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Doug’s Columns 1999 « Douglas Fisher



Doug’s Columns 1999

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 29, 1999
ID: 12192289
TAG: 199912291430
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 17
COLUMN: The Hill


In recapitulating 1999 as a political year, more citizens who follow federal affairs closely – that would be, say, about 10% of the whole – are irritated rather than pleased over the recent assurances from Jean Chretien that he shall carry on … and on.
Not that most of those concerned citizens – or even many in the far larger mob who only occasionally tune in to politics – hate the prime minister. Not so, particularly in Anglo-Canada.
Rather, they seem bored or in want of a fresh face, even if it has to be the rather familiar one of Paul Martin.
But any such anticipations of a new PM at hand were knocked out by the Chretien-Stephane Dion Clarity Bill gambit.
After five weeks of exposure it’s still being taken by and large in Anglo-Canada as a good move too long delayed.
And polling in Quebec so far indicates it’s not rocketing Lucien Bouchard’s stock skyward.
Beyond Quebec now there is an assumption the separatists, in mounting any future referendums, must present a “fair” question, and that after a winning vote for separation negotiations with Canada would be thorough and deal with crucial matters of substance such as debt, boundaries and minority rights. Also, there’s an assumption the decisions taken would unlikely presage a future of warm “association.”
Until early December, Quebec had not dominated national politics. We all saw, heard or read more in 1999 about Gerry Schwartz and the handling by Transport Minister David Collenette of his bid, through Onex Corp., to take over Air Canada, than we did about the great game of unity.
So as public affairs move to the year 2000 the Liberals, so often in power federally, are not just ensconced there until the next federal election. It seems likely they’ll retain power through a third mandate under Chretien within the next 18 months, given continuing firmness in the present rates of inflation and unemployment.
Obviously, the other side in this ongoing era of Chretien and his Liberals is the continuing frustrations and fractures of their opposition.
The largely Reform-pushed move which shaped up in 1998 to unite the right has had little success nor is much likely in 2000. It will take at least another federal election and a new, less stereotyped leader of Reform before a concerted political force on the right might have a chance for majority control of Parliament. In short, 1999 has been a poor year for Preston Manning, Gilles Duceppe, Alexa McDonough and Joe Clark.
The lock on power the Liberals have under Chretien has even Grit MPs marvelling at such easy control.
The situation is raised on two different levels: the broad one of major policies and the personal standing of the prime minister.
Brian Mulroney became infamous and cursed for heavy patronage and loose behaviour in awarding government contracts. Why does Chretien sail along high in public opinion despite massive patronage and allegations he sanctions toll-gating of contracts and grants in his constituency?
More substantively, take the paradox of a party in opposition that ranted against Mulroney government policies – like the GST, the free trade agreements, high taxes and the dismantling or selling off of many Crown corporations – but continues them.
A diligent Reform MP from Alberta asked me: “Why do so many voters in Ontario give Chretien and the Liberals so much more latitude than other leaders and parties?”
I’ve heard that question, or asked it myself, since the 1940s – the middle years of W.L. MacKenzie King’s long, last run as prime minister. Those who persist with it usually find one prime, general explanation. Although Ontarians do not love Quebec and Quebecers any more than they do Manitobans, they put more trust in a federal party whose leaders, record, and attitudes are positive rather than negative about Quebec in Canada.
An avowedly federalist party which can draw many MPs to Ottawa from Quebec seems a much sounder choice than one with little or no hope of electing Quebecers.
Even the word “liberal” in Canada (unlike the U.S.) has more popular, agreeable connotations than “conservative” or “right wing.” The Liberals have a long history of talking progressively but rarely acting radically; of letting another party flag and promote an issue (e.g., the NDP and medicare; Reform and tax cuts) and then instituting it.
Liberals have been so much the immigrants’ party, with a high following in families from countries other than the U.K., and also among those of our largest religious denomination.
In office, the Liberals, largely through long association and much interplay of talent and rewards, have always been more appreciated by the mandarins of the federal bureaucracy than their alternatives, and to a considerable, though lesser degree, the same goes for financial backing and the respect of the leaders in business and industry since the days of C.D. Howe.
It may agitate some of us but should not surprise anyone that the closing year of the 1900s caps a largely Liberal political century with another Liberal year.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 26, 1999
ID: 12191586
TAG: 199912261499
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: 2 photos from Tillenius
1. CANADIAN ARTIST … Wildlife painter Clarence Tillenius has worked at his craft since the 1930s.
2. His painting, Inuit Polar Bear Hunt.
COLUMN: Backgrounder


This year was made special for me in getting to know Clarence Tillenius, a Manitoban who is 86 years old and still going strong as a graphic artist and authority on wildlife.
Long ago, even before World War II, a fascination with disabled people took hold of me. How could they pass through shock and pain and carry on despite their incapacities?
Since the war I’ve so much admired three men who came home from it, decorated for valour after suffering terrible wounds, to become exemplary citizens: John Matheson, an MP in the 1960s who, as much as the prime minister, gave us our national flag; Cliff Chadderton, still head of the War Amps, and top lobbyist in Ottawa for the handicapped; and the late Fred Tilston, the battered VC winner from Windsor, who lurched and limped for 50 years, giving an acute mind and millions of his money to help Canadians.
Clarence Tillenius could not volunteer for the forces in the big war but he’s been just as indomitable as Matheson, Chadderton, and Tilston. In 1936 Clarence lost almost all his right arm, crushed under a rock-car wheel on a railway track alongside a lake near Hudson, Ontario, a small community a dozen miles west of Sioux Lookout, a CNR divisional point and my home town.
For months Clarence was in the Sioux Lookout hospital, his doctor and his nurses then well-known to me. He credits them, particularly a Dr. O’Gorman and a nurse, Dorothy Cummings, of pushing and forcing him out of his despair. He had been right-handed and determined to become a successful artist.
The doctor gave Clarence several books to read, including an inspirational one, The Story of San Michele, by Dr. Axel Munthe, and Dr. O’Gorman insisted to him that “Henceforth, forget you had a right arm; your left arm will do it all.”
Long before Clarence left high school near his family’s bush farm in the Interlake region of Manitoba, he was drawing and sketching animals. He decided someday he must do it for a living. Somehow he would study under a good art teacher. Somewhere he would find work and do the saving for art tuition.
But his dilemma was that of tens of thousands of Canadians: the Great Depression! It gripped the country, roughly from 1930 to 1938, really out-of-joint years for a young, poor, would-be artist.
Like a host of other prairie lads Clarence made his way into northern Ontario. There, a gold boom, hydro projects and pulp contracts offered some chances for sturdy labourers. Clarence was (and still is) a big man, well over six feet, straight, square-shouldered, blond, handsome and very lithe in a quite Scandinavian mould.
In the years before his accident Clarence worked here and there, mostly around and west of Sioux Lookout – cutting pulpwood and railway ties, prospecting, trapping, hunting, and fishing, but also drawing when he could. After he recovered and determinedly mastered the use of his left arm he found a chance to study intensively under one of Winnipeg’s ablest art teachers. He also began to sell some of his wildlife paintings and cartoons to magazines like The Country Guide and slowly his earnings rose and his range in travel and opportunities grew.
When Clarence was recovering from the amputation in Sioux we must often have been within 100 yards of each other, at least until I went east towards Lake Nipigon on my first paid job, fighting forest fires. I did know about the CN’s rock work and exactly where and how his accident happened. And now that I’ve read his unpublished diaries of the Depression years, I know we had many mutual acquaintances, even some fellow bush-workers, through and around a swatch of bush and lakes from Minaki east to Dryden, north to Red Lake, east to Osnaburgh House, and south again to Sioux. We’d flown with some of the same pilots, caught fish in the same lakes, made some of the same portages. And years later a publisher of a B.C. wildlife magazine who had printed the first article I ever wrote (in 1943 for our regiment’s bulletin) contracted Clarence for some art. Small world, Canada.
We both discovered our commonality of place and persons after we met this year for the first time. I had heard of Clarence as a premier wildlife painter, much helped by Penny, his clever, well-organized wife. Clarence and Penny had come to Ottawa and its Museum of Nature, in part to explain his works there, including dioramas he had designed and painted of moose, bears, and pronghorn antelopes in their environments.
Clarence crowned all the exchanges about our nearness without contact long ago with a gift to me of a watercolour of Vermillion Falls near Hudson. He did this work 60 years ago last summer. This mini-Niagara was a two-hour run by kicker west from our boathouse and my favorite excursion in early summer. It was so beautiful. The green pools below the falls were perfect for swimming, and flumes lower down swarmed with yellow pickerel.
Later in a letter Clarence summed up our mutual recapture: “It was like having a vanished part of my life suddenly brought back to life … so intimate a connection and knowledge of that part of Ontario where in a real sense an early – and the most significant – part of my life was lived, and ended.”
Naturally, of the two of us my bonus has been richest and most varied. Now I know so much of where he’s been and what he’s done in so many parts of the world, studying birds and beasts, always sketching, note-taking, painting. He has created dioramas in Victoria, Winnipeg and Ottawa, sold a myriad of illustrations to magazines, stocked a gallery with animal paintings for a Manitoba company’s calendars, and taught art students year after year in association with animal parks. He has immense curiosity, always reads widely and writes down what he sees and does, most of which was prefaced with much research.
Clarence brightens his life story with scores of notes about those who helped him on his way, particularly in the Depression and as he surmounted his amputation and studied under a masterful teacher. Canada in the Depression was hard but not all cruel. Through seven decades of artwork, most of it done after his wrenching disability, he has travelled thousands of miles on many continents. He has spent the equivalent of months in hiking and climbing and then keeping still for hours to observe and draw his subjects in their territories.
Much of all this Clarence has detailed in lengthy drafts for a memoir to come. It will be illustrated by scores of paintings and sketches and illuminated by his appraisal of art forms and art criticism. He emphasizes that “whoever spends much time in the wilds comes to realize and accept nature’s way: life lives on life that life may go on. Painters of wildlife need to remember this: it is a fact of life.”
The painting which accompanies this tale of my good luck in coming to know Clarence Tillenius was from a hunt he witnessed close up after an exhausting journey in bitter weather over hard Arctic ice. The distant locale reminded me of a novel I read in childhood, titled Back of Beyond. Canada has so much back of beyond and perhaps more than any other Canadian, Clarence has been there.
What a countryman. May he sketch through years of the next century.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 22, 1999
ID: 12190827
TAG: 199912221332
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


The Good of the Game is a catchy title for a new book on hockey, arguably our broadest obsession – east-west, north-south, Quebec included. The aim of Bruce Hood, its lead author, writing with Murray Townshend, is in the subtitle: Recapturing Hockey’s Greatness.
Hood was not a well-known player, coach, scout or reporter; his bona fides come from years as an NHL referee which earned him respect as a fair, consistent arbiter.
My interest in Hood’s analysis is in his insight into the Canada-USSR series of 1972. He regrets Canada won the series.
If Canada had lost, he believes, it would have stimulated a thorough post-mortem of hockey’s structure and the mindsets then developing among a big majority of the NHL’s players. Instead, years rolled on without thorough reform within the game. Canadians caught on slowly that their hockey leadership was gone.
By 1980 few, even in Canada or in NHL management posts, would argue that Canada still produced the most skilled players or even the best team in the world. More and more NHL teams scoured northern Europe for talent. Clearly the Swedes, Finns, Czechs, Slovaks and Russians were producing superbly skilled players. The major block to their full influx to North America ended with the collapse of the Soviet system in the early 1990s.
And so we hear much and read more about what’s wrong with “our” hockey. Hood is into this – intelligently – and he prescribes changes for hockey in Canada, aimed at more skills, fewer goons and less negativism.
I’m interested in the ’72 series because I was among its arrangers, a slot I’d edged into as the federal government’s representative on Hockey Canada (from 1969-79). Ottawa sponsored Hockey Canada to satisfy a nation fed up with the Russians as perennial world champions of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and the Olympics. Canadians believed the USSR only won because the IIHF wouldn’t let us use our best players (from the NHL).
After watching the IIHF series in 1969 and 1970 I thought the Soviets would have a better than even chance of beating the best Canadian team possible, given fair venues and officiating. I was odd man out among colleagues in organizing the series, not just because I anticipated a Canadian loss but because it would be an earthquake jolt to Canadians.
Surely the Reds would wake up Canada and its hockey people, from Prince George to Chicoutimi. Surely we would realize others nurtured talents through exceptional coaching methods and skills training and wake up to rivals who, through the ideas of Anatoly Tarasov (gained from our Lloyd Percival), realized that control of the puck was more important than where the puck was on the ice.
And so, in that last rousing game of the ’72 series there was a tug-of-war in my head: national pride vs. root-and-branch reform of Canadian hockey.
The second period ended with the USSR ahead. The whiff of defeat was all around us. The man next to me had been the crucial agent in attaining our team, and Alan Eagleson was unusually down. No one was more into beating the Russkies. As the teams quit the ice, I urged him to head for the dressing room. It wasn’t too late. He could be the one to fire up the team. Away he went, running as he went out of sight. And when he came back to his seat (in which he didn’t stay long) he was shaking a fist of resolution.
My hindsight fits this far with Bruce Hood’s: if Team Canada ’72 had come home in defeat there would have been an immense post-mortem. Where I differ – again with hindsight – is about wondrous consequences within Canadian hockey. Why? Because after 1972 there was considerable experimenting and a burst of interest in coaching techniques, training, “systems” of play and fitness – and swarms of coaches and hockey schools. To what avail? Not much, in the collective mindset of brawn over finesse, defence over offence.
The dilemma in Canadian terms, and increasingly in a global sense, was and remains in the model of play and behaviour in the NHL, the reigning component of all hockey. And so the dominating ethos from peewee to the pros is sustained by officiating which sanctions hitting and fights. Hits seem to compensate many fans for blanketing tactics based on heft, clutching and boarding. What stress there is on hits, hits, hits. And who can spot in either the NHL or our junior leagues any latter-day Lester or Frank Patrick – messiahs of speed, skills and offence?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 19, 1999
ID: 12625179
TAG: 199912191502
SECTION: Comment


When MPs scatter away to their ridings for parliamentary recesses, political news slackens and loses immediacy.
And this should be so – at least beyond Ottawa – this holiday recess, even though Parliament and all its party caucuses have just been perked up by two vivid battles.
First came the all-night sessions through a host of amendments to the Nisga’a treaty which were put and lost ad nauseam by Reformers. They were trying to register on the national consciousness an issue with inordinate future costs and endless jurisdictional turmoil. A byproduct of the filibuster and the high attendance it forced was the most socializing in years within and across caucus lines. A bystander could sense a tangible recovery among MPs of their own significance.
This almost electric-like shock to a flat and bored membership was real enough, but it was obscured quickly by the jolt to MPs from the “clarity” initiative, personified by the duo of Jean Chretien and Stephane Dion. They were to legislate national context for any future provincial referendums on separation from Canada.
At once, this bill raised charges of anti-democracy, even fascism, from the Parti Quebecois and its federal arm, the Bloc Quebecois. Challenge. Response! And away we go into months of heated argument and opinion polling from sea to sea before the confrontation can be settled – perhaps by an election or even two of them, or by a third Quebec referendum.
It’s also possible, of course, that a tangible mass of citizens and a lot of the familiar lobby groups do not want to hear any more about sovereignty and separation. A broad reaction of indifference laced with apathy, particularly in Quebec, may convince the prime minister and the premier to tone their differences down after their respective challenges are legislated; then leave the laws unused in the respective statute books.
But there are factors in Ottawa itself which may ruin the prospect of the holiday recess as an encouraging prelude to quiet between unity’s belligerents.
In Ottawa itself, two provincial-municipal matters most germane to the separatist threat from Quebec are open and being argued so strenuously, anglo vs. franco, that any chance of the Chretien and Bouchard governments settling into merely marking time is most unlikely.
Ottawa-Hull constitutes the capital of Canada, but Ottawa as a city and several contiguous municipalities like Nepean, Gloucester, and Kanata, are creatures under the jurisdiction of the Ontario government, now led by Premier Mike Harris. His government is about to meld these municipalities into a metropolitan whole by legislation. In doing so Harris decided to bypass a recommendation from a commissioner who studied the merger that the act implementing it declare the new municipality bilingual – as is its nucleus municipality, Ottawa.
The reactions to the premier’s alleged evasion of responsibility have been many and bitter since he revealed the council of the new municipality would decide whether it would be officially bilingual. (Of course, official bilingualism has not been sanctioned by Quebec within its municipalities of Hull and Gatineau.)
This dereliction of Harris has enraged the prime minister and all francophone MPs from Ontario, Quebec, and elsewhere. Lucien Bouchard’s most aggravatingly wordy nemesis is Stephane Dion, the federal minister of intergovernmental affairs. Dion has taken to public hectoring of Harris.
The National Assembly has reacted most critically to Ontario’s devolution of decisions on bilingualism to its cities but enlarging this outrage is another twist in a drama roiling the serenity of the capital region for over two years, i.e., the case of Montfort hospital – an Ottawa French-language institution.
The commission set up by the Harris government to restructure Ontario hospitals decided several Ottawa hospitals should be closed and others altered in scope and size. It ruled the Montfort would be downsized in staff, beds, and services.
There was an eruption of protest from Franco-Ontarians, backed by the Chretien government and Quebec’s National Assembly.
“Save the Montfort” became a slogan neither a local anglo nor franco could miss. It was on radio, television, signage in the streets, and in leaflets and circulars. Harris held firm, his concessions of minor degree, said the Montfort protagonists.
So they took Ontario’s government to court under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and on Nov. 29 won a famous victory from a panel of three Ontario superior court judges who ruled the province must keep the Montfort open with full services because of “the unwritten constitutional principle” of protecting minorities.
Last week, Harris announced Ontario would appeal the Montfort decision on a thematic basis that activist judges were improperly usurping and reducing powers of the legislature. What a boost to rage and discontent of francophones.
The heat, the tremors of distrust, even hate, running in the capital along our original, national fault line might be allayed if Premier Harris quickly designates official bilingualism and drops the Montfort appeal. If he doesn’t, Ottawa becomes symbolic of Canada’s essential divisiveness, not of a workable federation fairly serving two founding peoples.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 15, 1999
ID: 12624042
TAG: 199912151321
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


Here we were, those both in and around the House of Commons, going on and on about this being one of the most boring of all Parliaments. Then the prime minister came home from abroad three weeks ago and told us he had decided to legislate – as one of his backbenchers put it – “Canada forever!” Poof! Boredom exits. The “great game” of Canada has resumed.
Some day we may know what moved Chretien, 30 months into his second mandate, to go for the pre-eminent place in the galaxy of our prime ministers.
Was it a visceral response to substantial, poll-indicated erosion of separatist support in Quebec?
Had he twigged that he would never be pre-eminent in the galaxy of prime ministers if his time in office closed without some further resolution of the separatist menace?
Had he decided the continuing strength of the economy, the weakness of opposing parties and his shaky repute in his native province allowed him to seize and develop the one issue above all others which justifies an election and becomes its dominating issue?
Or had he discerned a slacking in party loyalty to him and impatience within the caucus as so many of its members await his exit and Paul Martin, his more than obvious successor?
My hunch is his initiative came from a blending of factors within the above four questions. But now it doesn’t much matter. What does matter is what happens: first in the so-called “rest of Canada” as Parliament moves the Clarity Bill through lengthy, bitter proceedings into law; second in the responses to it from Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard.
How durable will the instant approval of English-Canadians be for the initiative as it sinks in across the land – as seems likely – that the majority of Quebecois consider the Clarity Bill provocative and unfair?
Merely pondering that question for a few minutes forces a citizen to think longer about the implications of this bill. It goes beyond setting up the dicta that: a) a referendum question on secession must be clear; and b) after it has been put to Quebecers and if it wins majority support, Parliament has to be satisfied the majority is by a clear but unspecified margin. Only then will the federal government, in concert with the governments of the other provinces, be ready to negotiate secession with Quebec.
What a preliminary field of land-mines for Quebecois voters!
Who wouldn’t predict the Parti Quebec government, backed by the National Assembly, will:
a) Refuse to meet the terms of the Clarity Act before it calls the next referendum;
b) Spell out what it will choose to negotiate once it gets a majority;
c) Set out how long it will negotiate before it goes ahead unilaterally to separation;
d) Insist the legitimacy of the federal government as a negotiator of separation will end at the moment a majority in Quebec votes for secession because it is made up of ministers and MPs from Quebec whose status and roles have been repudiated by the referendum vote.
The last argument, when made, will have this aggravating point for federalists: the only MPs from Quebec entitled to take part in post-vote negotiations would be those of the Bloc Quebecois.
One needs to imagine that Chretien and his advisers, stirred by polls showing a grand federalist recovery from the near disaster in 1995, decided, in Brian Mulroney’s immortal phrase, “to throw the dice.” But first he would build even higher barricades to the propitious circumstances which Bouchard is awaiting, including the prospect of losing territory, very high debts, complex minority rights and deep hostility toward the new state from Canada and all its provinces.
It’s doubtful Chretien even thought about the the shortfall in both authority and broad public backing that will immediately surround a federal ministry that has lost the big one or that he even considered how such a result would immediately enlarge the significance of the premiers, particularly those from the “have” provinces.
Back in 1980, and again in 1995, I raised in my columns how an affirmative vote in Quebec for sovereignty would immediately vitiate the authority and legitimacy of the federal government, particularly because it was led by a prime minister from Quebec.
Almost no politicians and remarkably few journalists seem interested in this point, the former almost always saying in effect “It will never come to that” (a majority for secession).
It didn’t happen. It may not happen next time, or the one after that. But sooner or later it may unless some grand constitutional reformer leads the entrenchment of an indivisible Canada clause tied to a finality in secessionist referendums.
Meanwhile, we have a far less boring Parliament and almost a guarantee the year 2000 will be politically turbulent and exciting.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 12, 1999
ID: 12623353
TAG: 199912121492
SECTION: Comment


It’s the time for books as gifts. But this Christmas season books about or relevant to politics are unusually scarce. More particularly there’s a shortage of the sort of books that are exciting, well-founded and likely to be worth keeping for years.
The two books which I most recommend today, one by law professor Constance Backhouse, the other by political agitator Mel Hurtig, are worthy in their purpose and freighted with information, but one is complex in structure, learned in its feast of notes and bibliography and the other has much propagandist thumping alongside its core stuff on poor kids in Canada.
Before turning to these, let me mention once again two books out from journalists who are noted for putting the boots to politicians, one often boisterously, sometimes wryly, the other often viciously.
First, Allan Fotheringham’s collection of columns, plus some self-revelatory add-ons, Last Page First (Key Porter). It may not be memorable in the grand sense but it has some rollicking mockery.
The other, Claire Hoy’s Nice Work: The Continuing Scandal of Canada’s Senate (McClelland & Stewart) has much on the contemporary Senate and the huge difficulties of reforming it. Hoy also covers why and how the Senate originated with so undemocratic a system for staffing its seats.
Now to the book which uses legal cases to portray one of our country’s touchiest and most dangerous matters, even unto this day – racism.
Backhouse, a law professor at the University of Western Ontario, wrote Colour-Coded; A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950 for publishing by the Osgoode Law Society for Canadian Legal History. Her feminist foundations are indicated by the titles of her previous books: in 1991, Petticoats and Prejudice: Women and Law in 19th Century Canada; and, in 1978, The Secret Oppression: Sexual Harassment of Women, which she co-authored with Leah Cohen.
Colour-Coded’s text runs to 280 pages, the notes, etc. run to 200 pages. Essentially a reader gets close examination of six different cases or trials (from 1903-46) beginning with an absurd high court decision that in law Eskimos were Indians.
The author is a good but detailed storyteller, rather like a polysyllabic Christie Blatchford. She uses two cases regarding Indians, one regarding prohibition of their dancing, the other on sovereignty claims, each vividly portraying the stubborn persistence of natives regarding their cultural ways and freedoms. She follows with an Asian case featuring “mesalliances and the menace to white women’s virtue.” Next is a gripping account of a case set in Oakville in 1930 involving the racist aims of the Ku Klux Klan. The sixth case involves racial segregation of blacks in Nova Scotia in the 1940s.
The burden for a reader not initiated in legalese is there, but it’s lightened and brightened by brisk detours into both legal history and current events of the time.
As a junkie of data-scrounging the best of the text for me was in the author’s opening overview of racism’s essence through shifting, surface faces, and then the sharp wit in her bountiful notes. She gets into the roots of “racism” as a general human factor and in the Canadian context. Backhouse is not paranoid about racism, and she deploys her materials without hammering home the guilt whites ought to feel for past attitudes towards reds, blacks, browns and yellows.
Oddly, the book opens with instructions for taking the 1901 census that would categorize people under white, black and yellow. I say “oddly” because a century later a debate is under way again, spurred by zealots of ethnicity, against letting respondents to the census identify themselves as simply “Canadian.”
If Backhouse is a sharp prompter about our shortfalls in respecting the equality of all citizens, whatever their racial or ethnic origins, so is Mel Hurtig, but in the immediate sense he is far angrier over his theme of “the tragedy and disgrace of poverty in Canada,” the subtitle of Pay the Rent or Feed the Kids.
Hurtig heralds his assessment of Canadians in part one of his book, titled “A Nation of Hypocrites.” In it he contrasts our inadequacies with comparative data from other countries, gets into definitions of poverty, proves that single-parent families are “the poorest of them all” and elaborates on hunger and homelessness. In sequence he has a section on “Poor People Have Poor Children,” “The Distribution of Income and Wealth” and “Why Are People Poor?” Into this latter topic he brings his anti-Americanism with “the great free trade hoax” and his basic socialism with his attack on recent, legislated reductions in claimants of unemployment benefits.
By part eight, “Under Poor Management,” in which Hurtig mocks the current good times, I felt battered almost to indifference by his polemic, and decided after limping into and through his conclusion on “what we can do about poverty” that he makes as strong a case as possible on the reality of child poverty but a weaker one on the ways to master it.
Nonetheless, I can imagine this polemic as the hymn book for a vigorous social program for the younger generation into the next election.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 08, 1999
ID: 12622131
TAG: 199912081577
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


The hook for my last column was an incident in the federal caucus of the Liberal party last week which featured irate criticisms by Carolyn Bennett, a backbencher from Toronto St. Paul’s. I got wrong a very basic fact in her remarks.
Dr. Bennett’s remarks came to me second-hand since little on the Hill is more sacrosanct than the secrecy of what goes on in the weekly Wednesday caucus. Disclosure, especially to journalists, is near-treason.
When Bennett straightened me out she was friendly, even though I had stated her grievance was over a participant’s roster for a conference next year of the Canadian Study of Parliament Group (CSPG) on the relevance of Parliament.
CSPG’s list of participants has two ex-ministers, mandarins and academics but neither current nor recent MPs. This slate had set me fuming, and when I pushed my ire at a Liberal MP he said “Why that’s what Carolyn Bennett was raising hell about in caucus.”
It turns out that although Bennett and Fisher were, and are, in tune with an opinion that MPs of this Parliament should be prime presenters and critics at conferences regarding Parliament, she was speaking of a past conference, not one to come.
Bennett roused her caucus mates over a conference appraising government-Parliament effectiveness, sponsored by a high-level “think” group, the Policy Research Institute (PRI). PRI has affinities with the Privy Council Office. She recently attended this PRI conference as an observer and was much bothered that the voices and opinions of those like herself who debate legislative proposals and vote them into effect had not been lined up as contributors, say on how to make the parliamentary system and its legislative and scrutinizing processes more open to participation by citizens.
She excuses me somewhat because we agree MPs ought to be leading participants in any conference which has to do with a lack of vitality and competence in parliamentary work.
After Bennett’s first major speech two years ago in this, her first House, I noted she had come determined to pursue a clutch of issues, notably but not exclusively in health and child care. Now she has a more informed appreciation of both the processes through which policies and programs develop and are managed in Ottawa and of the nature of initiatives that come to her from constituents.
Bennett is not bewailing the now legendary insignificance of a government backbencher, but she’s more determined than she was as a beginner to find ways of bringing constituents’ concerns to parliament and to have government know what the priorities and criticisms of the people are as discerned by their MPs.
Here we have a fairly fresh MP who has tapped or been tapped by hundreds of thoughtful and determined people in her electoral bailiwick. How may she shape effective, continuing ways to bring their wishes and needs to bear on legislation and programs? And not merely as platitudinous generalities of approval and disapproval or as percentages of Yes and No to opinion polling queries?
Don’t dismiss her aims as the maundering of someone reacting to the low status of a mere MP within a complex system, which over many decades has developed both the strong control by the leader of the party forming the government and a giant bureaucracy.
Yes, the leader must have control of the government caucus or defeat in the House looms.
Yes, the bureaucracy is a largely mysterious engine which raises and spends scores of billions, and by and large its workers should have anonymity and be unbothered by the demands and antics of MPs proclaiming themselves as tribunes for their constituents.
The problems involved in what Bennett seeks in linking citizens with what Parliament and government do, or should do, have challenged and baffled me and scores of others for a long time. Of the many parliamentary reforms we have suggested and that have been tried, none has worked well to my mind because of too intensive partisanship in Parliament and an administration which keeps decision-making and the governing process very secretive.
It’s unlikely Bennett will slack in her determination to be a useful MP, and shortly I hope to present her views on continuous bridging from citizens to Parliament to government between elections.
– – –
In my previous column I was also wrong to say Mitchell Sharp had never been a backbencher. After nine years as a minister, in September, 1976, Sharp left the cabinet, and 20 months later he resigned his seat to become commissioner of the Northern Pipeline Agency.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, December 05, 1999
ID: 12621463
TAG: 199912051524
SECTION: Comment


Glory be, found! An angry Liberal backbencher – Carolyn Bennett. Dr. Bennett (MP since 1997 for Toronto St. Paul’s) was so put off last week by a press release from the Canadian Study of Parliament Group (CSPG) she shared her rage with a receptive Liberal caucus.
The CSPG, formed in 1978, receives a grant from the House of Commons, and is further sustained by services such as committee rooms, recording and printing provided by the House and Senate.
The release in question was about a conference in November next year “to assess the relevance of Parliament in an era of executive dominance.” It detailed the speakers and workshop leaders lined up, beginning with a keynote address by a former senior mandarin, Arthur Kroeger, now chancellor of Carleton University.
Only two of those named were ever MPs: ex-cabinet ministers Mitchell Sharp (Liberal) and Benoit Bouchard (Tory), although neither ever put in a day as a backbencher. Sharp is “personal adviser to the prime minister” and Bouchard has held high federal posts since he did not run in the 1993 election.
Of seven other discussion leaders named, one is a former clerk of the Privy Council, one a political scientist, one a reporter (a rare one with a PhD), one is a former aide to Pierre Trudeau, and two are mandarins who have worked on “machinery of government” matters. Surely estimable men, but heavy toward bureaucracy and the executive, not to the parliamentary wing of politics.
I’ve been told Bennett really roused her comrades, so I’ll wager the November conference will recruit some plain MPs as leading participants, not mere if-they-wish observers.
Before I had had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Bennett’s objections I myself seethed as she must have after scanning this slate for the CSPG conference. In part, my reaction came as one of the original starters of the CSPG in the 1970s, all of us inspired by the enthusiasm of the auditor general of the time, the late Jim Macdonnell, for reforming Parliament.
In Sunny Jim’s book, the decline of vitality in the House of Commons as an institution had to be stopped, then turned toward a useful, diligent scrutinizing of federal spending and programs that had to give MPs of all parties genuine work, particularly government backbenchers.
In early chats about a new association, Jim talked about Parliament being more and more dominated by the prime minister and other party leaders, each of whom has taken tight control of his MPs, abetted by executive assistants and press officers, and increasingly neither the press nor most MPs bothered to attend the so-called “debates” of the House.
The projected group was to seek broad participation from well beyond governmental and academic “insiders.” But since then, the CSPG’s work, expert and erudite though its discussions often have been, has been within a tiny circle, embracing few of those elected to Parliament.
Three other happenstances of mine last week fit this topic of Parliament’s irrelevance: a discussion with several Reform Party MPs; a brief encounter with Jim Fulton, now an executive of the Suzuki Foundation but from 1979-93, the NDP MP for Skeena; and reading a recent, self-published autobiography by Les Benjamin, MP for a Regina riding from 1968-93, titled Rolling in the Grass Roots.
The Reform MPs wanted to know if prime ministers before their time on the Hill exercised the absolute powers that Jean Chretien does, leaving not just them but non-ministerial government MPs with few chances for positive contributions to Parliament. My answer had to be yes; then I had to add that most PMs before Chretien hadn’t made it so obvious.
What could be done about this? Not much. A change to a division-of-powers system seems impossible. The best hope would be prayers for several minority Parliaments in a row.
As for former MPs Jim Fulton and Les Benjamin, both are, and were as MPs, very social men – movers, chatterers, fun-loving, and somewhat experts in specific fields (Fulton – Indians; Benjamin – transport).
Fulton stopped to ask me about the House: “What’s gone haywire with it?” What was he talking about? “It’s so flat,” he said, “no vitality, everybody dreary and weary.”
Yes, I replied, but that wasn’t new. It’s not been an exciting place since the free trade hassle. Stylized partisanship grips the institution and exchanges of ideas and social life have withered. Fulton, even now only 49, said he was happy to be free of such a morgue.
Les Benjamin, like Fulton, left the Hill in 1993, returning to the windy prairies, his party’s heartland. For me the best story in his book was on Tommy Douglas as a bouncy, entertaining premier of Saskatchewan as Les, a young war veteran, was slogging across the province as a party organizer.
As an MP Les feels he served his constituents as best he could, most notably in upholding farmers’ rights to reliable, quick rail hauls to ports of their grain. But what I drew most from his memoir is more sad than heartening: an energetic mixer of an MP turning to conviviality and junkets for want of urgent, significant participation in Parliament.
This may be unfair but it seems to me that for Chretien and most of the others lined up for the conference on Parliament’s relevance what Benjamin represented, what Fulton notes, Dr. Bennett discerns, and the Reformers puzzle over is more or less irrelevant to governing.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, December 01, 1999
ID: 12620313
TAG: 199912011537
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


A week after Jean Chretien resurrected Quebec referenda as an urgent issue there’s been some shift from figuring “Why, and why now?” to what the kaffufle portends for the PM’s own secession and into the topic of the absolute power he demonstrates over cabinet, caucus and party.
Those who think Chretien is uniquely powerful should recall what befell him in 1978 when he was the minister of Finance. After taking part in an “economic summit” in Europe, Pierre Trudeau came home and addressed the nation through TV, setting out why he had decided on swift moves to increase economic growth and governmental efficiency. It was devastating for Chretien because his boss hadn’t bothered to consult him, and he was left scrambling for plans to install this sudden inspiration from on high.
This Trudeau precedent reminds us there’s nothing new in what Chretien as prime minister has done in busting out without bothering to line up ministerial and caucus ducks in instant enthusiasm. In an essay in this month’s Saturday Night, historian Christopher Moore addressed the question: “What was Canada’s greatest legacy to the 20th century?” and answered it with “the imperial prime minister.”
“It is,” says Moore, “something we Canadians have grown used to. The party squeaks through the general election with 40% of the vote but still ends up with a safe parliamentary majority … the prime minister does anything he wants. Parliament is little more than a talk shop, backbenchers are nobodies, cabinet’s full of toadies, the opposition merely a nuisance.”
As Moore puts it: “for the most part we take the imperial prime minister to be a natural flaw in our form of government. Jean Chretien is only one in a long line.” And he notes the model has been catching on in other countries, notably in the Commonwealth. There are even those in Britain who now advocate the imperial prime minister. Too late for Margaret Thatcher, but not for Tony Blair.
It’s clear to Canadians that the sure way to derrick a prime minister who’s worn out his welcome is not to send him enough MPs from a general election. It’s obviously absurd to think the governing party or its parliamentary caucus will ever force out a prime minister during a mandate, especially one with a majority. One recalls in noting this that during John Diefenbaker’s last government (1962-63), a minority one, some dissident ministers tried to get their boss ditched. Backbench loyalty beat them back, and it fell to the electorate to turf the Chief.
In the subsequent contretemps after the 1965 election, the Tories, pushed to it by party president Dalton Camp, instituted the vote-of-confidence process on the leader at party conventions, a practice copied in one form or another by other parties. By and large, it has proved far harder on leaders of parties in opposition.
Recall how such a vote undercut Joe Clark in 1983 and took him to another leadership convention in which he failed. John Turner survived such a vote in 1986 but the grave doubts raised about him by some prominent Liberals degraded his stock with the public. At present, three leaders of opposition parties – Preston Manning, Gilles Duceppe and Alexa McDonough – carry on in the face of open criticism about their performance – not all generated by the media. There are those in their own parties who see them as offering no hope for power or big gains.
Little attention has been given to one corollary of our imperial prime ministership – the huge dominance of party leaders in the media coverage of politics.
Today it’s Jean Chretien at centre stage, sometimes shared with Finance Minister Paul Martin, and the rest of cabinet and caucus in figurative shadow.
In its innocence on arrival at Parliament in 1993, the Reform party chose to emphasize the team and its aim for gentility, rather than its leader. Briefly Preston Manning sat in the second row but the media mob insisted he was a bust. They had to focus on him, not his gang. If he didn’t lead off in the daily question period, he was a dud for them.
Without doubt the party leaders are the common denominator of media scrutiny, guaranteeing the public will see politics as highlighted by Chretien, Manning, Duceppe, McDonough, and even to Joe Clark if he’s handy in a corridor.
The leadership syndrome which began its modern phase with Diefenbaker and crystallized with Trudeau created a buildup of counsellors, experts and what we call “spinners” in the leaders’ cadres, most of them funded by Parliament. Out of this also came surrogates for the leader as party spokespersons, preferably spinners of good relations with reporters and bureau chiefs.
This dominance of leader-leader-leader stuff makes for cynicism. However, and one must stress however, judging by the public reaction a big majority of citizens like to have their political choices reduced to the party leaders, and to decide their choices on how much they like or admire, dislike or hate, Chretien, Manning, etc.
The eminence of leadership is so outright that one hardly ever hears discussion of the obvious: that once past Chretien, and the one most acceptable alternative in Martin, the public is neither interested in any other prospect in the cabinet nor even speculates how this prime minister could have put together such an undistinguished lot. And we also appreciate why none of his MPs has openly said nay to his referendum gambit.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 28, 1999
ID: 12619560
TAG: 199911281591
SECTION: Comment


Here are some opinions on some of the recent performances in the federal theatre of politics.
Re: the passionate outburst last week about the terms for a referendum on Quebec’s secession from Jean Chretien, the prime minister.
Why now, given the certainty of loud criticism, most notably among federalists within Quebec? In interpreting Chretien we have his long track record in politics of 36 years, including six full years and two majority victories as Liberal leader.
Let me note this about most successful politicians: whenever they sense their status or position is shaky or in doubt they return to the core theme and vocabulary which first won public accolades and impressed both colleagues and rivals.
Aside from much energy, stamina, and quickness of body and mind, the key element in gaining fame for Chretien was his simply but emotionally put love of Canada – total, outright, overriding love for Canada! His country – and above its parts. What a winner this has been, most notably with anglophone Canadians.
Hardly over jet lag from a fortnight of conferencing abroad, Chretien reopened his old theme in a corridor scrum on Tuesday with talk about “a clear majority on a clear question.” Next day he revved it up: early, in his caucus; then in the Commons Question Period; and at night in historic Charlottetown.
Wow, did Chretien get what he was looking for when he went straight back to his heart – a marvellously emotional and bitter response from Lucien Bouchard. And don’t miss this: he has rallied his ministry and caucus to him by this resurrection of Canada’s gut issue. Paul Martin, the man Chretien senses is now more favoured than he is by the caucus and party, can only be part of an echoing chorus of loyal enthusiasms for such a patriot prime minister.
The patriotic ploy is well-worn, used so often by monarchs, presidents, and dictators when they have had urgent domestic problems. Go for the ultimate distraction. Mount a patriotic rebuff to a perceived foreign threat. Rally the loyal. No cringing. No surrender. Back your leader against the mortal enemy.
Recall all the talk over several years in Ottawa after the 1995 referendum thriller of a moderate Plan A and a tough Plan B for dealing with Quebecois nationalism. The discussion of such options had almost disappeared, despite the persistence of Stephane Dion, the minister Chretien chose to stalk the Bouchard menace. And this relative quietude seemed sensible to many, given the polling trend favorable to federalism in Quebec.
Suddenly Chretien has plumped for a very tough Plan B. To abandon it in the next year would be a disastrous concession to Premier Bouchard. It cannot happen with Jean Chretien as the self-reinstated saviour of Canada.

Re: the welter of harsh judgments by reporters and editorialists of David Collenette’s performances as the federal minister of transport. He has been described as stupid and badly briefed and without a grasp of his portfolio and its major matters, not just of airlines but of ports policies, rail passenger service, and trans-Canada road standards. Further, he has been limned as a bust as the top Chretien lieutenant for Toronto (now getting circus leadership from Mayor Mel Lastman) and for Ontario (where Collenette is blanked out by Premier Mike Harris).
Have these judgments been unfair? Not in my opinion, even though I rate Collenette as neither quite as slow nor uninformed as he seems. The fundamental cause of atrocious performances in both portfolio and high party chores has been too much responsibility and work for a man who is not decisive by nature and for whom party matters, so often tortuous and iffy, are more imperative than the policies and operations of his ministry. What a kindness to transportation and Toronto and the Liberal party if Chretien shifted this loyalist to veterans affairs or labour or international co-operation.

Re: the quality and costs of the national gun registry program which has been under way for two years.
There will be much accentuation of splendid consequences coming from this program as the anniversary nears of the Montreal shooting massacre of female students.
Why? Because almost nothing positive has been developing in or from the registry. Its cost, now well over $300 million, is far above estimates. It is many years away from completion. It still faces major court challenges from most of the provinces. There is a widespread determination by many owners to defy the legislation. And despite early “showboat” backing for the registry by some high-ranking police officials, most of the police, notably in the RCMP, are against the registry as useless and a waste of personnel and dollars.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 24, 1999
ID: 12618141
TAG: 199911241543
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


Does the political situation within the governing party set out in the four points which follow make much sense? It’s been gathered from some recent close watching and talking with Liberals around Parliament Hill.
1) Something several chatters have called “a sense of obligation to Paul Martin” has firmed up within the Liberals’ parliamentary people. It stems from an appreciation in some, an acceptance in others, that Martin has been the fundamental individual in the splendid economic recovery since 1993, the end of annual deficits and now-burgeoning federal surpluses.
2) To explain this emergence of respectful gratitude, one needs to realize what a prodigious worker for over six years on party chores and morale Martin has been – in the House, of course, but even more across the land at partisan occasions in scores of federal ridings in every region in the country.
Through all of this Martin has shown a consistent good nature, an availability-to-all courtesy, and he has been a remarkably dry well – a non-gusher – of attributable speculation about either the prime minister or his ministerial choices, even though the press has made much of “the team” Martin has created to work toward gaining the top post.
3) Since the annual accounts of the federal government shifted from red ink to black Martin has not eased up on either such strenuous efforts on behalf of his party or continuing what has become a personal, encyclopedic overview of almost every federal policy which entails major spending.
As one Liberal put it, not without some frustration: “Martin has a clear appraisal of where the money goes and where every flogged proposition for more spending wants more to go.”
The delays in the government’s setting out of the particulars in where surpluses should go in terms of programs or tax relief or debt reduction are not blocks put up by either faceless mandarins in the Department of Finance and Treasury Board or a super-cautious prime minister. These delays come directly from Martin’s determination not to blow the chances of sound overall economic development through over-pledged spending commitments.
And, although scores of Liberal MPs have in mind a host of spending suggestions, from new programs – say in child care or major environmental projects – or the topping up of programs now in place, as yet there is a wider understanding in the ranks of Martin’s tight grip than one might expect. He has earned this understanding and, in effect, is taken to have been more responsible for the better times and surpluses than the prime minister.
4) What does this high respect for Paul Martin within the caucus (and probably within the party as a whole) bode for his future, specifically in relation to Jean Chretien, who is seemingly master of all he surveys, going by opinion polling, and who has increasingly been signalling, usually by joking assertions, that he’ll continue in office and seek a third mandate? Well, it bodes no secret confrontations, either one-on-one or within the senior circle of ministers, over going or not, or over alleged, overweening ambitions of an aspirant set against the unquestioned loyalty which are owed by followers to a leader triumphant in two elections and almost sure to make it three if he wants it – and the party wants him.
Chretien may have his third chance at what he and his circle see as another majority victory. But he knows there is more within the situation than that outcome simply because he still has his gift for scenting favour or its antonyms, of knowing where there is absolute, or just limited, or mere conventional, confidence in him as a leader. Chretien now recognizes he can’t offer the same confidence about his intentions for the country’s future in the new century that his minister of Finance can. Someone so experienced and canny knows he has been surpassed among his own, who see him as less dynamic and capable as a leader of the country and the party than his minister of Finance.
Is this anywhere near a facsimile description of the Chretien-Martin relationship at this juncture? It’s not what I would wager is certain, but it is plausible.
Among those who have been sketching this Liberal scenario there is remarkable assurance about 2000: a budget of moderate promise in February; the announcement of Chretien’s intention to resign in June; a celebratory Canada Day in which he is front and centre; and a very routine party convention in October which makes Paul Martin prime minister on the first ballot.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 21, 1999
ID: 12617414
TAG: 199911211573
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Backgrounder


Hope does have an eternal quality, and a long submerged hope is rising among some of us who have become critical of the Supreme Court of Canada. We hope it will regain much common sense in 2000 as Beverley McLachlin begins to make her mark as the court’s chief justice.
“Law is what the courts will do next,” is how the late, famed Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes of the U.S. Supreme Court put it. The grist in that plain opinion of long ago became moot in Canada in 1982 with the advent of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, arguably a far more Americanizing factor for Canada than the Free Trade Agreement of 1988 has been.
The “some of us” to whom I referred above are those who believe too many Supreme Court decisions since 1982 have invalidated what our elected politicians have legislated, often the judicial interpretations setting out what the politicians ought to have done or what they must do in response to a court decision.
Perhaps even worse for public understanding of where political power lies, our federal and provincial governments have been remarkably abject in acquiescing to such court dictates. Let me mention just one example: the 1985 Singh decision, written by Madam Justice Bertha Wilson that the Charter of Rights was available to any refugee claimant who set foot on Canadian soil or entered Canadian waters.
Ottawa’s response to this decision created a huge system of review which has been costly (perhaps $2.5 billion so far), inefficient and complex. It has created staggering backlogs, a bonanza for hundreds of immigration lawyers and obvious unfairness to legitimate refugees.
Less direct effects of decisions like that, but just as regrettable, have been the excuses which aggressive interpretation of the Charter have given federal and provincial governments not to challenge judicial imposition of a “political correctness” which goes beyond the social and ethical mores of a majority of Canadians. Further, governments often have not legislated and spent where they should have because the pattern in court decisions had given them an excuse not to.
In brief, too many of our politicians hold a Pollyanna-like view that “Canadians love their Charter of Rights” and accept resignedly the public polling showing judges and their courts are far more respected than politicians and legislatures.
Four recent happenings suggest the super respect for courts and the Charter has passed its apogee, even unto a wide acceptance that sharp criticism of both is vital and long overdue.
First, there was the public plea last spring by Peter Lougheed and Allan Blakeney, esteemed former premiers, that governments must curb the justices’ power by selectively using the Charter’s “notwithstanding clause” to override those decisions which offend the public good. Public reaction indicates this was good advice that should be followed.
Second, there were the chaotic and costly consequences that rippled across the country from the recent Supreme Court majority decision on the entitlement of Donald Marshall, a Nova Scotia Micmac, to harvest eels. It was based on a generous interpretation of what was meant in a treaty made by the British government with Indians of that former maritime colony, and which today’s Indians and their lawyers are interpreting as a broad right to harvest fish, crustaceans, trees, etc., from the lands and waters where their ancestors lived when the Europeans arrived.
Such a broad interpretation of the decision was immediately given a sanction of sorts as extending to forests by the minister of Indian Affairs, even though this would suborn the jurisdiction of the provinces over natural resources.
And there was an even more sobering sidebar in the news to what’s being taken by First Nations as their Magna Carta in the shocking estimates in an exposed document from Paul Martin’s Finance department that the foreseeable demands on the federal purse in meeting native land claims and other forms of redress (such as for sexual harassment in residential Indian schools) will be over $200 billion. (That is a huge, scary figure, but Ottawa now spends about $7 billion a year on Indian Affairs.)
Third, there was the surprising, open determination expressed with clarity by Opposition Leader Preston Manning in the throne speech debate last month that he and his Reform party were determined to stop the ascendancy of the Supreme Court in matters which are inherently democratic and which must be decided by those elected, not by those appointed. In brief, Parliament must reclaim its reach and role as the ultimate authority from the Supreme Court.
Fourth, and most recently, came the appointment of Beverley McLachlin, now 56 (with possibly 19 more years on the bench) as chief justice, effective in the new century. A comment she made after her appointment – and which squared with her minority dissent on the Marshall case – was that judges must contemplate beforehand the institutional consequences of their decisions.
Many today wonder about the role of Parliament. The insignificance of the several hundred ordinary MPs has become legendary, and it’s a commonplace that their usefulness has been subverted by the rise of party leaders to near-dictatorial eminence, in particular an excess of power in the hands of the prime minister.
Since Charter decisions began to be meaningful no prime minister – not Brian Mulroney, not Jean Chretien – has chosen to take on the Supreme Court by either the ready use of the notwithstanding clause or through immediate amendments to the particular laws the justices have found wanting.
Nevertheless, given a new chief justice who wants serious appraisals beforehand of the likely consequences of the court’s decisions, given a leader and a party with a policy to restore a balance between Parliament and the Supreme Court, and given the likelihood provincial governments will begin to use the notwithstanding clause, an eclipse of the reign of rights in Canada seems at least possible.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 17, 1999
ID: 12917318
TAG: 199911171566
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


How could a multicultural fault line occur in the federal Liberal caucus? After all, the Liberals created multiculturalism as a policy and institutionalized it in 1972 with the first minister for multiculturalism, Stanley Haidasz.
Now dark allegations are being heard around Parliament Hill, perhaps instigated by the PMO, of a rump of ethnic Liberal MPs – in this case, Italo-Canadians – fashioning disharmony and upset to encourage the departure of Jean Chretien and put Paul Martin in his place.
The tale goes that some other Liberal MPs see this scheme as treasonable, a pro-Martin game to undermine Chretien by showing his Ontario chieftain, David Collenette, as stupid for favouring the recent failed Onex bid to acquire Air Canada.
The word put out suggests such poisonous antics as the stuff for Tories, so often out of office and screwing up their return with a faction-ridden caucus. This is not the Liberal way!
The alleged conspirators do not go unnamed. Such veterans as Albina Guarnieri, Joe Comuzzi, Joe Fontana, Joe Volpe, Maurizio Bevilacqua and Tony Ianno have been described by insiders as “stirring up dissent.”
Over the years there’ve been many stories out of Ottawa, some well-founded, of plots and disloyalty within parliamentary caucuses of all parties, even the Liberals. (Remember the pro-Chretien schemers during John Turner’s leadership.) But this is the first such story that focuses on ethnicity.
Surely these allegations of Italo-Canadian schemers gnawing at the unity of caucus need to be aired and scotched quickly. As one who lived for years at the Lakehead, where candidates of Italian stock have been prominent for several generations, two things about such candidacies have been clear.
First, none was ever taken to be just an ethnic or a single-interest group representative; second, few citizens considered or consider Hubert Badanai (1958-68) or Joe Comuzzi to have been anything other than fellow Canadians.
It seems ridiculous there should be such spin-doctoring going on in Liberal circles about an “Italian” plot within the caucus because of a few tough questions in committee by Comuzzi to minister Collenette or Guarenieri’s fierce determination to push a bill the cabinet didn’t want. (It also suggests there is not much confidence in today’s Italo-Canadian ministers, Alfonso Gagliano and Maria Minna.)
Italo-Canadian MPs, through the past three elections, are now most numerous of the multicultural pockets in the House of Commons once one passes those of British or French stock. The latter were very dominant until near the end of the 1950s.
Much fuss was made by the media over the first Italo-Canadian MP, one Quinto Martini, a Conservative elected in Hamilton East in 1957 (along with Douglas Jung, the first Chinese-Canadian MP, elected in Vancouver). And in 1977, many Italo-Canadians made much of Peter Bosa’s appointment to the Senate by Pierre Trudeau as a recognition too long delayed for Italian support of the Liberal party from the time Wilfrid Laurier’s government brought so many immigrants over in the decade before World War I.
John Diefenbaker’s victories in 1957 and 1958 brought in a dozen or so ethnically proud Tory MPs, mostly from the west, including the Ukrainian-born Nick Mandziuk, and Alberta’s Bill Skoreyko and Saskatchewan’s Stan Korchinski, both of Ukrainian stock.
I recall a prominent columnist, still writing, who in the early 1970s satirized the unlikelihood of MPs with names like Mazankowski, Hnatyshyn and Paproski ever becoming cabinet ministers, let alone prime minister. This was before Trudeau appointed the first aboriginal cabinet minister, Len Marchand, in 1976, and Charles Caccia, the first Italian-born minister in 1981. Then Jean Chretien appointed Sergio Marchi, an Italo-Canadian, to his cabinet in 1993. When Marchi quit this year Chretien appointed Minna, another Italo-Canadian. She joined Gagliano, made a minister in 1994.
Tory Joe Clark appointed the first black minister, Lincoln Alexander, in 1979, and Trudeau the first Finnish-Canadian minister, Judy Erola, in 1980. Chretien appointed the first ethnic Chinese minister, Raymond Chan, in 1993, the first Trinidadian, Hedy Fry, in 1996, and the first Sikh, Herb Dhaliwal, in 1997. By my count, the House has 15 MPs of Italian stock and all but one is a Liberal.
After the 1957 election, I recall Quinto Martini telling me how hard it was for an Italian like him to gain enough respect from the public to get elected. He had in mind attitudes based on the Hollywood treatment of gang warfare in the U.S. and a role model like Al Capone or the murderous reputation of the Mafia both on this continent and back home.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 14, 1999
ID: 12916946
TAG: 199911141420
SECTION: Comment
ON GUARD … Canadian Sentry in the Moonlight, a WW1 era painting by Alfred Bastein, from the Canadian War Museum.
COLUMN: Backgrounder


The last Remembrance Day of the 20th century is past. Just a few days may not be apt for more recall, but let me chance it with a focus on “the sharp edge.”
The sharp edge is where most military personnel are killed or wounded. It’s within reach of the enemy, or, as we used to say, “along the line.”
It’s a phrase used mostly about the army, probably because its killed and wounded can usually be pinned down to exact locale. Often in air and naval warfare the actual killing place cannot be defined even though the general zones may be known. In World War II, the zones were vast for the sailors of the Royal Canadian Navy and those Royal Canadian Air Force crews who flew in Bomber Command.
The general point I want to make is no mystery. Although it has not been deliberately obscured, neither is it underlined as much as it merits.
No, this isn’t an argument our remembrance should distinguish between those who were at great risk because of their roles and those who were at little risk, even though I’m almost obsessive in respecting the courage and the bleak chances of the infantryman.
I stress the deadliness along the sharp edge because so many Canadians romanticize about peacekeeping and our prime minister keeps piling assignments abroad on our already overburdened troops. Also more and more citizens seem to see our military people as policemen and social workers abroad.
My premise is that the military of our country must have a strong, numerous core of combat-ready people – men and women trained for both facing and dealing death in hostile encounters on the ground. Otherwise, it is incomplete; a hollow force.
Thinking of the sharp edge in attack or retreat, or even at enduring at a rough posting, reminds us that in war or in trying to keep one from breaking out, the first and most dangerous burden falls on those of our own most likely to be killed or maimed.
Most Canadians probably do not know that much less than a majority of those who served in our forces both in World War II and in service abroad since then were in roles at high risk to life or limb.
In World War I the percentage of our troops at the sharp edge was higher than in World War II because of its long, static killing ground and the intense gunfire of both sides. Eventual victory came through attrition – and death for millions. As high as half the Canadians in uniform from 1914-18 at some time served within the danger zone of the trenches in reach of shelling, although supply-line troops and those in rear-area services were at much less risk than riflemen and machine-gunners.
Most Canadians killed or wounded in the army in World War II met their fate on either the Italian front from July, 1943 to March, 1945, or on the Northwest European front from June, 1944 to May, 1945. Overwhelmingly the casualties were in the fighting companies of infantry battalions while casualties in tank and armoured car squadrons, in the artillery batteries and in the combat engineers were considerably lighter.
Of the 700,000-plus in the Canadian army in World War II less than 120,000 served on the sharp edge as infantry and less than 100,000 as tankers, gunners and engineers. The so-called “tail” of the army was long and stretched back to scores of bases in the U.K. and Canada.
Before the armoured car regiment I was in went to Normandy I hadn’t appreciated how scanty our casualties would be – even less than in tanks, and far less than the killed and wounded ratios in infantry outfits.
Our roles linking brigades and regiments often made us witnesses along the sharp edge.
For example, by early August, 1944, long before the conscription crisis burst in Canada late in the year, we knew from first-hand observation our infantry regiments were desperate for trained reinforcements. In late September we backed a Black Watch company which had dug in with less than 30 able soldiers.
The generals simply had underestimated infantry losses. Our planners in Ottawa had permitted the creation of too many divisions and brigades and too much in top-heavy army and corps headquarters, both overseas and at home.
Canadian soldiers’ lives were lost or made more risky because we were short of the basic soldier, the fundamental soldier – the infantryman!
As occasional aides to our infantry when the front was fluid, we respected and admired the courage, and endurance, of infantry comrades in the Black Watch, the Lake Supes, the Calgary Highlanders, the Links and Winks, the Chaudieres, etc.
During the dour, winter watch along the Rhine and Maas Rivers we also began to realize that our political and military leaders had over-recruited and trained too many for bomber crews – this despite Bomber Command’s terrible losses.
Our cautious prime minister, W.L. Mackenzie King, and his cabinet, had not only over-committed and misapplied our military manpower, they had undertaken too much in manufacturing, agriculture, forestry and mining. Oh, how thinly the war effort of the 12 million Canadians was spread, at home and abroad by D-Day in 1944.
I often sketch bomber crew, infantry, and naval risks by referring to the 26 young men of my home town (then with about 2,000 people) who died in World War II (a rather high ratio of one killed for every 80 people). Sixteen were killed in the RCAF, one with Fighter Command, the rest with Bomber Command. Seven of those in the army were killed, five in the infantry. Two of those who served in the RCN died, both aboard ships sunk in the Atlantic.
Today our military numbers about 55,000, headed by a proportionately huge officer corps, and backed by a large civilian component in the Defence Department. Less than 7,000 of our soldiers are combat-ready troops, yet they and the comrades who back them up, have too many assignments and by and large are not well-armed and equipped.
In short, where it counts most – as in 1944 and 1945 – we do not invest and sustain the basic imperative in a nation’s military: those ready for fighting at the risk of casualties. The imperative makes a fine text for Remembrance Day thought all through the year.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 10, 1999
ID: 12916356
TAG: 199911101580
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


In a fit of pique last week, Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy lashed out at certain commentators whom he accused of still living in the Cold War. These dinosaurs mistakenly believe the number of tanks or army divisions a country can field remains a measure of its significance on the world scene.
The world has changed since the collapse of communism in 1989, Axworthy reminded the gathered press, and there are newer, better measures of a nation’s ability to contribute to collective security and international peace than these. The minister’s critics need to get with the program, his “soft power” program.
I imagine – indeed, hope – I’m one of those commentators. Certainly I’ve belittled previous fatuous eruptions by our foreign minister on the “soft power” he claims Canada wields in the brave new, post-Cold War world. Am I chastened by his remarks? Honoured is more like it, and amused because the circumstances surrounding their utterance confirms it’s the mumbling minister who refuses to face reality.
The occasion of Axworthy’s outburst was the announcement of Canada’s $100 million contribution toward rebuilding Kosovo. Kosovo, you will recall, is the Yugoslav province with the Albanian majority on whose behalf NATO – and Canada – went to war earlier this year.
As the minister blathered about dullards such as myself overrating the importance of military hardware, I wondered which of the forces arrayed against the Yugoslavs Axworthy would have done without.
The aircraft carriers which launched air strikes? The aerial tankers which helped returning aircraft low on fuel? The electronic jamming and air defence suppression aircraft which knocked out Yugoslavia’s radars, guns and missiles? The armed and armoured rescue helicopters which recovered downed pilots? The reconnaissance aircraft and satellites which identified targets? The heavily armed mobile ground forces brought into the area to threaten Slobodan Milosevic with a ground invasion?
Of course all of these capabilities were needed, and it is due to them that no NATO pilots – including Canadians flying CF- 18s – were killed. These capabilities were available because other nations pay for them. Canada, with the lowest per capita defence spending of any NATO country with military forces (Luxembourg doesn’t maintain armed forces) can no longer provide them herself.
The post-Cold War reality is that our foreign minister would not have had an aid program to announce last week but for NATO’s victory in the war. And that victory came about because other nations’ foreign ministers have a very different assessment of the importance of real, usable military power.
As for our foreign minister’s view that some of us need a lesson in the history of the post-1989 era, I would ask him what he makes of the following headlines: War in Europe (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia); biggest tank battle since World War II (Gulf war); half-million murdered while Canadian-led UN troops look on (Rwanda); biggest military operation in Europe since World War II (Kosovo); largest number of Canadian troops overseas since Korean war (Timor, etc.).
I see a pattern of fighting forces being used around the world to assist nations/peoples in distress. I see a requirement for real military capability. To appraise this one must use those archaic yardsticks Axworthy dismisses: combat troops available for deployment overseas; modern combat aircraft; armoured vehicles and warships capable of operating with those of other nations. This is what the government’s own defence policy calls for, and what its own foreign minister effectively repudiated last week without a disclaimer from the man at his side, Defence Minister Art Eggleton.
Even more amusing than the choice of occasion for Axworthy tirade was its timing: on the very day Lord Robertson (formerly George Robertson, British defence minister) came to town in his new role as NATO’s political head. He was in Canada to discuss a new initiative rising from an analysis of NATO’s performance during the war in Kosovo which showed a widening gap between the military capabilities of the U.S. and the other members of NATO, one which threatens to destabilize the alliance.
NATO’s European members have been particularly alarmed by these findings, and seem resolved to redress the gap lest they find themselves impotent in the face of future crises. Canada’s military capabilities also fall far short of the American standard – by our own admission we meet less than half our NATO commitments.
So it came to pass on the same day our foreign minister dismissed the importance of military hardware, Lord Robertson, head of our military alliance, spoke of the need to upgrade our equipment. One supposes he is another know-nothing commentator to Axworthy.
Where are we likely to go from here?
As a NATO member Canada is in theory committed to the upgrading initiative, but given our foreign minister’s remarks and our defence minister’s acquiescence, and our dismal record to date, Lord Robertson and our allies should be forgiven if they conclude Canada’s commitment to the alliance is merely for show.
Need Canadians worry about any of this? Only if we doubt our foreign minister has a unique understanding of the new nature of international affairs. He knows military force has become antiquated and Canada can have influence in the world without it. It makes a thought for Remembrance Day: lucky Canada, with such perceptive and righteous leadership.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, November 07, 1999
ID: 12916011
TAG: 199911071624
SECTION: Comment


If Paul Martin is as ambitious to lead our federation as he seemed to be a few years ago, one wonders what satisfaction he is getting as his party’s mandate moves well into its third year with nothing tangible in intention on Jean Chretien’s retirement.
It looks as though the minister of finance will largely be holding the fort at the finance department until the next election. The real political heat will be over on the 50% side of the 50-25-25 split which Jean Chretien insists is governmental doctrine, at least until revised as the next election campaign opens, probably set out in Red Book III.
Paul Martin can play a defensive and interrogative game in cabinet, but on the 50% he will be far from the Yes or No minister in determining the splits of its sums for various programs, some of them new. Most of the Martin kicks will have to come from parcelling out by schedule the quarter of the surplus which must to go to cut taxes, and this just means income tax reductions, scaled in over several years.
As for the quarter of the surplus earmarked for debt reduction, the annual sums for it in relation to the mountainous debt can hardly be deeply satisfying to him. Somewhat credible yes! Certainly a bit more than a token of good intentions but figuratively merely chipping at the top of the mountain.
What disturbs me as one who much honours Paul Martin for taking the lead in moving us in six years from destructive deficits to surpluses of rising scale is this: either he has nothing much to say to Canadians now which combines some inspiration with persuasion about specific goals in social policy, constitutional relations, and international affairs or he believes that little thinking aloud or openly charting magisterial courses are postulated by Chretien’s ego and Liberal party traditions.
So not from Martin will we be hearing much specific on policies and goals for the 21st century.
As a reader of the Martin speeches, one takes from both the repetitiousness of the platitudes which deck their verbiage and the simple pleasure he displays in the House in his now ritualistic counter-chivvying of questioners, particularly from Reformers. Those awaiting a new lion of a leader in Ottawa should look more closely at Martin. It’s not that he’s just going through the motions of playing the partisan game of raucous adolescent jibing. It’s that he typifies with considerable smugness the stereotyped Liberal confidence and righteousness intrinsic in our ruling party. Martin is as able as Sheila Copps as a partisan roustabout, and he’s nearing perfection at stonewalling, exemplified by the dean of the House, Herb Gray.
Whatever is coursing in the Martin mind about the next few years, he really seems duller and less magnetic than he was as the great hope – almost the last hope – to end the rise of deficits and then eclipse them. Saying this might be put another way. He has been slipping back into the pack, the 30-strong pack of ministers Chretien has beside or behind him. Of course, they’re not all dross but there are few sparklers among them. More and more it’s easy to get the impression that any or all of them are disposable, that the prime minister (with his staff) are the indispensables, that a handful in the cabinet are useful functionaries, with the rest not much more vital than the mob of Liberal backbenchers except as guarantors Chretien will not face any winning want-of-confidence motions.
What you’ve just been reading could be tagged as coming from one who’s too close to the political yacking and yawning of Parliament Hill, one who craves excitement and wants more grandeur and vision from his politicians, one who hasn’t twigged that the durable, deep foundation of public support which the prime minister established and continues to maintain stems from his plain, folksy way as a public person and his refusal to talk grandly or to indulge in open, intellectual pondering and his refusal to countenance ministerial “blue-skying”.
Of course, from those with such a viewpoint – and Martin may well share it – the obvious advice to the finance minister is patience. Carry on, respect the dogma on surplus disposal; keep within your departmental context.
In due course, if Paul Martin maintains his health, if an as yet unheard, young Tobin-type doesn’t vault up from from backbench anonymity and if a Trudeau-sort with bags of both money and charisma is not to be found in academia or on Bay St., Martin will have his chance, a good chance, to be prime minister when Chretien departs.
Meanwhile it’s just seven weeks to Christmas and some 15 weeks to the next Martin budget and the promised chart of income tax cuts by year for five years (or far into Chretien’s third mandate).

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, November 03, 1999
ID: 12915463
TAG: 199911031322
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


So far this has not been a grand year for books about politics or by politicians. Neither of the two new books I note today fits neatly in the political category, not even the collection of Maclean’s columns by Allan Fotheringham, but each provides a distinctive, interesting access to our present values and concerns.
The broader entertainment for most readers will be from Last Page First, by Allan Fotheringham with Roy Peterson, published by Key Porter.
The other book is a rather sociological but frisky measure of a dumbing-down in the Western world, led mostly by Americans and which we have aped. This is Suspicious Minds: The Triumph of Paranoia in Everyday Life, by Ian Dowbiggin, published by Macfarlane Walter & Ross.
There are almost 90 of Fotheringham’s Maclean’s pieces (from the ’70s on) in Last Page First, plus enough “asides” to fill one in on Dr. Foth as journalist, husband, parent and prophet.
By and large the columns take gossipy, mocking measures of popular culture and its celebrities in politics, commerce, crime, and sport. I think Fotheringham has had a lock on the “most read columnist in Canada” title for more than a dozen years.
If I’m an archetypal reader, such a rating was not earned by his moral values and political insights but by audacious prose which pulses with vivid metaphors and similes, some apt, some extravagant. And this columnist is always on his own his stage, and he peoples it with idiots, charlatans, schemers, and occasionally, very occasionally, heroes.
The Fotheringham round usually has some stock self-spoofing of characteristics like his shortness, his taste for luxury and wonderful women. We become familiar with the columnist’s loathing of Ottawa and his love for, despite his leaving, Lotus Land, and his need to return there to replenish nostalgia. He shows effortlessly an ego that shades Conrad Black’s, and to boot, assumes his worth as political prophet. If you read Fotheringham “first” this book is for you, as it has been for me.
The first column in Last Page First is dated 1989 and is titled “Stop whining, Canada, and celebrate.” This would have been a fitting title for the long fifth chapter titled “Only in Canada?” in Suspicious Minds, by Professor Dowbiggin (of the University of P.E.I.).
Why do we whine? Because we have become so fearful and suspicious and seek safety and assurances (best made in cash). We have created so many reasons to worry. There is so much suffering we don’t deserve, so many malevolent and powerful forces are at work conspiring to abuse us or defraud us, even to ignore us.
The professor opens with global overviews, the bending and disappearances of frontiers, and the enveloping dominance in day-to-day lives of electronic communications as these purvey a running babel of emotional shocks and responses to violence, alleged and discovered conspiracies and harassments.
Individually and in groups, worrisome obsessions about health, appearance, sex, the family, etc. have come to dominate news and politics.
In Canada we now have much home-grown paranoia, seen in political challenges and responses about the mistreatment of so many within our borders – Quebecois, Indians, Metis, Inuit, women, children, homosexuals, refugees, and visible minorities – and about the inadequate shares from the overall bounty of Canada for some regions and work groups.
We rushed to develop laws which extend and define rights and have created government-sponsored agencies to monitor and force righteousness and redress. And increasingly, the only acceptable or meaningful redress must take the form of substantial lump sums from governmental treasuries.
In the cacophony of whines and pleas we have, as Mr. Dowbiggin puts it, “a denial of reality … a study in emotional and intellectual immaturity … and a society of disconnected and anxious selves.”
The professor insists Canadians have been detaching from the anchors our predecessors developed from a basis in parliamentary democracy. We’ve become so politically correct. Programs like equity and multiculturalism and the chartering of individual and group rights have made us very litigious and open to shock after shock from more spending and much adjusting in social and economic affairs to decisions made by higher court judges (not in legislatures).
This digest of mine neither conveys the good reading and acute wit one finds in Suspicious Minds nor the gist of the author’s argument which is that “the study of history is key to recovering the ties that once bound us together as communities.” Amen to that!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 31, 1999
ID: 12915126
TAG: 199910311547
SECTION: Comment


Joe Comuzzi, MP for Thunder Bay-Nipigon, is the senior member on the transport committee of the House, currently inquiring at the request of the government on ways for the airline industry to go because of an alleged crisis triggered by Canadian Airlines’ shaky financial shape and proposals for merging Canadian with Air Canada. He was frank last week. The merger proposals and the talk of crisis don’t “pass the smell test. As yet I cannot specifically say why but it does smell to me.”
Comuzzi is a man whose fairness and common sense I respect from four decades of friendly association. By and large what follows is his measure of the matters first raised openly with news in mid-August of a bid by Onex bid to merge Canadian and Air Canada into one national airline.
First of all, he has a problem with the rush to have legislation through Parliament by Christmas to enable changes in present acts, such as raising the share of individual ownership of airline shares and instituting the government’s “action plan” for an industry as a whole in which there shall be just one “national” airline. This entails adequate provisions for monitoring and regulating the airlines to ensure fair pricing to travellers, adequate flight schedules, fairness to employees, and service for smaller centres.
“Imagine it if you can,” says Comuzzi, “a House committee reconstructing a plan for the airline industry in all its aspects in 45 days.”
Comuzzi has canvassed members of the association which represents both the major airlines and charter operators and small regional airlines for their take on the overall condition of the industry, and generally they rated it as 6-to-7 out of 10.
What the Lakehead MP finds most unsettling is the sudden emergence of the government’s recognition of a crisis, co-incident with the sudden public news that Onex Corporation, backed by Canadian, proposed a merger of Canadian and Air Canada. In mid-August the minister of transport suspended the Competition Act for 90 days to facilitate merger discussions. Then almost eight weeks later the minister announced there would be a quick start of the transport committee when Parliament returned to hold hearings and make recommendations before the end of November on the major restructuring of the airline industry.
Why wasn’t Parliament recalled earlier? Why weren’t steps taken to get the House committee rolling at once? The answers to those questions which Comuzzi discerns (with hesitation) are that the government never figured the deal personalized by Gerry Schwartz, a notable friend of Liberals in high places, would meet such wide public skepticism and the tough response of Air Canada.
Further, Comuzzi’s concerns have also been goaded by the findings of Justice Blair on Sept. 28 in ruling on the Onex application that Air Canada should have a special meeting of its shareholders on the Onex bid well before the 90-day limit was over. The judge noted that Canadian and Onex had discussed the takeover of Air Canada early in the year, and because of Canadian’s investment and service ties to giant American Airlines, the latter had been drawn into the discussion with Onex of solutions to Canadian’s problems. These discussions led Canadian to ask the government to use its authority to abrogate for a time, Section 47 of the Canadian Transportation Act. Did ministers Collenette and Manley acquiesce by suspending the rules governing such a merger bid by Onex? They said the government’s purpose was “to allow a market-driven solution” to the national airline in deep trouble by merging it with the one that wasn’t, without spending taxpayers’ money. Two months later this shifted into meaning a restructuring of airline industry’s regime.
Comuzzi says that the paper trails indicate those involved in framing and making the Onex bid were at work on it early in the year, months before mid-August. It seems most inconceivable the bid’s originators were not in touch with senior federal politicians and mandarins, given the presence on Canadian’s board of such well-known associates of Jean Chretien as a former top aide of his, one Jean Carle, and Sen. Ross Fitzpatrick.
I suggested to Comuzzi that the foreplay to the Onex bid was a familiar par for the political course in Canada; so was the 90-day suspension of the law. Surely for him the stage is this: the House committee must bend to the task it was given. The Air Canada shareholders will vote on the Onex bid on Nov. 8, as it was “sweetened” on Thursday (and this may be countered by Air Canada). If the bid fails and Canadian is in immediate jeopardy, the government will have to step in, maybe by directing Air Canada and Canadian by themselves to negotiate a workable merger.
Comuzzi thinks there should be a moratorium on bids and votes. Start again from scratch with everything in the open, but only after a long, substantial review of the airline structure Canadians need, want, and can afford.
Isn’t it stupid, argues the MP, that a decision on attaining a “market-driven solution” should be followed by a rushed but a broad and detailed regulation of this particular marketplace?
Of course what he says makes sense to me, and he’s brave to say what he has, given the often savage policing of Liberal backbenchers by the PMO.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 27, 1999
ID: 12914535
TAG: 199910271730
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


It’s not been hard to find company for my belief the deal for the Onex bid to merge the two big airlines was launched with some understanding in the ministry and the PMO on what was to be. Any fix is now gone, busted by the toughness of Air Canada’s leaders and the rejection of Onex as a major owner and controller of a single national airline by a lot of Liberal MPs. Further, the initial lines of David Collenette, the transport minister, that this would be a matter for the market to decide was foolish. What are we going to get? Confusion! For many months, but eventually Air Canada intact and larger.
– – –
The first birthday of the National Post passes today with less notice than I had expected about its significance in the battle between major dailies over circulation and advertising. A fortnight ago at the regular Liberal caucus, former Toronto Star and Globe and Mail writer John Bryden, MP for Wentworth-Burlington, surprised colleagues by giving data on the recent, substantial losses in circulation of those two dailies. Why? He told me that in part it was the unusual fun of having circulation information to impart before the papers had it. He also felt too many of his caucus mates were missing the significance to partisan politics of the role of the Post in taking on such well-entrenched rivals. I asked him if Star and Globe losses indicated, as I believe, that the public of conservatively-minded citizens is larger than liberally-minded citizens have been ready to concede. Yes, he agreed that was his perception, and that the Post was getting a readership across English Canada because of its themes and its political coverage.
– – –
The Ottawa Senators hockey team may have such a successful playoff run next spring that the franchise will lose far less money than the $10 million its president, Rod Bryden, has projected. The value of the franchise to a buyer would also rise. Is Bryden running a bluff, largely to leverage help from governments, by insisting he will be looking for an American buyer if no tax relief is available before December? Not only do I believe Bryden means what he says, even more to the point, neither at Queen’s Park nor on Parliament Hill nor in the NHL directorate nor the NHL Players’ Association can one foresee either a leader or the co-operation for striking and implementing a plan to ensure the permanency of the small-market NHL franchises in Canada.
– – –
On the subject of the other senators – those appointed to Parliament by prime ministers – if you detest the Senate as an institution which is out of date, costly, and an affront to democracy through the senators’ lack of responsibility and their high pay, generous perquisites, and short hours, there is a a rollicking rant for you in a new book by Claire Hoy, whom the book jacket modestly describes as “Canada’s most tenacious muckraking journalist.” His title is Nice Work: The Continuing Scandal of Canada’s Senate, published by McClelland & Stewart. The book gives details of dozens of unsavoury examples of shortcomings in the institution and its members, individually, and by party. Such a huge job would have profited from a thorough table of contents and an index, plus somewhere in the book a non-vitriolic summary of the arguments that have been made on behalf of “good work” done by the Senate. The author is so scornful of the piddling contributions of so many senators and the sheer enfrontery of patronage I was surprised he closed with suggestions for “a renewed Senate.” He says, however, that abolition is hopeless because the constitutional process to do it is unmanageable.
– – –
Did Jean Chretien intervene personally – i.e., in person – with the RCMP, setting up the security fiasco at the APEC summit in Vancouver? I believe he didn’t but I also believe his name and what he was said to have wanted was used by someone in his cadre or at or near the top of the RCMP in demanding tighter measures from the police on the site. The case reminds me of a hullabaloo back in 1959 over the CBC’s cancellation of a daily radio commentary which brought on a producers’ strike. Did the prime minister, John Diefenbaker, coin the phrase “heads will roll at the CBC” if the program wasn’t cancelled? Allegedly, this caused the cancellation. Long after the program was reinstated, and the House of Commons investigation into how and why it all happened, we learned that the threat to the CBC brass had been phrased by the strong-minded secretary of George Nowlan, the minister to whom the CBC reported.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 24, 1999
ID: 12914173
TAG: 199910241734
SECTION: Comment


So much non-legislative stuff has bounced forward in Ottawa-centered politics it has taken almost two weeks for the appreciation to jell among MPs – of all parties – that the pep-talk tone of the speech from the throne, despite its repetitious references to “vision” and “leadership,” has little content of major significance, aside from the undertaking to establish several thousand professorial chairs in universities.
Fortunately for those in the political media, they have had a lot of other rumbles to cover: for example, the huge fallouts from several court decisions – e.g., Indian fishing rights in the Maritimes; a huge pay equity award to federal employees; and a fresh and negative decision on the Quebec sign law. Each of these make for renewed drama in political serials that have been running for years, indeed almost since confederation for two of these matters.
And there have been: a) the bid by the millionaire Liberal fund-raiser Gerry Schwartz to take over Air Canada; b) the appointment of Robert Rabinovitch, a longtime pal of Jean Chretien’s handler, Eddie Goldenberg, as president of the CBC; c) the re-opening by the CBC’s Fifth Estate of its long-running investigation of graft it believes was raked in by Canadians in high places from the sale to Air Canada of Airbus planes during the Mulroney regime; d) the move on the boil in Parliament to give legal sanction to the now-famous agreement with the Nisga’a Nation (which settles much money and a lot of territory in central B.C. on a smallish native tribe).
It may be unfair to make early, critical assessments of the ministry which Jean Chretien shook up in mid-summer, but it is already clear that the additions, subtractions, and shifts have not raised either the debating, or the intellectual, quotient in the ministry of 32, in particular of the large Ontario contingent of 14.
Do your own check through this list of Ontario ministers, arranged by seniority: Herb Gray (deputy PM); David Collenette (Transport); Sheila Copps (Heritage); John Manley (Industry); Art Eggleton (Defence); Allan Rock (Health); Jane Stewart (Human Resources); Don Boudria (House leader); Lyle Vanclief (Agriculture); Jim Peterson (Financial Institutions); Andy Mitchell (Rural Development); Robert Nault (Indian Affairs); Elinor Caplan (Immigration); Maria Minna (International Co-operation).
What’s quite staggering after one appraises this Ontario list is the absence on it of an obviously outstanding personality.
It is true Sheila Copps is exceptional as a loyal, never-say-die partisan warrior, that Allan Rock has a gift of good grammar and lucid speech, that John Manley is a modestly competent lawyer, that Don Boudria is remarkably well-organized (and also punctilious), and that Robert Nault may be the master minister which Indian Affairs has needed but been without for several decades.
Of course, the very incompetence or weak impact of so many ministers, in particular those from Ontario, has and will generate lots of news stories, most of them negative, because they force forward ministerial stonewalling.
Take a few examples:
Caplan has only had the immigration post for a few months and her performance has been pathetic, even at what she does the most in the House and in media scrums, i.e. stonewalling.
Art Eggleton has had 27 months as minister of defence and as yet is unconvincing as the man in charge of diverse, substantial, and difficult responsibilities. Of course, he does look neat and unabashed as he waffles.
Lyle Vanclief has also had 27 months as minister of agriculture, and he’s become dreary and repetitive in defending federal programs or the lack of them for the thousands of farmers in a terrible cost-income squeeze, notably on the Prairies.
David Collenette at Transport has mucked up the airline industry scenario and even brassed off the editorial geniuses at the Star, the most faithful Liberal organ in the country, in his role as boss of federal affairs in Toronto.
Believe it or not, long years ago, both in government and in opposition, Herb Gray was individualistic, energetic, forceful, and positive. Now he serves mainly as the stonewaller of last resort when Jean Chretien is away.
And the wonder about this ministerial crew is really in the only two ministers – Jean Chretien and Paul Martin – whom I assume from following the ministry as a whole quite closely, are the performers responsible for the continuing results of opinion polling, especially in Ontario, that show the Liberals far ahead and their leader beloved or nigh it.
To use an academic word, how long can this Liberal hegemony run? Could it be that it is aided, not weakened, by such a largely lacklustre ministry, decked with dull performers?
Or is the hegemony largely due to a much divided and largely unattractive opposition and a run of the economy for several years with jobs up and government deficits down?
I think it rests on a combination of the above, but my hunch is it will be shaking by spring unless the budget in mid-winter is a blockbuster in either tax relief or really major moves in federal-provincial arrangements; that is, April’s opinion polls will show the Liberals lower than 50 points and a few bold caucus backbenchers talking about a fresh leader.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 20, 1999
ID: 12982144
TAG: 199910201631
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


Robert Nault, the new minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, seems to have been quicker than Herb Dhaliwal, the new minister of Fisheries, in realizing the huge implications of the recent Supreme Court decision which triggered the so-called lobster wars along the East Coast.
Dhaliwal talks up negotiation “at the table” to end the particular tensions between the licensed lobster fishermen and unlicensed Indians in order to get a workable agreement for regulating and sharing the catch, whereas Nault has anticipated the astounding ramifications of the decision. These are exciting hundreds of the 600-odd First Nations, and they will complicate for generations the already complex management and usage of the natural resources of all provinces.
Although talk about federal-provincial affairs has been a political staple since 1867, not even the recent contentions over the overlapping jurisdictions in the field of health will be as complex and debatable as the establishment and operation across Canada of this right status Indians have to a reasonable or moderate livelihood from the “fruits” of Canada’s lands and waters.
Nault represents a large swatch of Ojibway and Cree in his riding in northwestern Ontario. There’s not much future in Kenora-Rainy River for its thousands of Indians in earning money out of fishing (except through tourism). The most widespread, remunerative industry there – and across the whole Laurentian Shield – is forest-based, producing lumber, pulp and paper.
Nault has chaired an active House committee on natural resources which has set out national forest standards. His quick response to the court decision indicates he realizes it will open priority forest access for many bands living in our vast hinterlands, enabling them to harvest regularly sawmill logs and pulpwood for sales large enough to meet, as the court put it, “their necessities.”
This prospect makes it vital that Ottawa loop the responses to the decision within an almost instant infrastructure for negotiation and eventual management of complicated operations – not primarily for harvesting seafood, but for logging and lumbering. In the scale of product value, the forest industry is some 20-1 to fisheries. Anyone seeing the implications for forestry from the Marshall decision (which at its start had to do with harvesting eels) will understand why Nault so quickly raised “the big picture” with its implications for federal departments like Justice, Environment, Natural Resources and Labour, not just Fisheries and Indian Affairs.
The system and process to come in order to evade chaos from the decisions must include the provincial governments, the First Nations and, ultimately, the corporations and unions of the forest industry – perhaps even representatives of environmentalist groups.
Remember, the forest industry is our largest in terms of dollar value (about $45 billion a year) and employees (over 750,000). Further, the costs of modern tree harvesting equipment are high and the market for the trees a large but highly concentrated one.
It’s possible several decades from now that both status Indians and most Canadians will look back on the Marshall decision as the beginning of a process which would make natives (by bands) the main loggers and foresters of the land, tying them in with a sustainable, renewable resource base and a highly modernized technology, not just for harvesting but for reforestation.
Of course, there will be strenuous opposition to Indianizing even a small part of the raw material side of the forest industries. Some provincial governments will figuratively go through the roof – certainly Quebec, probably Ontario. And the issue of Indians vis-a-vis logging is already explosive in B.C.
Nevertheless, a dramatically altered provenance and exploitation of the forests is likely if our two senior levels of government continue to respect decisions of the Supreme Court, and if the First Nations, taking their lead from Chief Phil Fontaine, respond positively to Nault’s invitation and without extreme claims about access to resources.
If the fruits for bands of status Indians from the Supreme Court’s decision, based on a treaty made in the 18th century, are to be as substantial in forestry resources as in the fisheries’ resource, surely it will force new decisions from either Ottawa or the Supreme Court. And what about the non-status Indians and the Metis?
The federal government seems to accept an aboriginal population of 1.3 million, yet registers only about 600,000 “status” Indians. How may the 700,000-odd who are without status, but deemed aboriginal, attain their right to earn their “necessities” from lands and waters?
If this seems a somewhat loony question, reflect on all the aboriginal fishers you’ve seen recently on TV newscasts who look more like whites than Indians.
In short, thousands of natives who are without status have as much or more blood right to it than thousands who have it, and most of them are as poverty-stricken as their “status” relations.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 17, 1999
ID: 12981792
TAG: 199910171704
SECTION: Comment


A few weeks ago a colleague asked if I was doing “a tribute” to mark the 80th birthday of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
At my negative reply, he suggested I should. After all, I had the perspective of being Trudeau’s age and a close watcher on the Hill through his 19 years as an MP (1965-84).
I told my questioner we were ever deeper in the swampy bog into which Trudeau led us. It was unfortunate most citizens didn’t appreciate this, in large part because few active politicians outside Quebec ever challenge Trudeau’s legacy.
After this reaction, I kept returning in my mind to Trudeau’s legacy as I sized it up, and I grew gloomier about it, mostly over the soaring costs and steady diminution in primacy of legislatures with judges making more of the choices. Elected politicians made them before the constitutional changes which Trudeau sponsored took effect in 1982. And since then the major figures in politics have not openly analyzed and challenged the disruptive and expensive decisions made by judges.
At least none has mounted a determined, thorough attack on the widening range of decisions by judges and human rights commissioners on what cannot be, and what must be in Canada. Not until last Wednesday, when Preston Manning did this in a long, clear, contentious speech to the House.
Even those critics in both politics and journalism who have no time for Manning and the Reform party would recognize – if they’re fair about this speech – that it was superb.
Of course, the first media reactions to Manning’s speech have been about Reform’s re-emphasis of its position on fetal rights, homosexuality and the family, not on his analysis and prescriptions on judges. That will come, and much of it will be hostile. The point is this: a leader of a reforming party in opposition has opened a fresh front of real significance for contention between parties and public debate. The easy ride is over for Charter lovers and judges who recklessly ignore the consequences of their decisions.
Here are portions of the Reform leader’s remarks on the distinction there ought to be between the executive, Parliament, and the courts.
“We have seen the courts increasingly encroaching on the prerogatives of Parliament to the point one might argue a speech from the throne cannot be properly interpreted until one has also heard the speech from the bench.”
He cites three court rulings: the Singh decision which is still confounding government steps to halt people-smuggling; the Sharpe case that legitimized the demand for child pornography; and the Marshall decision now roiling sane management of the Atlantic fisheries. Later, Manning refers to a dozen other court decisions as more “evidence of political and social activism by the courts.”
Before this, however, Manning goes straight at Trudeau.
“The Liberal administration of Pierre Trudeau – an administration in which the current prime minister served as minister of justice – initiated and secured the passage of the Constitution Act of 1982 at the heart of which was a constitutional device similar in principle, not to the constitution of the United Kingdom but to that of the United States.
“I refer of course to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms included in the Constitution Act of 1982 … for the first time in Canada, a constitutionally entrenched guarantee of civil rights serving the same function in Canada as the U.S. Bill of Rights, but without any of the checks and balances on the three branches of government contained in the U.S. Constitution.”
“With the introduction of the Charter … ‘a great departure’ began from the historic division of responsibility between Parliament and the courts, which continues to this very day. The consequences … include the replacement of the supremacy of Parliament by the supremacy of the Constitution as interpreted by the judges, a transfer of power from Parliament and the legislatures to the courts, including a transfer of the ultimate right of interpretation; and the thrusting of unelected judges with no direct accountability to the people into the realm of social decision-making and political activism.
“The consequences of this great departure and political activism of the courts are enormous, far beyond legal and academic questions regarding changes to the balance of responsibility between the courts and the Parliament.”
After citing particular consequences, Manning promised that shortly he would lay before Parliament a number of measures “for more clearly delineating the line between ourselves and the courts.”
These would include “a process of pre-legislative review to ensure Parliament clearly specifies within each statute it passes the intent of that statute, and obtains independent legal advice of the Charter compatibility of bills before they leave this place rather than after.”
“These remedial measures will also include the establishment of a judicial review committee of Parliament to prepare an appropriate parliamentary response to those court decisions which misconstrue Parliament’s intent, including the appropriate use of the ‘notwithstanding’ clause which is just as much a part of our Constitution as is the Charter.
“This is an urgent issue … it affects immediate issues like the protection of children from the child pornography industry, the resolution of the people-smuggling problem on the West Coast and the violent confrontation between aboriginal and non-aboriginal fishermen on the East Coast.”
This robust, partisan counter-attack against the Charter’s consequences opens a most useful and needed reappraisal of where power and responsibility should be in Canada. It also makes a fine birthday present for at least one 1919er.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 13, 1999
ID: 12981237
TAG: 199910131678
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 17


Once more Parliament is sitting, a fresh session opening with a speech put in the Governor General’s mouth. It was strong on governmental self-satisfaction, as usual, and it got a diverse swatch of critiques from MPs of the four opposition parties, as also is standard.
The reviews from journalists will be more indifferent than harsh. It’s a basic view of the press gallery that the throne speech never has much significance, being as boring as Parliament itself.
It’s taken for granted by old hands that speeches from the throne in majority Parliaments are of minor importance, and that neither the opening speeches nor the return of the MPs to the chamber rouses much interest in citizens, perhaps because they accept Jean Chretien’s repetitious assertion that “Canada is the best country in the world.”
There’s an “old hat” tinge to the Chretien government. Why not? We have a majority Parliament at mid-point between general elections, and both Chretien and his only notable colleague, Finance Minister Paul Martin, have been seven years in their roles.
Chretien is so familiar, and somehow almost harmless. He’s not become a PM for public hating, like so many of his predecessors. In mid-summer he shook up his cabinet a bit, losing a few ministers, demoting a few, but this created neither general excitement nor higher expectations.
The only matter which really seems to continue agitating the political press and some still ambitious Liberal MPs is whether the PM really will go for a third mandate some time in the next two years. Yet spinning on and on about his staying or going is bootless. Unless he has a stroke or the economy suddenly collapses or separatism rockets skyward next year in Quebec, a third run is in the bag.
The regime of party, cabinet, caucus and mandarinate which he commands is strong and durable. Above all, he seems to have nothing to fear from any public animosity over one aspect in his governance – how inconsequential Parliament seems to be.
Parliament, in particular the House of Commons, has been and may be again a democratic fail-safe of sorts. Nevertheless, most of the media coverage and, one assumes, the public notice which Parliament gets, comes from highly stylized partisan chafing in the daily question period, not its debates or the bills it considers.
In the days and weeks when the House is at work question period provides a ready agenda for federal coverage. But the House rarely sits more than half the year. It also spends most of its time in proceedings after QP. These are euphemistically called “debates” and usually less than 40 of the 300-odd MPs are in the chamber, and rarely more than one cabinet minister.
It’s noticeable in this House of five parties that each one is controlled and directed closely by its leader and those in the leader’s hired cadre. During debates the House is neither the preferred forum of the party leaders nor of reporters. It’s a safe wager that by Friday this week, aside from the partisan fooferaw of QP, the House will be flat and largely unattended.
What would remedy this slightness, this near irrelevance of speech and presence in the House? And, in a democratic sense, does it really matter much?
A brief answer to the first question is simply a minority Parliament, one where the government can never be sure of surviving a vote of confidence.
It’s been hard for me to reach full frankness to the second question. But the answer is “No!” It no longer matters that Parliament is a bore whose activities go largely unnoticed. A realist sees there is no determined drive among MPs to reform House practices drastically – say by curbing the caucus whips – nor enough citizens who care whether or not Parliament is dull, dull, dull.
Five federal elections in modern memory created genuine minority parliaments – 1957, 1962, 1963, 1972, and 1979. Each one of those Parliaments was tense and exciting, so unlike this House and the last House.
Further, on three occasions major, national crises made majority Parliaments tingle for a few weeks with apprehension and contention: the October crisis of 1970 over separatist excesses; the fiery passage into law of the free trade agreement with the U.S.; and the installation of the GST during Brian Mulroney’s second mandate. As we turn toward the new century nothing of comparable magnitude seems likely.
If the next election produces a minority government the subsequent Parliament may not last long but it will not seem irrelevant nor the MPs mostly bores.
The truly essential function of an MP is completed on election night in the determination of which leader and party have the most seats. And when a leader has the seats to defeat no-confidence motions in the House then Parliament will be dull through all or most of its duration.
It seems obvious the Liberals in power will never open up the present controls they have of the House. Nothing Reform has advocated or the Tories showed when in power indicates changes toward a more exciting Parliament unless one or the other gets the largest number of MPs, but not a majority.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 10, 1999
ID: 12980924
TAG: 199910101466
SECTION: Comment


“I didn’t blow it,” said Jean Chretien. “We could not anticipate. We could not prejudge.”
This was the prime minister’s response last week to the latest in a string of serious, costly commotions which have followed decisions on native rights by the Supreme Court.
But did Chretien blow it? Should he have anticipated tensions, even unto riots, in Maritime communities if the Court ruled natives had a right to fish because of a treaty made 239 years ago?
(Especially since so many Court decisions have favoured native claims, and thousands who are not natives have long had livelihoods from the fisheries, which has meant federal licences and conforming to regulations on periods when no catches may be made.)
Obviously, the top court’s ruling in favour of the Indians, thus opening wide their right to catch, means less of a renewable but limited resource for the licence-holders.
A casual acquaintance, and a Liberal, had an instant excuse for Chretien: that clearly he never believed the court would be so short of common sense as to drop such a bomb of a ruling without a single qualification on scope and timing.
Lord help us! We’re really in a bad way if Jean Chretien doesn’t know by now what the court has been doing in favouring aboriginal claims, so much so we seem doomed for perpetuity to have the most distinctive, costliest-per-capita aboriginals in the world, with over 500 “nations” and annual federal spending of over $7 billion a year and still rising.
Whatever one’s take on Chretien as prime minister, most of us accept he’s smart and quick – someone who doesn’t forget where he’s been and what he’s done. And not only was he longer at the Indian Affairs ministry than any other politician, those were the pivotal years, setting up today’s dilemmas.
Chretien brought forth a “new vision” white paper on Indian policy (1969), then disowned it within a year in the face of native determination not to be freed from Ottawa’s grasp.
Why recapitulate what Chretien and Pierre Trudeau said on behalf of their white paper in 1969, the prescription they ditched within a year? Because what they were saying seems so sensible and trenchant today in light of the sky-high costs, and contentiousness in native affairs today because of the feudal like “blood right” to unique entitlements.
Scan these sentences from what Chretien and Trudeau said 30 years ago, and then ask yourself two questions.
First, wasn’t their “new” road of 1969 a sensible one to take? Second, could some federal party today throw political correctness aside and revive that vision as the only fair, workable, and democratic road for all Canadians?
In the House, in June, 1969, Chretien said: “Canadians, Indians and non-Indians, stand at the crossroads. For Canadian society the issue is whether a growing element of its population will become full participants contributing in a positive way to the general well-being or whether, conversely, the present social and economic gap will lead to their increasing frustration, a threat to the general well-being of society.
“For many Indian people, the road does exist, the only road that has existed since Confederation and before: the road of different status, a road which has led to a blind alley of deprivation and frustration. This road … cannot lead to full participation, to equality in practice as well as in theory … the government will offer another road that would gradually lead away from different status to full social, economic and political participation in Canadian life. This is the choice.”
In August, 1969, Trudeau told MPs: “We can go on treating the Indians as having a special status … adding bricks of discrimination around the ghetto in which they live … Or we can say you’re at a crossroads – the time is now to decide whether the Indians will be a race apart in Canada or whether they will be Canadians of full status.”
(In passing, you should note that the stress by Trudeau and Chretien on a single “status” for all Canadian citizens was in line with their stands then and much later against “special status” or “particular status” for Quebec and Quebecers.)
Today, few among our millions of adult citizens realize what political correctness and court decisions, reflecting a huge national guilt built on the long witness of Indian poverty and unemployment, have brought us to in aboriginal affairs. They have saddled present and future generations of non-native Canadians with almost limitless costs, a crazy quilt of jurisdictions, and health, welfare and education benefits to the grave for natives with “status.” Even a separate judicial, police and penal system is in prospect, three decades after the white paper of 1969 was abandoned.
Since then Ottawa has spent well over $60 billion on native affairs, and each year legislation and court decisions up the ante. Hardly a week goes by without harsh confrontations somewhere over fish and game and logging and land, water, and landlord rights. And no more than 3.5% of the population, scattered from sea to sea and from the 49th parallel to the high Arctic, has been developing what is a fourth tier of government – untidy but with increasing powers – to bedevil the federal, provincial and municipal tiers.
It is three decades since Trudeau and Chretien abandoned a common citizenship for all and accepted a special status in perpetuity for those with native blood, including communal control of property and resources within native lands and the enshrinement of aboriginal rights in the Constitution. Aside from Trudeau no one person is more responsible than Chretien for the costly chaos we have in native matters, with no likely escape from it, even in the long term.
Even so, it is clear and stark, and should be to him, that a prime minister and cabinet must accept that in this field, as in a few others (feminism, for example), the Supreme Court of Canada is long on idealism and short on common sense.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, October 06, 1999
ID: 12980383
TAG: 199910061675
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


The latest news about our federal parties is of the “nothing new under the sun” variety. Liberals riding high!
Liberal supporters have told pollsters they do not want Jean Chretien to retire, and one cannot locate any strong intimations he’ll not go for a third mandate.
Voters of all, or no, partisan persuasions have given Chretien a wide margin over Joe Clark, Preston Manning and Alexa McDonough, in that order. Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois doesn’t really register, but it’s improbable that next time his party would not manage to hold 20-30 of its present 40 seats in Parliament.
Reform Leader Manning has had a long, forlorn recess. Tory Leader Clark, self-led, and repeating his mantra of “a national party” that is known and respected in Quebec, is able to scoff at Manning’s United Alternative after the big Tory policy conference last week. In the new House session beginning next week Manning needs what he’s not fashioned over the past six years: i.e., stunning, personal performances in the House. He should shine, and he ought to shine, in the one place where Clark has chosen not to be – Parliament.
The latest opinion polling shows a small majority of voters would like Chretien to retire, and another question shows they would choose Paul Martin as the successor PM, not Manning or Clark, and not Allan Rock, John Manley, or Jane Stewart. (Martin drew five times the support of any other federal minister.)
The most striking opinions to be drawn from what’s happened or failed to happen in the parliamentary recess are of: 1) Joe Clark’s remarkable resilience some 23 years after he was first chosen Progressive Conservative leader; 2) what Clark’s renaissance is doing to Manning’s reputation for astuteness and organizing genius.
After last weekend’s Tory meeting in Toronto the besought United Alternative for the next campaign needs a miracle.
Although Manning still has three times more MPs than Clark and can lead them from the newsy platform of the House, at this point a sane bettor would not wager that after the next election the Tories won’t have more MPs than he will.
Manning has failed in his master plan to hurry into power and office in the name of ousting the Grits. How could one so knowledgeable of our political history have swallowed the guidance of Rick Anderson on the UA? Anderson is the former Liberal savant-spinner who became Manning’s amanuensis and surrogate within the party a few years ago.
By placing such a huge emphasis on readying for the next election, the Reform leader has turned the focus of voters to the weakness within the parliamentary institution of four opposition parties and not on to Jean Chretien as a glib lightweight with a cabinet that is pedestrian to incompetent at best.
During the recess the NDP caucus lost an MP to the Tory caucus and a takeover of power in Manitoba by its provincial party is more than countered by earlier low, hurtful finishes in the Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick elections and the sad disarray of the NDP government in B.C., now under an interim leader. The party retained a majority government in Saskatchewan only by a post-election coalescing with three Liberal MLAs. (Yes, Liberal MLAs! Sleep on, Ross Thatcher and Tommy Douglas.)
One stresses the NDP’s provincial situations because it’s unique in the fact its membership covers both the federal party and a provincial one.
As winter approaches Buzz Hargrove, the Canadian Auto Workers’ chief, a vociferous critic of McDonough’s, moves to shift the federal NDP’s program emphasis toward the centre, is rising even more rapidly in brash confidence than Clark, mostly through tidy new contracts he’s getting with the Big Three. His rants that McDonough, etc. are abandoning the workers, forcing unionists to take their votes elsewhere is arrogant, given his CAW cannot even deliver seats to the NDP in Oshawa and Windsor. Nonetheless, Hargrove undercuts McDonough’s national stature and that of her caucus, as does the “patsy” deal with the Liberals in Saskatchewan.
Take the modestly healthful situation of the economy. Add in the slide in backing for the separatists in Quebec. Then consider the obvious dilemmas of the official opposition and the NDP wherever it is, except in Manitoba. No wonder pollsters find the Liberals have a prospective third majority in a row, and this still under Chretien’s leadership.
Many of us bridle because Chretien stands so well with so many voters. We doubt he has a considered vision of the way ahead. Nevertheless, it is truly remarkable so many ordinary people still trust him after his 30 years of high profile exposure. And Clark’s seeming rescue of the Tories from near oblivion to eclipse Reform east of Saskatchewan makes him a sure-shot repeater, if he wants it.
– – –
In my last column about the unfairness of the PMO’s promotion of minister Jane Stewart as a likely successor for Jean Chretien, my memory failed me. I must apologize to Joan Bryden, a veteran Southam reporter on the Hill. She had not, as I wrote, pushed the aforesaid promotion of Stewart. I confused her copy with that of others.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, October 03, 1999
ID: 12980062
TAG: 199910031787
SECTION: Comment


Do you relish books by Canadians which expand what you know of how we came to be as we are?
May I tout four new books? Disparate though they are in times and topics, each underpins or connects with political matters and current topics. Three were written by academics but none is stuffy: The Time to Say Goodbye: The Case for Getting Quebec Out of Canada by Reed Scowen (McClelland & Stewart); Walter Gordon & the Rise of Canadian Nationalism by Stephen Azzi (McGill-Queen’s University Press); Ernest LaPointe and Quebec’s Influence on Canadian Foreign Policy by John MacFarlane (U of T Press); and Canada’s Navy: The First Century by Marc Milner (U of T Press).
Despite the title of his book, Reed Scowen is not a rabble- rouser or tainted with animosity to the Quebecois. Indeed, his thesis that Canada without Quebec would do better in most ways, particularly in making the federal system effective, reminds me of the point Rene Levesque made to me a week before his sudden death in punchy words like this: “Look. Without us you’ll fly! We hold you back. We frustrate you. In Canada we always will.”
Scowen’s entitlement as an Anglo-Quebecer to be so cavalier about the split of splits rests on the roles he’s filled in Quebec as an economist, businessman, member of the National Assembly, adviser to Robert Bourassa when he was premier and Quebec’s delegate both in Europe and in the U.S. Few, if any Anglo-Quebecers have worked so closely and diligently in Quebec politics. This explains the authority with which he describes Quebecois nationalism and its inexorable drive for autonomy. It is not just in the separatist party now in power but infects its official opposition, the Liberals.
Would that it were possible in the next decade for Canada “to divest” itself of Quebec, as he suggests with regret. (After it happened he would continue as a Montrealer.)
It’s not that I think such a shorn Canada would not work and prosper. A great leap forward would follow. But it seems to me events since the PQ came to power in 1976 show federalism there as too strong and resilient to cave in, and that a rather pragmatic populace knows federalism’s advantages.
Ponder the question with which Scowen closes: “In your heart do you believe the Constitution and the laws of your country should give special recognition to a single linguistic, cultural and ethnic group, the French, now and forever? The laws of Quebec do this today, and francophone Quebecers will never accept the Canadian Constitution as legitimate until it, also, includes that recognition.”
Stephen Azzi is a young historian at Carleton who writes well and fairly. His work on Walter Gordon, the nationalist hero made famous by the Toronto Star in Beland Honderich’s heyday, is neither eulogistic nor destructive.
Gordon figured largely in resurrecting the Grits in the five years after their electoral debacle in 1958. But Prof. Azzi is convincing in showing that the wealthy Gordon, from a prominent Toronto family, and who knew many at the top in corporations, politics and the mandarinates, was weak at economic analysis and misunderstood much in fiscal and monetary affairs as he became minister of finance in 1963. Also, he was woeful as a speaker, and shy and stiff as a broker of ideas and persons within the cabinet, caucus, and Parliament.
On the other hand, Gordon was deeply dedicated both to helping the country’s underdogs and to mastering the perils to both our national sense and our political independence from the thrust of American businesses and political policies. He was also modest, never letting it be known he was a generous philanthropist or that he suffered severely from the pain of gout through his adult life. His dual nemeses as a cabinet minister were a prime minister who quickly came to mistrust his judgment and a senior colleague, Mitchell Sharp – still functioning as Jean Chretien’s adviser – who bucked what he saw as Gordon’s anti-Americanism and the economic ignorance in his budget aims.
It’s surprising how much useful background for appreciating the books by Scowen and Azzi one finds in the clear narrative by historian John MacFarlane on how Ernest Lapointe, a Liberal MP from 1904-41, served as Quebec “lieutenant” to W.L. Mackenzie King for over 20 years. His role was a main key in King’s survival and his long run as prime minister.
Despite a mutual trust that was occasionally shaken but not broken, King and Lapointe were colleagues, not bosom friends. King neither knew well nor much appreciated Quebecers. He was too serious a Presbyterian, and chary of Catholicism. He needed and developed in Lapointe, not just a Quebec guide but a delegated decision-maker – on appointments, on external affairs, provincial relations and Quebec’s often messy politics. Lapointe was a physical giant and as orator he mesmerized the House and drew crowds on the hustings.
The spine to MacFarlane’s thesis on Lapointe-King is in case after case through many years in which Lapointe rejects what the prime minister intends to do, notably in relation to dealings with the British Commonwealth, the League of Nations, the U.S., to Vichy France under Hitler’s sway, and most of all to the manpower issues in World War II that might mean conscription to the forces.
At least in my hindsight, Lapointe’s influence was useful as well as large for it helped muffle the early emergence in the war of the bitter divisiveness which fouled and degraded what had been a magnificent effort by Canada in World War I.
Marc Milner’s Canada’s Navy is a splendid appraisal of the navy’s century, and it highlights, but is not dominated by, the navy’s growth and its activities in the two big and long wars. For example, it will bring a reader up to date on the still spreading ramifications from the politics of national defence that developed after the remarkable fleet and numerous personnel developed in World War II was downsized and then shaped and shifted toward Cold War imperatives.
There is much in the book on Paul Hellyer’s ill-conceived and foolish unification of the services in the 1960s to which the navy showed the most bitter antagonism. By and large, unification has now been phased away.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 29, 1999
ID: 12979545
TAG: 199909291709
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
SET UP … Jane Stewart, federal Human Resources Minister, showed early promise and has been promoted. But is it cruel to rush politicians beyond their capabilities?


Is another Kim Campbell on the ascent in the Ottawa firmanent? And has Jean Chretien a cruel streak to go with that penchant for meanness?
The prospective Kim II as a party leader and a prime minister is Jane Stewart.
The tragedy looming, put in maritime language, is that Stewart’s a slight, defenceless capelin, not a predator shark like former Tory PM Campbell or even a few of her ministerial Liberal colleagues: Sheila Copps, Ann McLellan and Hedy Fry.
Jane Stewart is 44. She’s been the MP for Brant in Ontario since the 1993 election.
As the first House of Commons of the Chretien era began, Stewart won an astonishing plum for a new recruit. She became chair of the national Liberal caucus, handling the weekly meetings so vital for the leader and caucus loyalty. She got the post totally because Chretien was determined she should.
This was how the choice was explained: 1) the PM was ticketing Stewart for quick experience and a rapid rise; 2) women were to have top roles in his ministry and caucus; 3) the PM had had a lengthy friendship with Stewart’s father, Bob Nixon, a long-time Grit leader in Ontario politics and the man Chretien chose to investigate the patronage Liberals perceived in the contracts for Pearson airport expansion which Campbell had approved.
Quick promotions came for Stewart: in January, 1996 she joined cabinet as minister of national revenue; in June, 1997 she moved up to Indian and Northern Affairs; and in August, 1999 she got the big budget ministry of Human Resources. (Recall that Brian Mulroney rocketed Kim Campbell from new MP through three portfolios, including high-profile Justice and then Defence.)
Very well, readers may say, Stewart showed promise and Chretien has promoted her. What’s this cruelty you’re sniffling about?
The answer is simply that Stewart has no obvious strengths across the board of attributes and talents which make for a potentially exceptional politician and prime minister.
She hasn’t a strong personality. She hasn’t a captivating voice or memorable turns of phrase or a vivid vocabulary. Nor does she have the appearance of a public figure who is riveting or magnetic at work. And she seems without expert knowledge in any field.
She’s clearly a nice person – decent, presentable and usually well-mannered. She’s capable of studying a brief and capturing it well enough to present its gists, but she seems unable to freewheel and improvise in either debate or in response to hard questions. Whenever she got “in tight” in the House, notably in handling Indian Affairs issues, she panicked away from reasonable or ably discursive discourse into ill-tempered charges of “racist” and “racism” at her partisan questioners.
In the House, Stewart was unconvincing in explaining either the major legislation she introduced (relating to long-term settlements with bands in Yukon and the Territories) or the plans of her government following the controversial and expensive decision by Chief Justice Lamer on the N’sga land case in B.C. The opposition, notably Reformers, treated Stewart kindly on native issues, in contrast to the beat they mounted against Justice Minister Anne McLellan over gun control.
While performing in the House or in committee, Stewart was less harrowing to observe at work than either Diane Marleau or Christine Stewart (both now departed) or David Collenette and Laurence MacAulay (still in cabinet), but that isn’t much to say for someone strongly touted by the PMO as a prime leadership prospect and future PM.
Who’s touting Jane Stewart? I’ve seen mentions of her for the top job in stories in the past six weeks by seven different Hill journalists, the most recent by Jim Travers, a fresh voice on the Hill for TorStar. But the chief beaters of the Stewart drum are not surprising, although ironic.
Why ironic? Because they work for papers owned by Conrad Black, now featured as at loggerheads with the PM.
In particular, Joan Bryden, a veteran Hill hand for Southam and the Ottawa Citizen, and Lawrence Martin, Citizen columnist and Chretien biographer, have been promoting Stewart as a coming entrant and rival for Paul Martin, Allan Rock, Brian Tobin, etc. Neither one makes his or her own case for Stewart as worthy of such a future except through intimations that sources within the PMO or the Liberal caucus are excited by Stewart’s work in the contentious Indian Affairs portfolio. They note Chretien has been so pleased with her he’s given her even larger responsibilities.
I asked another journalist who works for Black about the ramp for Stewart being built by reporters close to the PMO.
“Ah, it’s been too obvious to miss,” he said.
But surely it is cruel to puff a politician beyond his or her abilities? It happened with Kim Campbell; to a degree it happened with Sergio Marchi.
My source replied that everyone in the media knows Chretien is the source and director of the Stewart boom. Some think this is sheer devilment – making life rougher for would-be successors Martin and Rock.
And some even believe the PM sees Stewart’s scenario as much like his own – coming unheralded from the boondocks, handling Indian Affairs well and going upward to programs which touch millions of people. And she’s his kind of Liberal – pragamatic, down to earth and sharp at accepting and following good counsel.
I think Chretien and his PMO are being cruel again, as they were weeks ago in touting Lloyd Axworthy, serious, earnest Lloyd, as Governor General.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 26, 1999
ID: 12979226
TAG: 199909261542
SECTION: Comment


Two decades ago Pierre Trudeau observed that MPs were nobodies beyond Parliament Hill. Today they’re nonentities on it as well. As proof of this, take this week’s announcement that the current Parliament is to be prorogued so that the Chretien government can bring in a Throne Speech next month.
With this latest delay in its return, the House of Commons – the institution meant to embody our democracy – will have averaged less than 120 sitting days per year throughout the 1990s. Canada’s legislature enjoys the doubtful distinction of sitting for fewer days per year than either its British or U.S. counterparts (12% and 20% fewer days respectively).
Should we blame Machiavellian Prime Ministers and their shadowy aides for this degeneration of Canadian democracy? The reality is more complex. Parliament wasn’t so much murdered as let slip away to death through years of neglect, as those responsible for her – the Prime Minister, cabinet, the civil service, the courts, government MPs and even opposition leaders – pursued their own agendas and sought other routes to both power and influence. In this they have been aided and abetted by the media.
Why Prime Ministers and cabinet ministers should wish to smother Parliament is obvious. It’s easier to get on with the important things – meeting and mollifying interest groups, developing policies, handing out money, making speeches, and collecting donations – if you don’t have to answer questions from your enemies for two-thirds of the year. The public disinterest in politics this engenders doesn’t hurt either, as this favours the incumbent over the opposition.
Senior mandarins also find life less stressful without Parliament. Question Period panics most ministers, leading them to stick their noses into matters best left to the professionals. And there’s little glory these days for a Deputy Minister who appears before a Parliamentary committee to clean up a mess left behind by his/her minister.
The courts joined the parliamentary health care team in 1982, prescribing an activist regimen which has seriously undermined an already weakened body politic. As the soon-to-depart Chief Justice of the Supreme Court succinctly put it – if government (i.e. Parliament) doesn’t act, the courts will. And they have, as have human rights commissions, using the Charter of Rights sledgehammer to force changes to laws and programs approved by Parliament. And why not? They don’t have to find the money for the changes (Parliament does!). “Custom” says politicians shouldn’t criticize the courts; and the media are usually on-side.
Why government backbenchers have colluded in Parliament’s demise is harder to understand. After all, it IS a major forum in which they may prove themselves, and they face as much (if not more) abuse from constituents as opposition MPs do for acting like “trained seals” there. But the lure of possible advancement, if not to cabinet than to a parliamentary secretaryship, committee chairmanship or party-related position (all pretty much in the PM’s power to bestow) has proven too great. Fear of an angry PM or a loyal-to-the-top riding association denying them the nomination the next time around, and the need to win a second term in order to qualify for a pension have been factors in such mass, backbench acquiescence.
In their search for life beyond Parliament, Liberal backbenchers recently launched caucus committees to investigate various issues and report back to caucus (and more importantly, to the PM). This furthered the undermining of the legitimacy of the parliamentary committees they sit on – in effect, conceding such House work is bootless.
This week Preston Manning tried to cash in on our disappearing Parliament, only to reveal that his own attitudes towards Parliament differ little from those of the Prime Minister. With the Press Gallery in tow, Manning appeared in the House of Commons foyer to “ask” the questions he says he’d have put to the government if the House were sitting. His comeuppance came when his own poor attendance at Question Period was noted. Manning and Joe Clark (who has shown no interest in even seeking a parliamentary seat) wish to replace Chretien – not to change the system that gives him such great power.
The Reform leader functions for more of the year in Calgary than he does in Ottawa. It is to the credit of Alexa McDonough and the NDP that they have taken a strong line on Parliament’s prerogatives. I think Reform’s greatest shortcoming in Ottawa has been its leader’s fixation on the next election, not on fulfilling his caucus’s role in Parliament, but to crown this indifference there has been Reform’s failure to find any common ground with MPs of other parties on this issue, so that Canadians would no longer have to say – as they do now in poll after poll – that Parliament is irrelevant to them.
Is it not possible to find a half-dozen Liberal MPs who believe that making Parliament relevant and effective would be a better use of their time than worrying about displeasing their leader? Were that number to join an effort to revitalize the House, the PM would have to listen – his majority is that slim.
The group could request more sitting days, more ministerial appearances before committees, and a halt to the “whipping” of government MPs on committees to keep them in line. It might also seek to have the government present its legislative proposals to committee at an early stage – and desist from the current practice of “consulting” with “interested parties” (lobby groups) so thoroughly that real parliamentary input is effectively forestalled. (See the ONEX mess.)
Recently I offered a ten-best list of members of Parliament for the past 40 years. I assumed that individual MPs from both the government and opposition could make a positive contribution to our national well-being. Given how desiccated our parliamentary democracy has become, one fears we will never again see the likes of a Stanley Knowles or a Ged Baldwin.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 22, 1999
ID: 12978671
TAG: 199909221729
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 17
Next resident of Rideau Hall


Who would have expected this would be the month and the year for bashing governors-general, including the one to come, the one retiring, and at this moment, the second of the five appointees we have had from the field of partisan politics, Ed Schreyer, a former NDP MP and an ex-premier?
What any governor general did or might do, either politically or socially, has never seemed vital to me, and certainly not deserving of the flush in mean nastiness by journalists about Adrienne Clarkson and her consort. Of course, this just shows the media’s widespread disrespect for the office and its constitutional functions (which are almost all ceremonial).
My own authority to comment knowledgeably on the Clarkson-plus-Saul appointment is, as Stephen Lewis might say, far from profound.
Once, over 30 years, ago Clarkson and I got in each other’s way in a confused attempt by each of us, for different employers, to carry out together a filmed interview in a room at the Park Plaza Hotel in Toronto with Hans Suyin, then a best-selling novelist and a noted friend of Chairman Mao. Adrienne got in most of the questions and garnered the most lucid responses. I slunk away from my disaster determined never again to share her active presence.
Maintaining such an exclusion has been easy but it didn’t rule out reading subsequently two of her novels, one of which was modestly competent and entertaining; the other, quite a political one, was a “turkey.” My reading extended to John Ralston Saul’s recent epic Voltaire’s Bastards, a showy parade of analysis in the mode of an 18th century French ‘philosophe’ like Jean-Jacques Rousseau or Dennis Diderot. It also reminded me of some recent thoughts of Bruce Powe and of some anti-technocracy rants by the late George Grant. This big book of Mr. Saul’s, rather than his adventure novels, has led some of this month’s mockers to tag him as a left-wing intellectual and so, twinned with his older and long-time lifemate, it means a joint anti-American presence of fervent Canadian nationalism of the Walter Gordon-Mel Hurtig sort in what has been the most politically innocuous, high function in the country.
Whatever the cosmopolitanism, erudition, salon-socialism, and snobbery, real or imagined, which our new representative of the crown and her husband may have, they promise to keep on providing through her entire term a running web of stories, pro and con, on their social and political antics, something we’ve not really had around Ottawa since Pierre Trudeau, once again a bachelor, left in 1984. And as a combination, Adrienne and John Ralston are a variegated motherlode of attributes and tags.
Canada’s first proven-by-performance authors and journalists in the vice-regal chairs! Further in a country which has constitutionally enshrined multiculturalism within its quickly-sacred charter of rights and freedoms, Adrienne is a super-symbol of it: a “visible,” a tri-lingualist, and not just an immigrant but a child-refugee. Further, through the major communications institution of the federal government, her adult abilities have been witnessed by viewers of CBC-TV for almost as long as Pierre Berton, Betty Kennedy, and Fred Davis appeared on Front Page Challenge.
And Adrienne’s mate is not just any army brat who grew up in military camps, but the son of a distinguished officer of the famous Princess Patricia’s Regiment who served in action in WW II and afterwards carried on as a military attache in Europe for the Canadian government.
I have my own hunch about the Clarkson-plus-Saul appointment. Some will think it far-fetched. It comes from the credit I’ve long given to Jean Chretien as less stodgy and more Machiavellian than so many take him to be. He knew the appointment would be a cause celebre from its announcement and would recur as such, again and again. I don’t think he counted on it figuring in the bitter striving between the National Post and the Globe and Mail as it already has, but he will be enjoying that conflict, given his irritation with Conrad Black and his chain, expressed most persistently in the Post’s anti-Liberal partisanship. I think further that he has calculated the Clarkson-Ralston combination as both reflector and interpreter as he turns from deficit-beating to being a “real” Liberal again, in a kinder, more cerebral and cultured Ottawa.
Jean Chretien knows that Adrienne Clarkson knows the codes for high-level patronage appointees. She conformed unobtrusively to the code as an appointee of an Ontario premier in Paris; she has conformed as the appointed head of the board of directors for the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. She and her mate are too sophisticated to play nationalist Messiahs for the next five or six years at Rideau Hall. Let’s try to enjoy rather than merely endure what they’ll be up to in words and deeds.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 19, 1999
ID: 12529247
TAG: 199909191504
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: colour drawing
COLUMN: Backgrounder


The century’s closing has made ratings all the rage: of prime ministers, books, authors, movies, hockey players, etc. And so a suggestive question came to me from a reader: “Why don’t you make a list of the top federal politicians since the end of World War II?”
He enclosed as a possible model a piece from Britain’s Sunday Independent (Aug. 8) headlined “Twenty who prove that politics is worth the candle,” written by Alan Watkins.
The veteran journalist chose both his top 10 cabinet ministers and his top 10 backbenchers for the half-century. His talent pool was much larger, given the U.K. has over twice the number of MPs Canada has; however, cabinets there have had up to a third fewer ministers than ours.
The British always have many more plain MPs with “safe” seats than we have, making for a cadre of veteran backbenchers, and they disregard promotion and pursue particular issues or causes, often gaining more fame than ministers in major portfolios. We have had far fewer dedicated loners.
First, and in chronological order, come my top 10 ministers, excluding prime ministers, followed by my top 10 backbenchers, excluding leaders of opposition parties.
PAUL MARTIN, SR. (Ontario Liberal MP, 1935-68, minister of Health, 1946-57, and External Affairs, 1963-68). A most crafty, persistent parliamentarian, in power or in opposition, and a trouble-free minister. Counting seven Senate years he was on the Hill for 40 years.
BROOKE CLAXTON (Montreal Liberal MP, 1940-54, minister of Defence, 1946-54). A tough-minded man of ideas he managed the Korean war effort well and his pushing did the most to determine there would be federal aid to the arts and higher education.
JACK PICKERSGILL (Newfoundland Liberal MP, 1953-68, minister in three portfolios and the House leader, first in opposition, 1957-63, and then in government, 1963-65). “Pick,” an effective, deadly enemy of John Diefenbaker, both masterminded the Liberals’ recovery of power in 1963 (more than Lester Pearson or Walter Gordon did) and through astute handling of the House kept them going through the ministerial scandals of the mid-1960s.
HOWARD GREEN (Vancouver Tory MP, 1935-63, and minister of Public Works, Dief’s first government House leader, and then minister for External Affairs). As House leader he cajoled the government through several useful years, then by developing what seemed an anti-U.S. foreign policy on nuclear war-heads, he opened the way for a Liberal return to power.
ALLAN MacEACHEN (Nova Scotia Liberal MP, 1953-58, 1962-84, and variously minister of Labour, Health & Welfare, Manpower & Immigration, Finance, External Affairs and deputy prime minister). A superb parliamentarian and political strategist and a lavish spender on Nova Scotia, he master-minded Pierre Trudeau’s second coming.
DON JAMIESON (Newfoundland Liberal MP, 1966-79, minister of five departments over 13 years, including Transport and External Affairs). Simply put, he was consistently the most entertaining, prolific speech-maker I ever heard in the House, and also the best-liked minister by MPs of all parties.
GENE WHELAN (Ontario Liberal MP, 1962-84, Trudeau’s minister of Agriculture for 11 years). A colourful, popular minister who colloquially led “the last stand” of farmers as a prime force in federal politics.
ERIK NIELSEN (Yukon Tory MP, 1957-87, Brian Mulroney’s House leader in opposition and in power, and both the deputy PM and minister of Defence for several years). Feared and hated by the Liberals, for a key period he kept a fractious caucus from disintegrating.
DON MAZANKOWSKI (Alberta Tory MP, 1968-84, variously Mulroney’s government House leader, deputy PM, and minister of Transport, Agriculture and Finance). Ranks with Pickersgill and MacEachen as a genius in parliamentary and caucus matters.
PAUL MARTIN, JR. (Montreal Liberal MP, 1988-?, and Jean Chretien’s Finance minister). Clearly the most effective minister of Finance since James Ilsley’s term from 1940-46.
– – –
Some readers will be asking: How can he leave out the likes of Walter Gordon or Mitchell Sharp or Jean Luc Pepin or Marc Lalonde, or Donald Fleming or George Hees or John Crosbie? And why not the two most able female ministers: Judy LaMarsh or Monique Begin?
Ah, well. Let me encapsule my reasoning on at least two of the above. First, Walter Gordon: his ideas were influential but he was a dud in the House, screwed up as finance minister and bailed out of electoral politics early. Second, George Hees: a reformist transport minister, a bouncy trade minister and, much later, a splendid head of Veterans Affairs, he too bailed out with his government and caucus in crisis.
STANLEY KNOWLES (Winnipeg CCF-NDP MP, 1942-58, 1962-84). The most indefatigable, informed, and useful MP in Parliament through almost 40 years, and almost unchallengable as an authority on pensions, welfare and procedure.
COLIN CAMERON (B.C. CCF-NDP MP, 1953-58, 1962-68). A wonderful debater with witty literary and satirical flairs, who more than matched Diefenbaker and Jamieson in drawing an audience of MPs when word zipped around the Hill that he’d be speaking.
FRANK HOWARD (B.C. CCF-NDP MP, 1957-74). An aggressive, almost savage MP, his antics, shared by colleague Arnold Peters, accelerated divorce reform. For years he did more than any other MP to bring the sad state of natives to the political forefront.
GED BALDWIN (Alberta Tory MP, 1958-80). The closest to Stanley Knowles as an all-round MP, he pushed reform of committee work and more than anyone else got us an “access to information” law.
ARTHUR MALONEY (Ontario Tory MP, 1957-62). A great trial lawyer, as an MP he’s notable almost entirely for effectively advancing the abolition of the death penalty.
GILLES GREGOIRE (Quebec Social Credit MP, 1962-68). An adroit, sophisticated needler in both French and English, he was the first separatist to confound the House. He later became a Parti Quebecois MNA behind Rene Levesque.
JOHN MATHESON (Ontario Liberal MP, 1961-68). He’s in the history books as integral to the approval of a distinctive Canadian flag.
DON BLENKARN (Ontario Tory MP, 1972-74, 1979-93). A pugnacious simplifier, he did more as a committee activist to popularize talk about inflation, interest rates and taxes than most ministers of finance.
PATRICK BOYER (Ontario Tory MP, 1984-93). A learned, backbench author of thorough books on elections, referendums, party financing and political rights, most of it done while participating fully in House of Commons work.
SVEND ROBINSON (B.C. NDP MP, 1979-?). He seems the most unbeloved among his peers of any MP since Ralph Cowan, a maverick Liberal who openly mocked his leader, Mike Pearson. His tough, clever and showy advocacy of homosexuality has been like Matheson’s work for a flag – history-making! But he’s not been just a Johnny-one-note.
– – –
To me, more of today’s MPs are better prepared, educationally and with support, than those in my first House (1957). But the imposition of stern caucus control, often managed by the aides of party leaders, in particular those of the PM, has limited the free-wheeling and diversity of backbenchers, even more than it has curbed the emergence of any cluster of cabinet titans such as King and St. Laurent had.
Also, our Parliament as a means of leadership development has an indifferent record. Hail Jean Chretien if you wish, but what about the collapses, as leaders, of such parliamentary stars as Joe Clark, John Turner and Kim Campbell?
Now for some explanatory addenda.
Even the most cautious MP must talk, and leaders of opposition parties do a lot of it. The NDP, particularly in M.J. Coldwell, Tommy Douglas and David Lewis had top-notch talkers, and although Tory leaders George Drew (1948-56) and Bob Stanfield (1967-75) were not of Coldwell-Douglas-Lewis quality as debaters they were prime performers in their days. Stanfield, in particular left a mark by tightening roles in the official Opposition for question period and subject duties. My point is that whatever top backbenchers may have been doing, perhaps with the exception of the ubiquitous Knowles, the leaders of opposition parties got (and get) more notice.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 15, 1999
ID: 12528292
TAG: 199909151547
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 17


Two items in the news about Jean Chretien cast me back to his rise as a major politician.
One item was whether he would have anything to say about the name of the merged airlines if the Onex deal goes through: Canadian or Air Canada?
After all, Chretien, then a backbench government MP, got an act through Parliament in 1964 which changed Trans-Canada Air Lines into Air Canada, which gave him his first big notice in the national media. Not only did the name stick, it begat a host of copy-catting, in and beyond government (Hockey Canada, Transport Canada).
The other prompt on Chretien’s past was in a long National Post interview (Sept. 13) about political patronage by Rod McQueen with Pat Lavelle, a Chretien appointee who chairs a federal agency, the Export Development Corp.
Lavelle, known familiarly to reporters as “Leaky” Lavelle in the mid-’60s heyday of ministerial aides in Lester Pearson’s Ottawa, became a pal and fan of Chretien back then. He told McQueen he couldn’t claim he was the first “to encourage” Chretien to think about the PMO. Probably he was, and it has been a private matter between them for some years.
Now more of us are accepting that Chretien will be with us as national leader longer than seemed likely at his general election victory in 1993 or in late 1995 when he almost blew the Quebec referendum to the forces of Bouchard-Parizeau.
Among our major politicians since Wilfrid Laurier and W.L. Mackenzie King, only John Diefenbaker, an MP for 39 years (1940-1979), was in the federal limelight longer than Chretien has been since his arrival in Ottawa in 1963. But the Chief never served in any cabinet portfolio before becoming PM whereas Chretien had held seven of them. This month he passes Diefenbaker in terms of months in power. He’s far beyond being a survivor in politics.
Just over 23 years ago I wrote a column for the Sun headed “Jean Chretien as PM?” It brought forth much jeering – not in letters to the editor, but from some MPs and many apparatchiks of all the parties in Parliament, including Liberals. Yes, they said, Chretien was a very busy fellow but he is too rough and unpolished for the top job.
Let me replay a few paragraphs of what I wrote in mid-1976 of Chretien’s possibilities. They simplify his traits but suggest why they remain assets, not negatives.
In August, 1976, Chretien was Pierre Trudeau’s president of the Treasury Board. As such, he was both pushing to transfer lots of federal bureaucrats out of Ottawa to lesser cities and sponsoring official bilingualism, then a touchy subject. I wrote about him as a prospective PM just after he spoke to the press about bilingualism:
“After it was over one of my press colleagues … cool to French Canadians, said: ‘God, I like him.’
“Then he pushed me: ‘Isn’t he just about the most likable politician around?’
“And I could reply: ‘He’s got the touch, the common touch.’
“Now being likable in a broad and natural fashion is rare today among federal politicians. especially those in the Trudeau ministry.
“Chretien leaves a rambling wreck of English pronunciation behind him as he talks.
“As he says: ‘I have not learned to accent the right syllables’ pronouncing the last word ‘sill ah bill.’ I do not speak English as well as my boss, not nearly as well, but I think I can make out. I think I understand what they say in English and I speak back and I think they understand me.’
“One reason we do understand him is because he’s a politician who always goes to the concrete explanation, taken from plain life as most of us live it in Canada.
“Another asset he has is frankness, often at risk. I’m not sure it will advance his ambitions … to have told us yesterday that he thinks those who foster or advocate unilingualism in Quebec are ‘wrong, they’re crazy. We must learn English, otherwise we are isolated and become immobile.’
” … No obvious Anglo successor to Trudeau is at hand, assuming John Turner, in a Toronto law firm … is not at hand. Is there a French Canadian? Lalonde? Everybody shivers. Ouellet? Too young and temporarily sidetracked. Marchand or Pelletier? Gone. Played out.
“Why does Chretien seem sensible, even though the hardest chore in taking him seriously is simply to begin thinking about him as a possible prime minister?
“He’s likable, honest, durable, bright, persistent and ambitious, but above all he has the touch which a majority of ordinary Canadians sense, like and trust. A lot of that trust for English Canadians is that as he talks with us or to us we realize he’s somebody who has had to work hard and recently at being bilingual.”
At this point, with a third mandate for Chretien so eminently likely, all but the most critical Anglos are accustomed to his own particular bilingualism, and even francophones seem less derisive of it. I believe he’s getting quite arrogant in office, that he’s followed the major policy lines of Brian Mulroney, and that he has figuratively gotten away with murder on many matters – e.g., helicopters, airports, airlines, defence overload, refugees, cod and salmon fisheries, bankrupt farmers, and very scant concern for a healthy House of Commons.
Nonetheless, a dearth of alternatives has Chretien high in opinion polls just two months short of seven years at the top.
He wears well because he’s plain, familiar and, for a politician, unpretentious.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 12, 1999
ID: 12527652
TAG: 199909121466
SECTION: Comment
Died last Sunday at 78


In the 15 years before his death last week in his home constituency of Verdun in Montreal, Bryce Mackasey was not a major factor in national commentary. And so a swatch of younger people won’t know how large in the media and in topical, political folklore he was for two decades after his first election to Parliament in 1962.
In all, Mackasey was to be re-elected six times, the last time from an Ontario riding (1980-84).
Mackasey’s passing from the front of the political stage came in 1984 when the incoming prime minister, Brian Mulroney, despite their mutual Irishness, refused to leave this former minister in several Liberal administrations as our ambassador to Portugal. That sinecure had been a parting boost by the retiring Pierre Trudeau.
My take on Mackasey’s contributions to legislation of substance – and his occasionally garish political style and behaviour – is distorted, even at this long retrospect, by the close, friendly relationship we had. This developed when we were both opposition MPs in 1962 and continued in 1968 when he became Trudeau’s first minister of labour and expedited a bill regarding the effects of technological change. This was an issue which I had continued to promote as a columnist after I left Parliament in 1965.
Our friendship was much strained and then attenuated to merely cordial acquaintance in the aftermath of the October Crisis of 1970 (which stemmed from kidnappings by separatists in Quebec). There was a parliamentary imposition of the War Measures Act and hundreds of arrests in Quebec.
In subsequent months it became clear the threat to peace, order, and good government had been much exaggerated, in particular by shocking allegations of guerrilla organizations and their terrorist capabilities. One of the two chief exaggerators to the media in the cabinet was Bryce Mackasey (the other was Jean Marchand), and I was one of the journalists who believed such scary stuff when it was told to me with what seemed to be awed candour.
Fairly soon I appreciated I’d become closer to Bryce Mackasey than a skeptical columnist should.
Of course, this is an old and much repeated dilemma for any journalist-politician friendship. In my case, distancing from Bryce didn’t come easy. He was an entertaining companion and a total political animal – usually shrewd, mostly bold, often maudlin and very speculative.
Success gave Bryce an immodest but rather engaging measure of his own astuteness as a political schemer, and this became an acute problem for him with his Liberal colleagues, in particular some Ontario cabinet ministers who put much of the blame for their near defeat in the 1972 election on an “over-generous” reform of the unemployment insurance system which Bryce had engineered.
One distinguishing factor in the renaissance of the Liberals under Mike Pearson – partial in the 1962 election, then enough from the 1963 vote to unseat John Diefenbaker and make a government – was a band of fresh and very pushy MPs the voters sent to the Grit caucus.
Consider this quick list of the ambitious: John Turner, Donald Macdonald, Joe Greene, Jack Davis, Edgar Benson, John Munro, Herb Gray, Gene Whelan, Maurice Sauve, Jean Luc Pepin and, not least, Bryce Mackasey and Jean Chretien. Believe me, they formed no clique or claque (like the later Rat Pack) and were very much Lone Rangers.
None in this influx of talent was more aggressive and given to vivid postures and rollicking partisanship than Bryce Mackasey. One of his postures which most captivated Trudeau, but not Pearson, his predecessor as PM, was as the proud ex-labourer raised in a working class neighbourhood and thus, as a politician, dedicated to those less favoured.
It was this line Bryce hammered home, first in making unemployment insurance more generous and with wider eligibilities; second in legislating requirements in severance pay and pension payments for major employers who were planning permanent layoffs of magnitude. For the latter, federal agencies were to assist in readjustments for those those laid off, including training for new occupations and moves to locations where work or training was obtainable.
Such legislation and their consequences both for employers and for federal spending were most unpopular with the corporations, the chambers of commerce and most editorial opinion in the country – and Mackasey wasn’t spared.
By and large he floated with this criticism, the compensation being a widespread recognition that here was a “real Liberal.” When, as postmaster-general, he hung tough through a seven-week postal strike, his public popularity went very high.
In my judgment, for five or six years he was the most popular minister Trudeau had, even matching the regard Gene Whelan earned a bit later as “the farmers’ friend.” Almost to the close of his parliamentary days in 1984 Bryce vied with Gene as the most sought after speaker for Liberal riding association occasions.
What brought Bryce clunking down from jaunty pride to widespread scorn took considerable, emotional bombast and erratic opinions on his part about issues beyond his portfolio. This behaviour, and a disagreement with Trudeau, took him out of the cabinet. But he was not unappreciated: Trudeau made him president of Air Canada. A few months later, Joe Clark came to power and immediately sacked him.
Then, in the early 1980s, by now representing Lincoln riding in Ontario as just a plain MP, Bryce was suddenly embroiled (undeservedly at it turned out later in the courts) in sensational charges of having participated in personal graft and favours.
Both a very partisan parliamentary committee examining the role of the Montreal Gazette in developing the story and a roughly parallel court case dragged on over months.
The eventual exculpation of Bryce Mackasey by a judge never caught up with the many front-page and top-of-the- newscast reiterations about “another politician on the take.”
Without doubt, this shadow cast over Bryce’s integrity explains the strong, national affirmative Mulroney got when he cancelled the embassy post in Portugal which Trudeau had arranged. And this left Bryce at home to mull about his fall from public grace. Thus, he had a long anti-climax after extraordinary popularity and considerable legislative achievement.
Now it’s over. It’s not contradictory to think Bryce brought on so much of his troubles through over-confidence and recklessness but deserved a kinder fate, such as remembrance of what he tried to do for working people.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, September 08, 1999
ID: 12526577
TAG: 199909081400
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 17


Two new books are on hand, each rather light in its own particular way, about the 20 prime ministers Canada has had over its 133 years. But both should be useful to a partisan, or a deeply opinionated, reader.
The longer of the books, Egotists and Autocrats: The Prime Minister of Canada (Viking), is by erudite Vancouver author George Bowering. It’s a rather un-Canadian exercise in wit with many insights from beyond the usual beat of politics, notably in the substantial notice given to the personalities and influence of prime ministers’ spouses. And some of the short-run PMs like Joe Clark, John Turner and Kim Campbell are not given short shrift in terms of wordage.
The second book is an expansion from the recent, rather American-style rating in Maclean’s of our PMs by historians Jack Granatstein and Norman Hillmer. The pair now gives us a compact parade of politicians titled Prime Ministers: Ranking Canada’s Leaders (HarperCollins).
Their task was made awkward, say in contrast to rating American presidents, because five of our 20 PMs held the office for less than a year and eight for less than three years. (Whereas most of the 25 U.S. presidents since our Confederation (1867) had at least four years on the job.)
Put another way, most of the 42 presidents from George Washington to Bill Clinton have had at least one four-year term that can be rated (and 11 presidents had two terms while one, Franklin D. Roosevelt, had three and a fraction).
In Canada, four prime ministers held the office for a total of 72 years, or for well over half our federal history. (John A. Macdonald, 20 years; Wilfrid Laurier, 15 years; W.L. Mackenzie King, 22 years; Pierre Trudeau, 15 years.)
Naturally, the electoral successes of this quartet should place them at the top of ratings, with the less-than-one-year wonders at the bottom. And at the forefront of the list are King, Laurier and Macdonald, but not Trudeau. The first three are classed as “great,” followed by Louis St. Laurent (1948-57) as “near great.” Then it gets to Trudeau, in fifth place and characterized as “high average,” mostly, one gathers, because his record on the prime responsibility of a Canadian PM – the unity issue – remains dubious.
And so Trudeau is placed just above Lester Pearson (1963-68) and Robert Borden (1911-20). This seems a bit hard on Borden, given that he led Canadians into and through a terrible war in which they did well collectively, particularly in battle honours and in shucking a colonial identity.
After Borden the historians and their interlocutors rank six PMs from 8th through 13th as “average”: Brian Mulroney (1984-93), Jean Chretien (1993-present), John Thompson (1892-94), Alexander Mackenzie (1873-78), R.B. Bennett (1930-35), and John Diefenbaker (1957-63).
Arthur Meighen (1920-21 and 1926) and Joe Clark (1979-80) are ranked 14th and 15th as “low average” followed by five “failures”: Sir Charles Tupper (1896), John Abbott (1891-2), John Turner (1984), Mackenzie Bowell (1894-96) and Kim Campbell (1993).
Americans have been both more historically minded and sharply focused on their top politicians than Canadians. U.S. journalists and politicians have been rating their presidents for four or five generations. In doing so they have tended to detail most thoroughly those at the two ends of the scale – the much revered ones like Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abe Lincoln or the worst like U.S. Grant, Warren Harding and Herbert Hoover. And then they feud and haggle over the ranking for such larger-than-life but controversial presidents as Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and FDR … particularly FDR, who remains unforgiven by America’s hard right-wingers despite Ronald Reagan’s open reverence for him.
For politically minded readers the Granatstein-Hillmer exercise is worth having as a prime opener for a living room hassle among friends, not so much because of the handy ratings as for the arguments justifying them, many of which could leave a skeptic with the idea the authors have a capital “L” (for Liberal) tattooed on them somewhere.
In contrast, the romp through our PMs by George Bowering – dedicated, by the way, to Tommy Douglas – is original, entertaining, and quite a prompt to any elector’s memory. Bowering is so egalitarian he gives Meighen, Diefenbaker, Clark, Turner, and Campbell their due as distinctly representative Canadians and he aptly titles his penultimate chapter (on Jean Chretien) “Automatic Pilot”!

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, September 05, 1999
ID: 12525970
TAG: 199909051377
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: The Hill


May I offer blunt opinions on three matters: 1) the mooted merger of our two major airlines; 2) the dubious abilities of our new immigration minister; 3) the shaky chance the Alexei Yashin case may be a boon to hockey in Canada.

Among those I know there has been hesitation to be either pro or con about the bid by Onex Corp. for a merger between Air Canada and Canadian Airlines International. I think most of such hesitation comes from liking the idea of competition and disliking monopoly. Against it one sets an appreciation that although Canadian Airlines has long roots in western Canada it has been losing money year after year.
My opinion is not per se against a merger but against one engineered by such as Gerald Schwartz, the head of Onex. His bid has smelly, political features. For years he’s let himself, often jointly with his spouse, be touted as a top-line federal Liberal, and not just in giving money to the party but as one of its top bagmen.
Before the Onex proposal was announced Schwartz had put its details before the federal minister of transport, to such effect he got the cabinet to set aside the Competition Act on his bid for 90 days. Not even the heads of the Royal or the Bank of Montreal got such access and welcome about a merger. How can we help but see the Onex deal as Liberals in power abetting Liberals with money?
Years ago I had a brief chance to see Schwartz at work in Switzerland. The head of Onex has conspicuous tastes: the personal jet plane; the splendiferous estates in several countries, and the hype of high-level associations in commerce, politics and society.
Schwartz would likely define his central role as a businessman as one who salvages or rescues corporations which are either in difficulty or heading that way, usually to the benefit of their shareholders. He has never been the kind of entrepreneurial pioneer who forms a company to produce a product or a service. He’s become very wealthy, and Onex remarkably large and profitable, through expertise in takeovers and battening on the consequences of them.
The problems stemming from Canada having two major airlines were created by federal governments, and have included hundreds of millions from the federal purse. Why can’t the Chretien government direct a solution without allowing a harvest of millions for one of its top-drawer backers and his corporation?
We know Gerald Schwartz won’t be running the merged companies, and surely a far less costly expediter of a merger can be found.

Is it too soon to say Elinor Caplan is another in a long line of MPs from Toronto who proved to be duds on Parliament Hill, particularly as cabinet ministers? Not at all.
Only weeks into the Immigration portfolio, Caplan is making her predecessor, Lucienne Robillard, seem careful, informed and adroit.
Caplan has Pollyanna’s gift for reassuring fatuities. She showed this in responding to reporters’ queries on the recent landfalls in B.C. of Chinese visitors. The most obvious feature in her emptiness is a witless assumption that what may seem warmly humane and multiculturally generous in Toronto is also the stock view of our immigration and refugee system held across the country.
The minister is so clearly unready for a quality performance in a difficult portfolio it has to be maddening to the caucus that Jean Chretien chose to pluck her for promotion ahead of a half-dozen capable backbenchers from Metro with lots of experience.
It is true she joins a government which generally reacts as if our porous borders are a tribute to our collective humanity rather than the mark of lax administration and vague policy on demographic issues. Nonetheless, Caplan triggers recall of previously ballyhooed gems sent to Ottawa by Toronto constituencies.
Think of such municipal big-wigs as Phil Givens, David Crombie and Paul Cosgrove who were busts in Ottawa.
And there were advance billings of brains and dynamism for others from Toronto who became ministers. One thinks of Tony Abbott, John Roberts, Bob Stanbury, Bob Kaplan, Sergio Marchi, Martin O’Connell, Charles Caccia, Roy MacLaren, and David Collenette, even that ambitious work- in-progress, Allan Rock.

Alexei Yashin, the Ottawa Senator player who insists his contract be renegotiated upward before he’ll play this season, stands a fair chance of becoming a major marker in hockey history. His holdout may well lead to a cap on the unbridled raises in players’ pay.
It’s true Canadians are not very historical about hockey despite an obsession with it over 12 decades, but more than any other player Yashin suddenly symbolizes the inordinate distortion in hockey salaries and his conduct is generating an awareness of their own gullibility among those who buy costly tickets to watch NHL games.
Yashin has done more than other players of high quality to symbolize demands that are clearly excessive in a country whose people are raised to appraise such quality. Although he has enhanced the Ottawa franchise, competetively and artistically, he is not “the franchise.” That fact is now sinking in, locally and nationally.
Such players are rare in a sport so dependent on team play and so rife with ruinous injuries. And, comparatively, Yashin at this stage is not a Gretzky, an Orr, a Lemieux, a Jagr, or even a Lafleur or a Beliveau, either as entertainer or game winner.
With or without Yashin, the Ottawa franchise is a shaky one, although no shakier than half a dozen others in the NHL. Because of this, plus particularly Canadian tax factors, the Senators’ management cannot buckle to Yashin’s demands, not even to a sizable fraction of them. And it cannot make a deal for him without totally losing face and support locally.
If the owner stands firm and Yashin does not play for a season, there is a fair chance both NHL managements and NHL players will realize it is in the best interests of both to get a cap on skying payrolls.
If the Yashin case or a parallel one in the next year or so fails to bring practical sense into the professional league payrolls, the game in Canada will recede into something like baseball’s ancillary state here, not only in few professional franchises but in fewer kids learning the game.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 22, 1999
ID: 12522796
TAG: 199908221709
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Backgrounder


How often must we hear from Jean Chretien’s ministers of defence about “honest mistakes” within their department?
I cannot recall when we’ve ever had three defence ministers in a row who seem so out of touch with the department and its personnel numbering in the tens of thousands. Not in my memory has there been comparable detachment from responsibilities such as David Collenette, Doug Young and Art Eggleton have displayed through the past six years.
One hesitates to believe this trio is as dimwitted as indicated by its graceless performance at defence.
After all, each has had successes: Young attained wealth on his own; Collenette outhustled a swarm of Metro Grits to get the nod as boss of the party in Toronto; and Eggleton convinced voters of our most cosmopolitan city to make him their mayor. And yet, at defence each failed to learn a lesson from his predecessor’s fate: don’t accept all, even close to all, the generals and mandarins tell you.
Kim Campbell, Tory defence minister when our troops murdered a 16-year-old Somali, learned this the hard way when her attempts to find out what had happened that deadly night were blocked. Liberal David Collenette promised to do better, and soon the Somalia inquiry was born. Within days, however, scandal erupted with the revelation that commissioner Ann Marie Doyle had personal and professional relationships with Robert Fowler, deputy defence minister during Somalia and one of the inquiry’s principal targets.
Given Fowler’s network in the bureaucracy and his long association with prominent Liberals, who could swallow Collenette’s assertion that Doyle’s appointment was an “honest mistake.”
Also remember this. In choosing a judge and former general to replace Doyle, the prime minister and Collenette corrected another glaring oversight: their initial failure to appoint anyone familiar with military operations and procedures.
Whether incompetence or skulduggery was behind the Doyle debacle, a minister should learn from his mistakes. He has to be naive, very naive, if he expects individuals to expose awkward information that might prevent them from receiving appointments. Yet shortly after the inquiry opened, Collenette made Gen. Jean Boyle the new chief of defence staff. He stressed the airman’s lack of involvement in the Somalia scandal, and how good he’d be at rebuilding confidence in the military.
Unfortunately, the inquiry discovered parts of Gen. Boyle’s resume which had escaped the minister’s attention. Boyle had been involved in the handling of Somalia-related documents sought by the media and which were subsequently altered or destroyed. The general’s lack of candour and the minister’s lack of skepticism led both to depart Defence headquarters early.
In came Doug Young, the tough guy who’d just slashed the Transport Department’s roles and budget, to replace Collenette.
As the Somalia inquiry dragged on, Young was constantly sideswiped by further revelations of military wrongdoing, not all Somalia-related. He learned a lesson, but not the one that Campbell belatedly got and Collenette missed.
Young (and the PM) decided to shoot the messenger: the inquiry was shut down before it could investigate the most serious allegation involving a possible coverup by senior departmental officials – both civilian and military.
Surely the third, and still current, defence minister should have known enough to protect himself from the nose-stretchers and politically obtuse at DND. Although Art Eggleton, while speaking, is a slicker guy than Collenette or Young, he’s proven just as artless and inept. Consider the recent resignation of the head of another inquiry into military wrongdoing.
Col. Howard Marsh was named to head the inquiry seeking to determine why soldiers posted to Croatia in the early 1990s are getting sick, why letters noting their exposure to contaminated soil were removed from their medical files, why soil samples went missing and why nothing further has been done to get to the bottom of all this.
The colonel self-destructed at his first press conference when he acknowledged he’d known about all of the above, but had not acted: he’d been busy, and budgets were tight. Col. Marsh didn’t see why he couldn’t investigate his own failure to act. He’d hold himself accountable, just as military investigators (junior in rank to him) would.
Col. Marsh should never have been appointed, and Eggleton waited far too long to relieve him.
When considering someone for any post under intense public scrutiny is it too much to ask that a minister’s staff check them out for any skeletons in the closet? Surely a staffer’s No. 1 task is to protect his or her minister (and, of course, the PM) from self-inflicted wounds.
It’s come to this in Chretien’s Ottawa: the politicians in office are using the distrust of the media and the public regarding the military to justify their own self-serving interventions into matters best left to technical experts.
A ripe example?
Think back to Jean Chretien’s crass 1993 campaign claim that the EH-101 helicopters the Tories planned to purchase were “Cadillacs.” The crassness continues as the political masters of the Defence Department keep challenging the technical requirements for the next generation of shipboard helicopters.
When it comes to determining the range, payload and all-weather capability needed to rescue people at sea and perform combat missions from small ships – perhaps until the year 2035 – the responsible officer’s expertise ought to take precedence over the prime minister’s need for political cover and cash cuts through toll-gating contracts.
The PM boasts he’s as good as ever after 35 years in the political game. Our rescue and anti-sub helicopters have been working just as long. Perhaps the next time he needs a helicopter he should ask for one of the old, clapped-out Sea Kings or Labradors. If they’re good enough for our young airmen, they ought to be good enough for him.
Postscript: for another take on ministerial dunderheads at DND try to understand why a minister would accede to creating a military ombudsman and then leave him out in the open without a clear role or authority, the way Eggleton has done with Andre Marin.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 18, 1999
ID: 12521783
TAG: 199908181970
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


As roadside neighbours to the gate leading to the summer home of prime ministers, the Fishers know Jean Chretien’s passion for the outdoors.
Last year at this time he was a regular at the cottage on Harrington Lake; and so was much traffic of relatives and advisers. He jet-skied and fished a lot, and was often convoyed out to golf courses. This summer? Almost none of that. Even in fine weather the Chretiens have been strangers to our road and Harrington is out of use. One wonders why.
Chretien did shuffle his cabinet recently but such shiftings, mostly of nonentities, could hardly have consumed him all summer. What has kept him from the lake he says he loves?
What other answer than his even greater love of politics, and, at this point, his interest in his own political legacy.
Forget his displayed humility as the “petit gars” from Shawinigan. Chretien had an outsized ego when I first met him in 1963. He’d never have survived the myriad setbacks he’s faced without it. And he didn’t win through to the PMO simply to mark time in the post even if his government’s lackadaisical legislative record has given that impression.
He’s made a career of confounding those who scoff, using their own low opinions of him to his advantage, and I hazard he’s about to do it again.
Lambaste him for lacking vision and doing nothing, will they? What do they know?
Those who snort about the inability of the PM to take the long-term view, or jeer at any determination he has to leave a lasting impression, should look at his Millennium Scholarship Fund. Although it doesn’t kick in until next year, the fund was effectively pre-financed earlier in the government’s mandate, when it was still reporting deficits. That takes vision, and chutzpah. Now I believe the fund is to get some company.
For Chretien, holding the line on spending was always a means to an end – to give him room to manoeuvre later. Unlike the Harris Tories, fiscal restraint was never an end in itself.
The time is nigh to use the rewards from six years of frugality and inaction. Even bureaucratic Ottawa is seized with talk of a variety of initiatives, big and small. The fat, trial balloons for a child care initiative show one prospect, modest tax cuts another. Expect much pontificating about them both in 2000.
While specific choices still have to be made, this much is clear: however the fiscal dividend is dispersed, Jean Chretien will be making the call. Any idea he would leave the scene and give the glory to his successor was, and is, ridiculous.
And so, again, one is back to Ottawa’s preoccupations: is Chretien going to resign before the next election; and, if he doesn’t, where does this leave Paul Martin?
My own take is that the PM and Aline haven’t decided, and see no reason to do do so now with the leader and party so high in the polls, the opposition parties riven and Quebec quiescent.
Perhaps equally droll, as the Chretiens appraise it, is Martin’s situation. Through 35 industrious years Chretien has faced ill-disguised contempt from many in his party’s elite who thought him too gauche and clumsy to be taken seriously. This was epitomized by his failure to win the leadership in 1984: Chretien may have been “first in the hearts” of the party, but it chose to embrace John Turner – the blue-eyed ex-sprinter, Rhodes scholar and darling of Bay Street and Westmount. Unbowed, Chretien set to work undermining Turner. The rest is, as they say, history.
Paul Martin is another perfect leadership candidate: eloquent in both languages (at least in comparison to the PM), possessing a Liberal pedigree second to none, plus personal wealth and telegenic good looks. Most of the Liberal caucus want him as leader, so he ought to be able to mount a serious challenge to the PM if the latter decides to go on and on. But does the finance minister have the guts or the gall for such an enterprise? (In other words, does he have what Chretien had?)
Even more important, are enough Liberal MPs who admire Martin and hope for promotion from him, going to ignore the message in Chretien’s polling numbers and the risks of splitting a party which has exalted loyalty and unity? Unlikely, at least before the millennium revels are finished.
Why shouldn’t the “little guy” let Martin and his power group sweat it out? Even if he does resign before the next election, the longer he delays the better chances are for perceived Chretien proteges like Brian Tobin or Jane Stewart to challenge the much older Martin.
And that’s a scenario to delight an old warhorse who also knows there’s more fun being a PM than an ex-PM.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 15, 1999
ID: 12825703
TAG: 199908151693
SECTION: Comment


“It is a mystery why … the Ottawa media types … play the ministers-are-important game,” wrote Gordon Gibson, a Globe columnist, last week. He was referring to “the breathless and extensive coverage of the movement of ciphers around the Canadian cabinet table … ”
I agree with Gibson, a former politician, that Jean Chretien’s ministers “are just plain vegetables when it comes to great decisions of state. Such things are decided by the PM and his senior advisers – who are rarely ministers.”
In recent months two shrewd authorities have commented on the overriding dominance of our prime minister.
Donald Savoie is a canny political scientist who has worked “inside” Ottawa and for provincial governments, and published two books about it all. Tom Kent was the most influential aide to a prime minister we’ve had, first to Lester Pearson, then briefly to Pierre Trudeau. He worked up and manoeuvred into legislation such programs as the Canada Pension Plan, federally supported medicare and opening Canadian immigration to all nationalities.
Kent argues that neither the House of Commons, with its MPs from five parties, nor the organization of the political party in power, nor the parliamentary caucus of its MPs, nor the cabinet as a group, are integral to the way major policy decisions are generated. Such decisions, Gibson emphasizes, are made by Chretien and his close guides: Eddie Goldenberg, Jean Pelletier, Mitchell Sharp and Privy Council Clerk Mel Cappe.
As Savoie capsules it, cabinet is now a rather large, last level “focus group” for comment on decisions taken.
So except for the leader and his guides almost every one else in our parliamentary system is more or less supernumerary to making and executing decisions? It seems so, but we should note a few caveats, including the trite one that the circle of ministers, puppets though they may be, provides faces and personalities which help identify the government for both the media and public, even as the PM draws so much of the attention.
Another caveat must underline what has always been a running obsession on Parliament Hill but never more than it seems today – and that’s the next election.
Let’s sketch the form this obsession has been taking since the last election, first on the Chretien side, then on the opposition side.
Will Chretien run again? Has he the will, and the stamina?
Given the current, pacific state of the “unity issue” one forgets how broken and routed the PM seemed for months after the narrow federal victory in the 1995 referendum. Certainly the PM seems unchallengeable from within by any minister, and even to mention a possible caucus coup is a laugh. He slew the deficit; he is working down the national debt; he may even have the separatists boxed. As his new Veterans Affairs minister, George Baker, told a Rideau Hall scrum: “He is the most popular prime minister Canada has ever had. Again and again opinion polling confirms this.”
How to rid the highest office of this wonderfully popular man, a politician who has had a public profile for 36 years and who at only 65 is less than four years older than his likeliest successor, Paul Martin?
A Liberal insurrection to depose him is clearly ridiculous. Those who believe Chretien has to go for the good of Canada have to focus on the next election. There are two obvious venues for this: extraordinary campaign preparations in programs, funds and candidacies; and/or the tarnishing of both the PM and his allegedly supine cabinet and caucus through able, hard criticism in the House of Commons and parliamentary committees.
Preston Manning, the leader of the official Opposition, is no enthusiast for Commons work. His genius runs more to party organization and his achievements in two general elections explain the fixation he has for “the next wave” rather than the next day or week or month in Parliament. He decided shortly after the 1997 election that Reformers had to work to create a “united alternative” party for the conservatively minded voters of Canada. And so he’s busy developing liaisons and electoral arrangements, perhaps even coalescence, with the federal Tories; otherwise he believes Canada will get a third Chretien mandate.
The Reform leader’s own talents have diverted him from the usual stage where a prime minister, cabinet and government is worn down and defeatable. The House of Commons and its environs provide the handiest forum Opposition leaders and MPs have, and it gets much media coverage, particularly through television.
Already the coverage of the Chretien ministry, much of it rising from opposition criticism and ridicule of ministerial wisps and wimps like David Collenette, Diane Marleau, Art Eggleton, Christine Stewart, Fred Mifflin and Sergio Marchi, has made the case to most who follow politics that Jean Chretien has a dreary, unexciting cabinet which he and his guides run as a claque for the indispensable and popular leader.
Of course, the PM is bang on when he says he likes what he sees when his ministers gather around the table. Why not? He’s so much more confident, acute, tougher and meaner than any of them.
A fair question, notably for commentators and non-Liberal politicians, is whether it’s good to have such a one-man show, particularly by one whose wisdoms are usually banal and whose aims are vague.
It’s no crime when Chretien revels in the power of his office and delights as he perpetuates his party through perqs and patronage. But is this what our parliamentary system should be: one person supremely important, a cabinet without much vitality and a slack, maundering House?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 11, 1999
ID: 12825226
TAG: 199908111687
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


The “Munro precedent” seems irrelevant to the new legal drama which features Conrad Black as the litigant and Prime Minister Jean Chretien as the defendant.
But every lawsuit has high costs in legal fees, and the meters are already running for the high-powered lawyers Messrs. Black and Chretien have engaged. Of course, both of those prominent privy councillors – and, therefore, officially “honorable” – are wealthy. So does it matter that the Munro precedent indicates the Chretien’s legal costs will be met by the federal government?
(As an insightful aside, most Canadians seem unaware that on Canada Day, 1992, the Queen, advised by then-prime minister Brian Mulroney, made Conrad Black one of her privy councillors in Canada, a huge affirmation of this stature as a Canadian, as were the awards to him of doctoral degrees by five Canadian universities and his appointment to the Order of Canada.)
The Munro precedent was established in May this year by Anne McLellan, as minister of Justice, and it indicates the Crown – i.e., the government of Canada – will pay Chretien’s lawyering costs, whatever they turn out to be in this case.
Black has charged that the prime minister unfairly and improperly denied him the opportunity to be made a British lord by the Crown in the U.K., and did it out of malice engendered by stories in newspapers which Black owns detailing federal grants which went to persons or companies in Chretien’s own riding.
The Munro precedent came about as a direct result of instructions which Chretien, as prime minister, issued two years ago to several of his ministers that some fair redress in money go to John Munro, a former Liberal cabinet minister, for the high legal costs he had to meet over a period of almost 10 years in: a) responding to 37 criminal charges laid against him; b) seeking redress from the government (first Brian Mulroney’s government, then Jean Chretien’s) for those costs after the judge who had presided at a preliminary hearing lasting months threw them all out because there wasn’t evidence to sustain them.
The sum of $1.36 million which Munro received did not meet his whole legal costs nor make any recompense for the substantial income he lost as a lawyer because of both the time at work lost and the professional reputation forfeited as a result of the huge publicity given the multiple charges which the RCMP and attorneys for the Crown in Ontario laid against him.
In explaining the award, McLellan said it followed from the fact Munro had been a public servant (as the minister of Indian and Northern Affairs) at the time the alleged offences were supposed to have taken place.
She also said Munro, unlike Brian Mulroney (in the Airbus case settlement) would receive no apology for the harm caused his reputation by inept or wrong-headed police work and prosecution. She indicated the authority for paying the legal bills came from a Treasury Board circular of 1983. However, that circular, as I read it, doesn’t mention “minister” but seems to provide support for any permanent federal official who has been charged with an offence that arises from his or her work.
Further, when Munro sought as far back as 1991 that his costs should be met through the authority provided by this circular, he got nowhere with the senior officials in Justice and the PMO under either Mulroney or Chretien.
It wasn’t until Chretien intervened personally in 1997 and ordered that something be done to help Munro get out of the morass of costs, that officials in Justice looked at the case again. Even so, it took them almost a year and half before they dealt with the PM’s demand. And only after much haranguing with his legal counsel and accountants, was a payment approved. It was a very bare minimum, given it came 10 years after the preliminary hearing of the 37 charges against Munro had closed with their dismissal.
One appreciates why both Justice and the RCMP gagged over such redress. It elevates doubt of their ability and common sense. Their charges were ruinous, not just to Munro, but to the eight Indian chiefs who were alleged to have made deals with him in order to pass money to him for his run at the Liberal leadership in 1984. McLellan emphasized there was no intention to reimburse the chiefs for their legal costs.
Certainly, the Black suit pivots on things which Chretien did and said as prime minister (in a phone conversation with the would-be baron). So in a fairly direct way his own orders of two years ago regarding Munro have opened up full backing of his legal costs if he should lose the suit.
As someone who has small sympathy for either party in this suit I hope the trial and the reams of commentary from it will open the way to ending recognition by Canada of dual citizenship and dual allegiances we got into with the Citizenship Act of 1976.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 08, 1999
ID: 12824919
TAG: 199908081835
SECTION: Comment


After a ministerial shuffle in Ottawa there’s always talk of winners and losers. Of losers, there seem to be three sorts.
1) Those who are completely dropped from the ministry, going back to the Siberia of the backbenches and not to a plum posting (such as given Sergio Marchi, ex-minister of trade, who becomes Canada’s man at the World Trade Organization. Otherwise, we have four new backbenchers: Marcel Masse, Diane Marleau, Fred Mifflin and Christine Stewart.
2) Those ministers who are “shifted down” to a portfolio considered either less troublesome or not so vital. This time Hill wiseacres haven’t really found such losers, beyond Lucienne Robillard, who the PM switched to Treasury Board from Immigration. Otherwise, the other ministers shifted – David Anderson, Jane Stewart, Pierre Pettigrew, Herb Dhaliwal and Martin Cauchon – are seen as winners, and having bigger chores.
3) The third group is always the largest – those MPs able enough to be thought obvious good additions to any ministry. In this Parliament we’ve a large group of such losers – over a dozen from Ontario who’d be as good or better than the 14 from the province already in the ministry.
There is some sympathy but not much shock over the five excisions from the cabinet, most notably regarding the two women dropped: Diane Marleau from Sudbury and Christine Stewart from Cobourg. The wonder has been Chretien’s patience with them, especially Marleau. She seemed a chronic “slow learn” in three portfolios and was inept on her feet. Stewart, a person of good manners and fine appearance, seemed unable to digest or remember briefings on issues of significance. Backbench Grits have told me she seemed confused in responding to cases they raised with her.
The story is not yet clear on the apparent demotion of Marcel Masse, a former Clerk of the Privy Council. He was a prized recruit in 1993 as one who knew the leviathan bureaucracy well, and so the perfect choice to head Treasury Board. But he was a ditherer in the House, with no gift for popularizing the spending and employee issues in his ministry. In partisan terms, Masse is not a loss to the party; however, bet he’ll be rewarded with some fine post within the year because the Liberals will have no trouble holding his seat.
Fred Mifflin deserved to be dropped. I like him and know the great range of knowledge he got on his way to an admiral’s rank in the navy. He hasn’t the stock gift of gab of Newfoundlanders (e.g., Brian Tobin or John Crosbie) nor can he be sharp at exposition of complex matters. He leaves one ministry, Veterans Affairs, which is not difficult but he was lost in the second – Atlantic Region opportunities.
Every explanation one hears on the withdrawal from politics of Sergio Marchi, 43, after 15 years in the House and six in cabinet, pivots on the interests of wife Laureen. She is ambitiously cosmopolitan with a zest – somewhat replicating that of Sondra Gotlieb – for the sophisticated round of receptions, dinners and conclaves among the high-flyers of global trade. Marchi leaves no gaping or unfillable hole in the ministry, the Metro caucus or the House.
Now let us turn to the sad, lengthy list of able, well-proven MPs who once again have not made the cabinet. Some will say at least five of this baker’s dozen have shown too much independence of mind and been too much identified in promoting controversial issues. Most MPs named here won’t ring loud bells with most readers; however, I think any of them would perform better than many Ontarians now in the ministry (David Collenette, Art Eggleton, Sheila Copps, Herb Gray, Allan Rock, John Manley).
Those passed by who are deserving include:
Bill Graham, 60, Toronto-Centre-Rosedale, former law professor, authority on foreign policy and a splendid chairman of the House foreign affairs committee.
John Bryden, 56, Wentworth-Burlington, former journalist, authority on modern communications and warfare, very active in a nosy way in the House.
Joe Fontana, 49, London North Centre, once a businessman, now a complete politician with a wide reach and a talent for brokering issues and knitting people.
Susan Whelan, 38, Essex, a lawyer and daughter of Gene, the farmers’ friend, she is an outstanding minister-in-waiting.
Dennis Mills, 53, Broadview-Greenwood, always an entrepreneur and the busiest “idea” man in the Grit caucus over the past 11 years, so much so he’s unfairly tagged as a “risk” and a dilettante.
Albina Guarnieri, 46, Mississauga East, an experienced party organizer, she’s a tough-minded, energetic person of stern character.
Bob Kilger, 55, Stormont-Dundas, ex-NHL referee, now a fine caucus whip but worthy of a tough ministry, say Transport.
Derek Lee, 51, Scarborough-Rouge River, a lawyer, and simply a neat, all-round MP for over a decade.
John Godfrey, 56, Don Valley West, a former editor and academic teacher, has a more impressive curriculum vitae than all ministers but the PM and his deputy, Herb Gray, and he’s loyally done the donkey’s work.
Joe Volpe, 51, Eglinton-Lawrence, former teacher, and as an MP another all-rounder like Lee and Fontana, including a flair for speaking in the House.
Maurizio Bevilacqa, 39, Vaughan-King-Aurora, an ex- appartchik of the party, and a super-industrious MP with a prodigious learning curve.
Dan McTeague, 37, Pickering-Ajax-Uxbridge, is a lively, independently minded MP who scares cautious veterans but he’s quick, smart and a self-starter.
Peter Adams, 63, Peterborough, ex-businessman, is a relative rarity who (like John Bryden) relishes work in the House itself and has a gift for it.
And one could readily add even more good cabinet candidates from the Ontario crew of Liberals.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, August 04, 1999
ID: 12824434
TAG: 199908041627
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16


Jean Chretien was not drastic with his cabinet shuffle yesterday: just five new ministers and five departing ministers, and only six shifted to new responsibilities. Most major portfolios went unchanged.
Clearly none of us should cheer or froth about these changes and shifts, although some think they confirm Chretien’s intention to go for a third mandate. The new additions for Ontario will bitterly disappoint a score or so very capable Liberal backbenchers from Southern Ontario.
Only one of the 11 ministerial changes and shifts is exceptionally interesting. Bob Nault, a backbencher from Kenora, takes over Indian and northern affairs, one of the most onerous of all portfolios, and one which was getting beyond the capabilities of his predecessor, Jane Stewart (who was moved to the human resources ministry).
It’s doubtful any other MP has so many “status” Indians in his riding as Nault – or such a range of contacts with natives on reserves and in towns and cities. If Nault does not do well it won’t be because of ignorance of the subject field or any shortage of purpose. He’s a most ambitious, determined young politician.
Let me leave until the next column (Sunday) my opinions of those dropped from the ministry and about those in Chretien’s caucus who might have been far better choices than those MPs he did elevate. Here are brief references to those changed or elevated in order of precedence.
DAVID ANDERSON, 62, from B.C.: Now in environment after several years in fisheries. In 1968 I first noticed him as an MP because he pushed hard and often on environmental issues, particularly on pollution of the oceans. He should find the environment job better suited to his interests and his talent as a popularizer than were fisheries, transport, or revenue, his previous portfolios.
LUCIENNE ROBILLARD, 54, from Quebec: The new head of treasury board should also be appraised less harshly in this hugely bureaucratic task than as minister in charge of immigration, refugees, etc. In hockey parlance, Robillard is a steady, third-line, checking forward. She won’t get many goals but will be on the plus side of plus-minus ratings.
MARTIN CAUCHON, 37, from Quebec: Heads national revenue after three years as mere secretary for regional development in Quebec. Word on the Hill has Cauchon as an ambitious, smart lawyer destined for higher things.
JANE STEWART, 45, from Ontario: The new human resources minister follows a class act, Pierre Pettigrew. I think she’s a nice person but not much of a politician. However, majority opinion in the press gallery rates her highly, even as a potential party leader.
PIERRE PETTIGREW, 48, from Quebec: Succeeds Sergio Marchi at international trade. After Paul Martin, he’s the best minister Chretien has from Quebec.
HERB DHALIWAL, 46, from B.C.: Now fisheries minister after several years at national revenue. Friendly, smart, hard-working, and well-spoken in the House, he should do well in this trying ministry.
GEORGE BAKER, 57, from Newfoundland: Now both veterans affairs minister and responsible for Atlantic region issues. A popular guy with the press after 25 years in the House. He should turn out the best of the new lot of ministers if – if – he sticks to his intrinsic candour.
BOB NAULT, 43, from Ontario: Comes from the backbench into the meanest ministry of all for any MP, able or not. He moves in at a time it’s being realized across the country the so-called crisis in native affairs has shifted from the reserves to the cities because that’s where younger Indians are going.
MARIA MINNA, 51, from Ontario: Born in Italy, she succeeds Diane Marleau as minister of international co-operation. This is a small, first-step role for an assiduous activist in social welfare matters. One guesses she’s the Italo-Canadian needed to replace Marchi and a female to balance the exits of Marleau and Christine Stewart (late of environment).
ELINOR CAPLAN, 55, from Toronto: Moves from being a parliamentary secretary (health and welfare) to the large, often contentious task of heading the department of citizenship and immigration. She adds a gender and an ethnic bonus (as a second Jewish minister to go with Herb Gray). She’s not shown much flair in the House but she seems stolid enough to block the Reform party nasties in the Commons.
RONALD DUHAMEL, age unknown but probably about 60, from Manitoba: Continues as one of nine secretaries of state but drops the “science, research and development” bag and picks up responsibility for francophonie. He has been a most earnest, hardworking MP.
ANDY MITCHELL, 46, from Ontario: Another secretary of state (parks) who’s been shifted to rural and hinterland development.
GILBERT NORMAND, 56, a Quebec doctor: He shifts to the science regime from helping out at both agriculture and fisheries.
DENNIS CODERRE: A young, suave Quebecer who was very active on the Mills committee on sport is brought into cabinet as secretary of state for sport, a role that will be very lively in the next few years.
In sum, not an exciting lot but far from a total bust.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, August 01, 1999
ID: 12824138
TAG: 199908011647
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: drawing by Andy Donato
COLUMN: Backgrounder


In his first report, John Reid, the new federal information commissioner, has been hard on the Chretien ministry and senior mandarins for not giving quicker and more thorough responses to requests by citizens for information in federal records.
Reid insists “a culture of secrecy persists within the federal bureaucracy.” This “culture” is protected by many ministers and their officials, thus mocking “the Access to Information Act” through which he functions.
Reid has a powerful case. He tears apart bureaucratic grievances against the operation of the act from the secretary of the treasury board (which is responsible for managing federal records).
Despite the merit and the forcefulness of John Reid’s demand for more alacrity, thoroughness and less resort to exemptions from answering, I do not expect anything more than a slow improvement in the pace of responses along with a complementary delineation of Reid from those high federal places. He will be painted as over-zealous to the point of irresponsibility regarding sound government and the ultimate principle within the parliamentary system of ministerial accountability to the House of Commons, not to some outsider, appointed for a term.
This latter line has become familiar in recent decades in downplaying the often strong critiques of ministerial deeds and official behaviour by federal auditors general. To a lesser degree it has also been used to fudge over critiques of departmental performances that have been offered by commissioners for privacy, information and official languages. The indirect but repetitive and persuasive defence has been that the prime minister and his cabinet ministers answer daily to Parliament.
This line on ministerial accountability insists a cabinet is able to function capably because of the secrecy of its discussions on policies and programs. The cabinet is the buckle that binds our system together. The secrecy of a cabinet at work enables the joint accountability of all ministers before the House of Commons.
Of course, such accountability, when pushed to its theoretical limits, means permanent officials who serve ministers should be unseen and unheard by the public.
The reality is that ever since what historian Jack Granatstein has called “the Golden Age of the Ottawa Mandarins” in and after World War II there has been more and more known and presented in the media about federal officials, including judgments on which ones are up, or down, and who’s pushing for what programs.
Another reality is that more and more often ministers do not take or accept the rap for mistakes, even serious ones costing a lot, made within their responsibilities. Despite much awareness in Ottawa, often fertilized by incumbent or would-be deputy ministers, about the attributes of officials, a senior mandarin is never openly fired for cause or demoted as a lesson for others. And federal bureaucrats of high rank almost never resign of their own accord, even after major foul-ups in their particular realms.
What has all this about the now dubious accountability of ministers and the well-tattered anonymity of senior officials to do with the continuing pervasiveness of a culture of secrecy within the federal leviathan?
The new information commissioner insists such secrecy should have disappeared – except for data whose release would imperil Canada – because of various laws passed by Parliament since the campaign for open government began to build in Pierre Trudeau’s era, led by backbench Tory and NDP MPs.
Reid emphasizes that the courts have recently sustained the citizen’s right to access governmental information and other services of government which are set out in such laws.
So on the one hand we have the thesis, founded on fairly new laws, that the citizen as an individual should not be denied access to the records of what governments have done – and not just with data on services but even on how policies and programs have emerged, including the results of opinion polling and reports commissioned from outside experts or consultants.
On the other hand, within the federal government we have recalcitrance, a disregard for delay, ever more pressure for exemptions, a very uneven quality across the board of responses, and abundant indications that ministers (and those closest to them) ignore or have a contempt for the access process. And so the culture of secrecy that was intrinsic in our parliamentary system since the first cabinet was formed carries on.
My own outrage at the nose-thumbing the cabinet and the mandarinate give the “access” regime is real enough, but it is cautioned, perhaps made hollow, by two attitudes I bring to the subject, both developed over years in and around Parliament.
My first attitude is far more idiosyncratic than the second one. It is that there is more than enough exposed about the federal government as a matter of course, largely in the media, but also plain in such open information as jobless trends, interest rates, deficits or surpluses, debt charges or debt reductions, for any voter to get a measure of the worth of the governing party and the government. And with TV and cable there’s a surfeit in chances to judge first-hand both ministers and would-be ministers.
My second attitude is regrettable but it’s one I share with a lot of Canadians. It is not an American attitude. We tend to over-respect privacy and the right to it, even for those who serve the public and get their stipends from our taxes. In particular, we tend to be sympathetic to those who permanently serve within administrations.
Probably such attitudes developed in me simply from growing up with our system of government and its mysteries like “the Crown” and “the Monarchy” and the elaborateness of our intricate three levels of government. There’s also the imperative of secrecy in so many institutions, from fraternal orders to the caucuses of our political parties (in which the dual dicta of loyalty to the leader and secrecy of caucus are still strong).
Such caveats as mine should not fog the fact we have a fierce and frank commissioner of information in Ottawa, one whose first report merits a thorough response from Prime Minister Jean Chretien himself, and strong support from MPs – Liberal ones included.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 28, 1999
ID: 12823650
TAG: 199907281739
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 17
SERIES: Part 1 of 2


Oh, barbs for the Liberal cabinet and its bureaucracy. They came last week from John Reid, 62, a former cabinet minister under Pierre Trudeau and a Liberal MP (1965-1984), in his first report to Parliament as the federal Information Commissioner.
Although Mr. Reid is bit of a roughneck from the Northwestern Ontario bush, few of us on the Hill expected him to be so tough across the federal board. His criticisms ranged from the prime minister’s office to the Privy Council Office to most of the ministries. He even castigated a lax opposition in the House of Commons for their indifferent “oversight” of the “Access to Information Act.” By and large MPs ignore the disrespect senior mandarins have for citizens formally inquiring about specific government records.
Of course, harsh criticisms of the federal government by a few agents within its total frame are not unknown. Reports of the auditors general expose cases of bungling, waste, and wrongful spending. And Mr. Reid’s predecessor as commissioner, John Grace (1990-1998) was often critical, with specifics, about both refusals of the government to answer inquiries or of inordinate delay in doing so.
All such requests were made possible by “The Access to Information Act,” which has been in place since the early ’90s. Mr. Grace, a former newspaper editor, was neither as blunt nor as sweeping as his successor, particularly in being so specific about particular ministers. Clearly, Mr. Reid is telling readers of his report that the cause of open government, implicit in the “Access Act,” is badly served by the minister of justice, Anne McLellan, and by the head of Treasury Board, Marcel Masse.
Today I precis the general critique which John Reid advances. In my next column I canvass the basic problems in opening up government in Canada, and these stem from ingrained Canadian attitudes and practices which respect secrecy and stonewalling.
It’s coincidence that the big government story of the week has been of missing medical documents in the department of national defence. It was opened up by “access” questions put by researchers for Reform MPs. In Mr. Reid’s text, immediately after baldly stating “…the persistence of a culture of secrecy in the federal bureaucracy.” He writes:
“Frustrations over weaknesses in the law have recently spilled over into MPs, from all stripes in the House of Commons. They have become frequent users of the Access to Information Act as a more efficient means than the order paper for accessing government information. As a result, they, too, have been on the receiving end of delays … and also are experiencing excessive secrecy due to the knee-jerk tendency of public officials to believe that if any opposition MP wants a record it must be damaging somehow to the minister or government.”
The commissioner is very highminded when he writes that “parliamentarians and Canadians instinctively know the truth of the position recently articulated by the Supreme Court of Canada: The access law is an indispensable tool for ensuring an accountable government and a healthy democracy.” He also insists they “instinctively know” that “governments distrust openness and the tools which force openness upon them.”
Here is more rugged criticism: “The paternalistic belief by many public officials they know best what and when to disclose to citizens, remains strong. At the very highest levels of the bureaucracy, the official line on ethics for public servants stresses their servant role (i.e., being unseen, unheard, obedient, unaccountable) rather than their public role (ie., being accountable, professional, obedient to the law and the public interest”).
Mr. Reid won’t buy the line that it would inhibit the candour with which officials advise their ministers if such advice is going to be revealed publicly. He suggests their concern may be over public criticism of the quality and nature of the advice. Yes, the Access Act has forced “public servants to disclose more information – but it has not changed the closed culture.” And the evidence for this is in “the system-wide crisis of delay in answering access requests.”
Then the commissioner zeroes on the three departments which should lead in assuring open government and do not: Justice, Treasury Board, and the PCO. Of the PCO he writes:
“No Canadian prime minister or clerk of the Privy Council has spoken out in support of the spirit of openness in administering the Access Act: none has decried and addressed the problem of delay.
“No minister of justice has shown leadership in transforming the culture of secrecy which pervades the public service.” Rather, “Justice Canada has chosen to adopt the role of secrecy enforcer.”
Worst of all, Treasury Board represents the worst failure in the information access system. Why? Because it has the responsibility for “the abysmal state of records management in the federal government.” This not only hurts our right to know, “it puts at risk our national interest in a full historical record of public functions.”
To repeat, this first report from John Reid as information commissioner is a shocker for its frankness.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 25, 1999
ID: 12823344
TAG: 199907251625
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: Backgrounder


Today I revisit the war in Kosovo and ponder the difference between play-acting on the world stage, as it is practised by Canada, with the real thing.
Last weekend The Observer, a British weekly, ran a special report detailing how the war came to an end. It supports the view that credit for NATO’s “success” in the world’s first “humanitarian war” should go to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The report makes it clear the British government was as hawkish behind the scenes as it was publicly, and was prepared to back up its tough talk. Blair pressed his NATO allies to prepare for a ground war knowing his own military staff had been developing plans for just such an attack since June 1998, and that he could offer virtually the entire British army (50,000 men) to the cause. Had the invasion gone ahead, British ground forces would actually have outnumbered the Americans.
Blair’s cabinet, especially Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and Defence Secretary George Robertson, spoke with one voice regarding the necessity to see the war through to its end. The British PM’s hand was further strengthened by a close working relationship with his military. The latter were aware of the risks involved in an invasion, but trusted in their own professionalism, equipment, and, as time passed, in their new PM. For Blair had taken a page out of Margaret Thatcher’s handbook: If you’re going to war, give the military clear orders and let them get on with it.
In marked contrast to the British PM, the leader of the free world didn’t know what to do. Bill Clinton – like our prime minister and foreign minister – knew what he didn’t want: A lot of dead bodies that could be attributed to him. (At the end of the day thousands did die – Kosovar civilians. But they conveniently died and were buried beyond the glare of the camera lights, and thus don’t count, politically speaking.)
Clinton’s advisers were divided. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who pushed so hard for the showdown with Slobodan Milosevic, thought a brief air campaign would suffice. Clinton’s defence secretary and national security adviser opposed a land campaign. The joint chiefs of staff were leery of any military action – air or ground – having little faith in the leadership or steadfastness of the president, who in five years had never bothered to develop a relationship with them, even as he savaged their budgets.
Gen. Wesley Clark, NATO’s American commander, who had to deal with the allies and fight the war, could not afford to be so distant. He saw planning for a ground war as prudent, and, according to The Observer, had his own military staff – who referred to themselves as the Jedi Knights – privately develop the British invasion plans into ones NATO as a whole could use. (According to The Observer, NATO’s decision last spring to increase the size of the KFOR “peacekeeping” force – which led Canada to reluctantly contribute another 500 troops to the 800 previously promised – was effectively part of a pre-invasion buildup, though Canadian officials did not know this.)
British sources reveal how less hawkish NATO allies were kept on side. According to them, the Italian government’s waffling on the war was for domestic political consumption – privately it assured NATO it was in for the long run. Germany, which many felt would be NATO’s weak link, given the pacifist Green party’s representation in cabinet, proved less problematic than previously supposed. In eight full pages Canada is never mentioned, either as a hawk or a dove.
The war ended with American acceptance that bombing alone might not work. Faced with the grim reality that if preparations for a ground campaign were not begun immediately, NATO troops could find themselves struggling through winter snows, the Clinton administration okayed formal invasion planning. According to the Brits, this decision was leaked to the Serbs, who in a matter of days decided to withdraw from Kosovo.
The report also details the creation of “QUINT” as the de facto decision-making group for NATO’s war. Originally composed of the foreign ministers of the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Italy, it developed to the point that by war’s end “there were parallel QUINTs of chiefs of defence staff and political directors … all teleconferencing each evening.” Its existence “was kept under wraps during the war to avoid offending other alliance nations.” QUINT, “foreign office and French officials made clear … was the key to keeping the alliance together.”
Looking back on it all, Britain’s chief of defence staff offered the following: “Unless Europe does more, the Americans are going to do less … We (Britain) could put 50,000 into the field and I do not know of another European nation that could do that, even though some of them have much bigger forces … The British had influence because of the way we approached it. We had a prime minister, defence secretary and I hope a chief of defence staff that knew what they wanted.”
Meanwhile, here in the colonies, it’s amateur hour, as officers spend their time fiddling with soldiers’ medical records and designing combat bras, and our PM and his ministers focus their military expertise on the vital task of ensuring that the next helicopter purchase (to replace the “Cadillacs” cancelled by this government six years ago) does not embarrass the Chretien government.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 21, 1999
ID: 12822859
TAG: 199907211670
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 17
Careful and fair
COLUMN: The Hill


Alan A. Macnaughton, very much a Montrealer, died last Friday a fortnight before his 96th birthday. He had a long career as lawyer and politician. Although some 30 years in Parliament for the Liberals as an MP, then a senator, he never won much national attention, even when Speaker of the House for three sessions of the 26th Parliament (1963-65), perhaps the rowdiest House ever.
It was a minority House and its rancour rose as it began with a huge furor of protest at the very first budget of the new Pearson government; then came a series of scandals about cabinet ministers. The Liberals had much ambitious legislation but they faced cantankerous opposition. There was also a big, mutual disrespect between the new PM and his predecessor, John Diefenbaker. Each sitting day became a survival test for Speaker Macnaughton.
In press journalism and academic studies one finds less retrospectives on Alan Macnaughton than for any of the 10 other Speakers who came after the famous “pipeline debate” in 1956 figuratively destroyed Speaker Rene Beaudoin while turning the eyes of Canadians as never before toward their federal Parliament.
There is a raft of commentary on Lucien Lamoureux, who followed Macnaughton as Speaker in 1966 and lasted for eight brilliant years. And at the extreme from Lamoureux’s graceful competence stands the ineptness of another Speaker, John Bosley. After one very long session in Brian Mulroney’s first mandate began in 1984, Bosley was displaced and a new Speaker brought forward, not as a PM’s appointment but chosen by the “free” votes of MPs. And much that’s positive is still being written about this first elected Speaker, John Fraser, and his stint from 1986-93.
MacNaughton certainly had less appetite for press attention than any of the Speakers over the past four decades. He was quietly proud of being a successful lawyer and being known on the Hill as an assiduous parliamentarian. He never mounted much PR about the speakership (as the incumbent Speaker, Gilbert Parent, has done). Of course, he had a very safe seat. Montreal Mont Royal was an Anglo bastion which Pierre Trudeau inherited in 1965 as an exhausted Macnaughton waited for the senate seat he was to hold until 1978.
During sittings seething with spite and noise, Speaker Macnaughton couldn’t subdue the rank partisanship but he never played at it himself. This disregard made his fellow Liberals most uneasy.
The late Jack Pickersgill was the most acute and partisan parliamentarian I’ve watched. He was the unsung hero in the redemption of the Liberals after John Diefenbaker’s romp cut them down to 49 seats. Pickersgill, formidably sided by Paul Martin, Sr. and Lionel Chevrier, set out to exploit the new Tory prime minister’s weaknesses in the House itself. The trio exploited the loose rules on order, privilege and procedure of the House, bedevilling the two Tory Speakers whom Diefenbaker appointed, first Roland Michener, then Marcel Lambert.
When Lester Pearson squeezed out Diefenbaker as PM in 1963 he was short of a majority so he needed both a crafty House leader and a strong Speaker. Why? Because his stars in opposition had fostered so much animosity.
Jack Pickersgill was Pearson’s choice as his first House leader, and Jack made a fair fist of it for over a year, notably in getting the government through the disaster of the first budget (of finance minister Walter Gordon). His choice as Speaker was less obvious but Macnaughton was bilingual and a House veteran. Pearson also knew that Diefenbaker and his Tories respected Macnaughton, in part because he’d done well as the first member of the official opposition ever chosen to head an important House committee (public accounts). Diefenbaker had established this precedent and was proud of it.
Several decades later, in retirement, Picksergill, an historian in his first career, wrote a first-person account, titled The Road Back (U of T Press, 1986) about rousting the Chief from power and the opening months of what was to become two decades of Liberal government.
Here’s the Pickersgill candour about Alan Macnaughton as Speaker of the House:
“The session of the new Parliament began in a thoroughly conventional fashion … Alan Macnaughton, a fully bilingual Montreal lawyer, who had been chairman of the public accounts committee while Diefenbaker was prime minister was elected Speaker. Macnaughton proved to be less firm than Lambert and less learned and judicious than Michener. He was inclined to be intimidated by Diefenbaker, and too often permitted his rulings to be discussed after they had been made. He was faced with far too many appeals from his decisions in the first session.”
In The Road Back Pickersgill barely mentions the subject of parliamentary reform, and says nothing about widening the role of backbench MPs, giving them more resources and more substantial committee work on policy issues. Yet it was under Speaker Macnaughton that so many of such reforms were shaped. He gave the movement impetus, leadership and an organized form. He has never been much recognized for such pioneering, but he was not the sort to be bothered by such oversight. I would hesitate to call him a splendid Speaker but he was careful and fair, and no other recent Speaker has faced and survived such a fractious House.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 18, 1999
ID: 12822582
TAG: 199907181525
SECTION: Comment


Three new books of quality are so disparate they are unlikely to have overlapping readerships.
Paper Boom (473 pages) is by a droll economist, Jim Stanford. Its joint publishers are James Lorimer and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. My hunch is that Paper Boom has a chance to be a major marker in popular political and economic analysis, say like John Porter’s The Vertical Mosaic (1965). In paperback its 473 pages are laced with wit, anecdotes, jolting quotes, and scores of lucid charts and graphs.
My next recommendation is Sports Pages (167 pages) by Mark Douglas Lowes, a young historian at Queen’s. It’s published by the U of T Press, and puts sparely but clearly how sports news is “manufactured.” Here is Lowes’ bald “take” on sports sections in papers and sports reports on radio and television:
“… a finely tuned, high-performance promotional vehicle for the North American (and increasingly global) sports entertainment industry. As long as the sports press continues to deliver effective service to the relatively concentrated group of corporations and owners who own or control the major-league sports industry, its profitable synergy with industry will continue apace. And this means the continued saturation … of news about big-time sports.”
One point Lowes makes is relevant to the debate over governmental aid to shaky NHL franchises in Canada.
“In our age of debt and deficit mania, the need to exercise greater labour discipline is a corporate mantra. We’re told that to turn around sagging economies we must cut not only the size of government at all levels, but also spending on social programs … the powerful corporate interest groups that are lobbying incessantly to dismantle the welfare state are the biggest lobbyists for the public financing of professional sports franchises and brand-new stadiums.”
The third, new book I liked was by a man I knew fairly well as both a writer of history and an advocate for the CCF and, for a time, its successor, the New Democratic Party.
Conscience and History (202 pages) also comes from the U of T Press. It is a not quite finished memoir by Kenneth McNaught, (b.1918-d.1997).
A Torontonian with a wide outlook, social graces, and a charming personality, Professor McNaught concentrated on Canada’s story within the North American context. He was one of the busiest, leftish, professorial agitators for political and social reform in the country from the mid-1950s into the 1990s, and biographer of J.S. Woodworth, the founder of the CCF (A Prophet in Politics).
There is not much replay in the memoir of either the books or many articles which Ken wrote. This is a very candid, succinct autobiography, well-written, often effusive, but never mawkish. An open, moral judgmentalism runs through the book, creating a vein of self-criticism of Ken’s values and motives. He was a child in a well-known, prosperous, and highly-educated Toronto family. There’s a shrewd recall of school times at Upper Canada College and his higher education at Varsity which had an interlude of four war-time years as an army NCO monitoring military supplies and spending. Ken had eye problems that kept him from fighting service overseas.
After Ken passed his general Ph.D. examinations in 1947 he found a lecturing post at United College in Winnipeg where he stayed for a dozen years after the college board fired a fellow teacher, Harry Crowe.
This “Crowe affair” and its eventual settlement – Crowe was re-hired – dominated Canadian university affairs in the late 1950s. It led to the creation of the Canadian Association of University Teachers and to standards for academic tenure and procedures for dealing with dismissals.
In a vigorous defence of Crowe, Ken McNaught ranged for support across the country by phone, letters, and travels. A quarter of his memoir is given to the case.
In retrospect he thought it the most significant experience for his understanding of the powers and influences which shape Canada. It spurred him to more and more political activity as a picketer, pamphleteer, and promoter of the NDP.
He shared in the campus activism against the Viet Nam war, he and his wife hosting and guiding American draft-dodgers, and preaching the withdrawal of Canada from the Cold War. Though a contentious man, Ken was also positive and almost always entertaining.
Now, to say some more about Paper Boom. I’ve never been good at mastering the sequential lines of argument in academic analyses of monetary and fiscal policies and practices. Jim Stanford is easy to follow. It’s not that he ignores complexities of cause and effect but he’s set on being readable to most adult citizens, not just his professional peers.
Here’s a sample of how he introduces a major theme.
“When the owner of a car needs to put in a litre of oil every time she fills up her car with gas, she recognizes that something is wrong; her car is requiring too much lubrication. The same is now true of Canada’s economy. The financial lubrication is costly; we are injecting ever-greater amounts of it, yet the real economy is running more sluggishly than ever. It is definitely time for a tune-up.”
In his sidebars, author Stanford uses succinct quotations, followed by relevant data. For example, one bar is headed “WHY BOTHER?” Under comes this quote: “Why would you pour a foundation, buy machines, hire employees, if you can make as much money buying bonds? — Frank Stronach, former CEO, Magna International, July 1994.”
The bottom lines in the bar have this for a kicker: “Average return on equity, Canadian business, 1990-97: 5.5% Average interest rates, long-run Canadian bonds, 1990-97: 8.5%”
This may be a “must” book for you as either voter or investor.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 14, 1999
ID: 12822052
TAG: 199907141622
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


As often happens, an analysis in the U.S.A. sets Canadians searching for parallels here. This time it is Shadow, a buster of a book by noted reporter, Bob Woodward. The sub-title indicates his scope: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate.
Watergate was a Republican disaster, climaxing in 1974 when president Richard Nixon resigned. Woodward argues this circus of scandal caused a major shift in the presidential role. None of Nixon’s successors – i.e. Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Bill Clinton – adapted his executive practices to cope with the aggressiveness and ruthlessness which now are in play in presidential and congressional politics.
The post-Watergate presidents haven’t understood and reacted to the shift in their public standing and their own public reach. The game has changed. Nothing’s sacred. It is far harder to manage problems, in particular to conceal them. A president’s personal, family, and staff matters are continuously under critical examination. Presidents are too vulnerable now to be imperial. The nosy, nasty, and highly competitive media cover and stimulate the remorseless opposition of rival politicians in Congress and in governorships. Nothing is precluded from exposure.
The cast of characters in Shadow is huge and Woodward uses a swarm of sources in detailing the grave contretemps his presidential quintet faced, weakening the president’s power and shortening his reach. Each was unable to spin or manipulate inquiries effectively. Each is to be accused of deceit or dishonesty or lying.
Note that Woodward is not talking about a slide in the attention given to a president. The attention has actually kept on the rise but its range and assumptions were changed. Why not drive the top politician in the United States from office? Do it either by savage wear-and-tear preliminary to impeachment or by that process itself.
Woodward has not chosen to emphasize the part of the press and TV in putting the shadow over the White House, but a clutch of recent books by other journalists have been analyzing ethical issues and technological elements of the intrusiveness of a more diversified “press” into politics. Short years ago the fear was a domination of electoral politics by television advertising and news coverage. Now millions through computers have been surging into instant and easily-continued participation in politics through e-mail, web-sites, internet publishing, and faxing.
All right. What about the situation of the prime minister in Canada.
Is this office, like the U.S. presidency, less powerful than it was?
No! If anything the sharper focus through new technologies and media practices has bolstered the command of the prime minister.
What was defined just two decades ago as “cabinet” government in a “parliamentary” system has altered. The cabinet is much less significant; Parliament much less relevant; and the prime minister all – well, almost all.
Are there now ceaseless challenges to the prime minister’s authority and integrity? Yes. But there have always been some such challenges. Sir John A. was accused of pork-barrelling in his Kingston riding, and so has Jean Chretien in his.
But our incumbent and his predecessors have generally been effective in muffling or dodging or wearing away such challenges. See the APEC inquiry; see the inquiry into wrongdoing in Somalia.
It is also true that no PM in modern memory has had loud, affectionate acclaim on retiring from office or after losing it in an election. Recall the widespread scorn and hate for Brian Mulroney, and Pierre Trudeau, and John Diefenbaker.
An advantage a PM with a majority has over a president is that he’s not boxed into the two-year, four-year cycle of fixed elections. A federal election is his call. That’s a power. So is the tradition, firmed into fact, that the prime factor a politician must accept is loyalty to his or her party leader.
Further, the PM also confronts his challengers and damners face to face in the House, notably in the oral question period. There, backed by a noisy claque, he may be nasty or dismissive or mocking of his accusers and their shoddy distortions.
Further, however leak-prone the federal bureaucracy has become, the parliamentary system with its secret caucus enclaves, sworn cabinet secrecy, indeed, the ingrained respect for secrecy in Canada, eases a PM’s problems with the opposition or a crusading press.
The White House incumbents may be overshadowed and diminished by obsessive scandal-mongering and a mass, scabrous fix on what once was personal and private. Almost in parallel, more zeroing on a prime minister has enhanced, not diminished him and his office.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 11, 1999
ID: 12040971
TAG: 199907111765
SECTION: Comment


When the critical gist in an intra-party memo about a number of Reform Party MPs leaked out a fortnight ago it seemed likely to me that its author, Rick Anderson, would choose to resign his post as Preston Manning’s chief of staff or be fired by his boss or the party’s executive council. Not only has this not happened, even more surprising is editorial opinion and the “take” by many reporters in the leak’s aftermath.
In brief, the mind-set perceivable in media coverage, most noticeable in the Post and other Southam papers, posits Mr. Anderson as a cherishable asset to the party and its leader. (An exception to this generalization is Allan Fotheringham. He closed an astonishingly sympathetic run through Reform’s dilemmas, including Anderson and the “United Alternative” scheme with comparing Reform to other parties: “The same bluff, the same blather, the same backroom boys.”)
What surprises me most is Mr. Anderson being taken as an effective and able surrogate of Mr. Manning, lucid and compelling as a key Reform spokesman on TV roundups. He’s become another in a long line of inside dopesters – more influential than almost all elected partisans – that runs from Alistair Grosart in 1957 through the likes of Dalton Camp to Keith Davey to Bill Lee to Fred Doucet to Bill Fox to Gerry Kaplan to David Smith to Eddie Goldenberg … to Rick Anderson!
It’s granted by many in the press that Anderson has given superb guidance to the leader, the caucus, and the Reform Party as an organization. His acumen seems to be in “political smarts,” he acquired as an apparatchik in the Liberal Party, plus his sophisticated appreciation of how Reformers, populist and often crude and insensitive, must shape up if their leader and his themes are to make electoral progress east of the West, particularly in big city Ontario.
Mr. Anderson is depicted as likable and shrewd, analytical and dynamic, and – what is more pertinent to the memo leak – sensible to be seeking more responsible candidates and fewer boondocks bumpkins for ridings now held by Reform.
At present the Liberal leader may parachute candidates of his or her choice into any riding. He expels dissident MPs from “his” caucus without challenge. Grant the Liberals their successes, but they are the antithesis of populists.
Much of the time the Liberal party is undemocratic, stressing loyalty (and its rewards) and hierarchy. Judge the Liberals’ democracy by the scanty parts it gives when in power to its backbench MPs. And, as bureaucratic insider, Donald Savoie, has put it so exquisitely, the Chretien cabinet has become a “focus group” for the PM, not an executive body.
Maybe Liberal ways are the way it must be to attain and retain power, but Reform was not supposed to be like this.
Mr. Manning and Reform came to Parliament in surprising strength in 1993. Above all they were dedicated to making Parliament count and to restoring the House as the prime focus and operational centre of Canadian democracy.
They emphasized their abhorrence of intensely partisan behaviour and their intention to save Parliament from its pettiness and staginess in behaviour, exemplified by the farce of the oral question period. (Instead, it’s more farcical than ever.)
They preached frugality so trenchantly. They wouldn’t even use the convenient but subsidized food services within Parliament’s environs. They vaunted their freedom from high-priced partisan “spinners” and undertook to reduce drastically the expensiveness of perks and services on the Hill.
They would refuse the many “freebie” junkets sponsored by parliamentary associations. Their leader was against, then hesitant, and then accepted the use of a limousine, a perk billed to the House, which Ed Broadbent of the NDP had pioneered.
Above all, the Reformers stressed that their trustworthiness and integrity came from the “bottom-up” elements of their party’s constitution.
The paid-up members of the party, both in each riding association and in their broader councils and conventions, would figuratively call the shots, because MPs were answerable to them, not just at nomination time but all the time. Even issue by contentious issue, Reform MPs would canvass their constituents and then vote accordingly.
In effect, it seemed the citizens of a federal riding who held Reform Party cards could actually “recall” an MP. Legally they couldn’t dismiss their MP but they could deny participation in the party to the scapegrace.
Almost all of this Reform distinctiveness prated in 1993 has faded away, probably much of it because it was impracticable.
Obviously, Reform is just a party like the others, centrally-dominated by the leader and his hired handlers.
Even so, even accepting this, it is hard to fathom why Rick Anderson hasn’t resigned, or why Preston Manning hasn’t fired him. Symbolically, what a taunt Mr. Anderson is, not just to Reform card-holders of their insignificance in the party, but to the MPs in the caucus who have been doing good work in the House and its committees.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, July 07, 1999
ID: 12039970
TAG: 199907071341
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15


“I’m tired of seeing women airbrushed out of Canadian history. Men are quite willing to take credit for women’s work.”
— Senator Pat Carney, June 1999

Remember this hassle? It arose when Pat Carney, once a trade minister, was NOT invited to a decennial review in Montreal of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the U.S.A.
Ever since the above quote appeared in a Montreal daily Pat Carney’s charge has been annoying me. Today let me narrow the matter to our political history and Ms. Carney’s roles in it before I note some data on women in federal politics.
Ms. Carney, 64, and a trained economist, has by and large operated in these three theatres:
(i) in public affairs journalism, much of it as a columnist;
(ii) in electoral politics, serving in the House of Commons from 1980 to 1988, the last four years as a cabinet minister for Brian Mulroney;
(iii) in the Senate since 1990, aggressive on behalf of B.C. interests.
Ms. Carney was brusque and direct in her analyses. Fellow journalists tagged her as competent, tough, opinionated, and not one to suffer fools. Since her press days we’ve had many more women columnists and reporters; indeed too many to be ignored, either now or in future retrospectives.
Ms. Carney was a vociferous opposition critic in the House between 1980 and 1984. Brian Mulroney was high on her when he formed his first cabinet in 1984. He showed it most in 1986 by shifting her from the important energy portfolio to that of International Trade and a lead role in attaining the FTA. In the spring of 1988 John Crosbie was given her task and brought in the bill embodying the agreement, much of which was shaped when she’d been trade minister. She was switched to Treasury Board. In the fall, Liberal obstruction of the FTA bill forced Mulroney to go to the people. Ms. Carney declined to run, citing poor health, and another Tory woman, Kim Campbell, won her riding. Although an MP for a mere five years Ms. Campbell became the prime minister for four months in 1993, and that won’t be “airbrushed” away.
Two years after Ms. Carney quit electoral politics Mulroney put her in the Senate, where she’s been an outspoken member.
At this time there are 30 women senators, and they seem to outwork and make more news than some 70 male colleagues. In the House, by parties, the total of 62 women MPs goes from the Liberals 38, to the Bloc’s 11 (of 44 MPs) to the NDP’s eight (of 21) to the Reform’s three (of 59) to the Tories’ two (of 20).
Obviously women of Canada, in federal politics, are far from the half share they have in population. I think they should and shall reach this before next mid-century. My optimism comes from how relatively well they have been doing since my first Parliament in 1957.
Although the first woman MP, Agnes Macphail, was elected in 1921, the first one in a cabinet, Ellen Fairclough, was appointed by PM Diefenbaker in 1957 – his only female minister. Then in 1965, PM Pearson put Judy LaMarsh into cabinet – his only female minister.
Pierre Trudeau, after waiting from 1968 to 1972, appointed first Jeanne Sauve, then Monique Begin and Iona Campagnolo in 1976, Judy Erola in 1980, and Celine Hervieux-Payette in 1983 – five Liberal women over his 15 years of office.
Sandwiched in the Trudeau era was the 1979 interlude with Joe Clark, when he appointed one female minister, Flora MacDonald.
In 1984, Mulroney jacked up the count, taking into his first cabinet Ms. MacDonald, Pat Carney, Suzanne Blais-Grenier, Andree Champagne, Barbara McDougall and Monique Vezina, then adding Monique Landry in 1986, Shirley Martin in 1988, Mary Collins and Kim Campbell in 1989, Pauline Browes in 1991, and Barbara Sparrow in 1993 – 12 Tory women over nine years.
In 1993, Jean Chretien chose seven women as ministers: Sheila Copps, Joyce Fairbairn, Diane Marleau, Anne McLellan, Sheila Finestone, Ethel Blondin, and Christine Stewart. In 1995 he added Luci-enne Robillard, in 1996, Jane Stewart and Hedy Fry, and this year, Claudette Bradshaw – 11 Liberal women over six years.
Put another way, in the past 15 years there have been 23 appointments of women ministers; this after only eight in the 27 years from 1957 and 1984. We’ve had our first female PM and two female leaders of an opposition party. We have the percentage of women MPs up to just over 20% and the percentage of woman senators just under 30%.
Surely and historically, women have been progressing in our politics. As the figurative pantheon of Canadians of renown expands more political women will adorn it, some so notable they’ll be known by first names such as Judy, Flora, Iona, and Deborah, even Pat.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, July 04, 1999
ID: 12039254
TAG: 199907041825
SECTION: Comment


As we celebrated the last Canada Day in this century we heard firm opinions about the condition of our country from the prime minister (in an interview with him on CPAC TV).
Although Jean Chretien was critical of the ignorance of our past among us and some wilful misinterpretations of it, particularly in Quebec, he was buoyant about our present state, even declaring that ours is not a difficult country to govern.
The PM believes “the Canadian model will be used to keep countries and regions together around the world.” Why? Because, “The values that we have developed for tolerance and diversity and the capacity for sharing–this is what is needed around the world.”
He didn’t linger over our basic cleavage into two language groups and the role this duality played in the creation of Canada in 1867. The “two nations” problem was still inherent by 1900 and has more or less (usually less) persisted through this century. It will be with us until the cause of independence among the Quebecois either fades away or is successful in some decade of the 21st century. (For me, the demographic trends are cause for optimism.)
In other recent performances Chretien has told us his political hero and model has been Sir Wilfrid Laurier, our prime minister as the 20th century began.
As I see it, it would be hard to suggest a better model for Jean Chretien from the list of his predecessors, and no one should sneer at his choice just because he himself lacks some of Laurier’s graces in appearance, style and oratory.
Most of us in mid-life or past were drilled in school that as the 19th century closed Laurier as prime minister foretold the 20th as Canada’s century. There are many among us who believe this hasn’t really happened. They have quibbles about slow growth, or of Canada merely moving in the 20th century out from under the hegemony of Britain to slip under the hegemony of the United States.
As one who’s been witness to Canadian affairs through the latter two-thirds of the 20th century, Laurier’s prediction was sound, even though Canada has not become a titan among nations in terms of population and productivity, and is unlikely to be.
Consider, not that our population of 1901 of 5.3 million will only be six times greater by 2001, but what we share in the quality of our society and its services. Begin with law and order, and contrast ours with that elsewhere. It is obvious and banal but still worth noting the fair to excellent chances most of us and our children have had to get an education and find careers.
Although Chretien has not projected his image for Canada by 2100, surely it is good that he has recently been pushing history as an imperative topic for young Canadians, even if he himself has a rough-and-ready interpretation of some happenings such as Gen. Montcalm being asleep as the forces of Gen. Wolfe scaled the cliffs onto the Plains of Abraham at Quebec, ensuring the conquest of New France.
In the CPAC interview, Chretien emphasized that “the teaching of history – education – is a provincial concern.” And he didn’t continue into what the federal government could do or ought to do to encourage the study of history. Certainly, with 10 different educational regimes it follows that there has been little commonality of content or intensity in what Canadian history is now being taught. But wherever we live it is within or under the scope of a Canada with a federal order or level of government that affects every one of us.
Of course, Chretien knows the federal government has a range of federally funded institutions that can or may present our past to us, from the CBC to the NFB to the National Library and National Archives to a galaxy of museums. But such programs and productions are catch-as-catch-can in availability and not a regular study of our past together, and the past as prologue.
Yes, most of our schools are loaded with computers and now almost every pupil is familiar with their use and access to huge stores of information, much of it history – Canadian history! But the availability of history through television, videos, film and computer access, wonderful as it is, is a random matter. To “take,” to be effective, the teaching of our past, together with its glories, disasters and warts, needs to be in the curriculum of all the schools of the land, not just presented in one primary grade along with geography or civics or as an elective subject in a middle grade of high school.
Federal funding support for a program dedicated primarily to the history of the whole would surely attract most, if not all, of the provincial administrations, even Quebec’s. The provinces would have to have the ultimate say on course outlines and texts. Remember that all provinces take federal money for language teaching (in the name of bilingualism) and for preparing immigrants to cope with Canada.
Ottawa, itself, spends tens of millions yearly to promote a multiculturalism policy which focuses far more on the diverse heritages of those who come here than on that of those they are joining.
Chretien acknowledged in the interview that he is “a bit reluctant to use the spending power” to get Canadian history taught in Canadian schools. He should be bold about it. He is on to something. Canadians did much together in the 20th century that was worthwhile and memorable.
What better than ensuring most of us appreciate this through the century ahead?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 30, 1999
ID: 12038372
TAG: 199906301752
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


As a fan of Mordecai Richler I felt his last piece on politics (in the Post) was too sardonic. But half a week after reading it I’m less critical.
Mordecai was mockingly sad because the summer recess of “the monkey house” had taken away his “richest material,” leaving a summer full of “unresolved questions.” He sketched five of them.
1) Who’s to be the next Governor General? 2) Will the United Alternative fly, or Reform fly apart? 3) Will the PM boost national unity by announcing his retirement? 4) Is Sheila Copps going to Paree to join UNESCO? 5) Will Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard go ahead with a referendum in 2000 “so he can lose, quit … and get a life?”
Three of those five questions need to be taken more seriously only days after they were asked (but not those on who may become G-G or of UNESCO as the next stop for Copps).
The PM has two fresh blots on what he claims has been an untarnished administration.
First, and rather abruptly, we now have a new critical vein about venality at the top being mined, this time not by reporters of Conrad Black’s National Post but by those of the Globe and Mail. These confirm even more patronage, and possible toll-gating of it in the PM’s Quebec riding.
Second, there is the abrupt dismissal of an assistant photographer in the PMO by Jean Pelletier, co-handler (with Eddie Goldenberg) of Jean Chretien. Her firing was coincident with questions she had taken to the PM’s own ethics commissioner about the possible business activities of the PM’s photographer-in-chief.
These stories complement the recent run (since April) of stories about the PM and his people following the traditional party-in-power chicanery which cost Brian Mulroney so much in reputation as details of it mounted and spread.
Are these revelations having any effect where it would hurt the PM and his party – with the public in general? It’s too early to be sure. However, two Liberal MPs, one a Chretien loyalist, the other a Martin backer, have told me of a rash of recent calls to their constituency offices about the PM’s integrity and about his pettiness over Conrad Black’s British baronetcy. Neither previously had anything like such calls about Jean Chretien.
To vault back to the Richler piece, like many federalists in Quebec the Montreal writer sees Chretien as prime minister as a bonus to the separatist cause – a man who attained office and has been sustained in it by his popularity in English Canada. There are hints, at last, that an attitude is crystallizing in media coverage, and also spreading among reporters, that Chretien is by and large a Mulroney II – same sleaze and same policies (see FTA, NAFTA, GST, and privatization).
However – and this is a big however – on the always most critical Canadian question, unity, what Chretien may be losing in English Canada may not be so dangerous. Why? Because of the punitive course Premier Bouchard is taking with the militant nurses of Quebec. It’s hard to imagine any choice he could take being more damaging over the next year or two to his popularity among Quebecois.
And if Chretien’s charismatic rival in Quebec has been weakened, consider the increasingly embarrassed condition of Preston Manning, his main rival in the House of Commons. Not only is he saddled with an initiative – the United Alternative – that is going nowhere and which, I would wager, never will, the leak this week to the Sun of a recent memo by Rick Anderson about Reform candidacies in the next election is a stunner.
The contents of the leak will let all who belong to the Reform Party know it is now just another partisan operation along the very same lines as the federal Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives. It is a top-down outfit and not a party based on the members in their riding organizations and in convention.
Anderson is a former Liberal “spinner.” It’s been more and more apparent since his idea of the UA initiative was taken up and advanced by Manning that he is both the leader’s chief adviser and his surrogate in the management of caucus and the party organization.
Manning has pooh-poohed anything of significance in this Anderson memo about candidacies in the next election in a score of ridings that are now held by Reform MPs – it’s merely a sensible plan of finding good alternatives.
But no dismissive words from the Reform leader can gainsay what the memo reveals: Reform is now directed (in secret!) by an unelected person, a party employee.
Granted, Anderson is an alter ego to Manning and his trusted surrogate in caucus affairs and in directing the party’s organization, even into each riding.
But imagine the break this is for the federal Liberals, this revelation that their official opposition, the self-proclaimed pure, honest, populist and democratic Reform party has had to replicate an Allister Grosart, Tom Kent, Keith Davey or Jean Pelletier.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 27, 1999
ID: 12037681
TAG: 199906271741
SECTION: Comment


The bombing has stopped, Kosovars are returning to what is left of their homes, and Canadian troops are once again peacekeeping. Where does Canada stand after her second war this decade?
The messy business of bringing peace to Kosovo is only just beginning. Canada is to provide KFOR with 1,300 troops for three years, but it’s going to take Albanians and Serbs far longer than that to learn to live together in peace. Is the world’s self-professed No. 1 peacekeeper likely to be out of Kosovo in 2002? No – we’re probably there for the long haul. (Bosnia s peacekeeping mission, which began a decade ago, looks set to continue well into the next millennium too.)
Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy portray NATO s intervention in Kosovo as a diplomatic coup for Canada. They (and their admirers) argue it is the realization of the human security agenda Axworthy began to articulate a number of years ago through his support for the anti-personnel mine ban and humanitarian interventions to halt ethnic slaughter in Africa. As the humanitarian intervention in Somalia predates Axworthy’s arrival on the scene, this seems a bit bold. Regardless, today his claim to leadership of the human security agenda has been usurped by British PM Tony Blair.
Blair, who backed up his government’s tough rhetoric on Kosovo with real military force, is widely credited with putting some backbone into the Bill Clinton administration, through his frank talk about the need to prepare for a ground war. It is to Blair – not Chretien or Axworthy – that the international media now turn for views on the brave new world of armed humanitarian intervention.
The surest proof that claims of Canadian diplomatic leadership are hyperbolic is that we’ve been left out of the key diplomatic exchanges – just as we were in Bosnia earlier in the decade. And no wonder. In the big leagues you have to ante up. We haven’t. While our 18-aircraft contribution to the bombing campaign compares favourably with those of other small nations, this total was only reached after NATO requested more aircraft. It seems we did not offer to send or do anything more than was asked of us.
Canada’s leading was thus done from the middle of the pack. Our politicians were preoccupied not with winning the war, but with avoiding anything which might alienate the citizenry, and opinion polls indicated no keenness for Canada’s participation.
Recall Lloyd Axworthy’s fatuous admonition to NATO pilots. When the media began to fixate on the few bombs going astray, he said (in effect): You’d better stop bombing innocent civilians!
Recall the extremely low-key communications strategy imposed on the military. Our pilots remained not only anonymous – for security reasons – but virtually invisible: no details regarding their targets, no interviews with their families.
Even when the PM visited them after the battle, there was no inside scoop; no one singled out by the big guy for special praise. Capital “L” Liberal Ottawa would hate it if anyone who killed for their country became a hero. (Now that we’re back to politically correct peacekeeping, however, the military is able to immediately offer the heartwarming details of how a female medic saved a child’s life.)
Canada’s modest war effort reflects the sorry state of the military. When NATO sought 500 more peacekeepers, the defence minister initially balked, saying we had pretty much reached the limit of our resources. He was right. But our politicians know no shame when it comes to overloading our troops, so when our allies rejected the excuses, we scraped together the extra bodies.
As I noted earlier, this is the second time we’ve gone to war this decade. It’s surreal – no Canadian casualties, and no identifiable carnage attributable to us. Our servicemen and women performed above and beyond, as they have to, given what they have to work with. If life were fair, they would be warmed by public approbation, and a real debate over their roles and consequent requirements would be under way.
But there’s no talk of extra funds – other than to cover the additional costs of the war. No talk of extra manpower, either. Troops returning from hazardous duty overseas will continue to face the prospect of being shipped out again a few months later.
Whatever money the government has is to go to new social programs. The opposition and media, who understand Canadians don’t want more military spending and don’t care about diplomatic charades, are focusing their attention on something which they think might have some resonance with the public – scandals about the prime minister.
As this century opened, a small force of Canadians was fighting in a distant land (South Africa). Attached to a larger British force, it came under British command. Canada’s government had no role in determining its fate. The prime minister of the day, however, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, predicted great things for Canada in the new century.
Sure enough, the next generation of Canadians sent a huge force overseas. Under a Canadian general, at a place called Vimy Ridge, it won its country a say in the affairs of nations, but it served under British operational command.
The next generation declared war for themselves (a first), and created the fourth most powerful military force on Earth. It helped to liberate millions from tyranny but it still operated under British command, this surely for the last time?
Two more generations have passed – it’s 1999. A small force of Canadians is off in a distant land, risking much, attached to a British force, under a British commander.
A century’s progress?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 23, 1999
ID: 12036582
TAG: 199906231659
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15


One shouldn’t be surprised when some public celebrations go unnoticed, given the sheer flow of honours to Canadians for achievements in some endeavour. A fortnight ago in our Senate’s chamber the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians (CAFP) gave its first Distinguished Service Award to one John Ross Matheson, age 81.
The national media’s judgment was to pass by the award, and my column is not a quarrel with this. The most remarked deeds of John Matheson are old news, scattered mostly through the 1960s and the uproar over a distinctive flag and the creation of the Order of Canada. No, what I want to sketch is why Matheson is so symbolically the good citizen, a man I noted first as a persevering MP, later as an unabashed lover of Canada.
These few sentences from his remarks on receiving the CAFP award embody the essential Matheson and, one could wish, the quintessential Canadian:
“The surest way for us to ‘stand on guard’ for Canada, and to contribute as well to the betterment of the human race – the only race – is to prove that we respect and love one another. Of course we all have enemies. And the best way to defeat and destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”
He came to Parliament from a law practice in Brockville. He had finished law training after his five years in the army as a gunner had ended in 1944 in Italy when he was terribly wounded by shrapnel and invalided home.
Literally, Matheson lurched and staggered into the House of Commons in 1961 after winning a byelection for the Liberals in Leeds. He was to retain the seat in the general elections of 1962, 1963, and 1965 and lost it by four votes in 1968. (Along the St. Lawrence banks in Ontario – Loyalist country – he was not seen as a political hero to all because of his work for Lester Pearson in replacing the Red Ensign with the Maple Leaf flag.)
Parliament Hill in the years Matheson was busy there was very partisan. The bitterness between Pearson and John Diefenbaker went deep in their respective caucuses. Matheson was beyond this nastiness. He was the least sour and partisan of MPs. I never heard him make a partisan jibe. I recall him behind the House curtain, toning down Judy LaMarsh, then the most tart-tongued of MPs, from one of her rages with wit which got to her better nature.
Despite being literally a cripple, a paraplegic whose speech and memory had also been affected by wounds, Matheson came back from the war determined to walk again. He was to do it, while completing his education, establishing a law practice, fathering six children and taking part as a volunteer in various political, military, charitable and educational causes – perhaps most notably as a layman pillar of Queen’s University.
Today, just as I first did in 1961, watchers wince as John Matheson enters a room, struggling and twisting but walking. His quiet but very fierce determination and his industry have had him involved as a citizen, widely, and usually persistently, to this day. Over 55 years as a crippled war veteran, he became and has been a superb citizen.
After his defeat in 1968, Matheson was made a judge for the Ottawa-Carleton district by Pierre Trudeau’s government, and later was on the bench in Lanark county. The gossip on him as a judge was that he was a good listener, fair and warm-hearted. He carried on as judge until 1992 and the retirement age of 75.
For Matheson’s diversity, scan just a sampler of his participations: the Canadian Boxing Association, the Canadian Olympic Association, the Royal Economic Society, the Canadian Economics Association, the Canadian Bible Society, the Boy Scouts of Canada Trust, the National Trust of Scotland, the Council on Canadian Unity, the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires and the Queen’s University Council.
Although the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians was launched early this decade it was 1996 before it was formalized by an act of Parliament which also sanctioned the CAFP to “recognize outstanding contributions to the promotion and understanding of Canada’s parliamentary system of government.”
Why did a committee of six from the CAFP, headed by its chairman, Barry Turner, a former PC MP, choose John Matheson? He was just an MP, never a minister, and that for just seven years over 30 years ago.
Yes, the prompt would come from awareness of his part in attaining the flag we all now take for granted. But the choice also came because so many in politics, law and education know John Matheson is a byword for tough self-reliance and generosity of spirit.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 20, 1999
ID: 12035915
TAG: 199906201627
SECTION: Comment


Quebec’s Liberal leader, Jean Charest, has scoffed at the ignorance or misunderstanding of Canadian history displayed in Ireland last week by the federal Liberal leader, Jean Chretien, when he said he wished he’d been there to wake up Gen. Montcalm in 1759.
Charest is exasperated as a strong federalist who thought Chretien was just as strong. Charest insists the core reality for Quebecers with regard to Canada’s creation as a federal state was a large-minded and quite democratic accommodation to the religion, language, laws and political processes of French-Canadians, and not that Canada was born out of a roughshod trampling of a defeated people – as goes the separatist myth and into which Chretien-on-Montcalm fits well.
My reading is that Chretien was merely being flippant about the crucial battle in “the Conquest” of New France.
It doesn’t take much familiarity with the global Seven Years’ War (1756-63) to know that far more than a sleeping Montcalm went into the defeat on the Plains of Abraham.
The prime minister of Canada, far more than any other politician, should be careful in what he says about “the two nations” which the Quebec Act of 1774 put into law. Chretien’s blurt in Ireland was glib stupidity.
Oddly, the remarks had a match in statements last week by a far lesser figure, Jean-Maurice Simard, a Tory senator from New Brunswick.
Simard said the assimilation of francophones into the English majority in Canada is a form of “cultural cleansing.” He says it has been happening because not nearly enough is being done to stop the anglicization of francophones who live outside Quebec and New Brunswick.
Baloney! It would be more waste to throw a few hundred million more dollars of federal money each year at such efforts, given what a level of annual spending of over half-a-billion dollars over several decades has failed to do.
Oh, such umbrage is rising against the NDP and its leader from all parts of the political spectrum, but most caustically from politically correct left-wingers like Judy Rebick and Buzz Hargrove.
The critics are mocking the harshness and the stupidity of the recent open disciplining of MP Svend Robinson by his leader, Alexa McDonough, just for presenting a petition to the House which wants “God” removed from our Constitution.
Robinson, for 20 years an MP from B.C., consistently has been the top headline maker of six successive NDP caucuses.
Robinson is as smart and industrious as any MP I’ve had the chance to watch, and always he’s had a knack at making news while pushing causes like peace, environmentalism, natives, homosexual rights, job equity, euthanasia and penal reform. In so doing Svend usually comes through as being a proprietor and exponent of each cause rather than as a mere stalwart of the NDP and its caucus on the Hill.
In short, Svend is maddening to his colleagues, and not only as scene-setter and scene-stealer. He prefers to take off without filing a flight plan with his colleagues. Most of the time he is courteous enough with them, and usually careful enough not to slang them as cautious sheep. In not belittling seatmates, Svend is unlike another maverick MP, John Nunziata, now an Independent, in referring to fellow Liberal backbenchers.
Svend has created an admiring following across the country among those likely to vote NDP for a variety of causes or missions, some of which are beyond stock NDP sociology and economics. Of course, reporters cherish him as a ready mine of sharp quotes and video clips. But a lot of his causes and cases go beyond what many loyal New Democrats can stomach, particularly those in constituencies that are not big city. Thus, able, veteran House colleagues like Lorne Nystrom and Nelson Riis exploded a fortnight ago when Svend blindsided them again by presenting the “God” matter in the House and exploiting it neatly with the media.
Is there a solution to the stress and rage which Svend causes in the NDP caucus and the party’s ordinary membership? Yes! Turf him.
Do as Jean Chretien did with Nunziata, but do it candidly and generously. Emphasize that Svend is a one-person party, that parliamentary politics demands an MP be a team player. Undertake that efforts will be made not to have any NDP candidate run against him next election. Leave Svend to roam free. Let him play the media organ as a solo act. End saddling his colleagues with explanations for Svend’s takes on rights, wrongs and values.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 16, 1999
ID: 12034890
TAG: 199906161677
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


Here are some short comments on a few Liberal cabinet ministers, plus a note on how long the trail of the party’s modus operandi for holding its seats runs into the past.
First, to wonder if Mr. Chretien’s coming shuffle will change the roles of several, relatively unobtrusive members of his cabinet who have been very good value for him through industrious, capable handling of their jobs and defending well in the House, I refer to:
– Don Boudria, age 49, MP for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell since 1984, and government House leader the past two years;
– Ralph Goodale, age 49, MP for Wascana since 1993, minister of Natural Resources for two years and before that minister of Agriculture for four years;
– Herb Dhaliwal, age 47, the MP for Vancouver South-Burnaby since 1993, and minister of National Revenue for two years.
Relatively, Boudria has been the sleeper success of the notorious “Rat Pack” which suddenly exploded on the opposition side after Mulroney’s big sweep in 1984. The group, including Sheila Copps, Brian Tobin and yes, Don Boudria, took on the Mulroney cabinet with vicious persistence from 1984 to 1986.
Boudria was the first to shed the Rat Pack style, well ahead of Tobin. He continues as a hard partisan but his forte has become low-key common sense. He’s an effective House manager, and as yet he has few enemies on his own backbench, even though he’s delivered the discipline decided by the PM and handlers Pelletier and Goldenberg. He would be an improvement in mind and craft over incumbents in such significant ministries as Defence (Art Eggleton), Transport (David Collenette) and Industry (John Manley). And Bob Kilger, the caucus whip (and ex-NHL official) is an able alternative at hand.
Ralph Goodale, the only Saskatchewan Liberal MP, is adroit at bypassing or muffling criticism while leaving an impression he knows his ministry thoroughly. He’d make an excellent minister for departments like transport, justice, or citizenship and immigration.
Next to Paul Martin, Dhaliwal was the most successful businessman before politics of anyone in the cabinet, and in two years he’s marshalled more reform in National Revenue than any minister in memory. He’s also a more respected personality in commerce and trade in B.C. than Chretien’s No. 1 minister there, David Anderson (Fisheries and Oceans). Dhaliwal would be a natural for either Industry or International Trade (now held by Sergio Marchi) or even Finance, if Martin chooses to be moved.
On Marchi, there has been a run of unattributed stories suggesting that he and his wife anticipate or are anxious to have him made our ambassador to Italy. He was one of the PM’s first and most vocal backers but he’s been no great shakes as a minister, and seems the least cherished Ontario minister in the Liberals’ Metro caucus.
Although 15 years as an MP, Marchi is only 43. As an ambassador from outside the foreign affairs set his future in such service would be shaky once his patron leaves the PMO, and it would be grim if or when the Liberals lose office.
Though one may smirk at the idea of the Marchis in Rome, one also knows it is possible. Jean Chretien has already made ambassadors of two of his ministers, Roy MacLaren and Ron Irwin. A recent snippet story had Chretien saying that the next governor general would be from the political field. Why not Marchi? An Italo-Canadian first!
To close, a historical note on Liberal survival techniques, reminding one of the fortuitous federal contracts awarded before the last election in the ridings of Chretien and Anne McLellan.
A new, delightful picture book with text is at hand from Art Global publishers: Canada’s Air Forces, 1914- 1999. It was written by military historians Brereton Greenhous and Hugh Halliday. Buy it for a RCAF veteran friend or a fan of aircraft.
Historian Greenhous is noted in his field for not gilding Canadian generals and politicians. So I credit him with a paragraph on patronage. Early in WWII Mackenzie King as prime minister and Liberal party leader vetted where new bases for the huge Commonwealth Training Plan would be built. Top placing had to go to ridings of Liberal MPs.
Just a decade before King was vetting such base locales, he’d been openly humiliated by the Beauharnois affair in which contracts and water rights went to promoters who gave big sums to the Liberals. And yet he went back thoroughly to patronage. The public has always quickly forgiven or forgotten Liberal chicanery, and for one, I’ve given up being shocked about it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 13, 1999
ID: 12034239
TAG: 199906131247
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: photo from SUN files
RISING STAR … 30-year-old Reform MP Jason Kenney, representing Calgary Southeast, seems a strong candidate to replace Preston Manning as party leader.


This 36th Parliament, now near its halfway point, has been less interesting and more flaccid than many of its predecessors. But suddenly in the last week before the parliamentarians’ long summer break, it came alive, most notably in the House but also in the Senate.
Suddenly a jaded observer could see talent at work, even jumping the bounds of partisan restraint and caucus discipline, including Jean Chretien’s much muffled backbench.
One can pick a battery of reasons for this blip of parliamentary excitement. The convincing wins in Ontario and New Brunswick elections by the Progressive Conservatives had just jolted most of the partisans who sit in the House, particularly on the government side. Also, the pre-break push to get legislation through gave more urgency to what was on in Parliament. Further, an appreciation was jelling among most Hill partisans, even Liberals, that the PM’s stonewalling of the opposition’s allegations of conflicts of interest (over federal grants in his riding) couldn’t conceal his aggravation over them, and the publicized comparisons with the notorious sleaze of the Brian Mulroney gang.
The mutual enmity of Chretien and Mulroney is as venomous and invigorating as that of Lester Pearson and John Diefenbaker in the 1960s.
Before the break the House rules required there be two “opposition days” and for these the government does not set the subject.
For Monday, the Bloc Quebecois chose to focus critically on the government for its lack of response to the so-called Mills report. This was a House subcommittee study on the needs of sport which had been chaired by Dennis Mills, the veteran Liberal who represents Broadview-Greenwood.
It surprised me that this debate became more than a pro-forma affair; that is, those in the House really got into it. The media was to pay no attention to what was said by the 30-odd MPs, perhaps because they fixed so much on amateur sport and so little on the problems of the NHL or the Expos. The sum of what was said was quite positive, revealing much awareness of the situation, for example, the desperate shortage of coaches for amateur sport and the need to open participation to many kids whose parents are priced out of it.
On Tuesday the House developed the most genuine debate of this session, first over what is a marriage, and then on the worth of the Senate.
By adjournment time at 11:38 p.m., after half-a-dozen well-attended votes on various motions, even a remote viewer of the televised proceedings could sense the self-satisfied excitement of MPs over a great day.
To open the proceedings Reform had chosen the prime subject through asking House approval for a motion that “marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others … and that Parliament will take all necessary steps … to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada.”
This debate brought many emotional contributors, most with their own thoughts, particularly from Liberal backbenchers after Justice Minister Ann McLellan made an early response to underline that the government intended to maintain the legal definition of marriage as “the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.”
The Reform motion was passed, 220-55, after being amended in a minor way. All Reformers voted for it, and all but 10 of the Liberals present. The BQ and the NDP split, a majority in each group voting against the motion. The Tories split, but most were for the motion.
Anyone who takes the trouble to read through all the speeches and questions in this debate on marriage is likely to pick out (as I did) one MP above all the others who stood out as clever, quick and well-informed, and not only because he made several Liberal MPs who had risen to spew partisan animosity look foolish. My reference is to Jason Kenney, the Reform MP representing Calgary Southeast, who came into politics as a juvenile prodigy on the arcane subject of taxation.
Kenney, a healthy, roly-poly sort with a nice manner of pleasant aplomb, was just 28 when he entered the House two years ago. The 1997 intake included several dozen MPs of good quality, most noticeably in the small NDP and Tory caucuses, but Kenney is clearly of most unusual merit, not just as he is, but in what he seems sure to become. He’s the most exceptional young politician to impress the House since Jean Charest. Despite Kenney’s youth he already measures up as the best possible Reform leader should Preston Manning resign in the next year or two.
On Tuesday night the House vote regarding financing provisions for the Senate was closer, at 164-112, than that on the definition of marriage. In itself this vote is not significant until the nays are tied in with the fair-to-middling positive response the NDP’s Lorne Nystrom and Liberal Roger Gallaway have been getting from their campaign to abolish the Senate.
On Wednesday even the opposition MPs were happy to learn the looming strike of air traffic controllers had been averted by agreement. The zest of Tuesday did carry over, bolstered by a huge gratification at the open disciplining of Svend Robinson by his party’s leader, Alexa McDonough, for promoting the excision of God from the Constitution without advising his NDP colleagues of it beforehand. If Kenney is the cream of the newer group of MPs, Robinson continues, as he has for six Parliaments, as the ace among all MPs in promotion of his particular causes – like gay rights, or himself.
On Thursday the House continued to be lively, even chippy, but there also seemed a tangible relaxation over peace in Kosovo and the end of bombing in Yugoslavia. Certainly, Chretien was realistic and modest about the post-peace prospects and there was a broad, contained unity and little breast-beating about Canada’s part in the war.
Let us hope the MPs return in the fall with the liveliness of the past week, and are encouraged by Chretien and his ministers to sustain it, not least through giving the House itself much more of their attention and time.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 09, 1999
ID: 12033192
TAG: 199906091512
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


Brian Mulroney has only deepened the mutual animosity between him and Jean Chretien by urging the opposition to keep after Liberal patronage and tollgating until an inquiry is appointed to bare it.
For weeks Reform and Tory MPs have hammered at deals made in Chretien’s riding, using data largely gleaned from the National Post. (The sardonically minded say the Bloc has stayed out of this hullabaloo because it wants Chretien in power next year when Lucien Bouchard pulls his next referendum.)
Sure, Mulroney knows there’ll be no inquiry. The Grits’ stonewalling will go on, with time-worn good ol’ boy Herb Gray insisting, “There isn’t a shred of evidence of wrongdoing.”
The former Tory PM has, however, surely imprinted on the public mind that Chretien doesn’t function as wholesomely as he claimed he would in 1993 when he waved the vaunted Red Book and promised his would be an honest government, not sleazy like that of Mulroney.
Also, the kerfuffle over Chretien’s integrity heightens interest in whether or not he will go, or even should go, for a third mandate. Hundreds of loyal Liberals are wondering if the evidence of both bald tollgating of contracts and a personal conflict of interest is hurtful to the public repute of their champion. Might it not be better if he exited office next year, opening it to Paul Martin before he is more and more lamed by familiarity and aging?
As a longtime watcher of federal governments, do I accept Mulroney’s allegation that Chretien’s government tops his in patronage and conflicts of interest?
My answer is not a full affirmative.
There has been little discernible change in some partisan practices going back through the Mulroney, Trudeau, Pearson and Diefenbaker governments.
Each regime systematically continued longtime patronage practices; each ruling party tollgated contracts; and each in appointments catered largely to loyal or prospectively loyal (and useful) partisans. The practices of such a system were most uneven or chaotic in John Diefenbaker’s day and have been the best organized and smoothest in the Chretien era.
Of the last five prime ministers of any real duration, Diefenbaker, Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau were the least involved or personally intent on patronage, although under Trudeau there were some unconscionable deals such as land swaps and huge build-lease contracts with Robert Campeau, the lucrative prelude to his emigration south.
But Trudeau was an innocent compared to Mulroney or Chretien. They relish the raising of money. They delight in grafting the contributors of their parties into or onto the federal bureaucracy and its courts and Crown corporations.
And, as prime minister, each had similar concerns about his own riding. Neither was always sure he had it in the bag. And so each “worked his riding” with federal projects that meant some jobs and buildings and ongoing federal institutions. After all, the PM, of all MPs, must be safe in his or her seat.
Also recall that as long ago as the mid-1960s Chretien’s blunt scorn for separatists opened him to their venom and their growing strength in the 1970s. Even in the 1997 federal election they were sure they could knock him off. Once Mulroney got into a riding in northeastern Quebec he was relatively home-free, but was also required by the riding’s needs to lard it with federal projects and services.
Let me stress this. All parties have a particular concern their leader be safe on home ground. And so extra efforts go into this, even for those not prime ministers.
It’s clear that both the Mulroney and Chretien regimes have been bare-faced in their patronage. And it doesn’t put a kinder light on this that neither, as PM, was a match in such patronizing as some mere ministers.
So is this my apologia for Chretien’s pork-barreling and a tut-tut to Mulroney for slick, partisan knife-work?
No! They’re both just true to “the old game.” Their practices have been in line with the long-running, partisan politics of Canada. And there is no successor in sight, say in Paul Martin or Brian Tobin, or even in Preston Manning, who will end patronage and tollgating.
The insult to the public in the latest case – Chretien and the deals in his St. Maurice riding – is his pretenses that: a) he was not taking advantage of the power his office gives him; and b) there is any worth in the whitewash given him by the scarecrow we have as ethics commissioner.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, June 06, 1999
ID: 12440219
TAG: 199906061404
SECTION: Comment


Many factors are in play as a prime minister chooses a cabinet and then shifts it or revitalizes it with new members.
As PMs, post-Lester Pearson, have become more presidential in authority and more the focus of the media, all the ministries but finance (and to a lesser degree, justice) have lost stature. It’s become ludicrous to refer to the PM as the first among cabinet peers. He has no peer.
You and I may disagree strenuously with Jean Chretien about this, but he believes he has an excellent, loyal cabinet, one that perhaps needs adjusting but not a major overhaul.
First among general factors in considering cabinet’s makeup is simple geography – some representation from each province where there are MPs of the governing party.
The present cabinet numbers 28 persons: 21 males, seven females. Twelve are from Ontario; seven from Quebec, two from B.C., and there’s one each from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Newfoundland. Nova Scotia has no Liberal MPs so it’s represented in cabinet by Sen. Al Graham.
(Note that Alberta has only two Liberal MPs and Saskatchewan just one; in contrast Ontario has 101 Liberal MPs and little P.E.I. has four to serve its population of some 140,000.)
In the ministry but not in cabinet are nine secretaries of state: seven men and two women. Two of these ministers come from Ontario, two from Quebec, and you night note that three secretaries of state are from visible minorities whereas the cabinet has just one “visible,” Harb Dhaliwal.
Below this lower tier of the ministry is what Chretien has called “my second team.” This is a clutch of 26 parliamentary secretaries, 19 men and seven women. Seventeen – yes, 17 – of the 26 are from Ontario and four are from Quebec.
The PM has also helped ease his Ontario overload by having 15 of 20 House committee chairs from the most populous province. Thus, a total of 46 Liberals from Ontario are presently more than plain backbenchers. Unfortunately, almost half of the remaining 55 Ontario Grits are veterans of more than one Parliament.
One of the PM’s two Albertans, Ann McLellan, is in cabinet; the other, David Kilgour, is in the ministry. Given the Alberta situation, plus the sole seat in Saskatchewan, plus none in Nova Scotia, plus the scant seven Liberal MPs from B.C.’s 34 seats, four of whom are already in the ministry, it’s obvious most of any coming cabinet additions or subtractions will be from Ontario MPs.
Of course, concern for strong representation from Quebec in a ministry always goes beyond geographic or even demographic factors and into a need that has obsessed PMs since Sir John A. (yes, even John Diefenbaker). Top priority goes to strong Quebec representation; witness this in the fact we have had PMs from Quebec in 30 of the last 32 years. At this particular moment, no super-candidate for the cabinet looms on the Quebec backbench.
In his first mandate Chretien brought in three fresh Quebec MPs through byelections in order to strengthen against the onslaught of Lucien Bouchard and the Bloc Quebecois. He gave them cabinet roles of significance. Lucienne Robillard is now in citizenship and immigration, Pierre Pettigrew is in human resources and Stephane Dion is in intergovernmental affairs. Of the three, Dion seems the most durable.
Since Pierre Trudeau moved to having more than one female minister, gender has always been a talked-up factor at a time for cabinet change. It’s now as important as religion was 60 years ago. Ethnicity is also in a PM’s mind, plus the boost from displaying some visible minorities on the front benches, particularly from Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto.
But more vital than gender, ethnicity or visibility when Chretien forms his cabinet (or if Paul Martin forms the next one) are the complementary factors of having one’s most loyal disciples and those who best contested the leadership with you within your cabinet tent. At the moment, Chretien has not yet exhausted the supply in the caucus of loyal followers.
What about sheer talent at cabinet-changing time?
Political talent encompasses a good appearance, voice and vocabulary, a clear track record as an MP, and a persuasive personality. It could even include the very brilliant or the truly expert or the idiosyncratic individual. Frankly, Jean Chretien has just a few backbenchers of high talents, aside from a dozen or so in his Ontario backbench mob, including several female MPs. That’s why any significant cabinet changes will likely relate to Ontario.
Incidentally, of the original Chretien cabinet of 1993, 15 members remain, including the PM. Only one exit from the original gang could be tagged as a firing. If you’re curious about the departed, they are: Andre Ouellet, Roy Mac-Laren and Ron Irwin, each of whom who took high, outside posts; Brian Tobin, who vaulted to the premiership of Newfoundland; Doug Young and Dave Dingwall who lost their ridings in 1997; Sen. Joyce Fairbairn who resigned so Nova Scotia’s Sen. Alasdair Graham could go in the cabinet as government leader in the Senate; and Michel Dupuy, who was dropped in 1996 and didn’t run again.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, June 02, 1999
ID: 12439097
TAG: 199906021620
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16


How does this seem as the split by seats after the votes are counted Thursday night in Ontario?
Tories 62, Liberals 26, NDP 15.
That’s my forecast of the result by ridings, and it would follow from a vote split like this:
Tories 45%, Liberals 34%, NDP 19%, others 2%.
An individual forecast of an election’s result has always been a fool’s game, even though the increase in opinion polling during campaigns better tips voter swings.
It wasn’t journalism that first took me to display openly an electoral judgment. I was an opposition MP in the federal campaign which was to sweep John Diefenbaker and the Tories back in 1958. Sensing this surge I dolefully told a columnist the Chief would take “over 200 seats.” (It turned out to be 209.)
Such public forecasting really jelled in the decade of the 1960s, abetted by ever more opinion polling before its four federal elections (1962, 1963, 1965, 1968) and two Ontario elections (1963, 1967).
For a quarter century from 1962, during campaigns an open list was kept on the newsroom wall at the Ottawa TV station where I freelanced. On it, for $5 in the pot, we each entered our guess on the split of seats. From reporters to editors to script assistants to cameramen, the opinions in numbers were posted. On most election nights the pot winner was not from those alleged authorities on politics like me, Charles Lynch, George Bain or W.A. Wilson, and we were razzed for our guesses when they were off the mark, as often happened.
Despite the flaws in revealing one’s projections I thought making them was useful. It forced one to canvass wisely by phone, to trail leaders and scout key ridings for leadership impacts and currents of dissent. Of course, the broader lesson from the exercise was this: however rationally an election result may be explained, beforehand it is as likely to be intangible as it is to be certain.
I never won the cash pot for hitting the result exactly (I missed once federally by two seats) and three times in 11 federal elections and twice in nine Ontario elections I was even wrong on the winning party and thus far off on the seat totals.
My first major boob came federally in 1962. I had Diefenbaker and the Tories retaining power, neither foreseeing a minority parliament nor a surge of 31 new Social Credit MPs, mostly from rural Quebec – an unexpected third force.
Second, in 1974 I thought Opposition leader Bob Stanfield and the Tories, coming out of a minority Parliament with Pierre Trudeau as PM, would win a majority; instead PET did so, mostly because the third and fourth parties slipped back.
Third, in the winter election of 1980 I thought PM Joe Clark and his Tories, after losing a budget vote in a minority Parliament, would edge Trudeau, fresh from brief retirement. Instead, PET got another majority, the Tories plummeted, the NDP held what it had, and Social Credit disappeared.
Fourth, provincially in 1985 I thought Frank Miller (succeeding Bill Davis as premier) would form a minority government after the election. Though the Tories got the most seats (52) Liberal David Peterson (with 48) and NDPer Bob Rae (with 25) cobbled together an accord and the Grits took office and held it for two years.
Fifth, two elections later in 1990 I predicted another Liberal government under David Peterson with a much reduced majority. Bob Rae swept in with 74 of the 130 seats (despite a record low proportion of the vote for a winning party).
Going right back to wartime and the 1943 election, Ontario has had a sizable three-way split in the election vote – Tory, Liberal, or CCF-NDP. This means consequences in seat totals are hard to predict even though the Tories did hold power through 13 elections from 1943-85, including the two occasions in a row, 1975 and 1977, in which Davis just got minority governments.
Tomorrow’s election is the 16th in a row in which forecasts will have been plagued by the three-party factor. This time it seems unlikely to unseat Premier Mike Harris and give Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals a minority government shot – but it could.
Let me make an oddball point about Ontario voters and the leaders they seem to prefer. McGuinty, it seems, has not been doing well – quite awkward, a bit of a bumbler, rough-edged. But recall the articulate, intelligent, and well-informed party leaders whom Ontario rebuffed as would-be premiers: Bob Nixon, even Lyn McLeod, Larry Grossman, Donald C. MacDonald, and Stephen Lewis. Then recall the unpolished presence of Harris, or the self-set mediocrity of Davis, or the gruff brevity of John Robarts, or the early gauche preppiness of Peterson.
Note also that in the last Ontario election the Liberals learned about the electoral curse in Canada on a female leader. This time they have a male, and one as unpolished as Harris was in the campaigns of 1990 and 1995. Add to that a chance for some third party recovery by the NDP under Howard Hampton and any wise-guy speculation seems foolish.
So ignore polls and predictions and wait for the vote count. My hunch in Ontario is, however, that the conservatively minded switch which developed early in this decade in reaction to big government deficits and huge public debt burden is still on.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 30, 1999
ID: 12438264
TAG: 199905301728
SECTION: Comment


When those who write or comment from Parliament Hill exhausted such speculative staples as whether a prime minister will quit or the extent of an expected cabinet overhaul, they often turn to a third routine about incipient or threatening dissension within a party caucus, particularly that of the governing party.
And so there’s been a recent spate, notably in the weekly Hill Times and the Ottawa dailies, about mounting exasperation and frustrations among Liberal backbenchers. Last week’s Times had over 5,000 words about Liberal dissidents in three stories, plus an editorial (“Backbenchers Speak”).
As another prime item for the federal, Liberal scenario, there was the word to the nosy after last Wednesday’s Liberal caucus about a little-known Toronto MP, John McKay (Scarborough East). He had received the loudest, longest round of applause in current caucus memory for a succinct plea to the prime minister.
How much longer would he be embarrassed and shamed by legislative surprises being sprung again and again on backbenchers on issues of moral concern or where public acceptance is dicey? Backbenchers’ loyalty deserved better than being kept ignorant or out of the loop as policy is formed and then presented as decided and to be supported – or else.
The “or else” is punitive discipline, ranging from ostracism radiating from the top and shaped by House Leader Don Boudria and the chief whip Bob Kilger to exclusion from perks (such as trips or parliamentary secretaryships or heading committees or even getting a seat on a committee).
Certainly, the prime minister and his aides seem more given to playing hardball in dealing with disloyalty or rumours, than any in my memory. And this was so in the previous Chretien Parliament when the majority was large, not as now down to a margin of half a dozen votes.
Big margin or little margin, this PM and his advisers have been authoritative with those behind him, and both legislatively and in House procedures they have been very rough on the four opposition parties facing them. They ramrod through legislation, using time allocation, and offer meagre performances and scant attendance by ministers in the House beyond the daily 45 minutes of question period.
Among the reasons bruited for the unrest in the Liberal caucus at this time is a general acceptance within the caucus and party that Chretien is more likely than not to go for a third mandate. If there is not to be the shakeup in policies and a realignment in individual status within the caucus membership which would come with a leadership race and convention, then now is the time to come on strong with the PM on both issues and for roles for Liberal MPs which respect their abilities and commitments to leader and party. Who wants another six years of toeing the caucus line and clapping vociferously for the PM or his swatch of dull or cipher ministers?
A coincidental factor in the unrest seems to pivot on a readjustment which has recently been under way within the caucus regarding Paul Martin, for five years or so the No. 1 choice in and outside the party as the prime minister-in-waiting. More and more he’s rated by his caucus colleagues as a good manager and a tough-as-leather pragmatist in House confrontations and on the hustings. But less and less is he seen as a political messiah or an inspired reformer. In short, Martin looks more and more like Chretien II.
Long ago I developed a hateful respect for the persistent core of loyalty to the leader within Liberal parliamentary ranks (except for John Turner’s period in opposition, 1988-90). Thus I’ve heavily discounted an explosion of major fractiousness within a Liberal government caucus. Nevertheless, after noting that at least a dozen dissident Grits are named or quoted in Hill Times stories, I asked for an appreciation of the situation from a veteran Liberal MP from Ontario. He’s someone I’ve found to be a reliable weathervane for climate change in the caucus and the ministry.
He began by knocking back an argument I had made a few years ago that any like-minded group of 8-10 backbenchers, working in concert within a government caucus, should be able to shape either a general direction for a cabinet or develop a specific program and push it through to acceptance.
I was clearly clueless about the enormous hold the concept of loyalty to leader and colleagues has on Liberal MPs or any appreciation of the reach and penetration of the intelligence system that has been developed within the PMO and is handled largely by the House managers and their staff and by caucus chairmen.
He pointed out to me that the opinion polls keep showing the ratings of both the PM and the government are very high, particularly in Ontario, the base of two-thirds of the entire government caucus. These Ontario MPs, i.e., a big majority of the backbenchers, realize that generally their constituents are satisfied with the government and the state of the economy.
Whatever their gripes regarding particular policies or the lack of them, say on environmental or welfare or justice issues, backbench MPs find it almost impossible, either singly or in concert with a few other colleagues, to take on a minister or a department or the PMO in the open, and once one pushes very hard within the privacy of caucus channels one begins to sense being marked as a loose fish and not a “team” guy.
My counsellor on the caucus situation has modest expectations from the present unrest, but absolutely no crisis. Expect some major personnel changes in the cabinet rather than a big shifting of chairs. He prays for a loosening of the joint grip by the PMO and finance on all ministers so that at least a few of the ablest will be given fresh missions and some program money.
And he does hope – rather than believe – there will be a strong push “by the boss” for genuine participation by backbenchers in making legislation and allotting spending.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 26, 1999
ID: 12437007
TAG: 199905261664
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


The Simple Simon quality of the Ontario election explains why this column sketches five new books. Serious books are a handy escape from nasty politics and a graceless campaign.
Let me first promote a book whose line on our Charter of Rights and Freedoms jibes with mine, although in a more clear, organized way. The author is well-known to me as an experienced attorney and that most unusual of types, a politician with wit. Alex Macdonald of Vancouver, now 80, has practised law for five decades. His book is titled Outrage: Canada’s Justice System on Trial (Raincoast Books, Vancouver).
Alex was B.C. attorney general in the Dave Barrett period. He uses both quick critiques of half a hundred court judgments based on the Charter and analysis of several crocked-up inquiries (e.g., of tainted blood) to develop his argument that justice in Canada is in deep danger. He lays the blame for this and its huge dollar costs squarely on the Charter we adopted in 1982. He writes: “It has raised the rights of accused persons too far above the rights of victims and communities” and so Americanized our justice system we can no longer be smug about our justice being more fair and certain than that of our neighbours.
The second book is the biography of a well-regarded former governor of the Bank of Canada (from 1961-73) and also the first Jew to attain one of the half-dozen most vital and honoured posts in the land. The author of Against the Odds: The Public Life and Times of Louis Rasminsky (University of Toronto Press) is Bruce Muirhead, a professor of history at Lakehead University. It is a straight, thorough biography, done without psychoanalyzing or much in chatty details about Rasminsky the private man and his social life. In the reading one picks up the history from the 1940s to the ’80s of our monetary and fiscal policies and programs, including their relationship to international affairs.
The third book is worldwide in scope, long, diverse and hard for me to measure. It comes from a prodigiously erudite professor at McGill University, R.T. Naylor, variously a political economist, historian and criminologist. What a sordid, greedy, world of chicanery and deals Naylor plunges a reader into in Patriots & Profiteers, subtitled On Economic Warfare, Embargo Busting, and State-Sponsored Crime (McClelland & Stewart).
As the foreword puts it, this book is “a history of misguided intervention and wrong-headed efforts at control and regulation in the international marketplace – and the mischief that has resulted.” Naylor has reams of compelling evidence, the most vivid about post-Cold War Russia and Yugoslavia and Iran subsequent to the Ayatollah Khomeini. This is literally and figuratively a blockbuster of a book.
The fourth and fifth books are racy, imaginative assaults, one on our immigration programs, the other on multiculturalism as an applied policy. Both have the vitriol and the metaphorical stuff to grab the interest of ordinary citizens fed up with our immigration policies and with multiculturalism. Each author flaunts his “political incorrectness” and justifies his arguments with what the truly correct will tag as “racist.”
The criticism will be most savage with the immigration expose, written by one Mike Taylor, a left-wing, agitating, investigator of immigration and Employment Insurance fraud cases. His bed-rock about our immigration scenario is that it has been largely shaped to meet the wishes or needs of the corporate employer sector of Canada. His title stakes out his intent: The Truth About Immigration: Exposing the Economic and Humanitarian Myths (Karmna Publishing, Coquitlam, B.C.). His case is framed by British Columbia scenarios but is not exclusive to that province. His prime, long-range concern is with the eventual disappearance of “white Canada” as a consequence of: a) high immigration from Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean; b) the default in common sense of a majority of Canadians, over-swayed by compassion, and Canada as the golden example of global comradeship.
Mike Taylor is white and so, in colloquial words, “an invisible.” Not so the other crusading author. Suwanda Sugunasiri, a teacher of religion at Trinity College, came here from India in 1967. He both hammers and spoofs at visibility and the lot of “the visibles” in Canada, both native and emigre. Like Taylor he has an omnibus title: How to Kick Multiculturalism in its Teeth: A Look at Canada from Classical Racism to Neo-Multiculturalism (Village Publishing House, Toronto).
Any of the five is a short-term antidote to too much Dalton, Mike and Howard.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 23, 1999
ID: 12436314
TAG: 199905231770
SECTION: Comment


Within two weeks we will know how Ontario voters feel about so-called neo-conservatism and if the pendulum of public opinion is really swinging back to the left in Canada’s heartland.
My wager is that it is not, and that in the same time frame the strength still left in the conservative impulse will be confirmed by what happens to the United Alternative. It may be a matter of “wither Reform” rather than “whither Reform.”
Why so? Because this month bona fide Reformers, more than 70,000 in number and mostly in federal ridings in Western Canada, are voting on two questions regarding the party’s future.
Do they favour forming a new party through the UA proposition?
Or would they prefer keeping Reform intact but co-operating during the next federal election, in various regions and in specific constituencies, with other conservatively minded parties and candidates?
Preston Manning and the Reform executive have assured members the new party idea embodied in the UA is dead if it fails to win a majority, and that may happen. More likely, if Manning retains the respect of Reform members which he earned in founding the party and leading it to the status of official Opposition, a majority is likely for question No. 1.
But will the majority be large enough? Say at least a margin of 10%? And what if, as seems likely, the split in votes reveals a dozen or so constituencies with a goodly majority against a new party?
The scenarios of a small margin and/or many hostile riding associations would assuredly make Manning a very shaky aspirant for the leadership of the new party. And it would be even grimmer for him, notably in functioning in the House of Commons in the next two years, if he and the executive decide to back away from the new party initiative and carry on with Reform as is, except for some pragmatic moves before the next election along the line of question No. 2.
Manning took the lead in sponsoring this UA proposition last year, believing it necessary to prevent the catastrophe of a third straight Liberal mandate, gained because the conservatively-minded majority of Canadians is fragmented in separate parties, especially in Ontario.
Manning and his long-time top adviser, Rick Anderson, a former apparatchik in the Liberal party, share an impatience with the role of Opposition in the House of Commons. It takes too long. Time’s wasting. The votes to oust the Grits are there in Ontario and the Maritimes. Get them by merger or alliances.
In modern memory no leader of the Opposition has spent so little time in the chamber of the House as Preston Manning nor so much time out in the country – speaking, organizing, proselytizing. It’s apparent that to him in a democracy power is all. To him the influence of government policies which might radiate from parliamentary assiduity is secondary, and doubtful at best. In this attitude, and in furthering it by arranging the alternative which will oust the Liberals, partisan Ottawa sees Anderson as the prime guide and spinner, even the surrogate of the Reform leader, rather like Chretien’s Eddie Goldenberg (although far more seen and heard).
It wasn’t until after the UA project took shape in February at an Ottawa meeting blessed by Ralph Klein, and after the canvass of all Reformers was set for May, that a surprising lack of enthusiasm became apparent among the grassroots members. Some of their antagonism was probably heightened by the repeated hostility to the UA proposition from Joe Clark, the retread Tory leader, and his parliamentary caucus. Those who had built Reform constituency associations had long ago rejected both Clark and the federal Tory party.
The divisive response to the UA within Reform became very open through April as over a dozen Reform MPs reported resistance at their riding meetings. Seven or eight of them took a cue from Myron Thompson, a Reform MP from Alberta, first elected in 1993.
He is bluntly against the UA, his criticism echoing, he says, the opinion of the substantial Reform membership in his riding of Wild Rose. He has a simple but devastating response to assurances from Manning that Reformers need not fear the UA means a loss of key Reform principles and policies:
“If a new party is going to change our principles why would we want it? If nothing is going to need change with a new party, why do we need it?”
Because Manning is a student of history, I thought he would have analyzed the creation of another “new” party in 1961 – and the electoral consequences. It was a projected alliance of the left-wing CCF party (of which I was an MP) with trade unions, co-operatives, farmers’ organizations and the many “liberally minded” Canadians so badly served by the Liberal party.
Leading New Democratic Party proponents like the late David Lewis used to put it like this: the time for exerting mere influence on government policy through a CCF rump in Parliament is over. We must get power, and do it through a broader-based party.
Most in the large CCF membership in my riding were chary of the proposal. Many raised the same rhetorical questions Myron Thompson expressed last month. But the resistance within the CCF was never registered in such a vote as Reform is having this month.
Since 1961 the New Democratic Party has never come close to power in Ottawa. In 11 federal elections it has failed to gain as many seats as Reform has in two.
Ironically, the NDP probably did exert more influence on government policy than its CCF predecessor because what its MPs urged was seen as having substantial backing from the trade unions. Ironically, however, this same backing kept many electors from voting for the party.
Whither Reform? Unless the grassroots rejects the UA thoroughly it seems destined to stall and then to wither.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 19, 1999
ID: 12435185
TAG: 199905191692
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 17
COLUMN: The Hill


Last week media speculation converged with political patronage to create the most improbable, and laughable, prospect to succeed Romeo LeBlanc this year as the 26th Governor General (and the ninth Canadian in the office).
The National Post said there was a strong possibility, clearly gathered from somewhere in or near the PMO, that Jean Chretien would elevate Lloyd Axworthy, his foreign affairs minister, to vice-regal status and a grand home at Rideau Hall. Other papers and stations repeated the tip, and after a few days there was a media report that Axworthy was seething over the story.
Why would he seethe? Because he is an ultra-serious politician, intent on policy goals, revelling in his current office and almost sure to earn another consideration for a Nobel prize. And like every other experienced and ambitious politician, he considers the G-G to be a cipher role, a duty chore, rife with dull ceremonial gravities and pious sponsorship of worthy things.
How could a political reporter of such a self-serious journal as the Post float such a story with a straight face? The only explanation I have may be unfair. In recent years more and more press gallery members have been onto a running tale of the costly perqs and grandeurs attending appointed high offices. Some seem to believe the lure of a term at Rideau Hall is enormous for most Canadians with upward mobility on their minds. Why wouldn’t a politician go for such a splendid salary, excellent pension, a profusion of aides and services, substantial travel budget and a chance to perform with grace from the peak of the Canadian social establishment?
Such a hollow role, even with such trimmings, is not the stuff for Lloyd Axworthy. I believe he would agree with the following measure of the office of Governor General, written some two decades ago by Anthony Westell, then a top-flight columnist.
“At best, the office reflected the glory of the British monarch, but now it glitters not at all. Attempts to give the post a new dimension by appointing Canadians to it have not had much success. Young Canadians neither know nor care who occupies Rideau Hall, nor is there any reason why they should … . Canadians have yet to learn that they do not need a pale copy of an archaic British political device … nothing protects the office of the Governor General but tradition.”
And since Westell wrote this in The New Society (M&S, 1977) nothing has enhanced either the role of the office in Canada or public interest in it.
Tradition will continue to protect it until – and don’t wait for this – Canada abandons the monarchy. Few seem irate that a prime minister awards this honorific plum, and few seem to care that of the eight Canadian appointments since Vincent Massey in 1952 five have been former politicians and three federal mandarins.
None of the former partisans – Tory Roland Michener, NDPer Ed Schreyer, Liberal Jeanne Sauve, Tory Ray Hnatyshyn and Liberal LeBlanc – was a commanding figure or a policy whiz as a politician.
Who might be, or ought to be, the 26th Governor General, an office with a present annual cost of only $10 million (of which about a fourth goes to handle honours like the Order of Canada)?
Since LeBlanc’s April revelation that he was tired and wanted out of the office, only a modest interest in a successor has been stirred up by political reporters. In their canvassing and prompting, aside from our Lloyd, they have found those who insist it is time for an “outstanding” appointment to make the office “meaningful.” And such a standard brought forth advocates of Gen. John de Chastelain, a former chief of staff, ambassador and arbitrator in the Irish troubles – i.e., another federal mandarin.
Some want neither ex-politician nor ex-bureaucrat but someone who has earned recognition as a creative artist (like ballet dancer Karen Kain) or from sport (like skier Nancy Green), someone proven as a scholar or in business or engineering.
Some insist it is a woman’s turn again, or time for another ethnic Canadian like Schreyer or Hnatyshyn. Why not an Italo-Canadian?
It would be best, says capital opinion, if whoever accepts the post speaks French well, perhaps has even already earned respect in Quebec.
Those who want a woman have suggested Adrienne Clarkson – trilingual, and a visible ethnic long featured on CBC-TV – or Hilary Weston, Ontario’s stylish lieutenant-governor, or Sen. Joyce Fairbairn, a Liberal from Alberta and an ex-journalist, or two former cabinet ministers, Flora MacDonald and Iona Campagnola, each of whom has kept at good works since losing her seat. Some think the bench should be scouted, for example, to consider progressive Rosalie Abella of the Ontario Court of Appeal.
A few want a Governor General who commands media attention, perhaps social analyst Sondra Gotlieb, a former embassy hostess in the U.S., or Judy Rebick, an amazing immigration success story.
My choice? One who doesn’t give a hoot shouldn’t make one, but why not try Peter Gzowski (because he’s so Canadian and cuddly) or Maude Barlow (because she has so much to say)?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 16, 1999
ID: 12434374
TAG: 199905161629
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: The Hill


What follows is some analysis of the prime topic on Parliament Hill before Canada Day: the changes Jean Chretien is to make in his cabinet and the ministry as a whole. There are 28 ministers in the cabinet, 38 in the whole ministry.
Why is the cabinet such a prime topic – and not just on the Hill?
First, because the scale and nature of the changes will say something about whether or not Chretien will go for a third mandate.
Second, because with a half-dozen exceptions (at most) this cabinet is dull and without sparkle in personality or individual purpose.
Third, because there haven’t been major ministerial changes since the election two years ago gave Chretien a small majority but an opposition fragmented into four antagonistic parts.
Fourth, because there is nothing on or close to the legislative track which is grabby and nation-shaking. Indeed, one gets an inkling the PM is saving big intentions for his next Red Book and third majority.
Despite such reasons for cabinet changes, what about the fact both the PM and his party have been doing well in the opinion polls and a possible alternative governing party is nowhere in sight?
Why should or would he make major shifts, excisions and promotions in a cabinet that seems to suit him, that seems to work, that has so many ministers long loyal to him, and which is obviously not riven with usurpers and backbiters?
In large part cabinet changes, maybe modest, perhaps big, seem at hand because Chretien is shrewd enough to know his backbench is thick in stalled ambitions and is restive, not only for opportunities to rise but for firm indications he is in for the long haul.
Further, if he has not appreciated there is abler talent in his caucus than graces his front bench, his close PMO hands know this, and that the talent meets politically correct factors like gender or “visibility.”
On the one hand, the PM has been around so very long – only three years less in electoral politics than W.L. Mackenzie King and his 40 years – and he does have at least two ministers at hand who seem determined to succeed him.
On the other hand, he is a remarkably alert, fit and energetic 65-year-old and he craves another chance to repulse the separatist threat from Quebec, now embodied in Premier Lucien Bouchard.
Are there factors in the parliamentary situation which bear on how extensive the changes can be?
Yes, it would be stupid to open up more than four seats to byelections by elevating present ministers to the Senate or an embassy or a commission. Also, the PM has a huge stock of potential ministers in his Ontario ranks but none at all in Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan or Alberta, and very few in New Brunswick and B.C.
So considerable switching of cabinet chairs is more likely than excisions that are made by reducing ministers to backbenchers or giving them external honorifics. A good guess would be that there will be up to 10 shifts and, at the most, four departures.
How much weight is the PM likely to give to the sizable, persisting theme of the political media and the opposition that this cabinet has proven itself uninteresting and uninspired?
Not very much. Chretien seems content because in coverage and respect he is much more than a first among equals in either power exercised or attention gained. Chretien loves the spotlight. He is rarely retrusive. He is continually on the go. Happenings, photo-ops, TV bites! In the House or out, he’s eager to perform.
Last year the PM told me of advice he’d given a minister in a fresh portfolio: “For me, the less you are on national television the better.”
He has had only one minister, Paul Martin, who would qualify as far more than just another member of his “personal focus group” – as a respected insider has recently tagged the cabinet’s main function. And Martin is in finance, the one federal operation almost as significant for policy as the PMO.
If you follow political journalism closely you know that within months of the first Chretien cabinet, there were two media lists on the cabinet, a short one of its few stars and a longer one of its duds. Who is now on the current dud list, and merits turfing out? And who seem to be “the keepers” who are simply too able or regionally important to dismiss?
There would be near unanimity in the press pack that these eight cabinet ministers, listed by seniority, are the surefire political duds: David Collenette (transport); Sergio Marchi (trade); Diane Marleau (international co-operation); Lawrence MacAulay (solicitor general); Marcel Masse (treasury board) Christine Stewart (environment); Fred Mifflin (veterans’ affairs); Lucienne Robillard (immigration); and Alfonso Gagliano (public works).
I would put three more in this group that my colleagues seem less critical of: slick Art Eggleton (defence); sanctimonious Jane Stewart (Indian affairs); and worn-down Herb Gray (deputy PM).
The “keepers”? Again, this is divisible into two groups, first those absolutely sine qua non for the PM, second, those whom it would be impolitic to drop now because of fusses or vacuums this would cause.
The really needful to the PM are nine in number: Lloyd Axworthy (foreign affairs); Ralph Goodale (natural resources); John Manley (industry); Paul Martin (finance); Anne McLellan (justice); Allan Rock (health); Pierre Pettigrew (human resources); Don Boudria (house leader); and Herb Dhaliwal (national revenue).
At this time the merely necessary are: the Liberals’ partisan totem, Sheila Copps (heritage); the PQ’s stalker Stephane Dion (intergovernmental affairs); and the two newest ministers, Lyle Vanclief (agriculture) and Claudette Bradshaw (labour).
An imaginary take I have of Jean Chretien is of his chats with his mentor, Mitchell Sharp, 88 years old, with over 50 of them in government. I hear phrases like this: “Why shake up what’s working?” and “Better a few, a very few, well-considered initiatives, than a swatch of them at once,” and “Hasn’t patience and discipline worked?”
Yes, though Chretien thrives in energy and push, a pupil of Mitchell Sharp is never weaned away from caution.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 12, 1999
ID: 12433178
TAG: 199905121240
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15


Those within or observing federal politics here, including columnists, are rarely as viscerally into an Ontario election as they are for a Quebec election.
Yes, the federal Grits, Tories and New Democrats like it when their Ontario counterparts do well electorally but they usually don’t get uptight over it. This time, though, they’re more intent for two reasons, one rather technical, the other because so many of them hope the Canadian public is leaving the right side of the political spectrum.
The Harris government created the quasi-technical feature with a remarkably bold piece of legislation which massively altered the provincial electoral map. There had been 130 constituencies in the last three Ontario elections. This time there will only be 103 – 27 fewer seats. Not only that, the drop is to exactly the number of Ontario seats in the House of Commons. And the 103 constituencies are geographically, and thus demographically, the same as the federal seats (of which Jean Chretien’s Liberals now hold 101).
In short, the June 3 election will go beyond a judgment of the Harris administration to give somewhat of a clue on the well-being of the federal Liberals in their heartland. And post-June 3, and before the next federal redistribution of seats, constituents will be able to get a much better idea of contrasts between their MP and their MPP.
No, Chretien MPs will not be on the Ontario ballot but each vote will come from the same cast of electors, within the same boundaries, who went so overwhelmingly for the federal Liberals in 1993 and 1997. (And which still favours Chretien in recent opinion polls.)
Not since Confederation has there been this direct a federal-provincial match in Ontario of partisans and organizations. An obvious, instant opinion is that the federal Liberals’ grasp of almost all of 103 ridings for six years, plus the esteem which the Chretienites still retain, ought to be a bonus for Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals. Those who think so might recall that time and again, over many decades, provincial Ontario votes have not aped federal Ontario votes. (From 1944-85, when the Tories of Drew-Frost-Robarts-Davis ran Queen’s Park, the Liberals ran Ottawa for all but nine of those years.)
It will surprise me if leading lights of the Chretien cabinet, from the boss himself to Paul Martin, David Collenette and Allan Rock, step deliberately into the Ontario campaign in the three weeks ahead. Certainly, Rock, the health minister, has not been so gung-ho in mocking the Harris government for its health care misdeeds as he was just two months ago. Nonetheless, it’s a near certainty that most Liberal MPs will be aiding McGuinty’s candidates.
One should be tentative on whether this Ontario election will be an indicator of a Canadian ideological consensus, in particular through a swing back from the right, past centre to the left.
I came to this left-right matter after plowing through a new, long and rather dreary book by Concordia political science professor Brooke Jeffrey titled Hard Right Turn: The New Face Of Neo-Conservatism in Canada (Harper Collins). Brooke is a double liberal – small “l” philosophically, large “L” in party – and she is terribly hard on Canada’s disciples of Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan – Ralph Klein, Mike Harris and Preston Manning – for undermining what half a century of liberal thought and legislation had done in creating a caring society and socially responsible government.
She is more vicious about Manning than Harris and Klein. She has a huge respect for higher education and academics (of course!) and is worried when voters elect those who have only made it to high school. Her prose almost shivers over the know-nothings and rubes in the three caucuses behind these leaders. She has been shocked at Harris’ indifference to criticism and protest as he persists in changing “the fundamental relationship between citizens and their provincial government.”
Already the daily theme of the campaign is the raucous, rowdy encounters of the Tory team with partisans of a host of interest groups crying foul at Harris’ actions thus far.
Of course, it’s ironic that both the most talk and the dominant element in the campaign has so quickly and thoroughly become so protesting and populist. Such clamour symbolizes the very political stance which those who detest Harris dislike and regret.
My guess is the premier will win re-election handily if the rabid obstruction he is meeting continues. But he may not even need this favour from his vociferous enemies. The pendulum will remain stuck on the right side for a few years longer because conservative attitudes still dominate the popular will.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 09, 1999
ID: 12432510
TAG: 199905101610
SECTION: Comment


Jean Chretien’s government is no more incompetent than the previous dozen before it, but none was more unnecessarily arrogant and more critical and contemptuous of the parliamentary opposition.
You wonder what fresh particular has triggered this snit? The specific cause is the way the government, led by treasury board chief Marcel Masse, is handling a major legislative initiative, Bill C-78. It is some 200 pages and will:
1) Create something new called the Public Sector Pension Investment Board;
2) Make major amendments to eight existing acts.
The government seems to have three prime aims with this bill.
First, it will establish an arm’s-length group to invest the contributions to pensions by both employees and the government in equity stocks – going beyond the bond market in order to get more interest for the pension pot.
Second, it will legalize the disposition by the government of a “surplus” – now near $30 billion – in the superannuation fund accounts of federal civil servants, the RCMP and the military.
Third, it will welsh on an undertaking made by the Pearson government when the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) came into force almost 35 years ago that the combined contributions of federal employees to the CPP and to their government pension funds would not exceed 7.5% of their pay.
Not surprisingly, there is outrage among employees and pensioners about who owns or should share in the disposition of the surpluses.
Employees are also angry at the news from Masse of a bigger bite from their pay for pension contributions. Why? Because recent changes have meant the government is paying far more of the CPP portion within the 7.5% limit on each employee’s contribution.
Unfortunately for civil servants, Canadians are rarely sympathetic to either past or present federal workers and tend to shrug at several factors which are galling in the extreme to both those on government pension or heading that way.
In effect, federal employees, except for the top mandarins, have had their pay frozen for almost a decade. Further, there has been much “streamlining” of departments and both summary retirements and those accelerated by so-called golden handshakes in order to reduce the number of federal workers and end annual federal deficits.
In short, those who serve or have served the federal government have been curbed in work remuneration and in future pension levels in order to abet balanced budgets. Now they are to have no role in determining what is done in either disposing of, or investing, the very sizable surpluses.
Clearly the government overcharged the employees (and itself) to create such surpluses, and it also borrowed from the funds at very low interest rates in the years it was running big annual deficits and escalating its debt liabilities over the $600 billion mark. Now it declares the surpluses belong to the taxpayers.
Of course, taxpayers means the government. How rosy for the Chretien team to be able to switch the superannuation surpluses to lower the debt account, raise the contribution of federal employees and neither improve pensioners’ benefits nor protect the level of CPP payouts and old age benefits.
And so the Liberals popped C-78 through a time-allocated debate of some five hours in two days of the House. Read Hansard and you realize the bill has such range and complexity that the opposition critics struggled with its details and consequences. They were not helped but confused and angered by Masse and his back-up Liberals who were neither forthcoming nor clear, most notably about two aspects of the bill:
– How and when the surpluses will be used to reduce the government’s general debt burden;
– And the literal muddle in defining a homosexual household (and so the eligibility for survivor’s benefits).
Now the bill is going before a House committee, and given the tough-minded control which the Chretien majority exercises in committees, only a miracle will keep C-78 from becoming law before the summer recess next month.
Each of the four opposition parties has been against the bill but their debaters seem flummoxed by the government’s haste, the complexities of it, and what it portends, not just for the almost 400,000 Canadians with a direct stake in the federal superannuation programs but for the way ahead in the private sector where many corporate retirement plans have big surpluses on their books.
Masse, the sponsor of C-78, is an economist by training and a former Rhodes scholar. He jumped as a “star” candidate into electoral politics in 1993 in the safe Grit riding of Hull-Aylmer from the federal bureaucracy where he had been a mandarin of the highest rank.
Masse seemed a grand coup by Jean Chretien: an experienced, erudite top manager, familiar with the federal system and its senior personnel. He has hardly realized those expectations. He is one of the least lucid, or most obscurantist, federal ministers of modern times. He blends a belligerent curtness with a most bureaucratic vocabulary.
There is something wrong, and smelly, in both the rushing through of this bill and its paternalistic authoritarianism.
Readers who would like to get some handle on C-78 and its issues could ask their MP for copies of Hansard for April 22 and 26. To weigh the critiques of federal employees and pensioners ask the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (613-228-6310) or the Public Service Alliance of Canada (613-560-4200) for their briefs on the bill.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, May 05, 1999
ID: 13062011
TAG: 199905051813
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
SERIES: Part 2 of 2


Surely it’s heartening that editorialists and columnists have been blistering the recent Supreme Court decision (7-0) on the case of Jamie Gladue, a Cree who killed her man while in a drunken rage.
The Supremes let her sentence for manslaughter stand at three years but sermonized that the sentencing judge had not considered Gladue’s aboriginal status. Certainly, the Criminal Code was amended in 1994 with a clause that “the circumstances of aboriginal offenders” must be taken into account in sentencing.
A week ago I described the gist of the decision as “boneheaded.” I did not use this epithetical adjective because the justices pointed out what the last Parliament had done to make things more fair for aboriginal offenders.
Of course, the amendment itself was very boneheaded. Why? Because in the name of equity for often disadvantaged aboriginals, it established a sanction for racism in the courts.
How? By establishing two distinct continuities in our policing, through to the courts and into the penal institutions.
One continuity is for the 30 million Canadians who are not aboriginal in whole or part or cannot prove it; another is for the 700,000 to 800,000 who are – or who assert that they are.
There are several reasons for my scoffing at this decision.
The first is immediate and obvious. It has a succinct assessment of the criminal courts and the penal system as institutions with a grossly inordinate proportion of aboriginal offenders. StatsCan confirmed this in a report last month that: “Aboriginal people represented 2% of the general adult population but accounted for 15% of the individuals in provincial and territorial custody … and 17% of offenders in federal prisons.”
But the justices went beyond proportions to an indictment of our penal system – whose total operational costs to the taxpayers run well over $2 billion a year.
If such an opinion had been offered, say by the auditor general or the minister of justice, it would raise a storm in Parliament. The justices say there is “a full-blown crisis in the prison system, as ineffective as it is bloated.” If the justices are so certain they should tell us more, and how to handle the crisis.
A second aspect of the decision disturbs me even more. Despite a social analysis based on demographic percentages and the grim conditions of many aboriginals, the justices did not extend analysis to the developing, and chilling, reality of aboriginal migration. Although many of such emigres keep their “status” on a band’s register, they live most of their days in cities and towns where they have gone for opportunities and excitement, away from the reserves, away from the “wisdom of the elders” and away from their cultural heritage.
Young Indians, male and female, the ones most charged, are more and more arrested and convicted in the Kenoras, Winnipegs, Saskatoons, and Torontos. These are natives who never learned the skills for living off the land and the lakes, and even if they had there is no longer enough fish and game to sustain any band. So their choice has been bleak: to live with the band within its welfare system and communal life with little to do, or migrate to the cities. And life in a city as part of a restless, often indigent and distinctive minority wrecks so much potential for able citizenship through booze, drugs and the usually petty crimes to pay for them.
What is starkly clear is this: the reserve system is breaking down.
What seemed most pitiful in the Gladue judgment was the instruction to those who police, charge, prosecute, and sentence aboriginals to direct themselves toward alternatives to the usual ways of dealing with criminals.
These alternatives are simply described as “especially those connected with their heritage.” The reality is that such a heritage is largely useless today and through the long tomorrows. It is hugely politically incorrect to state this, and very few do so, but the truth in it is self-evident. Just begin with the auditor general’s many critiques. The aboriginal heritage is like the snows of yesterday, as is whatever heritage was mine from rural England in the mid-19th century.
The forces of technological change and globalization, so revolutionizing for all people, have no favours for the aboriginal heritage. It is becoming ever more hopeless to believe they will become a distinctive, progressive, functioning element in Canada however much more is spent, however stacked the justice system may become, however huge the chunks of land they may get (like the Nisga’a deal in British Columbia).

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, May 02, 1999
ID: 13061668
TAG: 199905031642
SECTION: Comment


Last Sunday we looked at the debate over Canada’s limited participation in NATO’s war against Yugoslavia, notably in the light of our under-equipped and over-tasked military. Today let’s examine the role Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy finds himself playing, and what this may portend.
The donnish and gruff minister left academe for electoral politics in 1968, the year Pierre Trudeau succeeded Lester Pearson as prime minister. During the Trudeau years Axworthy and his brother Tom (who came a Trudeau aide) were widely seen in the party as the standard bearers of values, attitudes and ideals of the Liberal left wing that opposed America’s interventionist foreign policy in general, and its participation in the Vietnamese civil war in particular. The brothers embraced the internationalist creed of the day: co-operation with the Soviets and support for newly independent nations and their pursuit of socialism.
Since Lloyd Axworthy became foreign minister (January, 1996) he has remained faithful to these “real Liberal” stances. In this he has been positively Trudeauesque. And like his old mentor, who once sponsored a review of Canada’s foreign policy which was issued in six pamphlets, none of which even mentioned the U.S., Axworthy too loves tweaking the American eagle’s beak. His praise of Cuba’s Fidel Castro, promotion of the land mine treaty and support for reopening debate on NATO’s nuclear “first use” policy have generated predictable consternation in the Washington establishment (but lots of plaudits at home).
That Axworthy’s pirouettes haven’t generated serious fallout yet is in part due to dumb luck. President Bill Clinton, with a similar political adolescence to Lloyd’s, doesn’t take such jibes seriously, whatever the anger in the state department. Also, Axworthy has learned to play the diplomatic game, toning down his anti-American cant as necessary and supporting the world’s only superpower when advantageous.
Given at least this modicum of adroitness in his post, how should we interpret Axworthy’s support for the Yugoslav war, and his characterization of the UN as an “emasculated” and “obsolescent” organization?
Some in the peace camp see a turncoat, one who’s going along with the war because he – and the prime minister – lack the backbone to stand up to the Americans. Others argue Axworthy probably regrets it has come to this, but recognizes that Canadian opposition to the war would only serve to damage our relations with the U.S. and the other NATO allies.
I read no real signs of disquiet in Axworthy’s mien and utterances. I don’t think he’s a good enough actor to hide any disquiet. After 31 years in the game he remains one of our stiffest politicos. No, I believe our Red Lloyd welcomes recent developments, seeing in them a reflection of his own evolving ideas on “soft power” and Canada’s role in the new millennium.
“Soft power” is the spiritual successor to the Pearsonian ideal of Canada as a “middle power.” Throughout the Cold War the central tenet of Canadian diplomacy was that Canada was a middle power in terms of her economic power, technological strength and military capability. Too small to threaten the great powers, and lacking any interest in the affairs of smaller nations beyond the mutual concerns of peace, justice and prosperity for all, Canada was uniquely positioned to act as an honest broker in international affairs.
The Cold War’s end has created a new international dynamic demanding a different approach. The rash of ethnic conflicts unleashed by the end of the superpower stalemate (Somalia, Rwanda, Chechnya, the various Yugoslav wars) force us to reassess the international community’s responsibilities. Such conflicts can no longer be viewed as civil wars, internal matters. When civilians are being denied their human rights and slaughtered, the world community must intervene, even if the state involved objects, for there is a higher law than that of national sovereignty. (Note: the rule is only to be applied to small states. China, Indonesia and other large suppressors of human rights get a pass.) The Americans’ post-Vietnam hesitation means that small countries like Canada have to take the lead.
Canada has been a leading exponent of this position for some time now. Recall her failed attempt to lead an intervention force in Zaire to help Rwandan refugees return home. The war against Yugoslavia merely extends this policy to its logical conclusion.
Given his eagerness to expand the grounds for using armed force, you’d expect our foreign minister to support increased defence spending, yet he’s silent on such matters. Unlike his American, British, German or French counterparts, you won’t see him reviewing the troops or mixing with our generals.
Axworthy recognizes that after decades of neglect it would take huge increases in defence spending for us to make a real contribution. We might as well save our money and blood. Intervention will only work if you have America’s military might behind it, and with that you don’t need us. The argument that Canada needs to be able to offer real forces if she expects to persuade the Yanks to join in doesn’t impress him either. Goading them into joining seems a more cost effective approach.
It’s odd that Axworthy, who once feared and opposed American military interventionism, now sees new arguments for it. You’d think he’d worry about our neighbours reacquiring their taste for imposing Made in America solutions at the point of a gun. After all, American ideas regarding democracy, capitalism and human rights remain different from those of our foreign minister.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 28, 1999
ID: 13061066
TAG: 199904281324
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


A Supreme Court decision last week lamented the high incarceration rate of natives and insisted more effort should go into fewer jail sentences and to police and judges giving more weight to both native cultural values and their disadvantaged state.
There is good reason to begin at the periphery of native affairs rather than heading directly into why so many natives are jailed. The present national scenario vis-a-vis natives and justice began to take shape in the mid-1960s. Indianism is becoming our largest single government industry in terms of both spending and in diversity of issues and locales.
The cost of Indianism sustained by taxpayers is now over $11 billion a year: more than the defence bill; 10 times the cost of the CBC!
The federal government provides the majority of the funding but increasingly the provinces are spending more because of their responsibilities in education, health and policing. And bigger municipalities are spending more because of an influx of young natives who are voting with their feet for city life.
The industry, based on spending on and by natives, has a forecast of perpetual growth, unless the bottom falls out of the native birthrate, which for four decades has been the highest of any other component of our “Mosaic,” or unless politicians call a halt to the establishment of another nationality within Canada.
What is most striking about the increasingly organized and financed pursuit by aboriginals of distinct political power for themselves in perpetuity is the continuing hesitation of politicians at the federal and provincial levels (except in B.C.) to make Indianism or Aboriginalism a major national issue.
Why should this be so? Not even the high and growing expense of Indianism raises hard questions, except from the auditor general. Nor does the long-term implication of an ongoing nation, one which is based on bloodlines. Nobody seems willing to cry STOP!
A single aboriginal nation is not yet recognized in our written Constitution but aboriginal people and their hereditary rights to self-government and their unique culture have been recognized and incorporated with rights and freedoms.
The silence of politicians and parties on the emergence of a costly, separate system of government within our borders is explainable only by a vast public guilt over past mistreatment of natives.
This huge guilt has opened coffers; it stifles close and hard criticism of aboriginal aims or the methods being pursued to attain them. The latter include repetitious parading of past and present wrongs to creating trouble and inconveniences. We get more roadblocks, picketing, sit-ins and protest marches, plus defiance of regulations for hunting, fishing and logging and challenges of them in the courts.
The accusations of guilt never cease, nor do the admissions of it. The latter are much encouraged by the clergy, particularly of the large denominations that had religious and educational suzerainty for so long over so many bands.
The Indianism industry and the guilt which fuels it is furthered by the “spins” put on the worth of native culture with its spirituality, and “the wisdom of the elders.” Much of this has been encouraged, some of it created, by a swarm of sympathetic sociologists, anthropologists, archeologists, constitutional historians and lawyers – particularly lawyers engaged in the hundreds by bands, treaty tribes, commissions and councils to advise and advance land claims, etc..
The pursuit of political power has been led by the so-called First Nations (i.e., “treaty” or “official” Indians). They number about 650,000 in over 600 bands scattered from sea to sea. Also pursuing funds and power, sometimes competitively with the First Nations, are those who speak for non-treaty Indians (maybe 200,000 strong) or for the Metis (about 100,000 strong) or by the Inuit (35,000 strong).
In total the aboriginals number about one million people (although even StatsCan cannot be sure). As an item on prison population in the StatsCan bulletin of April 6 put it: “Aboriginal people were over-represented in correctional institutions … while they represented 2% of the general adult population, they accounted for 15% of the individuals placed in custody in provincial and territorial institutions and … 17% of offenders placed in federal prisons.”
This remarkable situation is at the root of the castigation last week by the Supreme Court of both the treatment in courts of accused natives and the inadequacies of our jails and prisons. This came out of a decision on the appeal by a native woman of her sentence for killing her husband.
Next Wednesday I will detail what this judicial outburst signifies in the establishing of a third nation as companion to the two nations which Lord Durham first discerned a century and a half ago.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 25, 1999
ID: 13060690
TAG: 199904261478
SECTION: Comment


As elsewhere in the world, the debate in Canada over NATO’s war against Yugoslavia has generated more heat than light.
To the “bombers” the logic is clear: alleged Serb atrocities must be stopped; the Kosovars’ rights to political autonomy (if not outright independence) must be protected; a million refugees must return to their homes; and NATO’s credibility must be upheld. If Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic isn’t stopped, a wider Balkan war looms. Air power is the best means to achieve these ends, as it promises to minimize casualties on both sides, although ground forces might also be required.
Peaceniks and those who are pro-Serbian point first to the legalities. NATO’s attack is not UN-sanctioned, and the Kosovo situation, however horrid, is an internal matter. NATO’s violation of Yugoslavian sovereignty is hypocritical, given the West’s refusal to intervene elsewhere, and dangerous, as it will increase the pressure to become involved in other conflicts.
Even more offensive to many doves is that Canada – the world’s premier peacekeeper – has sacrificed its innocence and independence, and blotched Lester Pearson’s Nobel Peace Prize legacy, by joining the American-led violence. If the war isn’t stopped soon a wider Balkan conflict and a new Cold War with Russia may result. Air power on its own cannot succeed, and a ground war is too terrible to contemplate.
The two contrary camps contain many of the usual suspects. It’s no surprise that our participation makes Michael Bliss, historian of business and commerce, “Ashamed to be a Canadian,” or that military historian David Bercuson has “never been more proud” to be one. But the war has also made for some strange bedfellows. Who’d have imagined Svend Robinson as a warmonger? Or David Frum and Peter Worthington as peaceniks?
As for yours truly, I’m rarely ashamed of being a Canadian, and never when I was in the army, but for different reasons than the saintly Bliss. To me all the sturm und drang of Canada’s politicians, ex-soldiers, former diplomats and academics seems, well, academic. Our “war effort” here, as in the Gulf in 1991, is minuscule to the point of irrelevancy.
Consider: last week Defence Minister Art Eggleton announced that 18 CF-18s were all Canada could spare for the fight, given other operational commitments, pilot rotations and training requirements. Canada has 122 CF-18s. Our other chief “operational commitment” is the defence of North America – and there hasn’t been an armed Russian bomber skirting our air space for years. As for pilot rotations and training requirements, surely these ought to take second place to a moral crusade like Kosovo. Is 15% of our fighter force a “maximum effort”?
The minister’s statement elicited little comment from either his political opponents or the media. If one ever needed proof that Canada is a play actor on the world stage, this is it. And we’re practiced players – as a few recent stories about our Lilliputian military confirm.
Despite heroic efforts by its mechanics, a 35-year-old Sea King helicopter based on a Canadian warship was unable to participate in recent NATO exercises due to mechanical problems. The old girl just couldn’t stay in the air.
A defence department report leaked around the same time found that the engines of our ancient Sea King and equally venerable Labrador helicopters are inherently unreliable and susceptible to catastrophic failure. No replacement for the Sea King has yet been chosen.
Last month Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that a further “rationalization” of our army will cut its regular force mechanized battalions from four to three rifle companies; the manpower saved will fill gaps in headquarters and support companies. If a battalion has to go to war, it is supposed to pinch a fourth rifle company from another battalion.
The “reorganization” doesn’t stop there. Canada’s three remaining regular armoured regiments are also being downsized, from four squadrons to three, and only one of these actually has tanks (late-1970s vintage Leopard Is). It’s doubtful any other country would dare call such lightly equipped forces “armoured.”
My point?
As Clifford Orwin, a U of T political science professor, commenting on the debate over introducing ground troops put it, “the good intentions that hover over a humanitarian intervention might obscure, but they cannot repeal, the law to which all military missions are subject. That law is to fish or cut bait.”
It remains to be seen whether NATO will “fish” or not in Yugoslavia. But as far as Canada is concerned, the issue is being taken as moot. Listening to ongoing debate here, you’d think we were a nation with a significant contribution to make on the battlefield. Of course we ought to be, given the size of our economy, the nature of our international interests, our stated foreign policies and our considerable history of military achievement.
But we do not have the forces we should, and we’ve been “playing” the game for so long that most of us seem to have forgotten it was all supposed to be make believe. After all, genuine military might was not supposed to matter on the ideal Canadian globe; only silly fools like the Americans think it does.
And thugs like Slobodan Milosevic.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 21, 1999
ID: 13060118
TAG: 199904211200
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


How worthwhile is the reading of books? For a reading addict like me no other preoccupation is a match.
This Friday is Canada Book Day, a sky-hook for me to sketch the pleasure and data I’ve had from new books this week. It was an exceptional week, with three unusual jewels.
First, to four political books, beginning with a fresh issue in paperback from McClelland & Stewart of Richard Gwyn’s Smallwood: The Unlikely Revolutionary.
Joey Smallwood, who 50 years ago became the so-called last Father of Confederation, was born in 1900 and died in 1991. The biography, first out in 1968, was expanded in a revised edition in 1972.
This third issue adds a measured retrospect through a very literate afterword. I put Smallwood in my top 10 Canadian biographies, and see it as a fuller, even more satisfying work than the author’s better known The Northern Magus: Pierre Trudeau and Canadians.
Second, if you like tough, terse, direct debate, try a tightly argued paperback from Canadian Scholars’ Press by Toronto lawyer Alan Borovoy. The New Anti-Liberals is a jewel, No. 1 of my week, a terrier-like mauling of illiberal correctness among our most trenchant left-wingers. The well-known civil rights advocate dismantles the logic of many righteous advocates for feminism, multiculturalism, the handicapped, peace, etc. The Borovoy tract is in line of descent from such classics against censorship as Milton’s Areopagetica and Mills’ On Liberty.
Third, the oddest book of my week is part fictional, part factual. It had me captivated but confused on whether or not the central character was murdered, and wondering what part Lester Pearson really had in the story. Agent of Influence: A True Story is by Ian Adams and published by Stoddart. It plays back almost two decades to a predecessor Adams “novel,” S. Portrait of a Spy. This cast includes both real persons and several created by the author. The story is essentially about the sequestration and intensive interrogation in the fall of 1964 by RCMP security officers of one John Watkins, a former Canadian ambassador to the USSR.
The official line has always been that Watkins suddenly died in Montreal while dining out. He was a homosexual and, therefore, highly suspect as a security risk by the American CIA and FBI. The Americans believed the Russians had entrapped and “turned” Adams. His collapse and death raised no media furor at the time and there was neither autopsy nor immediate inquest. Did Watkins die from the strain of harassment? Why didn’t former colleague and friend Mike Pearson, then PM, intervene on his behalf? For some intriguing answers read the author’s concluding note of 10 pages.
Fourth, I returned again this week to another reading of the best analysis there’s been in years of the federal government. Let me flog it again to those concerned about our faltering parliamentary system of government: Donald Savoie’s Governing from the Centre: The Concentration of Power in Canadian Politics (U of T Press).
Jewel book No. 2 is recommended on its merits, not because its author is a friend of mine, Helen Deachman. Letters to Muriel: A Search for Kin, is published by the author (479 Cole Ave., Ottawa K2A 2B1). It is a droll, self-inquisitive search for her “real” parents. Born in Winnipeg in 1931 and adopted and raised by a family at the Lakehead, the searcher is never maudlin and a shrewd detective, with a neat gift for quickly sketching personalities and scenes. She uses her letters to a life-long friend to create both a good guide for anyone attempting a search for ancestry and a cameo of where determined curiosity leads.
The third jewel will be on a near shelf to me until the end. Why? In slight part it is simply because its author, a retired architect, is one of the most buoyant and literate emigres from Europe I’ve met.
But it is more because this is a heartening, cheerful, often witty account of survival in Soviet penal work camps and an eventual, long, twisting journey to the shores of the Caspian Sea, then across to Iran and service in the Polish division in the Mediterranean theatre.
Without Vodka: Wartime Adventures in Russia, by Aleksander Topolski, is a new paperback enlivened by the author’s good ink sketches and published by UP Press, 477 Besserer St., Ottawa, K1N 6C2. It is the most absorbing of all the “now it can be told” books I’ve read by a non-Russian survivor of enslavement in the USSR. It contrasts well with The Long Walk, written by a former Polish army officer Slavomir Rawicz. It is an epic account of the walk by six prisoners at Yakutsk, Siberia, 4,000 miles to freedom in British India. But where the Rawicz story is dour, the Topolski story is vivid, often comic, and an entertaining primer on enforced multiculturalism.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 18, 1999
ID: 13059739
TAG: 199904191054
SECTION: Comment


Lawrence Martin, a prolific author, including a solid biography of Jean Chretien, recently became the ranking columnist of the Ottawa Citizen. A fortnight ago he began a piece with a paragraph that has reverberated in partisan Ottawa:
“For a cabinet shuffle expected in three months, the pressure is building in some quarters for Prime Minister Jean Chretien to move Paul Martin out of the finance portfolio.”
Lawrence added that “government insiders” have given him the reasons why such a move is under consideration.
First, because finance under Paul Martin has attained a domination of the whole government.
Second, because continuing undercover activity in the caucus and across the country in the party’s membership to maintain Martin as the certain successor to Chretien, along with campaigning by or on behalf of Allan Rock and Brian Tobin has become “unseemly.”
Third, because the cabinet changes in June must signify a major shift from the current, very “limp agenda” to “new thinking … and a sense of momentum,” and Paul Martin is by far the best choice to symbolize a real turning point.
Finally, because Paul Martin himself needs new challenges and would find them in the new, super-ministry of industry and commerce being touted in the Liberals’ parliamentary caucus.
It’s obvious Lawrence Martin has excellent sources, for sure in the prime minister’s office (PMO), maybe even the PM himself, and probably in the Privy Council Office (PCO).
Of course the mooting of a major cabinet reorganization and a spanking new department to shake and move the economy is far from a surprise to old Ottawa hands. This has been a ploy used by government after government after it has held office a few years. How to get a fresh start and a sharper focus on topical needs? When in doubt, particularly over best initiatives, where do you start? REORG! You shuffle some ministers and alter the organization chart.
Again and again as Paul Martin, Jr. was pursuing big spending cuts for some five years, he would insist he was neither a right-wing curmudgeon nor a corporate tycoon who had seconded himself to politics. No. He is a concerned citizen with his father’s political priorities. Paul, Sr. was a prominent parliamentarian from 1935-75 and a cabinet minister for 24 years.
Paul, Sr., created and left to posterity an impression of valour on behalf of generous social policies within a cabinet heavy with centrist or reactionary colleagues. Twice he failed to carry a Liberal leadership convention, in 1963 when he was 60, and in 1968 when he was 65. He began that last campaign (which Pierre Trudeau won) as the apparent favourite but trailed badly on the first ballot, tagged by the critics as just too old and work-worn.
Paul, Jr., now 60, a failed leadership aspirant at 51 (when Chretien won), has repeatedly insisted his core objective in politics once Canada’s financial health can underwrite them is to expand the social and health systems his father pioneered.
I’m not so sure Junior is such a devout replica of Senior in political ideology but it surely has become plain in the last decade, in both performance in the House and in the finance portfolio that he is a very tough, resolute, ego-centred, partisan politician, indeed even a peer, a co-equal, in such attributes, with Chretien. Both play for keeps. And Chretien and Paul Martin have had to be together – as the phrase goes, with no light between them – to have brought about the remarkable reductions in spending and the break from federal deficits.
Some are reading the situation as indicating:
a) The PM is in for a much longer haul and is trial-ballooning a prospect where Paul Martin will seem well rewarded but will actually be far less able to dominate the government as a kind of adjunct-PM;
b) That whether or not Chretien decides to go for a third mandate, he wants a successor other than Paul Martin, even though no obvious, alternative paragon seems at hand, and he anticipates that Martin’s high status with the populace, earned at finance, will not sustain him for long, as PM-in waiting, once he’s been a few years in a lesser ministry with far less power;
c) That Chretien is simply tired of sharing top billing with Paul Martin and the assumption that his government’s main achievements – a good economy and an end to deficits – are the work of a wonder at finance, not a canny, astute PM.
Each of these three readings of what Chretien has in mind is a possibility. I would overlay them, however, with a warning that Paul Martin is every bit as tough and determined as Chretien. He won’t accept a shift without protest.
The Citizen columnist insisted that shifting Martin would be “very gutsy” of Jean Chretien. I don’t think it will ever come unless the PM tells Paul Martin he will pack it in without going for a third election victory. Otherwise, a deliberate diminution of Martin could be suicidal for Chretien.
This is no John Turner, whom Pierre Trudeau shrugged into exile, or whom Chretien later suborned through his own caucus backers into quitting the leadership.
There is both much respect and a large, popular interest regarding Paul Martin among Canadians. He has a handy majority of the entire Grit caucus ready to line up behind him. Many of these MPs are either bored or fed up with the PM and his close aides. Martin has both strong personal and corporate financial resources behind him and I believe he has dozens of backers in a majority of Liberal riding associations. And he has had a group of policy wonks at work for months on programs and processes for a Martin government.
He will never quit and walk away. If need be, he is capable of accelerating Jean Chretien’s retirement.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 14, 1999
ID: 13059155
TAG: 199904141175
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


Few long books by serious Canadian scholars become best-sellers. A new one may jar this pattern. It comes from Donald Savoie, a Moncton professor who has studied the federal government and federal-provincial relations for years.
Governing from the Centre, subtitled The Concentration of Power in Canadian Politics (U of T press), is a remarkably lucid description of “inside” federal Ottawa as being far more a prime ministerial affair than most people realize. It details what a lot of us have sensed but have not been able to define and thoroughly explain.
The major shift to a domination of the ministry by the PM, using the so-called central agencies like treasury board and the department of finance, came after Pierre Trudeau took the top office in 1968.
No phrase sums up this shift more than Savoie’s characterization of the federal cabinet now as a “focus group” for the prime minister and his staff, not a group of peers jointly planning and making decisions. Parliamentary government and cabinet government is now government by prime ministers.
Savoie provides much intelligent and amusing analysis. His foreground is rich in prime ministers, ministers, and senior mandarins functioning against a background of the routine processes of a giant bureaucracy and a succession of political, economic and partisan crises, e.g., the running consequences of the first election in Quebec of a government bent on secession.
Savoie has taken on a huge subject. He’s had much experience inside the federal leviathan and has done much writing and teaching on government. For this book he interviewed scores of ministers, ex-ministers, and present or recently retired federal mandarins of high rank.
What Savoie portrays is not as abstract or without names and evaluations as I had expected. Here is a sample of his directness.
“For every Marc Lalonde, Don Mazankowski and Paul Martin, there are other ministers who leave little or no trace of their accomplishments during their stay in government. Think of Fred Mifflin, Lucienne Robillard, Diane Marleau and Lyle Vanclief in the (Jean) Chretien government. Or of Pierre Vincent, Shirley Martin, Robert Layton, and Gerry Weiner in the (Brian) Mulroney government, and of Charles Lapointe, James Fleming, Patrick Mahoney, and Joseph Philippe Guay in the Trudeau government.”
Savoie posits four broad categories for cabinet ministers: status, mission, policy and process. Of those primarily set on “status” and a good press, he gives an example from three governments: Sergio Marchi (Chretien), Tom MacMillan (Mulroney) and Gerald Regan (Trudeau). Such types got a lot of ink despite few accomplishments.
The examples given of those with strong views who have a “mission” and get into confrontations with colleagues are Eric Kierans and Monique Begin (Trudeau), Jake Epp (Mulroney) and Lloyd Axworthy of the present government.
Ministers with a “policy” bent are the least numerous and most unsuccessful, despite much expertise about a particular policy field. The examples offered are Don Johnston (Trudeau), Bob De Cotret (Mulroney) and Marcel Masse (Chretien).
The most numerous, least critical ministers are those who relish participation in “process.” Their interest is far more in projects than in policy. Status may be important to them but it’s not what they live for. They usually survive longer as ministers than the missionaries or the policy wonks. Savoie offers as examples Ralph Goodale and Diane Marleau (Chretien), Elmer MacKay (Mulroney) and Charles Lapointe (Trudeau).
The chapters on the operation of cabinet show that often both Trudeau and Mulroney became impatient and, while they preached in cabinet and caucus on serving and satisfying caucus views, they drew more and more of the managing and the execution of affairs to their own office and counsellors.
Prof. Savoie makes it clear that Chretien was fully aware of the shift of power to a single, human centre because he was such an active element in it, doing tasks given him by Trudeau. He has taken for granted that the PM is at the core of it all, untrammelled by cabinet and rarely troubled by Parliament. He has organized and directed from this centre as presidentially as any Clinton or Reagan (though, of course, without the dragging anchor of a Congress).
The Chretien delineated in Government from the Centre is a far more cunning and resolute expert on Canada’s political and administrative processes than most would believe. His style, grammar and plain vocabulary make him seem far simpler than he is.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 11, 1999
ID: 13058798
TAG: 199904121598
SECTION: Comment


There will be a bit less ho-hum than usual tomorrow when MPs return to the House from their Easter recess to question the PM and his ministers on Canada’s role in NATO’s war against Serbia.
Are we to put an infantry unit forward to help rout the Serbian army from Kosovo?
What are we prepared to do, as a nation, for the Kosovar refugees?
And, more generally, how does the government see the way through and out of this deadly conflict?
Don’t fret about such discussion. By next Friday, question period will be back at thoroughly predictable farce, the opposition jeering, the ministers bragging; and there rarely will be more than 30 MPs in their chairs for the debates.
Doubtless there will be a few doves in the House, counselling caution and wondering what has transformed our Liberals, so recently talking about “soft power” and a distinct global role for Canada (notably at the UN).
Some critics will jibe at the remarkable contrast between the present militancy of Jean Chretien and Lloyd Axworthy and their objections to Canadian participation in the 1991 Gulf war. It doesn’t take much prescience, however, to forecast there will be broad support in the opposition for sticking with NATO and being generous to displaced Kosovars.
Despite expressed doubts and fears there certainly will be backing for dispatch of a Canadian contingent of fighting troops against the Serbs if NATO so decides.
It is most unlikely there will be any significant analysis in the House of the now durable element in the post-Cold War dilemma, the one which both sets Canadian defence and foreign policy and frustrates so many of us. American journalist William Pfaff recently put it this way: the U.S. is held to exercise global power for the sake of international stability, yet the United States’ global presence itself frequently causes instability. And he added the obvious: that Washington knows how to bomb, but not how to deal with terrorists.
The media coverage of the questions and the debate in the House tomorrow will modestly, very modestly, extend the information on Canada-Kosovo which citizens have had from ministers, officials and interest group leaders through TV or their newspapers. It would be laughable, however, to think the people as a whole have been waiting expectantly for the House to gather or demanding why Parliament hasn’t been on the mark as this dangerous Balkan war has escalated into a monstrous calamity for millions.
This has been a long route to the point of this piece, one which Nelson Riis, a veteran NDP MP, made in the House in mid-March: that by and large Parliament is irrelevant except as a rubber stamp for policies and decisions made without regard for it by the PM and his top bureaucracy.
Clearly the deepening of the so-called Kosovo crisis wasn’t important enough for either Jean Chretien to recall Parliament or for Preston Manning to demand this so parliamentarians could both be informed and advise.
In a world of 24-hour news, seven days a week, Parliament is not an every week or everyday affair. Parliament sits in barely half the weeks of a year and in just a third of its days. So as a centre for generating news it is pathetically occasional. And rarely is it a magnetic forum for either argument or incisive unfolding of decisions. Just recall how almost everything of note in the budget two months ago was exposed before the finance minister’s speech and the release of the budget papers.
Not only can the decision-makers and the media not wait for revelations to be made in Parliament, as a talk-shop it doesn’t have either enough listeners or readers of its debates or, beyond CPAC’s cable telecasting, anything more than superficial and occasional coverage by the mainline media. And one cannot expect a wide range of views, independent or unique, because parliamentary affairs are now so much the domain of well organized caucuses where loyalty to the leader is both prized and enforced by carrots and sticks.
Most major contributions to any broad national discussion come from the permanent think-tanks and the best-heeled and staffed lobby groups, not from MPs – either in their chamber or out of it. And those who now advance the most to such discussion only bother to address MPs in passing. Beyond public opinion generally their targets are cabinets, federal and provincial, and the senior officials who serve both.
So can we, or should we, do without Parliament?
No. It may be far short of what most democrats would wish but it is unfair to berate it because it is neither vitally important nor often edifying.
Remember that the House retains both its first function and its ultimate one – that of being the national forum of last resort.
The first is simply that the partisan totals of those elected at a general election determine which leader and party forms the government and exercises power through the mandate.
Remember also that the House, however highly stylized in ultra-partisanship, does expose and educate politicians from 300-odd ridings across the land. Most of them gain some familiarity with issues implicit in the economic and social problems of the nation. Ambitious ones become somewhat known and better measurable for the future.
An impression deepens through a Parliament on the calibre of choices in party program and leader that is often useful for voters at the next general election. But if you follow its proceedings closely this week you will soon be more bored with its talk than that of the NATO briefers or President Bill Clinton’s press secretary.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, April 07, 1999
ID: 12990261
TAG: 199904071626
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


It is not surprising that recent (unrelated!) deeds of three Liberal veterans of federal politics have roused more speculation in the capital than across the country. In two cases the men hold formally high posts in Ottawa: Gilbert Parent as Speaker of the House of Commons, and Romeo LeBlanc as Governor General. The third, John Turner, triggers a longer perspective, one that has tantalized Ottawans ever since he became the golden boy of Parliament Hill in the 1960s, eventually in 1984 Liberal Party leader, and for a few months prime minister of Canada.
In Mr. LeBlanc’s case, his request to be relieved of his high post because of tiredness has not caused speculation on the “real” reasons for the decision to depart. Surely, it is his choosing. After all, he’s 71 and has served his party loyally and thoroughly in important roles since 1967. Before that he struggled up from poverty as a child in New Brunswick to a career as a teacher; then as a journalist for Radio Canada; then as press secretary in the PMO – first for Lester Pearson, then Pierre Trudeau; then into the House in 1972 and through several cabinet portfolios. Then he was off to the Senate in 1984, one of Trudeau’s last appointments; and then Jean Chretien made him the Speaker of the Senate in 1993 and a year later handed him the highest honorific at a prime minister’s command.
As I found Mr. LeBlanc, he was generally dour and cautious with anyone who was not a Liberal, especially with journalists he considered anti-Liberal. For thirty years, however, most Liberals have described him as very affable and chatty.
Figuratively, Romeo LeBlanc laboured from rags to riches; mostly by being an assiduous, careful, ultra-loyal Liberal. No Canadian better symbolizes the word to the wise for a young person intent on life in politics: Liberals get more rewards.
The replacement for the departing Governor General has sparked the question whether Jean Chretien can possibly see beyond the figurative forest of deserving and available Liberals to other worthies with other, or no partisan, records. My hunch contradicts my experience with him. It is that he will appoint a woman, and one who is not a Liberal, at least openly.
As a politician for 25 years, Speaker Gilbert Parent should have known what dangers lay ahead, particularly in the media, for anyone who is seen as a censor, especially of a production so seemingly innocuous as an NFB film about him and the office of Speaker. To be blunt, he should never have let the project go forward at all. Why not? Because of both the very shaky grip he has on order and good behaviour in the House and the snarky, mean-minded gossip running in both political and social Ottawa over the breakup of his marriage and his new companion.
Mr. Parent is the 10th Speaker of the House whom I have monitored. It seems to me that all but one (whom I won’t name) swelled in the job, but only three came to adorn it (Roland Michener, Lucien Lamoureux, and Jim Jerome). Something in the task pumps the ego and sense of self-importance.
In Parent’s case, he is not only the second Speaker chosen by his peers in the House rather than by the prime minister, he has been chosen twice, first in 1993 and then in 1997. In short, this House deserves him. One hopes the experience, including his continual, ineffective maundering over misbehaviour in the question period, his current high-handedness over the NFB film, and the social awkwardness arising from his late-in-life liaison, will be remembered by the next Parliament.
John Turner returned to Ottawa last week from his law practice in Toronto to speak to full tables at the weekly breakfast hosted by Mayor Jim Watson. CPAC broadcast the performance and I thought it an excellent, brief, analytical reprise of the main national issues.
Mr. Turner was only awkward with his trademark staccato phrasing and jerky hands when he left his text to be personal with the audience. He urged more skepticism about globalization and insisted the erosion of our sovereignty by American economic and cultural pressures continues. He reminded us our predecessors created a national infrastructure of transport, communications and governance, and a social system in defiance of so-called free market forces.
Particularly because Mr. Turner at 69 would give such a literate, thoughtful address, it raised again the question that has puzzled so many in Ottawa since that smashing win by Brian Mulroney over him in 1984. What happened to him in his chosen exile on Bay Street from 1975 to 1984? What in those years away from the Hill turned him from his generation’s best prospect as national leader into an electoral pumpkin?

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, April 04, 1999
ID: 12989894
TAG: 199904051372
SECTION: Comment


At least four of our nine justices of the Supreme Court of Canada have now been into the public domain. There have been assurances the court welcomes critical analysis of its decisions but warnings that a recent surge of “judge-bashing” and “personal attacks” on specific judges for specific decisions is most unfair and should cease.
Perhaps the most obvious examples of such “bashing” have come in reaction to:
a) The decision written by Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Lamer in the Delgamuukow case (December, 1997) that is having such costly economic consequences in the so-called Nisga’a land treaty in British Columbia;
b) The recent, libertarian sort of decision from the B.C. supreme court which seems to sustain child pornography;
c) The Supreme Court ruling that struck down Alberta judge John McClung’s decision on a sexual assault case and drew a savage, open critique from him of one Supreme Court Justice, Claire L’Heureux-Dube, for belittling his competence in what she attached to the decision.
A few months before the literally juvenile decision by Chief Justice Lamer was issued on the case of the B.C. Indian tribe, he had gone public with a general rebuke of those in the chorus demanding more severe sentences and tougher laws for violent crimes. He referred to this chorus scornfully as a “Jihad” or holy war.
Not a politician to my knowledge stepped forth to say this intervention by Lamer contradicted the commonplace sanction in Canada against judges engaging in partisan politics. Clearly, the chief justice put himself into what has been a recurring debate in Parliament itself. (See recent Hansards on the bitter House of Commons debates over a Liberal MP’s bid to end concurrent sentences for violent crimes.)
After appraising this lordly wigging of so-called “law and order” nuts by the chief justice I had to doubt his judgmental abilities. And after I read his Delgamuukow decision one had to figure anything so vapid and calamitous in future costs came from either a stupid or an inattentive man.
Last week, in publicly talking about judicial review and the developing resistance to it, Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci said:
“Judicial review is viewed by some as incompatible with representative democracy in that it permits control by an unrepresentative minority.”
His point is familiar, emphasizing that since 1982 when the Charter of Rights became a fundamental of our Constitution the Supreme Court has had to function as “constitutional police” even going beyond striking down a law to ordering a government to change a law.
Of course, Iacobucci said, as have the other justices in warning critics away, that the Supreme Court does not take its decisions lightly, nor does it mean the justices believe they have supremacy over constitutional interpretation. He also argued that judges should never defend their judgments “and speak only through their judgments.”
Justice Beverley McLachlin of the top court was also speaking off the bench last week to law students. She welcomed open debate about the court’s decisions and insisted the court had not been hijacked by a feminist agenda. One of her platitudes was: “Judges don’t have to park their common sense at the courthouse door.”
Wow! That tempts me to say she should look around her workplace.
Of course, Madam Justice McLachlin did declare her strong support for freedom of expression, cautioning, however, that public debate that becomes very personal “doesn’t further the public interest a lot.”
On the other hand she believes judges should venture forth from the bench to talk about their work and the many serious aspects of the justice system as a whole in which the courts are less fundamental than the programs to deal with matters like drug abuse, mental illness, battered women, etc.
But surely that demands the question to her: isn’t this advocating intervention by judges and their associated social rank and judicial aura into the contentions of politicians and interest groups?
Early last month two former premiers of good repute, Peter Lougheed of Alberta and Allan Blakeney of Saskatchewan, joined forces and issued their sober apprehension over the growth of judicial power since the Charter of Rights came into effect.
Included in their statement was advocacy for using the obvious and legitimate counter to judicial expansiveness; that is, Parliament and the provincial legislatures using the “notwithstanding” clause in the Constitution through which court judgments based on the Charter can be set aside for up to five years. They regret that such usage has come to be seen, particularly by so many law teachers, as contradicting both the integrity of the Charter and an alleged cherishing of it by the people.
Lougheed attributes much of the hostile reaction in English Canada to the notwithstanding clause to its use in 1987 by Robert Bourassa’s Liberal government and the Quebec National Assembly to evade the Supreme Court’s veto of the province’s language laws.
It is too chancy to predict the way ahead for the present judicial oversight of legislation, given the growing criticism of it, and the now obvious tensions among the judges themselves about it.
There seems to me to be a spreading realization among elected politicians that what they have done as legislators is being more and more confounded by judges who, with the Charter at their backs, have been shifting from interpreting the laws to shaping them to fit what they consider to be modern, moral and socially responsible.
Meantime, one of our many think-tanks might consider an annual, running estimate of the economic consequences of all court decisions based on the Charter, or even only the rising cost, now into billions, from just one of the decisions written by Bertha Wilson, the first female justice of the Supreme Court (now retired). That decision saddled Canada with a sieve-like, lawyer-infested immigration and refugee system.
As for criticizing judges openly, even brutally, they must face the parallels in their roles now to those of party leaders and hockey coaches. Colloquially-speaking, if they can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Or to use the Biblical aphorism at hand, let Chief Justice Antonio Lamer and his crew ponder both singly and collectively: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (Matthew:7,1)

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 31, 1999
ID: 12989397
TAG: 199903311506
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15


A retirement last week reminds me that no province, not even Triple-E Alberta, cherishes its senatorships more than Prince Edward Island.
Until recently P.E. Islanders had the best chance among all Canadians of being appointed to the Senate. Now citizens of Yukon and the other territories have a slightly better chance.
To some readers my figuring will seem to go too far to make a tiny point but it does add perspective on the best jobs in the nation – at least as those in partisan politics see them.
Since Confederation the Constitution has guaranteed P.E.I. four senators (and the other Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick 10 each). These have been tagged “Senate floors.” When Newfoundland joined Canada it entered with a floor of six senators. Ontario and Quebec have 24 each, and the four Western provinces split another 24 evenly. Yukon and the two other territories have one each.
At the last census P.E.I.’s population was 138,000, Newfoundland’s 570,000 and Ontario’s 11,300,000. So Senate chances for an Islander run about one in 34,500, for a Newfoundlander one in 142,500, and for an Ontarian one in 2,825,000. (The odds for the two Northwest territories’ seats are one in 33,000 and for Yukon’s seat one in 30,000.)
The modestly done retirement from the Senate last week by Orville Phillips marks the end of the old days when senators were appointed for life. In 1963, Orville, then a Tory MP and 38 years old, was the last Senate appointment made by John Diefenbaker. And two years later, when Lester Pearson introduced the ceiling of 75 years of age for a senator, Orville became one of almost three score senators appointed by prime ministers previous to Pearson who did not have to resign at 75 unless they chose to do so.
Gradually the list shortened of what might be called “grand- fathered” senators. For several years Orville’s been the only one entitled to go on until death. He chose not to do so. Indeed, he made that intention clear after the Pearson rule came in 34 years ago and he’s held to it.
Although he was crotchety and argumentative when he hit the House of Commons in 1957 – and remains so – Orville continues sound in mind and body; in fact he’s probably been working longer hours more effectively in recent years, notably since he took over the chair of the Senate committee on veterans affairs after Jack Marshall retired in 1994. (He spent four years in the RCAF in Bomber Command in World War II.)
During my watch of the Senate, those from P.E.I. have seemed more available on the Hill during sessions and more active in debates and in committees than those from any other province. So long as we have to have a Senate one hopes the PM will appoint another busy body from P.E.I. in Phillips’ place. May one also hope it is not his minister from P.E.I., Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay, arguably the slowest member in a very slow cabinet.
Phillips’ retirement has had far less ink than the proposition advanced in the Senate (March 10) by a newish Quebec senator, Serge Joyal. He tied in with International Women’s Week the proposal that until there’s parity between women and men in the Senate the PM should only appoint women. He even suggested in what is hardly a compelling sequitur that once gender parity in the Senate is achieved “many people will think twice before abolishing it.”
There are 31 women and 70 men in the Senate and Jean Chretien has been appointing more women than men, so we may be on the way to Joyal’s target. But, as he says, at the present rate it will take another 14 years to get there.
Perhaps a Senate composition of half or more females would make it harder to abolish the institution or turn it into a democratically chosen body.
The work in the last few years of some 30 female senators has been neither overwhelmingly good nor poor in its quality, vigour and range. Much as in the Commons, where the proportion of women is much lower, the performance of females pretty well squares with that of males – with one difference. Simply in being present and taking part, the female senators seem to do better. And most seem as partisan as the men.
One hunch I have on the future shares of women in Canadian politics in the three orders of government is based on their slowly reached but clear attainment of half or more of the places in professional schools and in arts and social science faculties. Surely this means near certainty, gender-wise, that within a quarter century the roster of full-time politicians across the country will be close to 50-50. And the consequence won’t be startling.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 28, 1999
ID: 12989047
TAG: 199903291550
SECTION: Comment


Five months of the National Post suggests what, beyond there being some prospect of enough readers to sustain two nationally distributed dailies in Canada?
As an ex-politician who has been long in the Hill press gallery the symbiotic relationship of media and politicians has always intrigued me, so naturally I’ve been looking for any impact of our new “national” paper on national politics.
When Conrad Black announced his intention to create a flagship for Hollinger Corp.’s Canadian operations, he set it (and himself) three goals. To paraphrase him: it would make money – eventually; it would raise the level of journalistic discourse in Canada through good writing, intellectual vigour, and rejection of the “pack” mentality prevalent in the rest of the media; and, politically, it would offer a clear alternative in opinion to the leftist cant of the Toronto Star and the CBC, our two largest gatherers and disseminators of information and interpretations.
Black’s aspirations, especially his political ones, attracted vitriolic comment from many on the left. In the wake of the paper’s debut, however, there has been remarkably little criticism – or even comment – regarding its political slant. Why? What’s happened to Black’s political mission?
After purchasing the Financial Post to provide the base for his National Post, Black raided other papers (including this one) for political reporters and commentators to add to FP’s strong business section. While he did not limit his search to right-wing ideologues – there weren’t many to be had – he did hire several writers who could at least be described as “small c” conservatives.
The National Post reflects this. It is a conservative paper, as its daily critiques of the federal and provincial governments make plain. But it is not a Reform or, for that matter, a Tory version of the Toronto Star.
While the Post supports “uniting the right” to provide an effective alternative to Jean Chretien’s Liberals, it often criticizes Reformers and Tories, and at this stage it’s hard to say which party would get the paper’s editorial nod. (This may account for the silence of the left.) The Post, as I read it, prefers to develop its conservatism through issues rather than partisan enthusiasms.
Perhaps because of this, Post writers seem to be given more room to develop their stories than their competitors. I find this gives the Post a readability and consistency of argument akin to that of the better U.K. papers, making its political assessments more cogent over time than those in the other Canadian dailies.
If the Post is an issues- focused paper, Reform is an issues-oriented party. It should come as no surprise then that although the Post isn’t waving the torch for Reform, its presence on the media scene is proving beneficial to the party.
Consider the tax cut issue. In recent weeks the Post has devoted an amazing amount of ink to the subject. Reform’s attacks on the Liberals received front page treatment. Inside pages offered analytical pieces debunking the government’s boasts of how it has removed poor Canadians from the tax rolls and is “cutting” EI contributions. The Post’s business pages hammer the view that tax cuts are needed to stimulate economic growth, reverse the decline in Canada’s productivity, and stop the brain drain to the south.
This editorial positioning on tax cuts has obviously given Reform’s efforts to hammer the government on the issue greater resonance and credibility. And credibility is what Reform (or for that matter, the United Alternative) needs if it is to establish itself as the choice other than the Liberals. It has also pushed other dailies to give the issue prominence.
This raises, at least for me, another interesting facet of the Post/Reform relationship. As has been noted here before, most journalists in our media – and most noticeably in eastern Canada – cannot seem to refrain from questioning Reformers’ motives or casting them in the role of mere regional partisans. The mocking that Preston Manning and his cohorts have endured from the press gallery and in so many editorials has been a major barrier to their attempts to break through into Ontario. Even when they disagree with Reformers, Post reporters and columnists usually accord them the same respect they show other parties. This marks a real step up for the Official Opposition.
(With luck, perhaps this will rub off on other members of the media who so often seem to see spectres of Jim Keegstra and Pat Robertson looming behind Preston Manning.)
Whatever its circulation or advertising scenarios, through its choice of writers and editors, its issues-oriented approach and generous copy limits, the National Post is proving to be an effective vehicle for bringing conservative viewpoints to a large audience, and so well on its way to Black’s third goal of becoming a force in shaping this country’s political discourse.
It may take a lot of such shaping by the Post to turn enough Canadian voters away from the welfare state to make a difference in the dominant temper and values in federal politics.
What the Post has achieved thus far without attracting a lot of direct opposition in ridicule, satire, blunt contradictions, or even in systematic barracking from either practising politicians or its major competitors, suggests to me that Conrad Black is more subtle than his enemies credit.
Also, the surprising extent of acceptance for the Post’s development of a rather consistent, conservatively minded line on substantial political issues tells me the eclipse this decade of so much of liberally minded political correctness will carry on into the next one. The legacy of a wide acceptance that staggering deficits and debt-loads must be mastered is continuing support for governance which is frugal and not interventionist.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 24, 1999
ID: 12988498
TAG: 199903241415
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 17
COLUMN: The Hill


Is one of the longest honeymoons of a politician with Canadians ending? It first seemed so in late 1995/early 1996 after the near miss of the Parizeau-Bouchard bid for Quebec sovereignty. For a few months Prime Minister Jean Chretien seemed shaken but he recovered, confirming it 21 months ago with a second majority mandate.
Teflon does scratch and wear with hard use, then stuff begins sticking to it and users begin to consider junking the utensil.
Something rather like this has been taking place recently in Ottawa with Chretien and his cabinet – notably since the federal budget – underlined by the tawdry tale of the PM’s practice of local patronage.
Much of the witness to the Chretien situation is subjective and may once again be premature, but it is apparent in a generally harsher and more critical tone in both reportage and editorial comment in the last two months.
Some of the cause is surely just tiredness with the same leader and largely the same cabinet cast through more than five years in power.
Early in the TV age there was talk of the Milton Berle syndrome, then the Jackie Gleason syndrome – a shorthand for overexposure that slowly turned mass enthusiasm into boredom, then criticism, then to fresher favourites (and lower ratings for old ones).
Some of what has been happening here is a remarkably slow jelling of an appreciation that Canada has a very cautious, old-fashioned government, tightly controlled from the centre (PMO) and more intent on being in office and enjoying its perquisites than on firm aims.
What really has become dithering in Ottawa is apparent in the contradictions on the seriousness of lagging productivity in Canada and its remedies between the major economic ministers, Paul Martin and John Manley.
Another element in the growing sense of dither is the kaleidoscopic profusion apparent within the Liberal caucus on what should be emphasized, plus how much should be spent, and where, on improved or new programs, and on how far to go with tax cuts for individuals. Last week an example of the squirrely stuff swirling in cabinet and caucus was floated as a coming move: a national commissioner for children.
But surely the harsher measure being taken of Chretien is the most serious element in what threatens the Liberal reign, not through the emergence of a beloved or admirable, rival party leader but simply through a rising, mass determination to vote against his party.
Since John Diefenbaker’s advent to the top office, network television has opened up a familiarity with the prime minister for most Canadians, making his performance and his standing in public opinion by far the most significant factor in a government’s stock at any given time. And today, for Chretien and the Liberals, the factor of his status in public favour is getting unsettled and tentative.
And to a degree, unsettled it must remain for something like a year. Why? Because it’s too early in this mandate for Chretien to declare he won’t lead his party in the next election or that he absolutely intends to do so. His repeated hinting, some of it jocular, of his determination for a third mandate has already been more than mildly upsetting to his caucus.
Many of the caucus already know the fresh leader they want. They fear a minority government if Chretien runs again. Far more than partisan rivals or journalists they know most in the Chretien ministry are mediocre and dull.
Although Martin, Allan Rock and Brian Tobin have been open about their leadership ambitions, journalists have been working up a rather hilarious roll, even recycling such former prospects as Sheila Copps, Lloyd Axworthy and Frank McKenna and touting possible prospects such as ministers Manley, Anne McLellan, Jane Stewart (Lord save us!), Herb Dhaliwal, Pierre Pettigrew and David Collenette (unbelievable).
Such media excess will continue so long as there is so much uncertainty, and the uncertainty deepens the more citizens get wise to a prime minister who is short on ideas, arrogant with critics, ruthless with his followers and deep in the old game of patronage and toll-gating.
If this seems unfair to Chretien, given the major achievements of two balanced budgets, no inflation and with the never-ending separatist cancer at least in remission, that’s not new, it’s happened before. Remember?
Take Lester Pearson. Late in 1967 he was so low in the polls he bolted, despite the Canada Pension Plan, the flag and a grand Centennial year party.
Take Pierre Trudeau. Following the repatriation of our Constitution and its amendment through the glorious Charter of Rights and Freedoms, he resigned and left a party and administration so disfavoured that Brian Mulroney’s Tories won the largest electoral victory ever.
Take Mulroney. He led in attaining two economic measures of huge effect in Canada’s economic comeback this decade – free trade with the U.S. and the GST. Four months after he resigned his party could only win two of 301 Commons seats.
So … ponder Chretien.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 21, 1999
ID: 12988160
TAG: 199903221511
SECTION: Comment


The past quarter has not been an exciting one in terms of books about politicians and national politics. Considerable serious, heavy professorial stuff has been published, but no substantial biography or memoirs.
So let me sketch the what and the why of a few of the new, earnest books, none of which is making a big public splash.
The first is a “keeper” for me, mostly because it’s a thorough account of Canada’s immigration policies, based on close following of the bureaucratic and legislative paper trails which began with early French and British colonial regimes. Any reader interested in immigration to Canada now has a one-stop source for its history.
However, along with the detailed continuity we get the often fatuous idealism of the authors, most notable in their certainty that Canada since the mid-1960s has emerged from earned odium by reforming an immigration system which had been framed and enforced by racist, white bigots. Now the authors think Canada is a bit of a beacon of fairness and multi-ethnic generosity to the world, but we remain “still prisoners of our past,” because of the differing attitudes to immigration of our two largest linguistic communities.
The Making of the Mosaic; A History of Canadian Immigration Policy, was published by the University of Toronto Press, and written by Ninette Kelly and Michael Trebilcock. Of its 621 pages, 150 are of notes and bibliography. Kelly is now a member of the refugee board; Trebilcock is a law professor.

Another new, big book is centred on a period which in recent decades has become tagged as when the exercise in white supremacy over native people in Canada was established. Its author is a law professor and, frankly, his target readership appears to be neither natives nor the many who feel guilty over “white” treatment of them, but fellow lawyers.
Again, the liberally minded idealism of the author is much evident. Nonetheless, the litany of bungling, ignorance, and inconsistencies is staggering, as is the labour that went into gathering this account of arrests, prosecutions and bureaucratic intrusions through a century of Indian affairs in Canada.
White Man’s Law; Native People in Nineteenth-Century Canadian Jurisprudence, was published by the U of T Press for the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, and written by Sidney L. Harring. Its 432 pages are two-thirds text, one-third notes and bibliography. But many of the cases involving hunting and fishing laws could be a basis for a fascinating TV series using the people and locales of our hinterlands.
Four decades ago a former missionary to China, James Endicott, roused much antagonism in Ottawa and Washington by making repeated allegations that Americans had been using biological weapons in the Korean war, and that Canada and Britain were associated with developing such weapons and their delivery. Now we have a very learned book by two professors at York University, one a son of the late Dr. Endicott.
The United States and Biological Warfare; Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea, was published by Indiana University Press and written by Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman. The conclusion seems to be that there is circumstantial evidence in abundance which “strongly supports the allegations of use (of such weapons) … and implies a continuing high-level coverup about the true relationship of the United States government to biological weaponry in general.”

Few happenings in our modern history were more dangerous and memorable than the first Quebec referendum on sovereignty in 1980, which was won handily by those who chose federalism, turning back the secessionists of Rene Levesque’s Parti Quebecois. So what political aficionado wouldn’t welcome a new book analyzing the referendum? Yes … but!
This fresh account is so often quantitative, so laced with quotations and references and its opinions so weighted with academic cautions and phrases that by its end the best usage for it I could conceive is as a university textbook. Constructing the Quebec Referendum; French and English Media Voices, was published by the U of T Press and written by communications professor Gertrude J. Robinson, is 162 pages long and has much in charts and tables.

Finally, to those who like common sense on how governments ought to work and sometimes do, let me tout a new, revised edition of Political Management in Canada: Conversations on Statecraft. It was also published by U of T Press and written and taped by Allan Blakeney, an ex-mandarin and a former premier, and Sandford Borins, a Toronto political scientist. The 1994 edition had won basic use in many university courses, I think because of its blend of frankness, analysis put colloquially, and clear case examples of both problems and remedies.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 17, 1999
ID: 12987594
TAG: 199903171038
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


This is an anecdotal piece about two Ottawa lobbyists – veterans of war as well as at pressuring federal politicians and mandarins.
One, Clifford Chadderton, head of the War Amps and chairman of the National Council of Veterans’ Associations, has become a national figure for his work on behalf of war veterans and disabled people, so much so that in the recent Order of Canada awards he was raised from the second grade of “officer” to the top grade of “companion.” Chadderton himself is a war amp, having lost a leg in battle at the Leopold Canal in the fall of 1944.
I first noticed Chadderton as a lobbyist in the 1960s when Lester Pearson’s Liberal cabinet was setting up the Canada Pension Plan. At committee hearings on the CPP he linked with the late, great parliamentarian Stanley Knowles in critiquing the master plan. Chadderton was a bold, assured witness, never slow with pinpoint advice.
I keep a crude, shifting short list in my head of those whom I see as the ablest lobbyists in Ottawa, and I’ve had Chadderton at the top, alongside Tom D’Aquino of the Business Council, for years. He, like D’Aquino, is adroit at spotting openings and taking them, and each deftly uses his well-staffed organization.
But the lobbyist I now link with Chadderton has not had widespread notice or large resources. Gordon Olmstead, a former president of the Canadian Merchant Navy Prisoners of War Association, is in his 80s and he’s been the key researcher and brief-maker for the merchant navy veterans since the early 1980s. In the first year of World War II he was a radio operator on a Canadian tanker captured and sunk by a German raider in the South Atlantic. Thus, Olmstead and his mates were PoWs in Europe to the war’s end.
At this moment, on the eve of federal legislation that finally gives full veterans’ rights to merchant navy vets, Olmstead is in a local hospital bucking cancer. A few admirers of his diligent work for others put him forward a few months ago for the Order of Canada. Last month, as the Order announced the added honor for Chadderton, Olmstead’s friends learned from the Order’s clerk that their nomination had failed.
This was not a surprise to me, even though I see Olmstead as a true hero of the underdog. Nothing has come easily for him in his long lobby for full veterans’ benefits for his fellow seafarers in World War II’s dangerous waters. For years he did most of his research and door-knocking on the Hill alone. He is bright, thorough, persistent, and he wouldn’t quit. A few years ago he gained an able helper in an argumentative historian, Foster Griezic of Carleton University.
I’ve known Olmstead and his cause since the mid-1980s. I helped him get the ear of George Hees, then DVA minister, about a ceremonial issue which may seem petty but symbolized “official” antipathy to the merchant navy case. Out of Gordon’s chat with Hees came the first selection ever for the Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ottawa of a “Silver Cross” mother of a merchant sailor lost at sea.
Gordon Olmstead exasperated a swarm of federal mandarins in his long chase of a fair deal for merchant navy sailors through political and bureaucratic Ottawa. A good reason for it came because his hard-won access to high-level files was revealing a high-handed, even cruel exploitation of the seamen.
The Mackenzie King government’s postwar aim of grandeur in shipping policy, mouthed by its transport minister, Lionel Chevrier, dictated the denial of veterans’ benefits to merchant navy personnel. Why? It was not because of the costs of such benefits but because the seamen already had a job. The real reason was the skills needed to sustain a major Canadian shipping marine.
Not only did this dream collapse in a few years, it was abetted by the Cold War drive in the early 1950s, led by governments and backed by many Canadian union leaders, to stamp out communism in unions. Although most of the rank and file I knew in the seamen’s union of the time were not communists, their leaders were tagged as “reds.”
So, sanctioned by Ottawa, a fresh “international” union was created, led by American Hal Banks, whom Ottawa imported (to its later deep regret).
After Banks put most of the old hands on “do not ship” lists in his union’s hiring halls, most of the wartime merchant seamen no longer could get jobs at sea.
Unlike discharged RCN sailors or those out of the army and air force, the merchant seamen on shore had almost nothing in the way of leadership by their former officers. There weren’t the bonds of continuity and long service together.
And only rarely, and never until the 1990s, did the strongest of the veterans’ associations, like the Royal Canadian Legion or the War Amps, take up the cause of full benefits for seamen. Indeed, DVA officials insisted to me for years that the chief objectors to full veterans’ status for the seamen were the traditional veterans’ associations.
It is pleasing, even inspiring, that Cliff Chadderton has acknowledged his regrets that he came so late to full-bore advocacy of the merchant seamen’s cause in Ottawa. As I measure the weight of his support, the cause is gained.
He made his regrets about the lateness of his lobby while presenting his new film, Sail Or Jail. It explains point-by-point why both federal apologies and particular financial benefits are overdue for the merchant seamen who are still alive and the dependents of those who have died.
Meanwhile, as Gordon Olmstead hangs on, may he know those years of effort for comrades were worth it.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, March 14, 1999
ID: 12987248
TAG: 199903151523
SECTION: Comment
COLUMN: The Hill


A month ago we had the federal budget. It generated much praise (including mine) for its author, Finance Minister Paul Martin.
Four weeks later, in part due to astute opposition work in the House on inequity of taxes, neither the finance minister nor the Chretien government seem so masterful at fiscal and monetary management. Remember this shift – it’s the pivot of my argument to come.
The weekend after the budget we had the conference in Ottawa on the United Alternative, a proposal launched by Preston Manning and the Reform party and designed to consolidate right-thinking citizens – notably those active in the federal Progressive Conservative party – in a political organization with a real chance to turf out the Liberals in the next election.
The gathering was not a fiasco but it certainly did not clear the thick fog of doubt on whether a coherent alliance of the conservatively minded is possible.
Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, neither much of an orator nor analyst, gave a modest, inoffensive speech, not raising very high the expectation that he is a promising prime minister.
Manning gave one of his positive, well-crafted and historically aware presentations which should – but never do – win him much respect from journalists for their cogency and clarity.
As the conference dispersed, the intentions were clearly to go forward with further discussions, using regional and constituency meetings mostly sponsored by Reform. But there were no solid indications of future participation by leader Joe Clark or anyone of rank in the membership of the federal Progressive Conservative party.
Perhaps in the public’s mind the UA gathering – as an event, and through its later summaries and critiques in the media – may have given the Reform party some small advantages vis-a-vis the main object of the exercise, the federal Tories.
How so?
First, the consistent denigration of Reform and its leader, before, during and since the conference by such Tories as Clark, John Crosbie, Harvie Andre and Peter MacKay got such emphasis. Their churlish disrespect was too adolescent and ridiculous in blaming Reform for the Tories’ slaughter at the polls in 1993 – a plunge from 170 MPs to two (2!). Better if Clark had simply said: “Stuff the phone calls, Manning. You go your way. We go ours.”
Second, enough active politicians and apparatchiks from the Ontario and Alberta provincial Tory parties appeared and took part in the conference to emphasize that neither Premier Klein nor Ontario Premier Mike Harris are solidly aligned with Clark on his federal mission of personal and party resurrections.
One has to assume that if Harris retains power in an Ontario election this year Reform won’t have his organization either working against them or pounding on doors for Clark at the next federal vote. If Harris wins, Manning might note that a generally hostile media don’t ruin a leader’s electoral chances in Ontario. (In passing, three veteran Grit MPs from Ontario have told me the Harris government will win handily.)
Third, the reactions of Clark and his followers to the United Alternative indicate their party remains at the centre-left of the ideological stage, blending liberally minded cant with social democratic compassion. Indeed, an auditor of the present House who is without a roster of names with party labels might find it hard to distinguish the Maritimers of Joe Clark from those of Alexa McDonough.
In short, the federal PCs are shaping along the lines advocated by the party’s familiar gurus, Dalton Camp and Hugh Segal. This has a positive side for the Tories because these policies seem broadly appreciated among those who report and editorialize on politics and choke on “Parson” Manning’s fundamentalism.
To needle on this point, by and large this Progressive Conservative party’s prime virtues are being emphasized as historical and traditional – i.e., as the standard alternative to Liberal governments. The PCs really have been – and still are – Canada’s Liberals-in-waiting. And their program seems to be very familiar: love of Canada, great respect for Quebecois aspirations, stout support for bilingualism, multiculturalism, feminism, gay rights, the CBC, the GST, the FTA, etc., etc.
Whatever advantage of the UA to Reform thus far, it’s clear that Manning is heavily involved in the next year or two, less in Parliament and more outside it in creating the alternative party through his organizational leadership. He also may be guaranteeing his own chances of leading the “alternative.”
Certainly, after the past few weeks on the UA front, one cannot expect a melding of Reform and PC MPs before the next election or anything other than a slate of 300 or so candidates for Clark in the next election.
It has seemed to me, as one of very few in the eastern media who is neither leery nor dismissive of the aims and abilities of Preston Manning, that he became too impatient last year after Paul Martin’s first balanced budget. He decided the Liberal government was entrenched for a long run in power and an opposition split four ways assured its electoral survival into a distant future.
Therefore, he had to organize a future victory for a party that is conservative in both economic and social policies – and do it largely outside Parliament, the central forum of federal Canada. All it needed was a coalescing or merging, perhaps co-operation in ridings and regions with the federal Tories by Reformers.
One cannot help but suspect that Manning knew this would be anathema to the Tory leader. Remember, Joe was an MP from 1972-93, the leader of the PC party from 1976-83 and both a top cabinet minister for nine years and a prime minister for one.
Was it wise to shift the focus of Reform and conservatively minded Canadians to beyond the House of Commons for a year or two?
Obviously, my answer is negative. The House is intrinsic to the worth and functioning of the parliamentary process, and in it Manning and his 58 Reform MPs have an official task to oppose and expose those in power.
But my negative is from one steeped in Parliament, who has followed it closely for decades. Its centrality and significance for Canadians may have worn away, and Manning has grasped this and has turned for results in the quest for power to the shaping of a force focused on the next election, not on the routine of a parliamentary mandate.
Arguably, this makes sense to anyone who takes in the crowd at question period, where the partisanship is stagey and often banal, and who then stays for “debates” listened to by less than a fifth of MPs 90% of the time.
Nonetheless, the obvious aging of this cabinet and the slowing of its purposes for the future – one might say its empty vision – become more apparent and exploitable for those who would be the alternative in the House of Commons and the Senate than anywhere else.
Or, to use an old tag, a government is destroyed or destroys itself in the House well before an election.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, March 10, 1999
ID: 12986701
TAG: 199903101487
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
Legendary Canadian broadcaster Jack Webster (1990 photo) died last week. He was 81.
COLUMN: The Hill


He was tart and smart, strident yet deft, thoughtful and kind. And across the board of values, Jack Webster was a treasure for his community, province and country. He was superb at trying to understand and explain public affairs.
My acquaintance with Webster began in 1958 when I was a newish CCF MP visiting Vancouver. He was becoming the broadcaster of the Lower Mainland. His first remark to me was: “Jaysus, you are a big clod-hopper” as I met him at breakfast in the Hotel Georgia.
A few years later, necessity took me into columnizing on Parliament for the Toronto Telegram. Jack welcomed me to the brotherhood of journalism but doubted I’d survive. He figured my party colleagues would fear betrayal if I was honest in what I wrote about. By and large, he was on the mark.
To illustrate Jack’s humanity I recall a melodrama he pitched me into on Parliament Hill. It was late in Lester Pearson’s first mandate (1963-65), the House was sitting and it was late in the week.
My home phone rang about 7 a.m. It was Jack. He’d been in Ottawa a few days, was heading home later that day and was seeking “a favour.” He’d been up all night … with the boys. He was beat and desperate because he had to send a comment or interview to his home station in the few hours before he caught a plane home. He’d forgotten to line anyone up. Could I help?
By 8 a.m. we met at my office on the Hill, Jack looking whacked but resolutely gripping a tape-recorder. We met with levity and insults, I playing the man of temperance, rescuing one who was not. What an occupation, so gregarious and boozy. I referred to the bootlegging atmosphere of the parliamentary press gallery, the staff running drinks for reporters.
After such mutual barracking, Jack grew stern, put his microphone forward, identified me as the NDP MP from Port Arthur and went after my opinions of the Pearson cabinet, the Pearson vs. John Diefenbaker enmity, etc. After five minutes or so Jack wrapped it with thanks, said he had to edit the tape, pipe it to Vancouver, then high-tail it to the airport.
Okay, favour done, I went off to a long hearing of a House committee where, just before noon, an aide of NDP Leader Tommy Douglas came in and said the boss wanted me. There was trouble.
It took some hours to understand what had happened but surely I was in trouble. In mid-morning an Ottawa radio station had run an item by one Ed Murphy. It consisted of my voice, scorning the souses of the press gallery and their alcoholic excesses. Murphy had concluded such opinions with the question: How long will Hill reporters put up with this blackguard?
Not long, it seemed. A small, irate group from the press gallery had already been in to see Douglas. They demanded he censure my views and have me apologize publicly. Several stated their intention to sue me for slander.
Yes, I was in trouble. It took me most of the day to get the Ottawa station to play Murphy’s report for me. He’d taken separate sentences of my first, chafing remarks with Webster and elided them into a long jeer at the bibulous excesses of Hill reporters. There was nothing in Murphy’s report about Webster or the occasion of the recording.
Immediately I could understand Murphy’s reasons for tape-doctoring. Recently I’d written critically of his behaviour in France on a tour by the prime minister.
I needed Webster desperately to assure my leader and the gallery delegation I’d been jobbed by a cleverly spliced tape.
Where was Webster? On his way back to B.C. So I left messages at his station and his home, then repeated them over several days. Of course I was also denying my own phrases to skeptical reporters. My fellow MPs were distancing themselves.
The hassle lasted over a weekend without a word from Jack. I’d pleaded my case to several of the gallery critics and issued the excuse of being unfairly and improperly quoted. It was five days after the broadcast before I got Jack on the phone. By then he knew fully what had happened. He apologized for: a) telling Ed Murphy he’d just had a great interview with me; b) leaving him the tape for Murphy’s use in his Ottawa gig.
Why hadn’t he replied to my calls or let Tommy Douglas or the press gallery executive know about the misuse of his tape and my words? He was frank. That would almost surely have cost Murphy his contract. He was already in other jeopardizing difficulties. Jack knew I could survive the tempest but Murphy wouldn’t if I took his deed to his employers or the radio commission.
I was most unhappy with this but I was frozen by Jack’s brute candour. He closed with grace. If ever I felt he could do something for me, just ask.
A few years later similar antics by Murphy took him out of journalism, and much later an athletic relative of mine who was training in B.C. called me one morning to say he needed a job there to keep him going. Had I any leads? Yes, I said, call Jack Webster. Ask him if he would suggest something. Next morning my relative called again, tired but joyful, just in from a night shift at a sawmill. Hard work; good pay!
All Webster had asked him was: “Have you a strong back?” When he said he did, Jack gave him a name, an address and suggested he take overalls and hard-toe shoes. Jack was very direct.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 21, 1999
ID: 12509999
TAG: 199902221499
SECTION: Comment


There’s just too much happening before I head off on vacation for me to write a single-topic column. So this one deals with five separate opinions on present issues.
First, the Olympic “scandal” bothers me because it seems not to bother most Canadians. And Canada, more than any other country, has had a surfeit of debt, fiasco, failure and chicanery in both the hosting and athletic aspects of these over-blown quadrennial extravaganzas.
Montreal and Quebec taxpayers are still anteing up for the 1976 Summer Games which Mayor Jean Drapeau attained, even though he didn’t have genuine support from either the federal or provincial government.
Drapeau said his Games wouldn’t lose a dollar. Over two decades later costly consequences still reverberate (see roof adventures at the stadium the Expos inherited). For just a fortnight of events, in which our top athletic feat was a second place in the high jump, three levels of Canadian government blew well over $3 billion (including debt charges).
The top fraud perpetrated by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is that the Games are a gathering of the world’s youth where they can compete fairly in a model of both competition and harmony.
Another fraud is the IOC’s conception that “the host” has not been and must not be a nation but a city. This allows the IOC oligarchy and the promoters of ambitious cities seeking a one-shot boom to bypass national governments. Of course, neither the teams nor the medal totals are listed by anything but country.
Further, almost every major professional team sport has become part of the Olympic Games. This makes a sham scenario of the apex of competition in the two most popular world games – soccer and basketball.
Almost all vestiges of old-time amateurism have disappeared because of intensive specialization and training, making all that rainbow-in-the-sky stuff about youth and peace, or forever aiming to be faster and reaching higher, into a farce.
Common sense postulates a reduction in Olympic events and venues back toward the Greek model, but that’s unlikely, even if there are more scandalous revelations. There is such a huge ball of money and media hype.
A Canadian might hope, however, that Torontonians and the Ontario government might be canny enough to postpone any bid until there have been a few years of Olympic reformation. And, as taxpayers, Ontario citizens need not range to Montreal for a big-show sports legacy in public debt. Just ruminate on who paid for the SkyDome.
As for Richard Pound, the Canadian on the IOC executive is perhaps a contender to succeed president Juan Antonio Samaranch. The IOC has been a self-perpetuating, feudal type organization with a rich lifestyle. It’s possible for me to believe Pound has never been involved directly in any skulduggery regarding awarding of the Games, but it’s hard to believe someone so able and vigorous in his participation at the heart of “the movement” did not know about the mutual debauching of many on the Olympic council and a lot of host-city aspirants through the offering and taking of gifts and free travel – even jobs and cash.

Second, in the bad run which Prime Minister Jean Chretien seems to have had recently I think his alleged mistakes have been blown out of proportion. I refer to outrage over his skipping King Hussein’s funeral and the persistent accusations that he took part in directing the RCMP’s rough handling of protesters at the APEC summit in Vancouver in 1997.
Much of the media and many opposition partisans have made too much of both happenings and exaggerated the impact of the PM’s conduct on citizens generally.
Led by TV news and commentary, there seems a hunger for a fresh leader. Chretien is too common and over-worn. He has been around for 36 public years.
But the brutal reality is this: Chretien’s hold on Parliament, the cabinet, his party, the federal bureaucracy and the economy remains firm.
Further, he has lately been fashioning something uncommon and useful, i.e., unusually positive relations with the premiers.

Third, who keeps resurrecting Allan Rock, now federal minister of health, as a strong rival to Brian Tobin and Paul Martin as the next prime minister?
And why?
Is it because he’s from the big city and practically the only minister from Toronto who speaks in sentences, with a superior vocabulary?
On asks such Simple Simon questions because Rock has not shown much craft, let alone brilliance, over six years in two prime portfolios.
It’s true this is a cabinet of few distinctions with most ministers too lacklustre to gain even critical notice. If Rock’s in the race, why not Sheila Copps? She has been less inept ministerially than Rock since she rallied from her GST gaffe.
I’d make this wager: If Rock has the gall to run he won’t come to the convention with more than a dozen disciples from Ontario’s 100 Liberal MPs.

Fourth, the best test of Preston Manning’s astuteness as a leader will come in the next year or so as he seeks to recover the momentum and integrity lost by the Reform party through disillusioned members and softened policy positions from the United Alternative proposition which he prompted and has stage managed.
The UA’s prime purpose – to assure defeat of the Liberals in the next election – is too negative. It seems unprincipled.
In time, thankfully, every government defeats itself. But a party in opposition can ruin its largest prospect by jettisoning or moderating its credos to gain a large, common denominator base to beat a rival party which already has such a base.
The chances of a constructive working alliance of Reformers and Tories to defeat the Liberals are slight to nil. Instead, Reform will need reconstruction.

Fifth, Doug Collins, a West Coast columnist, has been censured for his published opinions about the Holocaust and its casualties by officials applying B.C.’s Human Rights Code. Although Collins’ reading of the Holocaust is wrong-headed, I want to add a further reason why he should have the right to hold and express such opinions.
In World War II Collins was a plain British soldier. He was taken prisoner in a rearguard action at the perimeter of Dunkirk in June, 1940. Like most PoWs who were not officers, he was forced to labour in coal mines in eastern Germany and Poland, far from any possible escape routes to Sweden, France or Switzerland.
Yet escape he did – again and again – heading eastward toward the Russian front. He suffered grievous hardships and punishments on recapture. As the war was closing he was loose again and near or in Romanian territory.
Surely his wartime record underlines he has the right to express views about what happened in that war, wrong-headed or not.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 17, 1999
ID: 12508891
TAG: 199902171477
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 17
COLUMN: The Hill


This was the third impressive budget in a row from Paul Martin, the minister of finance. His record improves. Now he’s had the best three straight since the budgets from Douglas Abbott in the early 1950s.
One uses the word “best” because very high annual deficits, really endemic from 1978 until three years ago, have been mastered, with surpluses twice attained and others in prospect for several more years.
Don’t be deceived by listening to the budget address or by reading it. The text is far longer than it needed to be, loaded throughout as it is with the obligatory partisan pap – much self-congratulation, immodest credit-taking and many vouchsafes of a party and government that cares for plain folks.
But there were some mercies. For example, nowhere did I find any prating about national unity or even any nudges at how much Quebec gets this year from Ottawa (over $11 billion, half a billion more than Ontario).
Further, in several places in the budget booklets one meets the word “frugal,” and it is given honoured notice. The following sentences probably bored those wanting big tax cuts or much higher spending on, say, health or regional disparities, but I believe they sum up what the majority of citizens would approve:
“For the first time in a generation, Canadians can plan now for the future, secure in the knowledge that the interest rates and the tax rates that they pay will not be pushed up because of missed fiscal targets and a continued buildup of debt. The federal government is not prepared to risk a return to deficits. The gains from maintaining sound public finances – low interest rates, falling tax rates and the ability to make investments in key strategic programs – will not be put at risk.”
Bravo, although one must add that: a) The “falling tax rates” have been very modest; and b) many programs others think to be “key” and “strategic” are not going forward.
But let me put that another way. Paul Martin, obviously backed by the prime minister, has fallen far short of what the Reform party and the corporate community advocate in tax cuts, and quite short of what many MPs in the Liberal caucus want in new programs or enriched present ones. Programs such as re-equipping much of the armed services and creating two first-class trans-Canada highways.
The biggest of the budget data books has comparisons of Canada’s fiscal progress with the other G-7 countries, and our progress has been remarkable. These figures relate the total governmental budget balances – of both national and state or provincial governments – in each country. It’s heartening that our provinces have done so well in ending or reducing deficits; indeed, some have shown the way to Ottawa.
While the level of the costs of servicing both federal and provincial debt is still very high (federally, some $41 billion this financial year and by far the biggest item in the budget), the gist is clear. The two main orders for governments in our country are now to take in more than they spend, and that the rise in most of their debt loads has stopped. Ottawa in particular is beginning to pay such debt load down, even if only a few billions at a time.
It seems obvious to me that given his commitments to frugality and establishing a practice of budgets that are in balance and a debt load that’s on the wane, Paul Martin should remain as minister of finance for the rest of the Chretien government’s mandate. In the past, Douglas Abbott held the post for over seven years. So did Mike Wilson. And James Ilsley held it for six. Of course, none of these roused high expectations of aspiring to become PM – the only higher federal role.
As the Liberals pass into the third year of this mandate the pressure will grow for Jean Chretien to make clear whether or not he plans to lead his party in the next election. His successor is overwhelmingly obvious. This budget sustains it, and another year in the role won’t add or subtract much, but Martin and the party and the country ought to know by next February if he is to have the chance he seems to have earned.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 14, 1999
ID: 12508170
TAG: 199902151477
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: color drawing by Tim Dolighan
COLUMN: Backgrounder


How should one measure Paul Martin as a minister of finance? He has been the presenter of federal budgets the past six years and is about to unveil a new one on Tuesday.
One way to measure Martin is alongside those who have preceded him. I am encouraged in this by the disappearance of excitement once generated by the secrecy and pending surprises in a budget.
We know there won’t be anything on Tuesday as shocking as a National Energy Program or a massive reformation of taxation. The emphasis will be on health care, some broad but slight cuts in income tax and some prating on improving productivity.
The conservatively minded, like Reformers, want (but won’t get) major tax cuts. Nor will they get a big chunk of the surplus for debt reduction.
Those liberally minded, including NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs, and much of Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s caucus, want more spending, notably on social and cultural programs. But most of such will be token or tinkering, in contrast to the spending stemming from the deal on health care the PM cut last week with the premiers.
My clippings on federal budgets go back to the first from John Diefenbaker’s Conservative government, presented 42 years ago by Donald Fleming. In reviewing the 14 finance ministers from Fleming to Martin, I had instant impressions of each one, particularly on how they did in the House and with the big interest groups of Canada. At my review’s end it was clear that Martin has been doing very well, arguably the most successful on most counts – and this despite the fact he’s already been longer at it than anyone except Tory Michael Wilson.
My commentary on the finance ministers since 1957, five Progressive Conservatives and nine Liberals, is as follows. Donald Fleming (1957-62): An incredibly earnest, courteous man, repeatedly frustrated by a dithering PM and a cabinet that only talked frugality, and by his own, huge loss of face in dealing with James Coyne, the “tight-money” head of the Bank of Canada, whom he fired.
George Nowlan (1962-63): A likeable, veteran MP from Nova Scotia who never got his first budget through the House. He was skewered by a Grit opposition that was backed by almost editorial unanimity that John Diefenbaker was a dud as an administrator.
Walter Gordon (1963-65): An innovative man of haughty mien who turned Mike Pearsons’s ballyhooed “60 Days of Decision” into a farce with a socially sensitive budget with tax moves which had to be withdrawn or recast. In terms of performance in the House, Gordon is the most embarrassing of all finance ministers to recall, even more than another flubber there, Jean Chretien in the late ’70s.
Mitchell Sharp (1965-68): Arguably a major success, first because his caution (e.g., in delaying medicare) soon overlaid the confusion created by Walter Gordon, perhaps even more because he’s still counselling caution to a man long his disciple, Jean Chretien.
Edgar Benson (1968-72): A smooth master of equivocation and economic double-talk, he continued Sharp’s carefulness while talking tax reform but doing little of it. He had the last budget surplus of note before the one Martin recorded last year.
John Turner (1972-75): In looks, vocabulary and talking points, he was the model minister of finance. He ranks very high for two budgets, one which gained NDP backing and kept his party in power, and one which lost NDP support but helped win an election in 1974. His lack of affinity or rapport with Pierre Trudeau drove Turner to exile on Bay Street in 1975 (and an eventual disastrous return to politics in 1984).
Donald Macdonald (1975-77): Unmemorable in this portfolio, but highly rated by some as a disciple of Walter Gordon. He never attained Turner’s mystique as minister before he too bolted to Bay Street, seeming to signal that he also doubted Trudeau’s commitment to restraining deficits and effective wage and price controls.
Jean Chretien (1977-79): Without either lucidity or understandable analyses he talked much but grew increasingly diffident as minister after his boss (Trudeau) came home from a European trip and changed economic directions without telling him. And, yes, the annual deficits kept climbing.
John Crosbie (1979-80): Arguably the biggest dud of all because his only budget, a “blood, sweat and tears” affair, was beaten in the House. However, the defeat was not Crosbie’s fault but that of the prime minister, Joe Clark.
Allan MacEachen (1980-82): The wiliest of Liberals proved a Gordon-type bust in finance – the deficits zooming, the NEP enraging the west and even some big tax policy changes that had to be withdrawn.
Marc Lalonde (1982-84): His open, take-charge confidence, so vigorous after MacEachen, restored some confidence in federal economic leadership although his deficits stayed over the $30 billion mark. However, by mid-1984 his efforts were bootless because even with Trudeau gone, the electorate had it in for the Grits and gave the most massive victory ever to the Tories.
Michael Wilson (1984-91): A modest, careful, upright man, chary with superlatives and a steady advocate of restraint, he gained and kept for most of his long run a good reputation in business and corporate circles and he never became a minister under hard, nasty attacks. Further, he merits much credit for the GST and even some for the free trade agreement with the U.S., but the soaring burden of debt charges ruined his forecasts of lower deficits.
Don Mazankowski (1991-93): Initiated privatizations which under his Liberal successors became many and substantial. But the federal books on deficits and debt looked no better by the ’93 election when he left politics.
Paul Martin (1993-?): Aggressive, and more persistent and successful than most of his predecessors in rebuffing demands of other ministers and the premiers, he has stuck with a GST which is working well, ended the string of deficits, stopped the climb of the federal debt and managed at least two surpluses.
At this point Martin deserves to be rated as the most successful of these 14 ministers, both in figures on paper and in defence of his work in the House.
At this post, which spawns Jeremiahs, he has even enhanced his chances to be prime minister – doing this by being positively conservative in policy, however liberally he brags about being Liberal.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 10, 1999
ID: 12507049
TAG: 199902101139
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
TAKE IT OFF … Lili St. Cyr became famous for her Montreal strip show in the 1940s and ’50s and became a cause celebre in Parliament because of remarks made by then-MP Doug Fisher, that were later widely misinterpreted.
COLUMN: The Hill


Last week three stories on the same day sent me back a long time. They were:
1) More honours for Maurice “Rocket” Richard of the Montreal Canadiens (1942-1960), the only hockey star to be a member of the Canadian Privy Council (since 1992).
2) The death in Hollywood at 81 of one Marie Klarquist, known widely, and notably to Montrealers, as Lili St. Cyr.
3) Firm opinions of several Reform MPs that the novel Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov (1958), should be removed from the parliamentary library because its story line of an older man’s obsession with a juvenile girl is obscene.
First, let’s deal with Lolita. When the book was published and became a U.S. best-seller it drew storms of protest. It was banned in the U.K. and Australia, and our customs service added it to a long list of books denied entry to Canada.
At the time I was an MP and an ex-librarian who knew the problems of patrons critical of allegedly “dirty” books. I asked the librarian of Parliament to get a copy of Lolita. He did, and after I read it, believing it a work of literary worth, I went with it to George Nowlan, then minister of national revenue. He was the overall supervisor of the books, magazines, etc. coming into Canada. He disliked censorship and was liberally minded on social matters.
A quiet contest went on within John Diefenbaker’s ministry between Nowlan and Davie Fulton, minister of justice. The latter had long been an enemy of “obscene literature” and in 1959 he sponsored changes in the Criminal Code to define more clearly what “obscene” entailed and to set up a process that enabled plain citizens to initiate examination and prosecution for those who distributed indecent material. Fulton got his bill, but where he could Nowlan nullified its overuse by cutting many items from the long list of banned books, including Lolita.
In the House debates I had been critical of Fulton’s bill as reactionary, unworkable censorship, earning damnations as an egghead libertarian by several Tory MPs from Alberta. They were worried about Canada’s faltering morality, and although they hadn’t read them, the parliamentary library was no place for books such as Lolita and Lady Chatterly’s Lover.
Last week, four decades later, two Reform MPs, Art Hanger and Inky Mark, told the Ottawa Citizen that although they haven’t read Lolita – indeed, Mark, a teacher of English, had never heard of it – they believe it is child pornography and “doesn’t belong” in the parliamentary library.
Ah, yes, there is little new under the the parliamentary sun. Let me add force to this platitude by turning to hockey’s Rocket and to Lili St. Cyr, once a stripper of continental renown.
The National Post gave big play to Lili’s death. After citing how she “scandalized and seduced Montrealers in the 1940s and 1950s” and noting that “some people referred to Montreal as the’City that Lili built’ ” the Post story went on:
“Doug Fisher, an Ontario member of Parliament, made her part of the national lexicon in 1951 when, in a speech in the House of Commons, he said, ‘French-Canadian culture is a myth, nothing but Maurice Richard and Lili St. Cyr.’ ”
The incident referred to took place in 1961, not in 1951, and not in the House of Commons but at a conference at Laval University on federalism, organized in part by a law student, Brian Mulroney.
Of course this was before official bilingualism and biculturalism. And I hadn’t said French-Canadian culture was a myth. I was trying to make clear what seemed obvious to me then (as it still does today): that by and large, outside Quebec the two major communities of English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians knew very little about each other.
To make this point vividly, I said I’d wager that any pollster asking people west of Sudbury for the names of just two French Canadians of note, other than politicians, would get very few, and the two most likely to be mentioned would be Rocket Richard and Lili St. Cyr. In brief, knowledge beyond Quebec of Quebec was shallow to non-existent aside from hockey or Montreal’s repute as a wide-open city.
Yes, I should have anticipated (but I didn’t) instant misinterpretation, notably by French-Canadian journalists, that an Ontario MP had declared there was nothing worthwhile in the culture of Quebec beyond the Rocket and the queen of strippers.
They seemed incensed that I didn’t know Lili was American. The truth was, I did.
A decade before, a seminar classmate of mine at Queen’s University was engaged to a young Montrealer. Then he caught Lili’s act one night, and was so smitten he pursued her – successfully. While severing the engagement he told my classmate that Lili was a German-American from Wisconsin.
Just last week a senator passing by greeted me with “Lili!” and then guffawed. So there’s been no escape from the unwanted credit for ridiculing the Quebecois. Brian Mulroney did try afterwards to make clear what I really had said and suggested it was anglos, not francophones, who should have been annoyed at my estimate of their ignorance.
If the Reform MPs’ view of Lolita shows there’s nothing new under the sun, the grand obituaries on Lili and the further honouring of the Rocket remind me it is the popular personalities who have been – and are – the stuff of a community’s culture.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, February 07, 1999
ID: 12506374
TAG: 199902081151
SECTION: Comment


Let’s sample a few views on the way ahead as delegates prepare for the United Alternative convention a fortnight away. There the main topic will be the future of right-of-centre politics in Canada.
Gordon Gibson, once a Trudolator and a leader of the B.C. Liberals, is now on the right side of politics and he sets much store on the convention choosing either Preston Manning or Joe Clark to lead the right in federal politics. Why? Because only a united front can save Canada from the “tyranny of the minority” that is the present Liberal government.
To Gibson the Liberals are “Corporatists” for whom government is “a business from which they gain their livelihood and through which they help their friends. Customer (voter) service is important, but only as a means to shareholder (Liberal) returns.”
In contrast, Gibson says Reformers are “Trustees,” to whom customer service is No. 1; Tories are “Preservationists” who believe in the status quo and fear change. The Trustees and Preservationists, derided and effectively silenced by a media that prefers the handouts – and the rationalizations for them – offered by the Liberals, constitute a divided majority.
“An honourable understanding to work together would virtually guarantee their joint ascendancy,” says Gibson, who warns both leaders: “Nothing can happen until the Corporatists are displaced. Which of your differences is more important than that?”
Norman Spector, once chief of staff to former PM Brian Mulroney, in a cheeky, open letter to Preston Manning offers a different take: “By now it should be clear that your United Alternative is going nowhere.”
All is not lost, however, for the Liberal majority is built on quicksand (38.5% last election). Instead of pursuing an impossible merger, Spector advises Manning to “Consolidate your western base … Don’t run in constituencies you can’t win … and … help Conservatives or New Democrats defeat Liberals wherever possible, even if they do not return the favour.”
His policy advice: “Focus on welfare reform … Workfare is progressive; the Nanny State is not. (Jobs) should be the core of your economic policy (and) massive tax cuts … Leave it to tax-and-spend Liberals … to defend the status quo and promote big government.”
Don’t back off from politically incorrect stands either: “Promote a decentralized Canada and stay away from special status for Quebec … take on sacred cows like bilingualism. A territorial approach … is not racist.”
The payoff? A Liberal minority, or even a Reform-led coalition government next election.
Spector closes with an admonition: “If you are ever tempted to throw in the towel, just imagine what Canada would be like after a decade more of Sheila Copps in cabinet.”
Reformers can easily ignore advice from such outsiders.
Ian McClelland, however, is another matter. In a thoughtful paper prepared for the convention, McClelland, a Reform MP from Edmonton, argues that neither of the right wing parties offers a viable alternative to the Liberals, and that a new party – under new leadership – is needed to accommodate those sharing a belief in smaller, more accountable government.
He also repudiates a central tenet of Reform: that MPs must vote according to constituents’ wishes. To McClelland, such “populism does not address the needs of our nation and amounts to an abdication of political leadership.”
McClelland believes leaders (he means individual MPs – not just the party head) must be free to weigh various factors and reach their own conclusions if the new national consensus needed to carry the country forward is to be developed.
“Populism and interest group politics do little to reconcile varied interests or build consensus,” he says.
Sensitive to the accusation that MPs voting at the call of their party are little more than trained seals, he suggests relaxing party discipline and opening voting up (only votes designated as being of confidence would topple the government). This would lead to greater independence of mind – and better debates.
Other McClelland musings on Canada’s parliamentary democracy: 1) we need to move to a two party system, as our history of multiple, regional parties – including the Liberals – has prevented us from developing a national consensus (how this miracle is to be achieved is not explained); 2) regional alienation should be immediately addressed through Senate reform (for the west) and recognition of “the unique character of Quebec.”
Reform MPs have been cool to McClelland’s views, especially his attack on “populism.” Whether this is heartfelt, based on caution (given the party faithful’s feelings about errant MPs ignoring their constituents), or due to suspicion about McClelland’s motives is anyone’s guess.
I mention the latter because the paper stresses the need for an effective leader, raising the question: does McClelland see himself in this role?
I suspect Spector has it about right. While both sides see advantages in uniting, each remains adamant its views take precedence in whatever United Alternative is arrived at. (The Tories – redder than ever these days – seem poor allies in reducing government.)
So another election is needed to determine who gets the driver’s seat. Meanwhile, focusing Reform’s efforts along the lines Spector suggests probably won’t hurt the party. It’s not like it really has much of an alternative.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, February 03, 1999
ID: 12104913
TAG: 199902031290
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


On reflection it’s not surprising that Joe Clark, once again the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, has decided not to take part in the 36th Parliament.
Clark declined even though several of his 19 MPs would have resigned to give him an excellent byelection shot at returning to the chamber where he performed well for over 20 years (1972-93).
To put this decision in a wide perspective, first note that this Parliament – in which Liberal MPs only outnumber the total opposition by a half-dozen – is close to the halfway point, about 170 sitting days away from its dissolution and an election. Thus, Clark will be missing some 170 or so chances to rise in the daily question period and at least two years, probably 21/2 years, of being scrummed by reporters and cameras. And even the leader of the No. 4 opposition party is in demand and gets a fair swatch of video bites on TV newscasts.
Clark, free of House routines, will be tripping from coast to coast, rousing old faithfuls, recruiting both candidates and new party members and resurrecting an effective, well-funded organization.
It’s true that through the many months of this onerous grind he’ll gain considerable notice, but this will tend to be more local and regional rather than national. He’s not a fool, so he has considered, and then turned away from, the advantages he would bring his caucus by being part of the House.
It’s useful to expand on these considerable advantages, in particular Clark’s intertwined assets of knowing well how both the House and the federal government function and his adroitness and thrust as a well-spoken parliamentarian.
Few people remember, or ever knew, that in his opposition days, for example in confronting Pierre Trudeau in question period or in major House speeches, Clark more than held his own. He’s far more dangerous as a needler and mocker than anyone in the present House, say leaders such as Preston Manning, Gilles Duceppe and Alexa McDonough.
Give Clark the nuts and bolts of partisan politics – immediate or topical rather than grandiose or philosophical – and he is usually knowing, sharp and telling – not at all the banal addict of platitudes he becomes in his Captain Canada phases.
So a leader of a party, indeed the oldest, longest-running party in our history, who has been one of ablest parliamentarian in modern times, has chosen not to seek entry to this House in favour of resuscitating and reorganizing the remnants of what was the governing party just six years ago.
This decision recalled for me remarks John Turner made in the mid-1980s on how the oral question period had become the dominating feature of Parliament. His word for it was “charade.”
There’s an attendant paradox to Clark’s choice in that it matches what Reform Leader Manning prefers. He sees participation in the House as less meaningful or significant to his party’s progress than work that is done outside it under his leadership in developing: 1) a persuasive program to deal with the slate of national problems and the miscues of the government; and 2) a party membership and organization in every constituency and a campaign plan and funds for the next general election.
As the one-time political scientist of Reform, Tom Flanagan, phrased it: “Waiting for the wave!”
It’s possible that Clark, certain there will be few if any Tories lured by the “united alternative” proposal, figures the House, day-to-day, is relatively meaningless compared to matching what will be a massive organizational effort by Reform in the next election, particularly in Ontario. (Where it seems obvious the Tories have their best chance for a comeback in federal seats and where, if Reform is rebuffed for the third time, it will lapse back to being a dissident rump from the West as Social Credit was from 1935-58.)
The Clark decision also indicates he believes the Chretien government’s public standing cannot be much harmed by opposition critics in the House nor is their any likelihood in this mandate of either deep fractures in the Liberal caucus, say over inordinate leadership ambitions, or any titanic crisis in federal-provincial relations or with Premier Lucien Bouchard and the Quebec sovereignists.
A lesson or conclusion to be drawn from the Clark case is most dispiriting for anyone who has cherished the House of Commons as the great, democratic forum provided by the parliamentary system.
But it has become clear the House now is at best a fail-safe for focusing on a crisis, if one explodes, or a burbling escape-valve for both protests and ministerial chest-thumping. Otherwise, its function by and large is providing much handy and cheaply gathered filler for newscasts and editorial pages.
It isn’t “where it’s at” any more.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 31, 1999
ID: 12104195
TAG: 199902011589
SECTION: Comment


Age and political experience are big factors in assessing a politician for the ultimate job – prime minister.
With so many wondering whether Paul Martin, Jr., already in his 61st year, will get a turn at the top let’s review possible alternatives to Jean Chretien, both in and outside his ministry. We’ll do this from the viewpoint of age and experience, and then look to the third big factor of how each one fits the ideal which Grits of the Trudeau era used to define as being “real Liberals.”
Of the possible successors who can be taken with at least a smidgin of respect, six are in the federal ministry and one used to be – Brian Tobin, the premier of Newfoundland. There might also be one or two longshot aspirants on the backbenches, but any such really need exposure soon through a cabinet shakeup.
Chretien has just turned 65. He first came to Parliament Hill from Shawinigan 36 years ago (1963). He rose quickly and diversified much. Before he became prime minister he had had 17 years of experience in nine ministerial portfolios, including the major ones of finance, justice, treasury board and (very briefly) external affairs. He’d also put in six years in the most wearing of all cabinet posts, Indian affairs.
Some readers will say: “Why all the guff about age and experience? Pierre Trudeau was 49, with but three years on the Hill before becoming leader. And look at Louis St. Laurent. Co-opted from a distinguished law career by Mackenzie King, he had just six years in the House before becoming PM at the age of 66.”
True! But a leadership aspirant largely similar to either of these two isn’t in the wings unless one considers Allan Rock a latter-day St. Laurent – which is a stretch. Nor is there to hand any former star of the federal mandarinate like the late Lester Pearson.
Turning to seniority in the Chretien ministry we will by-pass Paul Martin for the moment. He ranks 10th in seniority and at 60 he’s had 10 years in the House and is approaching six in just one portfolio – the tough one of finance.
And let’s leave out Herb Gray, even longer in the House than his boss, and almost as long a minister. He’s had major health problems and has never shown eagerness for the top post.
This brings us to Lloyd Axworthy (who happens to be the key in this piece of mine). Not only is the man from Manitoba No. 3 in precedence, he’s had seven years in the Manitoba Legislature, 20 years in the House and 10 years in five different cabinet portfolios. In all, he has far more experience than the next seven ministers between him and Paul Martin in precedence – David Collenette, David Anderson, Ralph Goodale, Sheila Copps, Sergio Marchi, John Manley and Diane Marleau. Two of this septet – Copps and Manley – have had much media mention as possible Liberal leaders, although his has been more recent and stronger than hers.
Copps is only 46, and has been a member first at Queen’s Park and then on the Hill for over 17 years. She has been both deputy PM and minister of several busy portfolios. She may well run for the leadership a second time; nevertheless it is not being mean to say that few will take her chances seriously.
Manley, 49, is a very serious and careful lawyer who has been an MP for a decade and minister of industry since 1993. He has never been trouble but he makes few lovely waves and leaks few intentions for grandeur. It’s widely assumed he’s at the centre-right of his capacious party, in the line of descent from the likes of Howe, Abbott, Winters, Lang and Gillespie of past Liberal cabinets.
Below Manley in precedence comes Paul Martin; then one must slide down the list three and four places to reach the only other ministers mentioned much with any seriousness as successors to Chretien – Anne McLellan, minister of justice, and Allan Rock, minister of health.
Both came to the House and into cabinet in 1993. He has been the more prominent, and often not to advantage; she is clearly the shrewdest of Chretien’s eight female ministers, an odd mixture of random stridency and elaborate caution.
McLellan’s been impressive, though not overwhelmingly so, as a minister in two portfolios, particularly in keeping the lid on a lousy department (justice). But as a public personality she’s neither cherished nor is her electoral base in Edmonton strong.
If she should choose to chase the leadership, however, she could be very much a spoiler, for example, in a tight run between Paul Martin and Brian Tobin, the former Chretien minister who’s almost sure to come out of Newfoundland for the succession in Ottawa. He’s 44 and it’s 18 years since he reached the House, and three years since he left fisheries and oceans to become a premier. In short, while still young in years he’s both an experienced and very voluble politician.
It’s doubtful that within the party membership, or the general public, pollsters would turn up any more names than these as meriting consideration as Chretien’s successor: Axworthy, Martin, Tobin, Manley, Copps, McLellan and Rock.
Immediately someone will wonder where the French Canadian is, and at this stage there is simply not a willing and credible one at hand in the cabinet or caucus – or anywhere else.
If you’re interested in the succession you can mull over the seven, regarding or disregarding my opinions, but let me close with the one who could be significant if he presented himself consistently and cogently for what he’s come to represent both inside and outside the party.
In the so-called governing party, “a house of many mansions,” there has always been a roomy space for “real Liberals” – those to the left of centre; those who believe a paramount goal for the federal government is to behave as the national government, playing a unique role internationally and taking or keeping the lead in both managing the economy and seeing there are fair shares. In short, the Liberals who stress nationhood and equal rights for all and economic and social balance across the provinces and the territories.
Long ago, as a boy apparatchik, then in office or in opposition, Lloyd Axworthy has given continuing witness of such beliefs and intentions. He hasn’t just talked all this; he’s done it and is still doing it. For example, as foreign affairs minister, consider the “soft diplomacy” he is advocating as Canada moves on to the UN Security Council.
None of the other six possibles has been as consistently and thoroughly liberal – or for so long.
Martin vouchsafes the liberalism of his late father, but he’s hardly in that tradition of the party.
Tobin is the voice of the have-not regions, Copps often speaks for the underdogs and Rock, as health minister, has recently become a tribune of the people. McLellan and Manley seem too careful to be anything but in the centre. None of the six is as assured in his or her place on the political spectrum or on what the party’s place should be as Axworthy.
If the national, political pendulum is swinging back from the right to the centre – and beyond – then the obvious Liberal to lead and ride it is Lloyd Axworthy.
And over the next few years there’s a fair chance a lot of Liberals will see this is so.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 27, 1999
ID: 12103150
TAG: 199901271392
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16


Some reflections from the Great White North as the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton for high crimes and low farce nears its close.
First, give the U.S. president his due. When the Monica Lewinsky affair broke, Clinton’s old friend, adviser and fellow sex-scandal sufferer, Dick Morris, counselled that admitting guilt could prove fatal. Bill’s response, “Well, we’ll just have to win this thing,” says it all. His strategy of constant prevarication – the “never give in; never surrender” approach to life taught him by his mother – has brought him another victory, though probably a pyrrhic one given his obsession with his place in the pantheon of American presidents.
Next, consider the durability, even obstinacy, of American public opinion. “Slick Willy,” the Arkansas governor whose talent for evading the truth was only exceeded by his ability to win the hearts of those who thought him a liar, arrived on the national scene seven years ago. The American public knew in 1992 what it was getting, and has steadfastly refused to abandon him since then, even though a majority has concluded the president is indeed a liar and perjurer – and someone they’d rather not have in their own home.
Many Canadian commentators see in this a well-deserved comeuppance for America’s religious right. Why not as a striking counterpoint to our own recent history?
“Slick Willy” has been allowed to shrug off this self-inflicted scandal, despite the weight of evidence against him. Our own “Lyin’ Brian (Mulroney),” on the other hand, has been unable to escape his accusers or the wrath of the public, despite growing evidence that the case for corruption against him is tendentious and that most Canadians – including his political opponents – embrace his policy legacy. It’s enough to make one wonder who the closed-minded, unfairly judgmental ones really are – the American right or Canadians in general.
On the subject of religion in politics, it is striking how views there – and here – are shaped by political prejudices.
Clinton’s defenders characterize his accusers as religious zealots intent on persecuting their man, even to the point of refusing his appeal for forgiveness. Yet the Democrats see no irony in their president’s own use of religion – his regular photo-ops at church (Bible in hand, Hillary and Chelsea in tow), his employment of religious phrasing in speeches (especially his Sunday radio addresses) and his embrace of the steadfast support of certain churches, notably those with predominantly black congregations.
Canadian conventional wisdom holds that we’ve done a better job keeping religion out of our politics. But here, too, the leftists have been the staunchest supporters of the view that religion is a threat to the body politic.
They’ve delighted in lumping Preston Manning in with the American religious right, despite the Reform leader’s steadfast refusal to introduce his religious beliefs into his political comments. And like their American cousins, leftists here have been less than faithful in adhering to their no-religion line. Consider how many of their news conferences on the plight of the poor, aboriginals, immigrants, the incarcerated, etc., feature support from religious leaders and organizations. On both sides of the border it seems, some religious viewpoints are more politically correct than others.
What are the likely long-term consequences of Bill Clinton’s great adventure, to Americans and Canadians?
First, despite the cries of sexual McCarthyism coming from the president’s defenders, the raft of laws ensconcing sexual harassment in American civil and criminal law, which the Democrats are largely responsible for, aren’t going to be amended any time soon. Nor are the Democrats likely to offer apologies to former Republican senators Tower, Packwood, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for the roastings they received for behaviour akin to that of Clinton’s.
Candidates of all parties for various races in 2000 are, however, likely to be wary of talking up family values too much for fear of being blind-sided by the likes of Hustler magazine’s Larry Flynt. And the public will continue to tune out Washington, as it has been doing since the ’60s.
The Clinton experience isn’t likely to slow the march of political correctness in Canada either. Expect more cases of professors and executives being accused of beastly behaviour – and further demands from Clinton’s supporters here that more legislative initiatives be passed to combat the plague. (No point in abandoning a policy just because of it scoring an “own goal” – which is only going to be called back.)
The most interesting and odd potential repercussion here from events down south may be felt in the debate over the budget surplus and the future role of the federal government.
Clinton, emboldened by having again confounded his critics, and looking for a place in history beyond being the second president to be impeached, proposed in his state of the union address that any budget surpluses through the next decade be committed overwhelmingly to Social Security, education and other social spending, rather than to big tax breaks or paying down the American debt.
As Canadians debate their way ahead, will Clinton’s sweeping vision play here? My speculative canvass of the present membership of the House of Commons says a goodly majority of MPs would go for it, particularly those in the Liberal caucus.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 24, 1999
ID: 12102366
TAG: 199901251388
SECTION: Comment


Is it really such an unfair match?
Last week the weekly Hill Times ran a long piece below a photo captioned “Stevie Cameron fights back.”
This was elaborated by two more headings – “Stevie wonder: Author, journalist and magazine editor says she’s had enough of Conrad Black’s ‘horse….,'” followed by “Best-selling author on Brian Mulroney’s corrupt government files complaint against the National Post with Canadian Journalists for Free Expression” (CJFFE).
What a scrappy badger Stevie seems. She charges that she’s menaced by tycoon Black, the admirer of Brian Mulroney, who controls so much of our press. She says he has organized “a smear campaign” against her, evident in the hatcheting of her new book, Blue Trust, in the National Post. (Black also recently wrote a vitriolic personal attack on Cameron’s integrity and opinions which was carried in most Southam papers.)
Thankfully, little Stevie may get help of sorts from the cruel reach of Goliath Black. Wayne Sharpe, executive director of CJFFE, says his board of directors will monitor Black’s actions to see how he guides editorial content in his papers and treats journalists like Cameron “who are simply exercising their Article 19 rights to free expression.” Sharpe says the main weapon the CJFFE can use against Black is simply “the publicity of shame.”
Most journalists are likely to be pleased – as Cameron should be – at opinions given the Hill Times by Richard Gwyn, a Star columnist. He agrees the Post has a smear campaign going against Stevie but “he doesn’t think they’ve succeeded in damaging her reputation” – just the sales of her new book. He also says “there isn’t any dirt to be gotten on Stevie because she really is motivated by moral outrage.”
Fascinating! But surely one has to say the same for Black. So … ?

Who’s the next justice for the Supreme Court of Canada?
It seems that year by year there is ever greater speculation and argument in the community of lawyers and the courts about who will be and who should be chosen for a vacancy in the Supreme Court when such occurs or is rumoured.
Last year, before the relatively surprising appointment by Jean Chretien of Ian Binnie (a lawyer in practice, an expert on the Constitution, and not a judge), there was much contentiousness in the legal community, notably in Toronto, between those touting the merits of two aspirants in their 50s and both on the Ontario court of appeal: Judge Rosalie Abella and John Laskin, the son of the late Bora Laskin, former chief justice of Canada (1973-84).
For a few months the community has known that Justice Peter Cory, 73, often described as low-key and unobtrusive, has intended to retire early, almost certainly in 1999. (He’s been 10 years with the top court after 15 years as a judge in Ontario courts).
This open secret was confirmed last week and speculation immediately burst out in the media, fuelled by suggestions from insiders that the successor would be from Ontario, could or should be a female and bilingual, and this time be someone already on the bench rather than a practising lawyer or a professor of law.
Unlike last year, this time there is an overwhelming favourite – Judge Louise Arbour, 52, the same age as Abella and also on the Ontario court of appeal. Arbour is serving a three-year term as chief prosecutor for the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Netherlands. But as I keep hearing: “If she wants the Supreme Court she gets it.”
To take it she would leave a much higher profile and better-paid role of precedent-setting significance globally. And because Arbour’s response is iffy one hears of various other prospects, including the previously mentioned Laskin and Abella, plus Marvin Catzman, 60, and Louise Charron, 47, also Ontario court judges.
Catzman is said to be a superb author of clear decisions; Madame Charron is a genuine Franco-Ontarian and has a link to high legal places.
I have also heard mention of several “wild card” prospects, each with political positives:
1) David Scott, an Ottawa lawyer with a high reputation and a long association with the Liberal party;
2) Roy McMurtry, now associate chief justice of Ontario, and one of the trio (with Jean Chretien and Roy Romanow) who made the “kitchen accord” which produced an agreement that bypassed Rene Levesque at the constitutional conference of 1981;
3) Another Ontario judge, Heather Forster Smith, the wife of David Smith, a minister under Pierre Trudeau and effectively Keith Davey’s replacement as manager of the federal Liberal organization in Ontario.
Before dismissing any chance for any of the latter three, remember Chretien has often said it is unfair not to appoint good Canadians to posts just because they are Liberals.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 20, 1999
ID: 12101126
TAG: 199901201680
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


Does Brian Tobin know Jean Chretien is to resign as prime minister within two years or so, opening up the leadership of the federal Liberals?
Tobin would deny it; so would Chretien. In this case, neither would be deceiving. However – and it is a large however – Newfoundland’s premier risks little in the provincial election he has just called. It is a fair wager for him that Chretien won’t seek a third mandate even if it’s far from certain. If he does resign, then Tobin has a base in the Newfoundland Legislature which is secure in both followers and time for a leadership run.
Just calling the election so ungodly early is a shrewd way of warning Paul Martin and the organization he has ready for his bid to be PM that Tobin is on the same path. He’s also sending a message to the many friends and good acquaintances he has in the Liberal parliamentary caucus that he is available, very experienced, a winner electorally and, at 44, 16 years younger than Martin. Further, he is a very liberally minded Liberal, and would come into a leadership campaign from dealing directly with Quebec’s Lucien Bouchard and corporate giant Inco.
From Bouchard Tobin is demanding a new, fairer deal from Quebec Hydro for Labrador power … or eventually the water may not be allowed to turn the turbines. And with Inco, Tobin stands by his demand that the rich ores of the Voisey Bay discovery in Labrador be processed to the metal stage in his province. There is daring and much risk in these two gambits but they signify the man and his idea of leadership.
Here is a young man of elan and experience for Canadians and Liberals who want purpose and action from the federal government.
It is very early days in the matter of the succession of the federal Liberal party but my reading is that Martin peaked in 1998 with the balanced budget in February. He is far ahead of the next likely contender – Tobin. But it is a long way to 2001, almost sure to be the convention year if Chretien chooses not to run again.
Meantime, this week as the Chretien cabinet and the Liberal caucus bumble in secret over budget details, two items made for wry chuckles at Liberal effrontery.
First, the press got a study leaked from the Ottawa bureaucracy on the costs to an independent Quebec, with just 7 million people in a huge region, in creating a national, multi-purpose military, particularly if the PQ attains what it has said it wants – membership in NATO. The present Canadian military, now being reduced in size and now relatively ill-equipped and not well paid, will cost us about $10 billion this year. Unless Canada is most generous, an independent Quebec will start from scratch in planes, ships, guns and armour.
But surely one has to smile, even while wincing, at this plight to come for a sovereign Quebec if one considers the plight of the 30 million Canadians regarding our present defence forces.
Our NATO allies urge Ottawa to spend more to get more and abler forces. Obviously, Canada accepts too many roles for the numbers in spending and personnel it assigns defence programs. We have to scratch just to handle a few UN peacekeeping chores. We must turn to our major allies for transport and supplies if we participate in anything major. Our forces have low morale, aging aircraft, obsolete weapons and too many recent examples of incompetence at the top.
One’s smile has to be even more wry at the news slipped or manipulated out of cabinet that many ministers are not supportive of fresh bids by Jane Stewart, the Indian affairs minister, for more funds for her clientele of over $400 million spread over four budget years. Immediately this lack of support was mocked by native leaders … a retreat from commitments, from solemn promises! The chiefs have a case. It is laughable what these ministers have forgotten.
As I see it, for over 30 years Indian affairs’ budgets have been the most extravagant and wasteful of all federal expenditures. Each Grit minister should reflect on the stacking up of commitments which he or she has approved, often entailing funding in perpetuity. Some land claims have been settled generously with scores more to come, plus new treaties with many bands. Recent legislation has created new governments and land arrangements in the Territories and with bands in the Yukon. Compensation as redress has been promised for those who were abused in scores of residential schools. And, of course, there is the continuing provision of free education and medical and dental care to over half a million official aboriginals – the population group which has by far the highest birth rate in the land. Within a decade the federal spending on natives will be larger than that for defence.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 17, 1999
ID: 12100501
TAG: 199901181073
SECTION: Comment
ILLUSTRATION: drawing by Fred Curatolo


Surely Preston Manning has been too impatient or too optimistic, or both, in initiating a project so hazardous to the Reform Party’s vitality as to try uniting within a single party those conservatively minded Canadians who have been active in politics.
Manning seemed a miracle-maker to me when the Reform party he started in 1987 elected 52 MPs in 1993 and even more so in 1997 when the new caucus numbered 60 MPs. Imagine, he became leader of the Official Opposition in a single decade, a goal that the able quintet on the left of Woodsworth-Coldwell-Douglas-Lewis-Broadbent never came near over five decades. And on the right, the Social Credit beginning from an Alberta base (like Reform) contested federal elections from 1935 to 1980, electing at best just 31 MPs (in 1962).
In my reckoning over hundreds of MPs, Preston Manning was a rarity among them all when he reached Parliament. He was not just a capable, thoughtful, well-read, daring, democratic politician and a gifted organizer, he had a vision of an ideal but achievable Canada.
I think he divined his destiny as long ago as 1967 when he helped his father, the longtime Alberta premier, with the book Political Realignment. It advocated the development of two parties with genuinely different values – one on the right, the other on the political spectrum’s left.
Unfortunately for this destiny, after Preston and the Reformers boomed into the House six years ago his miracle and his party’s censorious critiques of federal extravagance and mismanagement were neither welcomed nor appreciated within the nation’s dominant Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal triangle.
There – or, more accurately, here – the wiseacres of the media, the old line parties and the major interest groups whose opinions create the ratings of politicians and their achievements, were not kind to Manning and his Reformers. Nor, by and large, are they today. A conventional wisdom jelled into common assessments that here was a leader who is too preachy and gauche, and a party that is too American and – worse – too unfriendly toward French Canadians, bilingualism, multiculturalism and homosexuals.
Seemingly this wisdom was confirmed in the 1997 election. Whatever the significance of becoming Official Opposition, what satisfaction there was for Reform’s critics that it had failed to win a single seat in Ontario; that Quebec was a wipe-out; and that nothing was gained in the Atlantic provinces while the Tories won seats there and even the NDP had a real breakthrough.
So east of Manitoba Manning and his thoroughly organized, well-funded missionary appeal for Reform voters had been rejected. The Tories had edged back a bit, but with just one seat in all the west. The Liberals, however, with less than 40% of the vote, had a second majority government and as a miner might put it: “With holes drilled for more.”
Out of this apparent rebuff of Reform in the east came Manning’s decision for a fresh initiative to unite or realign the right. He was even prepared to put his own leadership on the convention line, perhaps resign if an excellent prospect was at hand. Subsequently the united alternative was backed wholeheartedly by the Reform membership.
While the aim is to bring together conservatively minded Canadians across the country to explore co-operative prospects for ending Liberal rule, the obvious association, current or previous, for co-operation, perhaps eventual coalescing, is the federal Progressive Conservative party, now led by Joe Clark, but by Jean Charest when the united alternative was floated. And both Charest and Clark have been even more forward than the federal Liberals in characterizing the Reformers as extremists.
It seems to me the Reform leader never fully appreciated that Brian Mulroney’s two majority governments were very much a coalition-type grouping. The key element in winning power was provided by Quebec nationalists. Not only has that coalition blown away, neither its component from Quebec, nor any other political cadres there, could figure as co-working with Reformers – at least until dreams of secession fade. And then fade some more.
Manning may have taken too much hope from interest shown in the alternative idea by Ralph Klein, Alberta’s Tory premier. The latter seems such a totally pragmatic politician that he doesn’t really fit with basic Reform tenets and policies from either a populist or traditional deeply conservative point of view.
Manning, along with so many of both his party members and most of his parliamentary caucus, is idealistic and far from a pragmatist. The Klein vision ahead may even conjure himself as the leader of either a new party of the right or of the familiar PC party invigorated by an Alberta leader who would bring back many ex-Tories from Reform.
Further, Manning may have raised the alternative which is extra-parliamentary in process and locale, in part because he is so fed up with the political game as played in Parliament. He finds the game unserious and often farcical. A handful of his MPs have an aptitude for such daily political theatre but he had not, nor does he seem a thorough, diligent team manager for hammering home Reform’s program for effective, good government week after week.
Probably Manning believed a lot of past and present PCs in the east, especially in Ontario, were much like so many members of the Reform party in the west who had once backed the Tories but were alienated by the GST, the constitutional accords, and the extravagances of the Mulroney crew. I believe he underestimated:
1) The pervasiveness and strength in Ontario of the belief that Canada is done if Quebec goes, so Ontario politicians must be careful not to be bluntly critical of what Quebecers do.
2) What those still Tory in their loyalties saw in the offered alternative as either patronizing of them or Manning’s own desperation.
3) Their antagonism to both Manning, the leader, and to Reform’s policies and party procedures.
4) The numbers and weight of those who knew they were Tories of two recognizable sorts – the Red Tories, many from Bill Davis’ old Big Blue Machine, and others who were neither populist nor conservative but whose identity with the party came from nothing more than past participation in party organization and patronage.
So many Tories in Ontario have been happy federally since the hegemony of Mackenzie King at being second string to the Grits. One might even say they have been “the Grits in winter” waiting for some future breaks and patronage, better able to be patient because their party had had such a wondrous, long run in office at Queen’s Park, and then got it back again in 1995.
One cannot leave the topic of the alternative and its way ahead without underlining the likely effect of Joe Clark’s scorn for it. Joe will make the worst of foils for Preston as they vie, claim and counter-claim. Both will increasingly forfeit public respect and attention. At 60 House seats against 19, the Reform leader has more to lose.
So if the united alternative works I plan to forsake punditry. If it should somehow jell and as a party field candidates across Canada in 2001 or 2002, it won’t be led by Preston Manning.


The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 13, 1999
ID: 12099448
TAG: 199901131273
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 16
COLUMN: The Hill


As the Old Testament puts it: “There is no new thing under the sun.”
This age-old wisdom may be divined again and again in our politics. What I want to argue – more in my next column than this one – is the unwisdom of the Reform party’s initiative to unite the right. The idea of getting like-minded people together to manage public matters their way has always attracted interest in Canada, but prejudices of history, region and old loyalties get in the way.
Let me approach the idea of partisan realignments through some notes about three much used words and phrases: “unity,” as in national unity; “union” as used in the conceptual phrase social union; and “united” as in united alternative, an impromptu label for the present endeavour of some right-wing partisans.
The phrase “national unity” has been our prime political cliche since Confederation, and it has had a particularly grim significance for federalists since Lucien Bouchard emerged to lead Quebec’s nationalists.
“Union” has been used throughout our politics but it doesn’t have the same cachet as unity, perhaps because our trade unions, never widely beloved, won so much economic power and some political influence during and after World War II.
At first some of us confused the social union that is now politically pivotal with the social contract advocated just a few years ago by Bob Rae when he led an NDP government in Ontario. Rae envisaged arrangements to be reached and sustained co-operatively through negotiations by major interest groups – most notably governments, unions and corporations. They would concur on economic, welfare and health programs and the levels and rates of taxes, wages and profits through a rational, province-wide process.
Rae’s social contract was ridiculed off the political stage by the unions, suspicious in defence of their own interests, and then by the voters. Five years later, Rae’s social contract is almost forgotten, and five years from now that may be so for the social union. But now in the vital realm of federal-provincial politics the social union is so alive it reminds me of an earlier concept which had its hey-day in the middle of the 1960s – co-operative federalism.
Remember that slogan? Lester Pearson’s cabinet in 1963 took it as a touchstone for national unity. Of course, this was just before Pierre Trudeau’s idea that Quebec was merely a province like the others took hold in the Liberal party and the rest of Canada.
A social union has been advanced strongly since last summer by the provincial premiers, chaired by Roy Romanow. Even Premier Bouchard has welcomed it. The social union aims for nation-wide, ongoing arrangements through which the federal and provincial governments will co-ordinate and sustain health and welfare programs, with joint agreement on standards and cost sharing, and with payments “in lieu” for a province that chooses not to take part in a particular joint program.
“United” was the third word in my introduction. When coupled with “alternative,” it is now large in the news as the provisional label for a movement which Opposition Leader Preston Manning and his Reform party decided to undertake last year.
At the moment there is a turmoil of differing suggestions on what the alternative’s commitments ought to be. Its aim may seem sensible and laudable to many citizens, especially those who detest the Liberals. Why? Because it seems a clear majority of Canadians is conservatively minded, fed up with high taxes, a huge debt load, governmental interference in the economy and a lot of woolly social engineering. It’s argued that without such a unifying movement the Liberal party seems destined to govern on and on, its opposition split into several parties.
Does this sound to you, even faintly, like the second coming, of a previous united alternative?
It reminds me of the launch in the early 1960s of a “New Party” mooted by the trade union movement, the socialist CCF and a handful of dejected Liberals. In that proposition there was an emphasis on bringing together “liberally minded” citizens. Tory PM John Diefenbaker was seen to have smashed the Liberal party beyond repair in the 1958 federal election.
As the 1960s began some prophets feared a decade or more of misrule by right-wing Tory governments. The reality was that a fair number in the Progressive Conservative cabinet and caucus were liberally minded Red Tories. Also, for the New Party’s prospects, far too many of the liberally minded stuck with the Liberals, who, in opposition exile, quickly were inspired by Walter Gordon, Tom Kent and the Toronto Star, and zoomed over to the left of centre.
The New Party, renamed the New Democratic Party, has never neared majority status. It has influenced social policies but over eight federal elections its vote only got to 20 points. Its CCF predecessor used to get between 7% and 8%.
Today it’s obvious some conservatively minded citizens are loyal to the federal Progressive Conservative party – now led by Joe Clark, who rejects out of hand the united alternative. He may seem an unlikely author of a Tory resurgence but he’s not disposable before the next election. The united alternative may well go far enough to ruin the Tories in the next round and beyond but at a ruinous cost to the Reform party (which I’ll canvass in my next piece on Sunday).

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 10, 1999
ID: 12098820
TAG: 199901111486
SECTION: Comment
MEN OF WAR … Three paintings from among the thousands by Canadian artists in the seldom-viewed collection of the war museum in Ottawa: Paul Goranson’s S/L ‘Hal’ Gooding, DFC, AAM (1945); Charles Comfort’s Sergeant P.J. Ford (1944); and Caven Atkins’ Arc Welders by Night (1942).
COLUMN: Backgrounder


A major, popular myth – this one about the greatest of all human generations – is shaping strongly among Americans. Canadians share some attitudes in their neighbours’ mythology and one cannot help wondering whether we will take up or adopt this one.
To use remarks made by Tom Brokaw, TV anchor and author, and the most immediate proponent of this thesis, the cross-section of Americans who became adults in the Great Depression of the 1930s and who manned the services and the economy during World War II constituted “The greatest generation any society has ever produced.”
This theme is hammered home in Brokaw’s almost instant best-selling book from Random House, The Greatest Generation, and is matched by those put less explicitly in two recent, chart-topping books by Stephen Ambrose – first D-Day, then Citizen Soldiers (Simon & Schuster, publishers).
Brokaw came into this subject in 1984 while in Normandy covering the 40th anniversary memorials of D-Day. In the years since, he interviewed at length hundreds of those who worked or were in the services during and after the war when the U.S. accepted the leadership of the free world.
He realized he was listening in on the millions of Americans who came of age during the Depression and who wanted to build a better country and a better world. They had been united in a grand common purpose and resolve. They knew and practised the worth of duty, service, courage, family and love of country.
After the defeat of Germany and Japan, the returning men and women began to rebuild their lives and they produced an even more talked about and analyzed generation – the baby boomers.
At this time in particular Americans are in need of stimulation from an honourable history. So they have been taking with fervour and praise to this renaissance about their finest and greatest generation. And that’s a fair reason why Canadians should not not choke on such absolute superlatives for the generation of Americans at their prime between 1935 and 1950. Instead, consider whether a similar assertion might be even more deserved by Canadians.
Our Depression years were as bleak and discouraging as those of Americans. One can recall how it was far more President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who rallied Canadian spirits in the dour years before the Nazis swept into Poland than William Lyon Mackenzie King, our own prime minister.
Canada was into the war against Hitler and Germany over two years before Pearl Harbour. And, relative to population, Canada had far larger proportions of its people (mostly volunteers) in its military, and more citizens in war work on munitions, equipment and foodstuffs than did the United States. Also, Canadians took relatively more casualties in killed and wounded.
What I have just sketched is for perspective on this generation myth, not just my patriotic horn-blowing, and to continue with a suggestion that if the Brokaw superlative has its merits, so would any fair appreciation of our parallel generation.
A few months ago, writing as one who had been an ordinary soldier in the campaign in northwest Europe, 1944-45, I argued that 1998 had been the best year for our World War II veterans for respectful recognition by their successor generations of citizens (and politicians) since the demobilization of 1945-46 and the swarming back to civilian life.
Why, at last, such a good year?
I thought the reappraising came to a head in the powerful reaction against a proposal to build a substantial memorial to the Holocaust within the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
I believe much of what echoed and re-echoed in protest across the land was the belated response by the wartime generation against the petty, untruthful CBC-NFB film series from the McKenna brothers, The Valour and the Horror. This had a telling answer last year in the televised series, No Price Too High, a project sparked by former defence minister Barney Danson, himself a Normandy casualty, and produced by Dick Nielsen and his associates.
My argument about belated recognition is tied to the differing penchants of Canadians and Americans: ours to focus on what has gone wrong; theirs to glory in what has gone well.
Our postwar interpretations in books and documentaries have tended to harp on Canada’s war disasters. There was Hong Kong and Dieppe; the exhausting, costly battles of Canadians in Italy and Normandy; the loss of so many of our “best and brightest” in the brutal Allied bomber offensive on Germany and occupied Europe; and the grievous battering the Royal Canadian Navy suffered in the battle of the Atlantic in 1942-43.
Further, the searchers for the real truth about Canadians in World War II replayed the conscription crisis of 1944 which put Canadian unity in grave jeopardy. They campaigned for redress in apologies and cash for allegedly barbaric mistreatment of Japanese-Canadian civilians here, not for compensation to Japan’s Canadian PoWs for cruelty. And we continue to get explanations by some military historians why our soldiers of World War II did not earn the repute of their predecessors in World War I as the best of all Allied troops.
Even more overshadowing of what those in the Canadian military of World War II had done, was the surge of federal political activity in national social programs and regional equalization, begun during the war and continued afterwards.
A myth quickly bloomed which still has its advocates in the capital and in the academe, the myth of a Canadian Golden Age, centred in Ottawa. This myth limns wise federal mandarins as the modest geniuses who had directed the extraordinary emergence of our wartime economy and society. They carried on under astute Liberal ministers in both domestic and international achievements until the governing party lost office to John Diefenbaker and the Tories in 1957. Their legacy of renown is a vigorous middle-power nation – busy, world-respected, idealistic, peace-loving.
It is so easy for me to suggest Canadians today should reflect about the world and deeds of those 12 million or so Canadians who were parallel to the generation next door which Tom Brokaw defines as the finest and greatest any society has ever had. Surely there is a match of quality and kind. But as one who enjoys irony, and often regrets its causes, I appreciate the differing ironies within the parallels.
This superlative generation theme, championed by Brokaw and Stephen Ambrose, is resonating so strongly next door because in times of crisis Americans take inspiration from their history.
Bluntly put, the chief reason why we do not turn back readily and proudly to the two periods when Canadians did great things is political. Those were the worst of years for the basic tension through Canada’s story since the Conquest. Canadians must not make much of deeds done at a time when French Canadians had differing appreciations and differing interpretations than English Canadians – both during the conflicts and afterward.
Hail, America. O Canada … cautiously.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Wednesday, January 06, 1999
ID: 12097820
TAG: 199901061517
SECTION: Editorial/Opinion
PAGE: 15
COLUMN: The Hill


Two items in recent issues of the National Post prompt me to recall some performers of the past.
First, Mel Watkins, a long-time U of T teacher of economics, had a shrewd letter to the editor on the hostile reaction of union leaders Buzz Hargrove and Bob White to the deliberate shifting of the federal NDP toward the political centre by leader Alexa McDonough. The unionists talk of creating an alternative party.
Watkins, now 66, was the most prominent “idea” person in the founding of the leftist movement in 1969 known as the Waffle. I thought him the most sensible, good-humoured and likable person in that evangelical crew of radicals.
The Waffle was dedicated to real socialism and against U.S. domination of our economy and culture. It set out to operate within the NDP, and in a few years this triggered a counter-attack led largely by David and Stephen Lewis and union leaders. The Waffle was rejected as a party within the NDP and it gradually faded as a movement.
The Waffle experiences of Watkins, in what he notes were “more propitious times for the Left,” reinforces the message he gives to Buzz and Bob about their threats to create a new left-wing party.
“Social democratic parties,” says Watkins, “are by their nature, not anti-capitalist but reformist, so when the political spectrum shifts Right it should not surprise us that the Left does likewise; to imagine that this creates more space on the Left is to reduce politics to elementary geometry. The rightward movement of the Left is not a process which one need assist, and one can and should resist it, but it is unhelpful simply to deplore and denounce it and call for a fresh start.”
CAW leader Hargrove should appreciate McDonough has led an NDP breakthrough in the Atlantic region and the Ontario NDP is reshaping its program for an election in which it should have union backing, not sniping.
“Mere moralizing” by unionists like Hargrove won’t correct the shift of the political centre to the right. And implicit in Watkins’ letter is this astute point: the unions may and should belong to the NDP but the party does not belong to them.

The second item was an uneasy but sensitive family introspective by reporter Christie Blatchford, largely about Andy Lytle, her grandfather, who half a century ago was arguably the top columnist in the country (with the Toronto Star).
As I had understood the emergence of Christie as journalist, she had made her way to Toronto and into sportswriting for the Globe from a rink-rat youth in Northern Ontario. In time she got to the Sun and by hard slugging and persistence she became the top byline in the paper. Sadly (to me) she moved to the new Post where she’s as gripping and prolific as ever. It was a big surprise to learn she is Andy Lytle’s granddaughter. But it figures – and gives a nudge to genes over environment in the nature or nurture debate.
For a decade or so around World War II I thought Lytle the most literate, irreverent sports columnist we had. In the 1930s Stanley Walker, an American editor, split sportswriters into two groups: “the Gee Whiz crowd” and “the Aw Nuts crowd.” Later, columnist John Crosby chose an icon for each group: Grantland Rice, once described as “the first educated American sportswriter, which is to say he finished school;” and Ring Lardner, “who thought most athletes belonged in schools for retarded children; and most promoters he thought, belonged in jail.”
Lytle was of the “Aw Nuts” cadre, a de-bunker. He hadn’t come to Toronto to worship at the shrine of Conn Smythe and the Maple Leafs. He used ironic, often spoofing, humour. He prefigured the Fotheringham of racy metaphors. Once in a long while, Lytle would be self-revealing, usually about his drinking or his discomfort with domesticity, authority and reverence. Clearly he was not a model character for youth and he was neither cherished nor revered in sporting circles like colleagues Ted Reeve and Jim Coleman. He was too vinegary for that – but he was read!
Lytle died during Christie’s childhood. She never knew him firsthand, and pressing her mother and uncle about him has not given her a detailed likeness, although his shortfall as husband and father came through. She’s read enough of this columns to realize his gifts but is taken back by his cynicism and what she calls “self-loathing.”
As one of a relative few who both recalls Andy Lytle in his now forgotten high place at the mid-century and who believes his grandaughter is among the present day’s best, I suggest to her she is just enough of a “Gee Whizzer” to humanize her more archetypal “Aw Nuts!” approach. So, only in part is she a personal or journalistic replica of her mother’s father.

The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.

DATE: Sunday, January 03, 1999
ID: 12097215
TAG: 199901041182
SECTION: Comment


What will be the course of federal politics in 1999?
First of all, there will be neither a Canadian general election nor a Liberal leadership convention this year.
Second, although Quebec’s secession will continue as a prime concern, the issue, and Lucien Bouchard who symbolizes it, will create far less angst for federalists than in 1998 – i.e., before the Nov. 30 election. In lieu of sovereignty-mongering and constitutionalizing there will be much conferencing of first ministers and negotiating by mandarins over health care and other major elements in the social union.
Third, the four leaders of party caucuses on the opposition side of the House of Commons – Preston Manning, Gilles Duceppe, Alexa McDonough and Joe Clark – are almost as sure as Jean Chretien to be at their posts in 2000.
But let me digress at length from listing these unlikelihoods of 1999 politics to scout a longshot chance. This would be a noble Preston Manning stepping aside from leadership of the Reform party for the greater good of the nation. It is only imaginable if the initial major gathering early in the year on the so-called “united alternative” generates huge enthusiasm and is buttressed by scads of Tories ready to link with Reformers in a total effort to dislodge the Liberals from office. A fresh leader for such a union of forces would be sensible – one who is neither Manning nor Clark. The Reform leader would recognize this but not Clark – at least not in 1999.
Much of the political news in the first half of the year will come from the antics around this alternative and the aftermath of recriminations if, as seems predictable, it does not take off. There probably is a majority opinion in the country which favours conservatively minded policies, but both old loyalties and a regional mind-set in Alberta and B.C. are against it finding a focus through a single federal party.
One may add a sensible rider to this matter of the strength of the right. We will get an excellent indication of its current state from the Ontario provincial election, almost certain to be called before the late fall. If Premier Mike Harris is returned with a handy majority, say two-thirds of the seats, this should further the surge federally to “unite the right.” It could even stimulate a “unite the left” movement in Ontario.
On the other hand, should the Harris Conservatives lose office this year it means majority opinion in the bellwether province has shifted back to the centre and would encourage the rising demands within the Chretien caucus for more deeds and less worship of surpluses.
It seems to me the most significant and continuing element in the political stories of the year will be on whether, and then, on how Jean Chretien moves to close out his well-earned, though understandable, reputation as a do-nothing prime minister; indeed as Brian Mulroney keeps noting, as his surrogate on policies of taxation, industrial development, trade, and disestablishing Crown corporations.
Going into the new year Chretien’s stamina and energy seem as sound as ever. Only the late John Diefenbaker, 39 years an MP, seven years as PM, ever charged around the Hill and the country longer than Chretien. If he fills this mandate and goes for another (surely at least a 50-50 proposition) he will have surpassed the Chief and, in my opinion, comparing their relative condition late in the fourth decade of ceaseless politicking, Chretien’s in better command of his mind and body, and as prime minister he has always been in better control of his caucus than Dief.
Sometimes in appraising Jean Chretien the theme idea of an old, junior grade school poem, The One-Horse Shay, comes to mind. Remember? So well-made, so thoroughly used and so reliable, decade after decade.
Would it go rolling on forever? It seemed so. Suddenly it collapsed, totally, irreparably. Done.
Well, in politics you always have to remember a party leader is just a severe heart attack or stroke away from the political exit. In this case, it may seem morbid to note it but sooner or later, though most unlikely in the next four or five years, this leader could suddenly lose it. And this brings me to another subject which will never fade away completely in 1999 – the succession to Jean Chretien.
At least two men are ready to go if suddenly by act of God or man there is the vacancy: Paul Martin, 60, a much honoured minister of finance after five years in the portfolio; and Brian Tobin, 44, premier of Newfoundland for three years, a former Chretien minister and a federal MP for 16 years.
Two happenings in 1999, one certain, the other almost so, will give us some indicators not only for the prospects of these obviously strong rivals but probably for several others as yet without any apparent chance – say John Manley or even disaster-prone Allan Rock.
The budget comes in February. Almost as predictable is a major overhaul of the cabinet in late May or before the summer recess of Parliament. Martin will present the budget but in essence this will be Jean Chretien’s budget because it will tip the hand on whether the long, cautious coasting is to close and there will be fewer brags about mastering deficits and more on concrete moves to raise the profiles of the roles in a “truly liberal” federal government.
It’s unlikely but not impossible we may have a replay somewhat like 1975. That’s when John Turner, then a strong, respected minister of finance, resigned and left for Bay Street. Shortly after, Pierre Trudeau’s government began the spending orgy in the name of fighting recession – whose heritage in debt-load still haunts any minister of finance. Replay or not, the budget’s main provisions will be a test of Paul Martin’s strength in cabinet and caucus, and may lead to his replacement, say with Manley, and his move elsewhere in the big shuffle to come.
Even Chretien – perhaps I should say, Chretien above all others – knows that at best his is a most ordinary cabinet, abounding in Andy Scotts. Further, he knows his backbench seethes with frustration and blunted ambitions as its members appraise the 20 or so who are limp, dull, ineffective or passe in the ministerial cast of 37. He will even jettison or elevate to elsewhere some of his first loyalists like Diane Marleau and Sergio Marchi. The real check on a huge swatch of departures is his rather small majority and the few Senate vacancies. If his shifting is as substantial and his new stock is as pushy and ambitious as I expect, the rest of the year will be much taken up with their programs.
There is one cabinet position other than finance where some importance has been regained and so the capability of making much news, often without spending dollars – foreign affairs. It’s well-geared for the incumbent, Lloyd Axworthy, 60, now that Canada has a seat on the UN Security Council. The PM is likely to leave him in the post, playing to the many Canadians who like it when Ottawa twigs or rebukes the exercise of American power and ideas.
Yes, my prognosis has centred almost wholly on more Chretien through 1999. It forecasts little about the opposition parties or the House of Commons itself. On the latter, there is little chance of its improvement but it cannot hardly get worse in farcical histrionics and debates, which are ignored even where they take place.
The Toronto Sun
Copyright © 1999, SunMedia Corp.