorn. JEAN CHRETIEN, 1977-79: 3; his deficits zoomed over $10 billion, and his loose talk hurt his credibility. DON MACDONALD, 1975-77: 4; tinkered with wage and profit controls, before escaping like his predecessor to Bay Street. JOHN TURNER, 1972-75: 6; a 10 in public talk and appearance, but out of sync with his boss and a cabinet full of dreamers. EDGAR BENSON, 1968-72: 4; a bluff place-filler who revelled in perqs and talked much tax reform but did little of it. MITCHELL SHARP, 1965-68: 7; yes, upright, calming, careful, and he cleared the debris left by Gordon around PM Lester Pearson. WALTER GORDON, 1963-65: 2; an even bigger bust in finance than MacEachen, and elitist and arrogant to boot. GEORGE NOWLAN, 1962-63: 2; never got to presenting a budget during John Diefenbaker's last months in power. DON FLEMING, 1957-63: 5; sincere, intense, but swept along by a cabinet of spenders; he was much weakened by conflict with James Coyne, head of the Bank of Canada. WALTER HARRIS, 1954-57: 4; inherited a seemingly mighty apparatus that was wrecked by the pipeline scandal and an aged PM and cabinet. DOUG ABBOTT, 1946-54: 8; the golden age of finance as the deficits were smallish and some surpluses developed. JAMES ILSLEY, 1940-1946: 10; took federalism and its finances through an epic period of achievement. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, February 22, 1998 ID: 12900465 TAG: 199802200690 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment/Editorial PAGE: C4 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER THE DEMONIZATION OF MIKE HARRIS A NEW BODY BY ONTARIO RELIGIOUS GROUPS ASSAULTS THE PREMIER AND HIS POLICIES DATELINE: OTTAWA Among recent, political books none matches Listen Ontario! as a blistering attack on a leader in power. The policies and person of Premier Mike Harris are more demonized by those who speak through this book than anything spewed in appraisals of such widely detested leaders as Brian Mulroney and Bob Rae. Oddly, the approach in this book somehow fits with the image cast by comments from economist Tom Courchene that Ontario is becoming a state within the state of Canada. And it sustains a point I've made that Harris has functioned as a splendid lightning rod, drawing critical bolts that should really have hit Prime Minister Jean Chretien. The paperback, 162 pages long and subtitled "Faith Communities Speak Out," was compiled and edited by a Toronto Quaker, Ruth Morris, and published by Mosaic Press of Oakville. The project was rather surprisingly funded by the the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council and the federal department of heritage. I say "surprisingly" because agencies of governments are usually chary of subsidizing a product so condemnatory as Listen Ontario! is in ripping up Mike Harris and his Common Sense Revolution. GALAXY OF CRITICS It seems I've been ostrich-like, not realizing before meeting this critical tour de force what an upsurge there's been of prayer meetings, vigils, conferences, and marches by the religious of Ontario against Tory government. Author Morris marshals a galaxy of tough critics - archbishops, bishops, archdeacons, moderators, priests, nuns, pastors, Christian lay workers, rabbis, Mennonite preachers and Muslim leaders. And the substance in the onslaught is put bluntly and brutally. It is neither arcane, ultra-intellectual, nor specious. A lot of it is biblical. Below I list section headings for the core of the assault on the premier. It was developed to deal with the "myths and realities in the story of Harris." "ECONOMIC FALLACIES: That a) Harris Common Sense makes common sense; b) There's plenty of work for all; c) Trickle down economics works; d) There'll be pie in the economic sky by and by (We're looking after future generations this way); e) Private charity can do it all; f) We just can't afford welfare; g) It's tough but there's no alternative. "SPIRITUAL FALLACIES: That a) It's an economic, not a spiritual issue; b) The government is always right; c) The dollar debt is the most important deficit; d) Even you leftists say we have to get rid of welfare; "JUST PLAIN LIES: That a) Harris treats rich and poor alike; b) Harris had an overwhelming mandate to do all this; c) The poor are bad, cheaters and lazy so they deserve all this." Morris is very much a Quaker in printing a statement she made to a gathering of those "seeking justice and compassion at Queen's Park." "Friends call on Premier Harris, and all who have supported him, to examine their hearts, and consider whether the seeds of evil have any place in the oppressive policies toward God's beloved: the 500,000 children on welfare; the poor who need agency services; the children whose education and hope for the future is being removed. Michael Harris, we call upon that of God in you. We urge you to heed that yearning, loving voice. It is not too late to open your heart to that voice which speaks to each of us, and which cares for you as much as God loves the most neglected." At one prayer group, Morris was asked: "The church says we should pray for Harris. Should we pray for him, Ruth?" Before she could answer another member of the group responded immediately: "Yes, Jennifer, the Bible says we should always pray for our oppressors." Morris writes: "There was merit in that answer. I believe prayers are never wasted on anyone ... Sometimes I remember that Michael Harris was once an innocent, lovely baby." And with like-minded Christian forebearance she regrets the vituperation and threats hurled at Harris and his "revolution" by left-wingers and labor leaders. BOOSTS NO PARTY Ruth Morris and her soulmates in faith hew to a straight line against Harris as the oppressor of the weakest and most unfortunate in Ontario. They give no notice, let alone kudos, to the Ontario Liberals or NDP. This book is not a boost for any party, although what was not in the book left me with several questions, the first being the obvious journalistic one: Does it represent a serious danger to a re-election for Harris? The second is to wonder how the Chretien government could be so wholly ignored. After all, it was well along in slashing spending and services in order to end federal deficits (an aim of Harris in Ontario). And these cuts were cruel on Ontario. Its revenue from federal-provincial sharing plummeted by hundreds of millions each year that would have gone to provincial welfare and education programs. Also, Listen Ontario! touches health care cutbacks rather lightly and has even less on two major elements in the Harris program: changes to school boards and curricula, and municipal reform, including assessment, and more responsibilities. I seem heartless in saying this, but surely those latter matters will or should rouse the opposition of powerful interests with better prospects of staying or defeating the Harris government than these citizens with religious beliefs who are confronting him in his war on the poor and the helpless, as revealed and detailed in Listen Ontario! Nonetheless, the scope, diversity, and directness of the believers whom editor Morris arrays against the aims and the character of Premier Harris should get his attention. Politicians are used to calumny, to being called petty, or useless, or self-serving but rarely is any one among them defined as so mean, narrow and ignorant. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, February 18, 1998 ID: 12899832 TAG: 199802170567 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 16 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER CAN WE COUNT ON THE SUPREME COURT? OUR VETERAN HILL OBSERVER CASTS DOUBT ON SOME OF ITS MORE RECENT DECISIONS DATELINE: OTTAWA As our TV screens show us the nine justices of the Supreme Court of Canada, togged in scarlet and ermine before panels of polished wood, there is a dignified solemnity to the scene. Gravity and carefulness. Intelligence, surely shaped by precedent. What is right, above what is emotional. We want the court to be most judicious because so much of who we are and may or may not remain is riding on its answers to the three questions referred to it regarding legality and process vis-a-vis any unilateral declaration of independence by Quebec after a hypothetical majority vote in the province in favor of it. Would that I shared the widespread respect for the wisdom of the court, in particular of Chief Justice Antonio Lamer. Why do I not? Most immediate in my doubts is the decision Lamer wrote in December on a B.C. native lands' claim, tagged as the Delgamuukw case. To my mind, Lamer's reasoning and the decision were stupid, even infantile, in light of the region's history and the usage of property in the province over the past 130 years. DIPPY REASON In junking a long-considered decision by B.C.'s former chief justice, which followed an exhaustive trial, Lamer chose such a dippy reason. The B.C. chief justice had failed to give weight to the oral recall of history which native witnesses wanted to present regarding usage and habitation of lands over centuries. And for that ruling - which I think sensible and understanding of human memories - Lamer threw away the long trial and its decisions, suggesting not the imperative of a new trial but the imperative of renewed negotiations between the parties - i.e., the tribes, the provincial government and Ottawa. Lamer saw the rights of the aborigines to the land as so convincing that it behooves governments and others who think they own land to negotiate with the original owners whose rights predate their ownership because they were simply prior ... and around, somewhere. The natives and their galaxies of lawyers and anthropologists are in ecstacy. Almost all sizable bands in Canada are gearing up for a never-ending role in the land-use policies of their province and in figuring the back payments due for their claimed territories and the use of them by non-natives. To B.C., indeed to the whole west - with a fruitful economy that has and is exploiting fish, trees, minerals and oil and gas - this Lamer decision will cost billions, much of it through delays or flight by companies based on resource use. Their investments and plans now have no certainty. Since the Charter of Rights came into play in 1982 Supreme Court decisions have cost us much as taxpayers. The most noted of these dealt with the rights of refugees and was written by Bertha Wilson, late of the court. A foreign migrant who made it to a Canadian piece of ground was to have full Charter rights. And this decision led to the costly, inefficient refugee appeal board. Jean Chretien and company now talk of abolishing the board, but the cost of this monstrosity has passed $1 billion and it has a long, waiting list of appeals (and we have thousands of untracked refugees). This was a prime example of sentimentalism and gross ignorance of human behavior blinding Wilson and her fellow justices to realism's imperatives. The decision fouled fairness in immigration and created a huge bureaucracy. Relatively, the Delgamuukw decision by Chief Justice Lamer will require a bigger and never-ending ante. CONSTITUTIONAL APPEALS The last time the Supreme Court considered a major constitutional matter was in 1981 when appeals by three provinces led the court to rule on whether Ottawa (with Pierre Trudeau as prime minister) had the unilateral right to alter the Constitution, i.e., without provincial participation and consent. As one constitutional lawyer put it: "Never before had the mainstream of political life flowed so relentlessly up to a Supreme Court decision." We should recall that decision as we await the rulings to the latest referred questions. Yes, the Court ruled, the federal government had the legal right to change unilaterally the Constitution. However - and what a however it was - a basic convention had developed that such actions needed "a substantial degree" of provincial consent. What was "substantial"? Well, it didn't specify Quebec or any other province, nor did it mean there should be provincial unanimity. Recall what followed? A federal-provincial conference and a sawoff that reformed the Constitution and instituted the Charter of Rights, but left Quebec (then led by Rene Levesque) outside and resentful - the same resentment which burns today in Lucien Bouchard, Bernard Landry and the Bloc Quebecois. Take the 1981 decision and Lamer's bent to sending politicians back to the table. Surely, then, the SCOC's 1998 decisions will agree Quebec has the unilateral right to secede, given there is clear majority support for it, but the practices and conventions of Confederation are such there should be arrangements for the processes of voting and the determination of secession's schedule and details. I'll bet you! The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, February 15, 1998 ID: 12899421 TAG: 199802130743 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment/Editorial PAGE: C4 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER HOCKEY'S TOO BIG FOR JUST 50 `BEST' WHICH HAS CHANGED MORE RADICALLY, THE GAME OR THE PLAYERS? DATELINE: OTTAWA Wayne Gretzky the very best? Ahead of Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Mario Lemieux and the Rocket? One begs to argue or at least quibble with some rankings in a recent Hockey News list of "the 50 best NHLers." The list begins with the five above and has Doug Harvey (6), Jean Beliveau (7), Bobby Hull (8), Terry Sawchuk (9) and Eddie Shore (10). Jari Kurri is No. 50, and the only other European, Jaromir Jagr, is No. 37. There are no Russians or Swedes on the list and only one American, Chris Chelios (40). Of those honored there are 31 forwards, 12 defencemen and seven goaltenders. So, however needed defensiveness is, those who attack and score drew more notice from the expert panel. Only nine of the 50 were prominent as players before World War II: Shore (10); Howie Morenz (15); Milt Schmidt (27); Newsy Lalonde (32); Charlie Conacher (36); Joe Malone (39); Dit Clapper (41); Bill Cook (44); and George Hainsworth (46). This disparity indicates how the mighty of one generation are strangers to subsequent generations. World War II was a continental divide of sorts for hockey. The postwar game took on a different character and, eventually, a dilution factor developed in a continuing expansion of teams, schedules, travel, and significant non-league play like Canada Cups and Olympic Games. As a Canadian columnist I've maundered over lists of the top U.S. presidents and the best Canadian prime ministers from Mackenzie King down to Kim Campbell, so it's good to shift to the topic of the best NHL players ever. Why waste the obsession I share with millions of Canadians of being a hockey fan? I got to my first game of quality in 1928 at the age of 9. Of the 50 honored by Hockey News, I have seen 41 of them play in the NHL and 24 of them in junior ranks. GREAT TEAMS AT NAGANO This week we turn toward the series underway in Japan with high hopes for Canada's team and interest plus apprehension regarding those who play for the U.S., Sweden, Russia, Finland, etc. Was there ever such an assemblage of skilled, able hockey players? So this seems an apt time for me to comment on the "top 50." One reason is that after Nagano the next list is almost sure to have a very different composition. The large panel which voted on the top 50 embraces much hockey knowledge. My initial carping stems from their failure to deal with the huge changes in the game as played before the red line came in during World War II and the game since, and then the further changes subsequent to the 1972 series with the USSR and the 1976 Canada Cup that opened NHL rosters internationally. Changing technology within the game - masks, sticks, skates, Zambonis - and in the presentation and coverage of games by the media, particularly TV, have affected how hockey is played and altered strategies and tactics. The red line at centre ice led to what we call "dump and chase" hockey and put a priority on where the puck was on the ice rather than who was in possession of it. Back when the forward pass was so limited the premium was on stickhandling and not on forechecking. Then the relatively static positional play for defencemen ended and the number of defencemen who "stayed at home" but were heavy body-thumpers dropped. Instead we got the full-press power play, which we had seen little of before the war. Goaltending has altered hugely since the emergence of the slapshot in the 1950s. Because of its greater force but lesser accuracy than the wrist shot, the goalies' lot grew harder through more screens and scrambles before them, and more blasts from the points. And the battered ones responded with bigger, better padding and more use of the stick. Another evolution which has occurred in all team games, most notably basketball, is players of more height and bulk, and greater strength. In the 1920s the average hockey player was maybe 5'10" and weighed 160-170 pounds. Nels Stewart, Ching Johnson, and Charlie Conacher were looked on as giants, but today's NHL has 70-80 players bigger than them. The George Hainsworth I saw play goal some 66 years ago would be a slender midget beside today's netminders. Another factor tied to size broke into Canadian hockey after the shock from the 1972 series with the USSR. It was an amalgam of fitness training based on use of weights and training for dexterity and upper-body power. Ironically, the NHL coach who took the lead in aping Russian methods was Fred Shero of the Philadelphia Flyers, until then noted as a team of brute play and ruggedness. To go back to "the list," its makeup shows a fascination with attack and less interest in defence. Further, of the defencemen picked, every one was like Doug Harvey - a prime offensive star. Where are the hard rock, stay-at-home thumpers like Ken Reardon, Butch Bouchard, Fern Flaman, Babe Pratt, Babe Siebert, Jack Stewart and Red Horner? WHERE'S FRANK BRIMSEK? The finest goalie I ever watched is the top one in the list, Terry Sawchuk, and each of the others listed - Jacques Plante (13), Glenn Hall (16), Ken Dryden (25), Bill Durnan (34), Patrick Roy (35) and Hainsworth (46) - has been exceptional. But where's Frank Brimsek of the big hands and well-out positioning? Clearly, there was a bent toward those who starred on Stanley Cup teams. Much as I cherish the Canadiens, 16 of them in the top 50 is pushing it. Why not more from teams with less success, players like Bill Cowley, Syd Howe, Frank Boucher, King Clancy, and Red Dutton? How could anyone who watched both Bentley brothers have Max (48) rated behind Bob Clarke (23) and John Bucyk (45) and brother Doug not even on the list? Clarke was indomitable and mean, like Mark Messier, also slotted high at No. 12. Bucyk was a tough journeyman through a long, steady career but I can't imagine Clarke, or for that matter Brian Trottier (30), well ahead of Marcel Dionne (38) or Gilbert Perrault (47). I felt a twinge for Rocket Richard at No. 5 and his brother, Henri, at No. 29. Rocket was simply the most exciting player I ever saw and Henri the most complete forward after Gretzky. For me, Bobby Orr in motion has been the sweetest player of all, well ahead of either Gretzky or the ageless marvel of skill and brutality, Gordie Howe. Given better knees and a longer career, Orr, I think, would be alone at the top. I hit a personal paradox in Mario Lemieux (4). Who has been bigger, faster, stronger, more clever at passing, more an ace at scoring? No one. But I cannot swallow him as No. 1 or even ahead of Richard (5), Harvey (6) and Beliveau (7). He never seemed a giver, or even to revel in his excellence. At least the list has triggered reflections and comparisons, even though it's impossible to satisfy most fans. Better next time to separate the players into four lists: pre-NHL; NHL to World War II; the NHL to 1972-73; and the NHL plus the world since 1974. Certainly we must accept that the next "best-ever" list will have fewer Canadians and more Americans and Europeans. We don't own the game any more. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, February 11, 1998 ID: 12898811 TAG: 199802100649 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 15 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER MPS DESERVE MORE MONEY DATELINE: OTTAWA How real is the antagonism of citizens to federal parliamentarians? Judging by the chronic chorus of negativism whenever more pay for MPs is broached the animus is wide and deep, and I believe unfair. This reading of public views is by one who has known the issue for the past 38 years. That long ago I was an MP, elected in 1957, re-elected in 1958, who spoke out in the House for more pay (which then was at $8,000 a year) and services such as a full-time secretary. For such boldness I was anathemized across the country and criticized bitterly in my riding and by my caucus mates. Why had I spoken out? Simple. Savings were gone, my bank overdraft getting scary. The raise was slow in coming. To keep solvent I turned to part-time journalism. Not until 1963, almost four years after I spoke, was the pay of MPs raised from $8,000 to $12,000 a year. Eight years later, in 1971, it rose to $18,000 a year. In 1974 the pay again went up, to $24,000 a year, and stayed there for one year before beginning to bump up in smaller "cost of living" jumps almost every year. It reached $64,400 in 1991, where it has been frozen by seven years of enforced frugality. Yes, there's much more in the tale of MPs' recompense than this yearly pay allowance. It had begun at $600 a year in 1867 and once hung for 32 years at $4,000 a year (from 1920-52). In modern times there has also always been a non-taxable expense allowance. In my days this allowance was only $2,000 a year until it was jumped to $6,000 a year in 1963, and then up in little bumps each year to $21,000 in 1991, where it now stands. Recently, up to $6,000 a year has been available to MPs for proven accommodation bills away from principal residence. And in the past five years the Reform party has let all Canada know MPs have a very generous pension plan for those who survive long enough to get it. Just about half of all MPs from the five elections before last summer's were not in office long enough to collect. So a plain MP gets $64,400 plus $21,000 plus $6,000, which totals $91,400, and if he or she puts in over six years there is a pension. TAX-FREE EXPENSES The tax-free aspect of the $21,000 expense allowance is figured by mathematicians to make the MPs' "take" equivalent to $106,000 a year. Essentially, that was the recommendation in last week's report. Most citizens are unaware that the largest portion of the annual funding for the House of Commons - some $230 million this fiscal year - is not for the pay, allowances, and pensions of the 301 MPs. (This totals only $32 million this year.) Most of the funding covers the costs of MPs' staffs and both their Hill and constituency offices, plus travel and phone bills, office supplies and equipment, printing and messenger services, and includes computers, faxes, phones, and long distance charges. And each "official party" caucus receives a research grant, scaled according to its number of MPs. The House has almost 1,500 full-time employees, a ratio of about five per MP. Further, there are the costs of the Library of Parliament ($17 million a year) plus the sums needed for procedural affairs, Hansard, administration, security, post office, food services. Let me underline, again, the pay, allowances, pensions, etc. of MPs only take about a seventh of the total spending of the House of Commons. It is true much of the rest goes to service MPs and the working of the chamber and its officers. As a whole, the Hill may be a rather chintzy operation but it is not wildly extravagant or luxurious. A proof of this is how rapidly the buildings clear by 6 p.m. on a working day and how remarkably little socializing and partying occurs on the Hill. On weekends or when the House isn't sitting the complex of five buildings is silent and empty. This increasingly impersonal bureaucracy is a contrast to the House and Hill of 40 years ago, and it is in spite of (though not because of) the media numbers - some 80 in 1957, some 300 now. Then there were lots of safe seats, no free air travel, no cameras in the House, and the evening sittings encouraged much camaraderie. Today there aren't 40 safe seats in the country and the pace of work has picked up a lot for most MPs, not only at home but in committee work. Certainly, today's MPs are much better provided with means and aid to do effective work than those of the 1950s. And I think lot of them deliver. I'd estimate well over two-thirds do; of course, according to respective abilities. Further, I don't think many MPs are yet in desperate financial straits but all those who depend completely on their pay and allowance - I'd say about three-quarters - are feeling the pinch. And so a modicum of a raise has merit. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, February 04, 1998 ID: 12897831 TAG: 199802030545 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 15 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER MARKING TIME ON THE HILL DATELINE: OTTAWA No epic issues. Few if any partisan hatreds. No federal election for three or four years. The next referendum not yet at hand. The economy at least so-so. Few noisy zealots in the land, let alone even one rousing a rabble of fierce discontent. So how could there be an exciting, fascinating parliamentary session? It is illusory that having Parliament in session again after a long recess is to the public good, although it's a justification for MPs and those who report on them. The surfeit of talking heads on hand and the ceaseless speculation of partisans has always been more interesting to me than a capital without a House in session. Yes, even when the whole operation is figuratively "marking time" as it is now. Yes, even though this tepid waiting seems sure to last through into 1999. And even though we seem to be without eager legislators with grand intentions. It's only microscopically correct that we're only marking time on the Hill while we wait for Paul Martin's next budget. Wager that a fortnight after it's delivered it will be fading from our memories. Perhaps it may have within it a program or some tax move of earthquake proportions, but it's most unlikely. And after the budget? Should we keep hoping the dollar doesn't descend to the low US60 cents range? Or await with great expectations the Supreme Court's wisdom on the reference to it of a hypothetical Quebec referendum scenario? Or should we choose sides as we anticipate what the now significant task force on finance and banking will recommend on mergers of the big banks? And aside from the real menace represented by Lucien Bouchard is there a single premier in office with the acumen and a national impact to shake up Jean Chretien and his docile ministry and caucus? The present easy political situation of Ottawa is symbolized by the buoyant self-satisfaction of the prime minister with his government. He has convinced his caucus and his party - and the opposition parties - he is the federation's leader for the longer haul into the next century. And this means he will front federalism's forces in the next vote in Quebec on secession. HAYWIRE FORECASTS Last summer some of us looked at the spare Liberal majority from the election and anticipated a war for survival between the four "official" opposition parties. I thought possible a House continually on tenterhooks, with the party whips ever alert and a constant prospect of defeat for a government measure. Not so. Such forecasts were haywire. Now one cannot imagine the cause that would bring all four parties together against a government motion, let alone consider this Liberal caucus might be so lax or fractured as to leave its leadership in the lurch when the bells ring for a House vote. If truly major issues are so unlikely this year, what relatively minor ones will fill the roster of political news and speculation? First, one should presume there will be a big play in the budget to the dilemmas of "youth." How much money for it? What co-operation or contradiction will there be from the provinces, especially Quebec? Second, watch for John Manley, the minister of industry, having troubles. So far he has squelched criticism, especially from his backbenchers, over: a) moves to alter the present regime of regulation and control of drugs; and b) the persistent jumps in the price of gasoline at the pumps that suggest collusion, not competition. Third, follow the path in public of Jane Nixon Stewart, the minister responsible for Indian and Northern Affairs. Only a half year at this toughest of all ministerial tasks she seems to me increasingly timorous, unsure and washed out. Fourth, expect little in controversial fireworks this year over the recommendations now out and due for public hearings on an overhaul of the immigration system and the refugee process. Fifth, expect even more anger and contentiousness to be raised this year on the Prairies over the amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board by those farmers who want to market their own grains. And just as bitter a storm against Ottawa is likely to come in the west as more details of the skyrocketing costs become known about the mighty effort to establish provincial gun registries, which are so popular in urban centres and so unpopular beyond them. Above all, watch the marvel of Jean Chretien. How could some of us have been deluded enough in the last quarter of 1995 to expect the prime minister, then frazzled by the close referendum vote, to pack it in fairly soon? The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, February 01, 1998 ID: 13095426 TAG: 199801300684 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment/Editorial PAGE: C7 ILLUSTRATION: 1. photo of MARK MACGUIGAN 2. photo of DAVID ORLIKOW Both former MPs died recently. SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER REGRETS? I HAVE A FEW LIKE MORDECAI RICHLER'S FICTIONAL BARNEY PANOFSKY, I FOOLISHLY LOST THE FRIENDSHIP OF TWO FINE MEN A recurring strain on a political columnist comes from making choices. Today the choice has been between the hot topic of sex in high places and some reflections on two former MPs who died a fortnight ago. My hesitant choice has been on the late veterans of the House of Commons - David Orlikow, 79, for 25 years an NDP MP for Winnipeg, and federal court judge Mark MacGuigan, 66, the Liberal MP who succeeded Paul Martin, Sr. in Windsor in 1968 and eventually became a judge of the federal court after a lost bid for the Liberal leadership in 1984. This choice was really determined by coincidence. The same-day obituaries of the ex-MPs appeared on the day I finished Mordecai Richler's most pungent novel thus far, Barney's Version, a witty, satirical romp over human hypocrisy at work in largely Montreal, Laurentian and Parisian venues. The novel's form is a first-person recapitulation by Barney Panofsky, a well-to-do Jewish Montrealer in his late 60s, of his wild, wicked life, edited in his alzheimerish dotage by his eldest son. The often ribald and shocking incidents and plot of the story unfold in an unchronological remembrance of Barney's three failed marriages and the scores of major and minor grievances he had which ruined almost all his friendships. My late acquaintances, the aforesaid Orlikow and MacGuigan, have minute - if any - parallels in behavior or values with Richler's Barney, aside from Orlikow's real, though quirky, Jewishness. So whence came the ponderable coincidence I cite? It is personal. Barney's friendships and his associations in the business of film production were perennially unstable through slights or quarrels over feelings or facts, including political and social behavior - even over his cherished Montreal Canadiens. Most times Barney Panofsky's reactions to such conflict were abrupt and mean-spirited. Much in his episodic memory is in reappraising the worth of the many men and women with whom he had fought or dumped on. I was a close friend of David Orlikow from the mid-1960s to 1980 when we quarrelled heatedly over the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He was for it, while to me it meant the death knell of parliamentary supremacy. We argued, shouted, insulted each other, and thereafter, from 1981 until 1998, we ignored each other. I was a friendly, chatty acquaintance of Mark MacGuigan from the early 1960s when he taught law in Toronto through much of the same span of years as with David. I enjoyed both Mark's truly faultless niceness and unpretentious erudition in history and law until 1984 when he was minister of justice in PET's last cabinet, he decided to run for the Liberal leadership. He had been a very busy MP for 12 years, concentrating on constitutional issues, before Pierre Trudeau surprised his caucus by making Mark foreign affairs minister in 1980, then justice minister two years later. When Trudeau retired, Mark stunned the Hill by announcing his candidacy for the leadership. I thought this the height of political foolishness, a hopeless cause. I not only told him so but repeated my scorn for it in print. Subsequent to an embarrassingly weak showing, Mark was as steady as ever in his warmth and interest when our paths crossed but I was not, in large part out of shame at having been so categorical in proclaiming his leadership bid ridiculous. What gall I'd had to mock his dreams. So, succinctly put, the recall prompted by the deaths of David and Mark - kind, thoughtful men in politics - was of the rupturing of long, warm relationships through my anger. Like Richler's Barney, I had too much pride in my own wisdom and not enough for theirs. Both David and Mark are symbols of the able, reliable journeymen in electoral politics who parties and leaders depend on far more than they honor or who many in journalism cite and recognize. As an alderman, as a provincial MP and as an MP, David Orlikow gave almost 40 years to working for the greater good of Manitobans as he saw it. He was more than normally assiduous as an intervenor for citizens with problems or ideas because he helped bear the load of his more honored benchmate, the late Stanley Knowles, who held the riding next door and became famous as a national authority on Parliament and pensions. David read widely, including poetry and novels. A social democrat, rather than a class-emphasizing socialist, he was not a Zionist and he kept putting off a visit to Israel in favor of working Winnipeg's north end. Few MPs of any party were more assiduous in House and committee attendance and in taking part. And no other NDP MP I knew tried harder over more Parliaments in dousing caucus feuds and hewing to the principles of co-operation and fairness. My disagreement with David over the Charter was deep and his responses to my animosity for this plank of the NDP platform were bitter. But I should never have let it ruin a long companionship. In the respects given David's public life since his passing much has been made of the long, tiring struggle his wife and he had with Canadian and American authorities over her "brain-washing" in medical treatments in a Montreal clinic sponsored by the CIA and the ruination this was for her health and equanimity. No one, I think, has said it and I will because I haven't known, nor could I imagine, a more patient husband under constant chivvying and complaints from a very intelligent but perennially distraught spouse. In private, without whining or seeking sympathy, David suffered decades of incessant, spoken abuse. A durable and generous being, and a friend whom I gave up over a constitutional matter - of all things! Yes, I wince. And too late, like Richler's Barney, I wish it had been otherwise. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, January 28, 1998 ID: 13094840 TAG: 199801270721 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 15 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER ONE SENATOR WHO THINKS BIG DATELINE: OTTAWA "How am I to face all the earnest, backbench MPs next week with House bills of their own," I asked Sen. Colin Kenny, "if I base a column on two bills of yours, an unelected guy from the millionaires' alley side of Parliament Hill? They'll think I rate MPs below senators, and I don't." He replied in an instant: "Because my bills represent initiatives which would do Canada a lot of good, particularly my bill to institute a tobacco levy. And it's the sort of bill a government MP couldn't bring in, and an opposition MP wouldn't because he'd figure the cabinet would choke on such sponsorship. But a Liberal senator? The bill has a chance." Yes, there is much potential good in the senator's Tobacco Industry Responsibility Act, which I explain below. His other bill is one on a specific plot of 1.1 acre size in our capital, adjacent to the Chateau Laurier and empty since an old government building was razed a few years ago. He calls this bill (Senate Bill 4) "An Act to establish a National Historic Park to commemorate the Persons Case." Ottawa esthetics for me are somewhat like the issue of mergers of already big banks and energy utilities - where's the clear public need? And despite my respect for feminist objectives it's hard to imagine we can ever make historical celebrities of the five women who fought the action seven decades ago which won the point that women should be officially persons in Canadian law. But to the enthusiastic Sen. Kenny, the quintet are a most suitable cause and name for public use of this open patch of ground that corners Sussex Drive as it leads north and then easterly passing the National Gallery, the war museum, the mint and the PM's residence to the gates of Rideau Hall. The National Capital Commission seems to favor a public building - offices, perhaps an entertainment centre. Ottawans seem to favor the park concept. Lord knows the capital has a surfeit of both office space and halls with stages. This bill of Kenny's could go through. The tobacco levy bill is a much tougher proposition even though it's far grander and worthier of Canada-wide attention. It meets the too obvious shortcomings of the recent Tobacco Act, C-21 sponsored by Health Minister Allan Rock, which somewhat reduces the promotion of cigarettes and has municipal leaders and promoters of arts and sport spectacles raging. BUREAUCRATIC HURDLE The highest hurdle ahead for Kenny's determination to use positively the responsibility of tobacco for the burden of disease and public health costs of $3 billion a year is simply bureaucratic. Simply put, the mandarins in the federal department of finance have always been able to convince ministers not to push through anything remotely like a tax whose revenues would be dedicated to a specific cause such as conservation, or heart disease, or sport, or, as in Kenny's case, to take the nation through and past the gross dilemmas of ill health which stem from smoking tobacco. The senator is thinking big. He has been campaigning across the country. When he gets listeners for his tale he finds enthusiasm, and, he hopes, the readiness of thousands to press their MPs. His bill doesn't just pick around the edges of three serious aspects of tobacco addiction: its perils and attractions to youth; the reliance of farmers on tobacco as a vital cash crop; and the matter of tobacco industry sponsorship of major arts and sports events. The first goal - a massive country-wide program to make smoking unappealing to youth - would be ongoing. whereas the aid for farmers and the respite for arts/sports groups would have five-year limit. Moneys from the industry levy of 50 cents a carton would raise some $120 million a year. This would not go into the federal government's general revenues but be earmarked separately in order to: a) Carry out a massive education of Canadian youth to discourage them from smoking, beginning with the use of $60 million a year and rising to $120 million in the sixth year and later. b) Fund, on a five-year transitional basis, those arts and sports groups which lose tobacco sponsorship under last year's Tobacco Act, thus giving these groups ample time to find alternative funding. c) Fund a program for farmers who grow tobacco to aid them in crop switching and other land-use choices. The Tobacco Industry Responsibility Act is excellent in purpose and in its three-part plan. My support is keener because I have a swatch of grandchildren nearing the crucial years. So join me in writing or speaking for this initiative by Sen. Colin Kenny. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, January 25, 1998 ID: 13094542 TAG: 199801230577 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment/Editorial PAGE: C6 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER A GUY WHO COULD GO ALL THE WAY THE POLITICAL HEALTH OF ALLAN ROCK IS JUST FINE, THANK YOU DATELINE: OTTAWA What do Paul Martin, Jr., Brian Tobin, John Manley and Allan Rock have in common which will continue to intrigue political commentators this year? Easy! This is the quartet of capital "L" Liberals who are being taken seriously as successors to Jean Chretien when the prime minister chooses to leave office. None of the four is close to any of the others in terms of personality. At this point in time advantage seems to lie with the eldest, Martin, the most disadvantage to Manley, the least known and most unfinished as a speaker. Premier Tobin of Newfoundland has had a high and positive national profile but he is from a very small province (politically speaking) and may have trouble raising the big money needed for a competitive leadership campaign. And Rock? Well, he's the subject of this column, as well as author of part of it. He should be able to match Martin in dollar backing, is younger and almost as competent in French. He seems set in the centre-left of his party. Just last week a story on the Globe and Mail's front page speculated on the readying of Rock, now health minister, for a leadership bid when the contest is called. Seven weeks ago I had a hand-written letter from Rock in reaction to a column of mine about John Sopinka, a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada who died in late November. This response was on his first encounter with Sopinka back in 1970. I'll finish this column with much of Rock's letter, less because it's about the heart and mind of a man both of us admired and more for what it suggests about Rock's own values. Is it sensible that he would be prime minister? The current wisdom in the parliamentary press gallery is that while this may not be likely it is certainly possible. Rock came to Ottawa five years ago with a high reputation in Ontario legal circles but almost an unknown for his abilities, style, or ideas to political reporters. Of course, there was a familiar rumor linked to his advent since he was a protege of Keith Davey. The now retired senator, handily the modern Liberal party's most noted talent scout, said this to me on Allan Rock: "He's a guy who could go all the way." Certainly the justice portfolio, which Jean Chretien gave Rock, was a major one for a rookie, particularly because he had a large contingent of veteran Liberal MPs from Ontario behind him who were experienced lawyers. Within a fortnight of the opening of the new House in mid-January, 1994, an observer could measure the promise Keith Davey saw in Rock against his oral performances while on his feet. His obvious attributes were clearly above the parliamentary norm. He was poised yet comfortable as he spoke. His well-modulated voice carried well. His grammar was excellent and his vocabulary catholic, his prose succinct. Suddenly, the House and the government had a performer reminiscent of Allan MacEachen in his early days as a minister (in the mid-'60s). And for several months, the new minister of justice was relatively non-partisan. That is, he was not taking the easy way to roaring acclaim from Liberal backbenchers. Further, he was uncommonly bold for a new MP-as-minister in staking out his intentions early, most notably regarding a national gun control plan and in legislating entitlements for homosexuals. Later, as resistance built in the House (and in the Liberal caucus) and from at least six provincial governments and most native people against his gun control legislation, Rock became more aggressively partisan, and was quite deft at defence and attack in a stilleto-like way. He does think fast when on his feet, adjusting his theme and content while speaking. Through the last Parliament Rock was legislatively the busiest of the ministers, even more than Finance Minister Martin (who was certainly its leading hero as the federal deficit dropped and dropped). In large part due to so much exposure, Rock was the most variously and thoroughly tested minister. ROUGH TIME Although he was never literally routed with his poise broken up, he had a longer, rougher time of it than any justice minister I can recall. Given his high standing in the Ontario bar I wondered if he would carry on in electoral politics. I should mention the three matters which showed him to most disadvantage insofar as politicians would measure another politician. 1) His gun control bill and its subsequent regulations and its still incomplete administration. 2) His legislation forestalled by the courts that would have cleared the government of penalty costs for breaking the Pearson airport contracts made by the Mulroney government. 3) The grievous and still unfinished misadventure created by the letter from his ministry of justice to the Swiss authorities which cited criminal acts by Brian Mulroney, while prime minister, in the purchase by Air Canada of Airbus planes, an overplay which the Mulroney libel action in response succeeded in humiliating the Chretien government and the RCMP. Now for Allan Rock on John Sopinka. After thanking me for the gist of the column, he wrote: "I met John Sopinka when I presented as an applicant for an articling job at Fiskin and Calvin, a `big' downtown Toronto law firm (84 lawyers - big for 1970) after my second year of law school. Having grown up and studied all my life in Ottawa, my plans were to spend the articling year in Toronto, in order to say I'd done it, then quietly retire to the safety of Ottawa to practice. Like my competitors I set up interviews with 12 or so `big' firms over a two-day period in August, 1970. "The occasion was extremely intimidating. I had never before been to Toronto. King and Bay was overwhelmingly sophisticated, the law offices were all mahogany and thick carpets, the senior partners all stuffy and self-satisfied, and I felt every inch the poor cousin from the provinces come to call. INTERVIEW WITH SOPINKA "My last stop on the first day was to Faskin's. My interview was with John (Sopinka). He sensed my discomfort right away. He showed me a picture taken when he was a first-year lawyer - brush cut, loud check jacket, North Hamilton roots showing. He told me that he wouldn't have made it into the firm had it not been for the kindness (and though he did not say so, the prescience and judgment) of Walter Williston, then senior litigation partner who looked past the rough edge to see potential and talent. John spent time with me, talked about his view of law and life, and left me with the strong sense of plain talk and straightforwardness that you speak of in your column. "I cancelled all my other job interviews. I told Sopinka that I'd work with him if he'd have me; otherwise I'd stay in Ottawa to article, and I went home the next morning. "The next week John wrote to offer me the job. A year later he went to bat for me with partners. Although I had shown NO interest in corporate law, John argued that I had demonstrated `a flare for litigation' and I was hired back to practice. I spent seven years working with him, and would have left with him to Stikeman, Elliott if he had asked. He invited none of us, not wanting to seem like he was raiding the firm for a competitor. We stayed in fairly close touch after that - even had a case or two against one another. Then his appointment to the bench in '88 and my arrival back in Ottawa in '93 and we had the chance to spend time together, playing tennis or having dinner from time to time. "In my law practice he was my role model and my ideal. He played hard but always fair. He had a keen instinct for the underdog, for the rights of the more vulnerable, but a good sense of proportion. He was the exact opposite of pomposity or arrogance. He felt for the outsiders because he had been one. He had an affection for students and young lawyers because he empathized with their anguish and saw their possibilities. He drew out the best in all of us because he showed confidence in us and gave us responsibility. "You wrote with eloquence about the impact of his loss and you expressed for all of us the sense that he was much more than just one of nine on the Supreme Court of Canada. Here was a man apart, with qualities of unpretentious directness that added great force to intellect and ability. Thank you for capturing the principal elements of this remarkable person so well and for saying how much - and why - he will be missed." A good tribute to a splendid Canadian. KEYWORDS: ALLAN ROCK The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, January 21, 1998 ID: 13094142 TAG: 199801200607 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 15 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER THE RIGHT PM FOR THE TIMES? DATELINE: OTTAWA A few weeks ago I sketched how Jean Chretien is dismissed by political columnists of Quebec such as Michel Vastel of Le Soleil, Chantal Hebert of La Presse and Michel Auger of Journal de Montreal. The PM is a prophet without honor in Quebec, in contrast to the better respect he gets from English-language analysts. But this was not really exact. Sun columnist Allan Fotheringham entered the new year scoffing at the PM's French and English and his Teflon status, and there was a more substantial critique in Maclean's (Jan. 12) from Peter Newman. His column was headed: "Jean Chretien's tragic unfulfilled promise" and he began with the idea that a storm may be at hand for a politically becalmed Canada. "The main political event of 1998 may be to resolve the great Jean Chretien puzzle: What kind of prime minister does he want to be when he grows up?" That's a cavalier question. Chretien, 64, is in his fifth year as PM and has had two majority mandates in a row. He previously held eight different federal portfolios, including the senior trinity of finance, foreign affairs, and justice. No other leader came to the PMO with such long, diverse experience. Newman notes that the PM has by and large carried out Brian Mulroney's policies "without adding any significant ones of his own." His "amazing longevity ... seems to be based on a bizarre phenomenon." The phenomenon? After Pierre Trudeau and Mulroney, Canadians "became so disillusioned with their political leadership that they couldn't stand the prospect of losing faith one more time." "We cannot swallow another disillusionment," says Newman, "so we pretend that he isn't really as pathetic as he seems. How else to explain why Canadians put up with a leader who can't make himself understood in any recognized method of communication, including body language. Just being there is not enough. Balancing the budget was worthwhile, but dreams and visions need broader dimensions." The veteran columnist thinks our political horizons with Chretien as prime minister have neither expansiveness nor compassion. His "passivity has imprinted itself on Ottawa." The government and Parliament are merely "scurrying on the surface of experience and feeling, ignoring the real issues that bother Canadians." Newman believes "the Chretien formula is not working. But the masquerade continues." He thinks it is likely to be blown away by Lucien Bouchard and the separatists, and "without a fresh approach, we may have to bid Canada adieu." If one believes bold leadership is essential for progress and for general happiness in Canada, the Newman analysis is cogent. MASS PERCEPTION Could it be, however, that Chretien's elevation and his long-sustained popularity with the people, particularly in English Canada, is based on a mass perception of him as plain and unpretentious, as one of us, and not hell-bent for changing either the Constitution or the economic and social systems or our roles in global affairs? Newman is right, or close to it, about the basis of Chretien's present status with the public coming from a post-Trudeau, post-Mulroney "lack of faith" in the collective public mind. Chretien has some pretences - being heir to Laurier is one - but he has never tried to orchestrate people and issues through oratory laced with philosophy or idealized visions. He just loves Canada. What the PM has been, and continues to be, is not a paradoxical aberration but what a lot of us appreciate at this stage in our history - a rather dull federal government, a cabinet of small distinction and a partisan, parliamentary melange which makes any politics of grandeur impossible. For example, frugal politics is now appreciated. There is a reluctance for big changes in our lives from fresh federal "visions." Many citizens seem grossly skeptical of national politics dominated by well-organized interest groups. (Doesn't this explain the ebb tide of political correctness?) And surely a lot of citizens, including those in Quebec, are more than ready to see time go by with politics rather quiet, at least until the next critical stage in the dilemma of Canadian unity and divisibility. In 1998 Peter Newman wants Jean Chretien "to wake up and smell the future." I think he's awake, and simply and pragmatically is marking time, getting the federal books in shape. He's also enjoying in a very wide-awake fashion just being prime minister. But through his mode and style as PM he is letting citizens take a rest from federal visionaries while looking more closely at the governments that are closer to them. Soon enough the visionaries will reappear. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, January 18, 1998 ID: 13093676 TAG: 199801160820 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment/Editorial PAGE: C4 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER OUR IMMIGRATION MESS: A CHANCE FOR REAL CHANGE DATELINE: OTTAWA If you believe that Canada's immigration system is a mess, you should be heartened by the news that two recent reports reached similar conclusions, and the government seems willing to consider their findings. Last month the auditor general reported that the Immigration and Refugee Board, which establishes whether a refugee claimant is legitimate and may remain in Canada, had a backlog of almost 30,000 cases. Average processing time is 13 months, up from six months just five years ago. According to the A-G, "weaknesses pervade the entire process - a lack of co-ordination, integration, strategic direction and overall follow-up." Turnover in the IRB caused by the Chretien government replacing old Tory appointees with Grit ones has exacerbated things. On Jan. 6, following a 13-month study of the immigration system, a three-member panel presented Immigration Minister Lucienne Robillard with its 168-page report. It concluded that simpler rules, tighter controls and changed immigrant selection criteria were needed to improve the quality of immigrants, especially with regard to their capacity to rapidly integrate into Canadian society. It recommended that immigrants familiar with English or French should be given preference, while those requiring language training should help pay for it. The panel also suggested that family class immigrant numbers be reduced in favor of those possessing marketable skills; that the minister's authority to bestow landed immigrant status be restricted; that a federal-provincial immigration council be established to recognize the impact immigration has on provincially funded programs, and that an annual report be made to Parliament detailing the revised system's performance. COURSE OF ACTION The panel advocated replacing the patronage-based IRB with a government agency charged with handling cases in 12- 15 weeks, though there would be an appeal mechanism beyond this. Robillard insisted that "all of the recommendations" were on the table. Day-long public hearings on the report will be held in each of the five regions. Following these, the government will decide on a course of action. With Parliament in recess, political reaction to the report was muted. But those in "the business" were vocal. David Matas of the Canadian Bar Association's immigration section claimed the proposals would unduly restrict refugees' access to Canada, as civil servants were more likely to be influenced by their political masters than the appointed board members. Instead, the IRB should be given more authority, not less. Nurjehan Mawani, Chair of the IRB, agreed that approvals (now at 40%) would likely decline under a bureaucratic system. The report didn't garner the media attention it deserved. The helicopter flip-flop was the story of the week, and then the ice storm hit. Most media types concluded the proposed changes would tighten the system. Prior to the report's release, the Toronto Star had editorialized that the system only needed "fine tuning." Not surprisingly, it found the panel's recommendations "radical," insisting that the report "starts with the premise that the system is broken" when this is simply not the case. Its problems stem from "bad management, funding cuts and understaffing." The proposed five-day hearing was "absurd." The Globe and Mail also saw the report as moving away from Canada's proud tradition of openness, and attributed this to the unseemly influence of the Immigration department. The proposed language requirements were particularly ill-advised, and the Globe editorial undertook to offer a plan of its own, a la the Economist. Jeffrey Simpson saw fit to support the report as a sensible response to the present difficulties. As on so many other issues, Conrad Black's Ottawa Citizen proved to be schizophrenic on the matter of immigration reform. Enfant terrible Andrew Coyne responded to the report with a free market attack on the very idea of national sovereignty in such matters - restricting the movement of people made no moral or economic sense to him. Columnist Dan Gardiner praised the panel's courage in raising what has been a taboo subject, expressing the hope that the Liberals would allow a truly open debate. Gardiner has long noted that while lobbyists, the media and the politicians continue to extol the virtues of high immigration levels, polls show that Canadians' feelings regarding current policy are pretty evenly split on the question of whether levels are too high or sufficient, and they have little faith in the system. TABOO SUBJECT And the chances for real change? I share Gardiner's assessment of the body politic. Signs of immigration-induced stress are apparent, especially in Toronto, which receives 70,000 immigrants annually and has 44% of the nation's visible minorities. It is no accident that the No. 1 destination of immigrants now has the county's lowest levels of racial tolerance. Moreover, many immigrant Canadians share the concerns of the native born regarding cheating in the refugee system (60% now enter the country with fake papers) and the increasing numbers of new immigrants unable to function in either one of the official languages (up from 5% in the '70s to 41% in the '90s). In its report the panel noted that too often those wanting to discuss immigration policy have been attacked "as if to raise the issue itself were tantamount to questioning its benefits, the place of immigrants, or the value of a certain category of immigrants." One can only hope that supporters of the report's findings won't decide that silence is golden. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Wednesday, January 07, 1998 ID: 13092343 TAG: 199801060740 EDITION: Final SECTION: Editorial/Opinion PAGE: 15 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER PM GIVES CRITICS PLENTY OF AMMO A familiar stalker of Liberals in power has declared there is an "end of a regime climate in Ottawa." This herald of the end came last month from Michel Vastel in Le Soleil. An immigrant long ago from Europe, Vastel has worked for several Quebec papers, written books on Quebec politicians and, in particular, created a reputation as a relentless critic of federal Canada. Although it has been much noticed that English-language columnists are rarely as hard on the present prime minister as they were on Brian Mulroney, less notice has been given to the three French-language columnists who seem to have most impact in federal Ottawa on how severe they are with Jean Chretien - Chantal Hebert of La Presse, Michel Auger of Le Journal de Montreal and Vastel. Hebert is analytical, sometimes profound, on the whole rather fair but invariably dour. In contrast, Auger is downright rollicking although this good nature takes little away from his mocking of the federal Liberals. And Vastel is almost always tough on the Grits and hard on Chretien. I drag Hebert and Auger into what really centres on Vastel, to underline the point that if, as many in opposition parties or in press sanctums in Toronto say, the Hill's gallery gang has been giving the Chretienites an inordinately easy ride, the French opinion-shapers have not. For example, Vastel slights the acumen of ministers Herb Gray and Stephane Dion, for whom the PM allows so much exposure. Vastels says Chretien only has three ministers of real distinction - Pierre Pettigrew (human resources), Allan Rock (health) and Paul Martin (finance) - and he gave them little prominence during and after the recent first ministers' conference. Vastel plays with the paradox in Chretien's behavior on big contracts. Our leader preaches to the Mexicans about the virtues of respecting contract tendering procedures, referring to the Bombardier deal which failed to go through in Mexico despite seeming to be the successful bid. And yet Chretien fiddled for years, delaying the award of a fresh contract for much-needed helicopters. He sundered the original contract as an election gimmick in 1993 and five years later there are Grit fears that by awarding the contract to the same helicopter manufacturer, his judgment will be ridiculed. His pride is way ahead of common sense. This episode has a parallel in the silliness of the contract for the Toronto airport also being voided in 1993. In both cases there have been repetitious evasions and stalling, casting up the image of a regime that must be nearing its end. CHRETIEN'S EGO The characteristic or fetish of Jean Chretien which Vastel chooses to mock the most is pride in his own career and how his deeds are winning him deserved eminence in history. The Chretien ego has become the ultimate factor in making cabinet decisions. His entourage guards him closely and certain of his ministers flatter him that "He is the state!" He repeats publicly how rare it is for a Liberal prime minister to gain a second majority mandate after ousting a government in attaining the first one. He keeps making references to suggest his likeness to Sir Wilfrid Laurier of sacred memory and who governed from one century to another. The particular evidence which Vastel uses to clobber Chretien has also been used by most columnists in the English press in their appraisals, most noticeably with a very cruel edge by Allan Fotheringham. But none of their copy I've read thus far is as derisive and dismissive as Vastel's or, for that matter, as ready to insist that Chretien has never had high respect and great credibility in Quebec and is almost certain never to get it. Columnists Auger and Hebert rarely miss a chance in TV commentary directed at English Canadians to remind us of Chretien's low esteem in Quebec. I am less inclined to mock the concern Chretien has about his place in history. Every prime minister in my lifetime has had such a concern, even those very short-termers Joe Clark, John Turner and Kim Campbell. Most sad among the former incumbents about his historical mark was R.B. Bennett. He went off to England broken-spirited at the hatred he had won over his leadership in the Great Depression. Brian Mulroney also earned comparable odium but he will have years to see a creep upwards in his historical ranking. It may help his status if Chretien fades out without anything as majestic to his credit as the free trade deal or the GST. Of course, history will make a lot of Chretien, little of it flattering if during his present mandate Quebec finally votes affirmatively for secession from Canada. And this won't be for want of trying by Michel Vastel. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp. DATE: Sunday, January 04, 1998 ID: 13092060 TAG: 199801020696 EDITION: Final SECTION: Comment/Editorial PAGE: C4 SOURCE: BY DOUGLAS FISHER A BAD YEAR FOR THE ARMY, AT HOME AND AWAY DISASTROUS AFRICAN INTERVENTIONS AND A SORRY END TO THE SOMALIA PROBE DATELINE: OTTAWA A year ago I suggested readers spare a thought for our men and women in uniform, beset as they were by problems rooted in political indifference and the incompetence of senior civil servants and officers. Today I look back on 1997, another annus horribilis for the military, and ponder the omens for 1998. Last year's big news was the termination of the Somalia inquiry. Politicians, mandarins and generals wanted a report unthreatening to the status quo. The prime minister tried to deliver, bestowing on the inquiry a narrow initial mandate and user-friendly membership, but he had to give ground on both scores. It soon became clear that the commission was determined to look into corners the unholy trinity preferred remain hidden, so stonewalling began. Jean Chretien's muzzling of the inquiry ended hopes that Canadians might learn what went on in Somalia and Ottawa while their troops tortured and murdered those they were sent to aid. But what of the other reports and studies produced in the wake of the Somalia and other scandals, commissioned from sources friendlier to the government? Did these not address the military's problems? Hasn't the government accepted many of their recommendations, especially those regarding the military justice system and the selection and training of junior officers? Yes, but as the government choked on the idea of creating an independent military justice system under an inspector general, the question of whether interference in military police investigations will end remains open. And the most serious problems identified by the Somalia inquiry involved senior officers, not subalterns. REAL PROBLEMS Am I too harsh in judging that the government has neither assessed nor addressed the real problems of our defence and foreign policy apparatuses? Ponder the continuing fallout from Canada's disastrous African interventions. In 1994 a Canadian general, Romeo Dallaire, led the UN force in Rwanda that failed to halt the mass murder of civilians. Months prior to the slaughter, Dallaire warned UN peacekeeping headquarters that the situation could get out of control, and he did not have sufficient forces to respond if it did. His warning went unheeded. (Symptomatic of the chaos at the top of the UN was that for its first six months this mission did not even have a mandate.) Canada has tended to attribute what ensued to mistakes made by the faceless UN. But is it so faceless? After all, it was another Canadian general, Maurice Baril, to whom Dallaire reported in New York. During the genocide, Belgian troops under Dallaire's command were surrounded by hostile forces. One of his UN officers ordered them to surrender their weapons. They were subsequently killed. As he was being driven to an emergency meeting with Rwandan officials, Gen. Dallaire passed some of these men lying on the ground, beaten and perhaps dead. His driver refused to stop. During his meeting with the Rwandans the general failed to raise the plight of the Belgians, nor did he radio his own headquarters about what he had seen, although a soldier accompanying him had a radio. (Dallaire says he was unaware of this.) Last year a Belgian parliamentary inquiry report on the deaths of their troops was harshly critical of the two Canadian generals. The inquiry had sought to question both men, but the UN refused to allow them to testify, a position the Canadian government supported. Following the Rwandan debacle, Gen. Baril was appointed Canada's Chief of Defence Staff, and Maj.-Gen. Dallaire now holds a senior job in personnel with the army. Belgium, a fellow NATO member and longtime ally openly questions their competence, and is unlikely to entrust its troops to Canadian command any time soon. We can expect Belgium to remind our allies of these deaths and our response to them whenever Canada seeks to head a UN operation. ILL-CONCEIVED EFFORT Canada's credibility also took a hit as a result of its 1996 offer to lead a "humanitarian" intervention force to ensure that refugees reported to be massed just inside Zaire's border with Rwanda received relief supplies. A little-publicized report by a former foreign service officer and an academic noted that this ill-conceived effort, instigated by the PM's nephew (our ambassador in Washington) and heavily promoted by the elder Chretien, was based on remarkably skimpy intelligence, which was precisely why other countries were loath to join it. Canada eventually shamed the U.S. into offering logistical support, but the Americans pointedly refused to put their troops under Canadian command, and insisted that the U.S. would not be responsible for the safety of troops operating within Zaire, should things go wrong. The report concluded that it was just as well the PM's initiative was stillborn, as a small country like Canada, with very limited military means, could not afford to go off half-cocked like this. It recommended a lower-profile, more modest approach. A DND-commissioned report reached similar conclusions. Will 1998 bring relief from such incompetence? The never-ending rescue helicopter saga shows that political considerations, especially the PM's image, will continue to win out over Canada's national security interests. And a press corps with very little interest in, sympathy for, or understanding of military operational requirements will help see to it that issues such as adding 500 women to the infantry and allowing natives in the military to wear long hair will continue to preoccupy our troubled armed forces in the new year. The Toronto Sun Copyright © 1998, SunMedia Corp.
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